Victory: Pixar

I went to see Cars a few days ago, rather against my better instincts. In fact, let’s be honest: Cars looked absolutely terrible, and it was only a sense of obligatation that drove me to support the latest creation of the only company in America that appears dedicated to creating genuinely entertaining cartoons. Thus I supported the movie on general principle, even though it gave every indication of being completely wretched.

And while there was still an unpleasant whiff of merchandising behind the movie’s basic premise — making the entire cast into action-figure-ready automobiles rather than focusing on, say, human drivers was seriously pretty shameless — and while the story was, unsurprisingly, Pixar Boilerplate Plot #1 (cocky/overbearing protagonist is humbled by circumstance, embarks on a Joseph-Campbell-approved journey of self-discovery, applies important lessons of experience to his old life), the movie was, shockingly, quite good. A little too cutesy in places, hopelessly predictable, but the superlative pacing made for a steady supply of jokes, action scenes and Touching Moments (TM) with just enough of a break in between each setpiece for the whole thing not to be exhausting.

Sure, it was all a carefully packaged work of craftsmanship rather than art, but it was marvelously crafted. And the whole Route 66 subplot tapped into some sort of collective, primal nostalgia for vanished America without being overbearing about it. Plus, the trailers for the film only focused on the gruesomely plastic-looking characters without giving a hint of how completely beautiful the backgrounds were. Pixar’s CG artisty never ceases to astound — anyone can render talking cars in 3D, but creating endless vistas and rugged desert badlands in CG is pretty crazy amazing.

I’m pretty sure that all the trailers for upcoming CG flicks were included before the movie started just so you can appreciate how far ahead of the competition the company really is. I’ve seen trailers for about a dozen generic CG cartoons in the past month, but the only one that made an impression was…

…suffused with a gentle warmth and luminosity never before seen in CG…

…featured fluid animation and character physics reminiscent of classic Warner Bros. work…

…and hinted at comical sight gags that recollected the prime years of Tom & Jerry. You know, the era they never show anymore because of its unfortunate racist undertones.

What’s that, you say? It’s Ratatouille, Pixar’s next movie? Well alright then.

Dear everyone who is not Pixar: please give up forever. You’re all five to ten years behind and your inability to do anything except rip off Madagascar offends me. Love, me.

38 thoughts on “Victory: Pixar

  1. I haven’t seen Cars. Unfortunately, I can’t bring myself to see what I subconsciously believe will be a steaming pile when I could just wait a few weeks and go see Superman Returns, no matter how many good reviews I hear. I am glad to know that Pixar hasn’t lost their minds or anything, though. Maybe I’ll wait to buy it on DVD under the guise of a gift for my little sister.

    That new Pixar movie looks way awesome, though. It already has me completely sold.

  2. I had read it was a dull, half-hearted, disappointing attempt from Pixar. But Parish has historically been right on my book, so I think I’ll be giving Cars a shot when it opens in my town.

  3. Well, it pretty much was. The thing is that Pixar is so good that even their mediocre work is miles beyond just about everyone else’s efforts.

  4. Oh. I guess I’ll catch it nevertheless. That new movie looks pretty, though.

  5. Cars won me over with its portrayal of the death of Route 66, the only bit of Americana that stirs up any amount of sentiment in me. And One Man Band? That was just so old school entertaining.

    But yeah, all that other CG stuff looks like drivel. How many years do we have to go before we get to be unreasonably nostalgic about hand-drawn animated films?

  6. I’ve yet to see the film, but Monsters Inc. taught me not to scoff at anything Pixar puts out. I remember seeing the first trailers for that and recalling what an awfully stupid idea it was.

    Then I watched it when it come out on dvd. Now I know better.

    Pixar is like the Blizzard of cinema. Except Pixar is actually cool and doesn’t screw with it’s fans’ heads.

  7. As much as the film was predictable and a bit corny, I can’t deny the entertainment I received. The film made me chuckle more than once, and like Jeremy said, even Pixar’s mediocre stuff is better than most CG movie offerings. They’re new film caught my eye and has me far more intrigued than they’re current soup d’Jour.

    Oh, and you can still catch Tom & Jerry on Boomerang. They’ve re-recorded all the voices for the maid to remove the obvious accent, which to me is a really stupid idea. I can see how keeping the original intact would offend, but changing the voice over from a really good actor to a really bad one is more insulting in my book. I mean, would Speedy Gonzlez really be as entertaining if he didn’t have the accent? Despite my Hispanic origins, I would think not.

  8. When you mention “ripping off Madagascar,” you’re talking about The Wild, and actually Madagascar ripped off The Wild more than anything else. Jeff Katzenberg has a huge grudge against Disney Co even though he hasn’t worked there in years, and the burns on Disneyana he put into Shrek were just the beginning of it. You may remember “A Shark’s Tale” came out at the same time as another CG fish movie. You may also remember Shrek 2 arriving on DVD the same day as The Incredibles. And Antz/A Bug’s Life, and the list goes on. Simply put, Katzenberg has ways of finding out Disney’s next few moves, and works quickly to sink them whenever he can.

    Production began on The Wild before Madagascar and the common belief is that Katz heard about it and rushed Madagascar into production to get his product out there “first” and make Disney’s look like a rip-off. Since he just failed with an awful cartoon about Siegfried & Roy’s white tigers on NBC, he had a lot of jungle scenery and critters he could recycle for Madagascar, making the artistry move that much faster.

    And, since even intelligent well-informed folks like yourself say things like “your inability to do anything except rip off Madagascar offends me,” Katz can roll out his big Mission Accomplished banner, I suppose.

  9. I’m aware of The Wild’s history, but in fact I was referring to several other upcoming movies which strongly resemble Madagascar. Nicely condescending diatribe, though.

  10. Ratatouille is also being directed by Brad Bird which explains absolutely everything about it’s oldschool-cum-newschool awesomeness.

  11. Yeah, I decided not to mention Bird for fear of outing myself as a squeeing fangirl. But, seriously: SQUEEEE.
    I mean, fanboy. Fanboy.

  12. Why oh why won’t Dreamworks and it’s animation department just go away. Every time a person raves about Shrek or Shark Tale a part of me dies. I’ve given up trying to show the virtues and the longevity the Pixar films will enjoy over them… It’s like trying to sell your girlfriend on why Curry makes a good weapon…

  13. Another SQUEEEE for Brad Bird. I think I’ll watch The Iron Giant again tonight just because.

  14. “gruesomely plastic-looking characters” I agree. Those cars kinda freak me out (especially Mater).

  15. Pixar deserves some kind of medal for having Larry the Cable Guy voice one of the characters and not make me hate him. Ratatouille looks amazing. Brad Bird + Patton Oswalt = Awesome sauce.

  16. Ha, I see somebody beat me to the ‘The Wild > Madagascar/Katzenburg is always stealing from Pixar/Disney/etc. because of his grudge’ diatribe, so I don’t have to do it. Somewhere, my SCAD animation professors are grumbling bigtime about Dreamworks.

    I still haven’t seen ‘Cars’, only because of what you mentioned and my family’s lack of interest. But I agree whole-heartedly with pretty much everything. I’m a 2D girl through-and-through, but Pixar holds a special place in my heart and is the only 3D company that’ll ever have a space in there. And it really does say a helluva lot about a company where the least of their movies is better than….well, pretty much everything else.


  17. In case you haven’t heard, Dreamworks is distributing the Aardman studio’s “Flushed Away”, which is about — you guessed it — rats. The circle continues…

  18. Oh, yay. It ate the rest of my comment and now won’t let me post the missing bit.

    Uhh…various glowing words about Brad Bird go here.

  19. Dude you are not fat enough to be a fangirl, don’t worry.

    Also did you see the AWESOME facial expressions on those rats? Seriously, Bird is a MOTHERFUCKER at doing faces.

  20. Oh man, don’t even get me started on Flushed Away. Aardman is much too awesome to be doing generic CG cartoons, and that trailer deadened a little part of my soul. Hopefully it’s just a temporary aberration and they’ll still be working in clay as well… or else they’ll find some way to create CG that has the same personality and quirkiness as their traditional work.

  21. I cannot invest emotionally in a anthropomorphic car. I’ve avoided The Brave Little Toaster for similar reasons. I’ve also been let down by Pixar more times than I’ve been thrilled by them. Advent Children had pretty backgrounds too, JP.

  22. Comparing Cars to Advent Children is basically begging for an intervention: “For my own safety and the protection of those around me, you must never let me near an analogy again.”

  23. As much as Pixar often astound me I have to temper the fanboyism. I personally hated ‘A Bug’s Life’ and found it utterly saccharine. ‘Antz’ on the other hand is probably one of the best CG movies so far. It has Woody Allen in it for crying out loud! Also, who really has love for ‘Finding Nemo’? Sure its pretty but the schmaltz is overwhelming for my taste. Also, there is no danger of Aardman moving out of claymation. They’ve been branching into CG but there’s no way they’re not going to carry on doing what they are loved for.

  24. I thought that Cars had a great deal more shmaltz that Finding Nemo, especially when it came to the Route 66 musical interlude. The entire group I was with let out a collective groan when they saw the movie shift into sepia and heard the music start. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood, but I just couldn’t get all weepy over poor little Radiator Springs when I could see how things were going to turn out from miles away. The little animated short before the movie was great, though. I thought the musical costumes especially whimsical and/or delightful.

  25. I’m with the fence-siting Pixar crowd, they’ve done a handful of good movies. The rest are just good from a technical (and I’m not talking about the CG) standpoint. I’m completely immune to annoyance by spoilers, but when I can see how the rest of the movie will play out just by watching the first five minutes I can’t stand it.

    Admittedly I liked Finding Nemo the first time I saw it, and was ready to give them a break after the damn Bugs Life and Monsters Inc. But then I saw it with my dad a few weeks later. The second time was like the whole movie was in slow motion and I noticed every single freakin’ waste of time and energy in the movie. Ugh.

    The Impossibles was the best movie they ever did. And that’s because it’s director didn’t trot out every cliche’ in the book like it was a show pony. I think the current crapfest that is animation is simply because far too many in the animation industry crib mercilessly from old Disney and WB sources. I went to SCAD too, and I saw that going on far far too often in the Computer Arts department. Of course, now there’s a wave of Gendy Tartakovsky clones out there as well.

  26. Antz is a horrible, horrible, punishment from God. Just wanted to lear that up. And… Mr. Brad Bird is running their next flick? Oh, *tear*…

  27. cheezer: I hear Cartoon Network was actually wary of airing episodes of Speedy, but Latino groups actually supported him, because they like him. They seem more pissed off at Nacho Libre.

    Psyael: At least Katzenberg doesn’t try to hide his rip-offs. (*cough* Lion King and Kimba and Aladdin and The Princess and the Cobbler *cough*)

    nixon: Dreamworks Animation might be going away after disappointing numbers for Pom Poko, I mean Over the Hedge.

    jp: The closest I can compare to Advent Children is that cg flick from Luc Besson, Arthur and The Mini-Moys, and possibly Kaena. Also, Tom and Jerry worked, because the characters didn’t talk. (At least not until that awful Hanna Barbera remake…) They just were cartoon exaggerations of a cat and mouse. And the Warner Bros. cartoons worked, because they were wild and unpredictable. Ratatouillie seems to have none of those traits.

  28. I’m tired of seeing trailers for that Nickelodeon movie about CG cows. THAAAAATS CALLLLLED BOYYYYYY TIPPEEEENG. Cars was a fun movie, I enjoyed the voice acting a great deal. Who knew Larry the Cable Guy could be tolerable? Tony Shalhoub was fun too. And good lord how many CG animal movies were in the trailers? Like, 5?

  29. Oh, yeah, Barnyard. It has the distinction of being the first CG movie ever to creep me out for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the uncanny valley. Why do the bulls have udders? Why? WHY? WHYEEEEEE?????

  30. I hated Bug’s Life and never liked Monsters Inc. much at all… but then again, Cars may be my favorite Pixar movie now, so… Go figure. What’s important is that we all owe Lasseter for reviving Disney’s hand-drawn animation studios (which will hopefully pan out soonly).

    Also, Brad Bird = yay.

  31. My main problem with the whole Radiator Springs thing was that the actual US Southwest is about a billion times hotter, drier, and bleaker than that. It’s the same existential nullity as a Russian winter in a Tolstoy novel, except hot. So, no, no tears about how sad it is about Route 66 – the faster I can get through Arizona, the better.

  32. “The Impossibles was the best movie they ever did. And that’s because it’s director didn’t trot out every cliche’ in the book like it was a show pony.”
    The Incredibles, actually. I wouldn’t necessary agree, because I’ve yet to really give most of the other Pixar or Dreamworks stuff a shot (although usually the Dreamworks stuff looks really lame). Although if I do, I certainly will be avoiding the likes of Doogal (“Let’s redub this.” “It’s in English” “But we can redub it…in American…with new crappy jokes!”) and Hoodwinked.
    “What’s important is that we all owe Lasseter for reviving Disney’s hand-drawn animation studios (which will hopefully pan out soonly).”

    I assume all that’s come out of it so far has been those lame DTV animated sequels.

  33. Actually, this is recent. Lasseter nixed more of those crappy DTV animated sequels from being released. See? That man is a hero.

  34. …why did it sign your name instead of mine? What kind of mickey mouse operation are you running here, Parish?

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