With the recent release of the, lets be honest, disappointing Monsters University, I thought it was a good time to bring you my Six of the Best… Pixar Features. Disney Pixar has been my favourite film studio for about five or six years, since it suddenly dawned on me that all of the great animation I was seeing was from the same imaginative studio. I’ll make it clear right now that this list has one major fault and that is that of fourteen feature films to date, I’ve only seen twelve. The ones I’m missing are Monsters. Inc and Cars 2. I fully expect from what I’ve read that one of those films would be in this list. I’m also pretty sure that one of them would be absent. So, just to clarify, I except that this list is perhaps not a true reflection of the studio’s output but I’ve seen the other films at least once and in some cases several times.
For a change, this list won’t just be a list of six but I’ll order them. My favourite film will be at number one (as ordering is traditionally written). So without further ado, here are my personal Six of the Best… Pixar Features.
6. A Bug’s Life (1998). Pixar’s second feature film is set in one of their wonderfully imagined worlds. We see the world from the point of you of insects and it’s loosely based on Aesop’s fable The Ant and the Grasshopper as well as taking themes from Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. The film should not be confused with DreamWorks Antz, released just a month before. A Bug’s Life tells an interesting tale of a wannabe inventor, living in a colony battling oppressive grasshoppers. The animation looks ever so slightly dated now when compared to the studio’s continuing high standards but it was a bold and exciting second feature from a company still finding its feet.
5. Up (2009). Up is a very funny film about a grumpy old man in search of paradise and lost love. Its opening montage caused grown men to break down and cry in the cinema and was about as dramatic as the studio had been up to that point. From the pretty depressing opening, the audience is treated to a magical flying sequence and a lot of laughs from a talking dog and chubby Boy Scout. A great friendship emerges at the centre of the film and there’s plenty of action and drama to keep things moving along. The squirrel line still makes me chuckle to this day.
4. Toy Story 3 (2010). Toy Story 3 rounds off one of the greatest trilogies in the history of cinema in emphatic style. It follows on from Up’s drama and sadness, mirroring the toy’s feeling of being outgrown with the adult audience’s fears of themselves being outgrown and left behind by their children. To me it’s one of the most beautiful cinematic parallels I’ve seen. Despite the drama though, the movie continues the franchise’s quest for great humour with the ‘Spanish Buzz’ sequence being a particular highlight. The film came about as close as any Pixar film to date to snaring a long overdue Best Picture Oscar.
3. Finding Nemo (2003). For a long time my favourite Pixar movie, Finding Nemo caught me at a time when I’d moved through my childish love of these films and past my stupid teenage distain for anything considered ‘for children’. Released when I was about seventeen, I was finally able to appreciate the movie as an adult rather than writing it off as childish. It helped me to see the film on two levels for the first time, still being able to laugh at the silly humour as well as notice and appreciate the drama that might have gone over my head a few years before. Nemo is one of Pixar’s most beautiful films to date and also has a fantastic story to match the visuals. The tale of a lost child and the lengths a parent will go to recover them is endearing and very emotional. Despite this, it still packs the humour of the best the studio can offer.
2. Toy Story (1995). The place where it all began. I re-watched Toy Story fairly recently and was pleasantly surprised by how well the animation stands up after nearly two decades. This movie burst onto the scene, ushering in a new standard for animated films and creating an industry worth billions. Not only was Toy Story the first, it’s still one of the best. Its world building and character design has barely been matched and the story is timeless. Appealing to people of all ages, it’s a truly universal film, something that can be enjoyed by anyone, anytime. It not only spawned the digital animation revolution but also became the first part of a trilogy which ranks alongside the greatest in history.
1. Wall-E (2008). Not only is this my favourite Pixar film but it’s probably in my top ten films of all time. I adore Wall-E. Its strong but subtle message of environmentalism and gentle satire on the state of western obesity can pass almost unnoticed but they manage to remain with you. The design of the central character is wonderful, taking inspiration from two of my all time favourite film makers, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Wall-E’s co-star EVE is also impeccably designed, looking like something from an Apple designer’s dream. The plot is enjoyable, very funny and features adult themes but it can be enjoyed by children all the same. It doesn’t talk down to its younger viewers and allows them to appreciate the themes as much as their parents. The film features Pixar’s most beautiful romance (Up’s beginning aside) and it’s also one of the best looking films the studio has produced. The space sequences are just stunning.
How does your list compare?