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Overstreet

Pixar: The studio, its history and process

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Link to now-defunct thread on 'What Makes Pixar Tick?' (Jan 2005).

Link to thread on the Pixar Short Films Collection DVDs (2007-2012).

Links to threads on Pixar feature films:

Links to threads on Pixar spin-offs that may or may not be produced with Pixar input:

Links to threads on films directed by Pixar alumni that are not "Pixar films" per se:

If any other threads are created for Pixar films that have yet to be announced, I'll add them to the list.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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I'm going to use this post as an ongoing record of my own Pixar preferences. The aesthetics of a film have as much importance to me these days as the plot, which may have something to do with why my preferences differ from most others. And the more I watch their films, the more I'm surprised by things, so the list is as likely to change over time as my year-end lists tend to change.

THESE LEAVE ME IN AWE AND RAISE THE BAR FOR ANIMATORS AND ALL-AGES STORYTELLERS

FINDING NEMO

WALL-E

WOULD HAPPILY WATCH FREQUENTLY

TOY STORY 2

THE INCREDIBLES

RATATOUILLE

UP

ENJOY ALL THE WAY THROUGH

TOY STORY

CARS

LIKE, BUT ANNOYED BY CERTAIN ASPECTS

MONSTER'S INC

A BUG'S LIFE

DON'T RECOMMEND IT

Nothing yet. Not even close.

Edited by Overstreet

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Awesome. I haven't seen that in ages. Thanks.

I'm tempted to add their short films to my list, as some of them... Presto! in particular... are pretty amazing. (I wonder if I can find that... hmmmm)

Aha!

Edited by Overstreet

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I like the idea of ranking the Pixar shorts. This list includes all the pre-Toy Story shorts, as well as the shorts played before each of Pixar's feature films (and not including the straight-to-DVD shorts:

"Geri's Game"

"Luxo Jr."

[pause]

"Lifted"

"One Man Band"

"Presto"

[pause]

"Tin Toy"

"Knick Knack"

"Partly Cloudy"

"Red's Dream"

[long pause]

"The Adventures of Andr

Edited by M. Dale Prins

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You're missing some shorts:

Knick Knack

Mike's New Car

Jack-Jack Attack

Mater and the Ghostlight

Your Friend the Rat

BURN-E

Dug's Special Mission

You may have intentionally left out all but the first, since they are so closely linked to Pixar's feature films that you may not consider them shorts in the same sense, but you should include Knick Knack. There are actually two versions of Knick Knack; in the second the Mermaid has been made less buxom and more modestly attired, in keeping with Pixar's family-friendly reputation,a reputation that was acquired after the original Knick Knack was made.

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"Knick Knack" was an oversight; now corrected. I excluded the straight-to-DVD shorts because none of them really made much of an impression on me; I'm not sure I could accurately rate them.

Dale

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The straight-to-DVD shorts are also basically extensions of the feature films that also appear on those DVDs (some, such as Jack-Jack Attack and BURN-E, even take place within the events of the feature film, but show those events from a different angle than the feature film used), so they're not really meant to be stand-alones anyway.

Speaking of straight-to-DVD stuff, though, wasn't there a hand-drawn Buzz Lightyear video? Does that count as "Pixar" in any sense of the word, or was it created by the same team that makes all those other straight-to-DVD sequels and spin-offs for Disney? (I wouldn't assume anything either way, here, since Toy Story 2 began as an hour-long straight-to-video spin-off before it was promoted to theatrical-feature status.)

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Speaking of straight-to-DVD stuff, though, wasn't there a hand-drawn Buzz Lightyear video? Does that count as "Pixar" in any sense of the word, or was it created by the same team that makes all those other straight-to-DVD sequels and spin-offs for Disney?

W'pedia tells me that all that video was was the three first episodes of the mediocre (from what little I've seen) ABC Saturday morning show "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command." So I suspect -- but can't confirm -- that it was done by Disney's TV wing. It certainly has that look.

Dale

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There was also a DVD short based on Clutch Cargo-style animation called "Mr. Incredible and Pals" included on The Incredibles DVD. For those who remember the painful cheapness of (very) low-budget animation and the stylistic weirdness of cartoons such as Superfriends (The Justice League mashed with Scooby Doo), it is a hoot.

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I started this train of thought over in the Up thread, but it really is bigger than any one film. So...

Peter Suderman has openly wondered if Pixar will ever ditch the kiddie elements and make a movie that targets adults, full stop. I don't think this is likely to happen, partly because Andrew Stanton has already gone on record to the effect that Pixar films are meant to be "family films", and therefore any grown-up films developed at Pixar (such as Stanton's own John Carter of Mars, or Brad Bird's 1906) will be released by Disney under one of its other labels.

But another reason I don't think it is likely to happen is because of the upcoming roster listed near the top of this thread: of the four films that Pixar currently has in development, three are sequels to some of their kiddier hits (Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Monsters Inc. 2), and one is being billed as Pixar's "first fairy tale" (The Bear and the Bow). These films might very well rise above mere kids' fare, as Pixar's earliest films did, but they do seem to be starting and staying within that realm (as opposed to some of Pixar's more recent films, which, as Suderman suggests, have started as grown-up projects and then had kiddie elements "grafted on").

Thinking about this further, it occurs to me that the last three Pixar films -- Ratatouille, WALL-E and Up -- were probably all put into production at a time when Pixar had every reason to believe that it would no longer be tied to Disney's corporate business plan.

The original contract between Disney and Pixar (which gave Disney full ownership of the characters created under that contract) expired with Cars, and there was a famous period of a few years there where Steve Jobs was making a lot of noise about taking Pixar's future films to some OTHER distributor; in return, Disney created Circle 7, a whole new animation department that existed purely to create sequels to Pixar films, sequels that would presumably have been sub-par and would presumably have competed with the films that Pixar made independently.

It is not too hard to imagine that the folks at Pixar decided to "raise the bar" a little with their independent films, and so Ratatouille, WALL-E (the first story reel of which was created in 2003) and Up (the writing of which began in 2004) aimed higher -- though they still kept enough "kiddie elements" so as not to lose their core audience.

But then, in January 2006, only five months before the release of Cars, Disney and Pixar shocked everyone (including, it is said, many people at Pixar itself) by announcing that Disney had not only renewed its contract with Pixar -- rather, Disney had actually BOUGHT Pixar outright. Yes, one of the terms of the deal was that Steve Jobs took a place on the Disney board of directors, and that John Lasseter took charge of Disney's homegrown feature animation (thus resulting in "Pixar lite" films like Bolt). But what sort of films did Pixar ITSELF decide to make after that?

Well, for one thing, Disney shut down Circle 7, which had been working on a Toy Story 3 ... and then Pixar announced that it was making Toy Story 3 itself. And then Pixar announced it was making Cars 2. And now Pixar has announced it is making Monsters Inc. 2. (And somewhere in there, Pixar has decided to produce its first-ever "fairy tale".) So Pixar is now doing to its earlier films what Disney would have done with or without Pixar.

We can only imagine what stories Pixar would have told if they had allowed their Disney contract to lapse and had sailed ahead into full-blown independence. But as it stands right now, stories with primarily grown-up themes seem to be taking a back-seat to the kiddie fare.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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This would be a good thread in which to note the beginning of new projects by Pixar directors beyond the Pixar studio:

Brad Bird's 1906

Andrew Stanton's John Carter from Mars

I hope that we'll soon find that the word Pixar isn't so magical... and that the talents who have learned how to tell stories there go on to do things beyond the limits that Pixar has set for itself.

I, for one, am glad Pixar's established a particular range, and that they're devoted to making entertainment for all ages instead of gravitating toward films for adults. It's the kids who need the quality of their entertainment boosted the most, IMHO.

But hey, if Stanton wants to make a film for teens or adults, I'll be there on opening night cheering him on.

Edited by Overstreet

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I have added our threads on 1906 and John Carter of Mars to the list of links at the top of this thread.

Personally, I'll save the cheering until AFTER I've seen any given movie. The Phantom Menace surely taught us all THAT much. ;)

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Overstreet wrote:

: But who says any of these the same guys can't make a film for adults, and just do so under some other banner?

Oh, they can, of course. But without the brand name, will it sell?

There aren't that many directors who can leave their established niches and take their audiences with them; there aren't that many directors whose names, when separated from their usual studio or producer or franchise etc., make the average moviegoer say, "Oh, yeah, I've gotta go out of my way for THAT!" Maybe Bird and Stanton can do it, maybe not, but I wouldn't assume anything at this point. (Lasseter's probably too wrapped up in the business of running Disney right now to actually DIRECT a film. And in any case, it seems that, whatever debate might exist as to whether A Bug's Life or Cars is the weakest Pixar film, we are basically debating which of Lasseter's films is the weakest Pixar film.)

Hmmm. What sort of track record is there for animators-turned-live-action-directors, I wonder?

Frank Tashlin animated some Warner Brothers shorts before turning his visual-gag sensibility to such classics of '50s comedy as Son of Paleface (my favorite Bob Hope movie ever), The Girl Can't Help It, Hollywood or Bust and so on. But he stayed with comedy, pretty much.

Tim Burton was an animator before he turned to live-action, but I don't think any of his short cartoons were all that well-known; it's not like Batman, his third film (and also a pre-existing brand in its own right), was advertised as "from the man who brought you Frankenweenie!"

Rob Minkoff, a co-director on The Lion King, segued into the Stuart Little movies (which were still kind of cartoonish) and Haunted Mansion (ditto) before going all-live-action with the youth-oriented martial-arts The Forbidden Kingdom.

Andrew Adamson went from the first two Shrek movies to the first two Narnia movies. Box-office hits, yes, but in that case, Narnia itself was something of a brand to begin with.

Hmmm. Not sure what other examples there are, but I'll think about this.

In any case, probably the biggest hurdle for any Pixar animator turned live-action filmmaker would be the fact that you can't scrap the entire movie and start from scratch all over again with just nine months to go before the release date (as Pixar reportedly did on Toy Story 2; there is also the story of how Michael Eisner thought Pixar was going to be "put in its place" when Finding Nemo came out, but it turned out Pixar made lots of significant last-minute changes to that movie, too). The actors aren't just data patterns sitting on your hard drive, waiting for you to move their lips and limbs however you see fit; as a live-action filmmaker, you have to work with physical reality -- sets, costumes, make-up, cameras, etc. -- in a way that you never have to do with CGI. You have to "get it right" on the set, and while there is usually some room in the budget for re-shoots, there generally isn't all THAT much room.

Not saying Bird or Stanton couldn't clear those hurdles, necessarily. But hurdles they are, and they would almost certainly impose certain changes on the "process" that these filmmakers are used to.

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I looked around on the imdb pages for 1906 and John Carter and couldn't find any info regarding whether or not these films will be animated. In fact, the page for 1906 lists Pixar as the production company, which I'm sure is an error. But how do we know these are live action films? Do you guys have additional information on either of these?

EDIT: Nevermind. There were some news stories linked to both movies on imdb, and I read up on both of them. The biggest surprise to me is that the Pixar name WILL be attached to both of these live action films.

Edited by morgan1098

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morgan1098 wrote:

: The biggest surprise to me is that the Pixar name WILL be attached to both of these live action films.

Well, in our thread on John Carter of Mars (linked above), there is a link to this interview that Andrew Stanton did in January where he said his film WON'T be a Pixar film because it will be PG-13 and "Pixar's a brand that you have to trust that's for all ages." These things can always change, though.

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Nancy Cartwright Chats with Brad Bird

Brad Bird is the director of the Academy Award-winning films Ratatouille and The Incredibles, from Pixar Animation Studios. Prior to joining Pixar, Bird wrote and directed the critically acclaimed 1999 animated feature, The Iron Giant, which won the International Animated Film Society

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More entries from "Pixar Week" at The House Next Door:

- - -

Just a Toy: Pixar's Failure of Imagination

In 1995, with the release of the first fully computer-generated feature film, Pixar took the first steps into the virgin territory of a new medium. However, they have not made the most of these advances. Pixar's films, regardless of the writer or director, have always had a big idea: a rat chef, a flying house, living toys

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[quoting Stephen Russell-Gebbett]

Pixar's writers paint with a limited emotional palette too. Things are HAPPY or they are SAD.

Is this the case? I'll even grant him his rather ludicrous omissions of fear and exhilaration, which underpin almost any successful action sequence, of which Pixar has made more than a few. Let's just consider Wall•E, from the moment when Wall-E sees the stars for the first time until he arrives on the Axiom. I would argue that a host of emotions are in play there, such as longing, wonder, love, awe, curiosity, devotion, and desperation. If you watch this sequence and claim to see in it only "happy" or "sad", you are either emotionally dead, lying to yourself, or lying to everyone else.

I will add that if you have to use Miyazaki to prove that Pixar makes bad films, that is like having to use Shakespeare to prove someone is a bad writer. The very measuring stick you've been forced to use suggests the opposite of the point you're trying to make.

Edited by bowen

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