[Ed. Note: Since this appreciation piece
is what gave me the idea for the We Love Pixar
series, I asked Christian to kick things off for us. Much, much more to come.]
You never forget your first Pixar film. For me, it was the 1999 smash “Toy Story 2,” a movie I had no interest in at the time. My new roommate had invited me to see it at the local movie house, probably as a way for us to bond. Men don’t order up a round of Appletinis and talk about our feelings. We watch movies.
I gulped hard and said, “sure,” less than eager to offend. In the back of my mind I thought, “why does my roommate want to see a children’s film?”
Sometimes it’s best to trust your roommate and ignore preconceived notions. In my defense most animated films at the time were meant for children. Pixar changed all that.
“Toy Story 2” left me enthralled, plain and simple. It wasn’t the computer animation that got me hooked. Yes, the visuals were fascinating, especially for someone weaned on old-school cel animation. But the storytelling proved superior to anything I had seen at the movies in months, if not years. Buzz, Woody and the gang were like old friends, given life by actors who understood the stakes at play. That meant appealing not to just the audience’s inner child, but their fully adult selves, too.
Even the movie’s action sequences in “Toy Story 2” crackled with excitement - no small feat for a “children’s movie.”
I was hooked.
Subsequent Pixar films left me similarly dazzled. “Finding Nemo.” “The Incredibles.” “Ratatouille.” “Up.”
Even their misses were hits on a certain level. “Cars” felt bloated, but the amount of detail the animators poured into every frame left me agog. I could watch “Cars” again right now and just marvel at the reflections on the hood of Lightning McQueen. And the opening 20-minutes of “Wall*E” are sheer perfection, a refresher course in throwback comedy that Buster Keaton would applaud.
Over the years I learned how passionate Pixar fans can be. When I gave “Wall*E” a less than glowing review - the film’s second half let me down - I heard about it from both film fans and fellow critics. One critic questioned my credentials simply for not thinking the film was this generation’s “Sleeping Beauty.”
That kind of brand loyalty must be earned.
So consider this a belated thank you to a studio which cares deeply about the films they make, putting storytelling - and the audience - first. How sad that makes Pixar the exception to the rule.