When it comes to cutting-edge computer animation, one name stands high above the rest: Pixar. With each film that they release, they perfect their techniques to create realistic environments and characters through the use of computers. While Dreamworks has had some limited success against the powerhouse that is Pixar, each and every time a Pixar film is released, they up the “wow” factor of the visuals they are able to create. While there was a time when Pixar was starting to lack in the plot department (something they usually emphasized), they seem to have fixed whatever their issues were and are now creating quality material once again. And even though they have started to rely on their own franchises to create new material (via sequels), they do occasionally have a new, brilliant idea. This week’s two films highlight some of the best that Pixar has to offer.
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours
It is somewhat unfortunate that the Animated Feature Oscar was not introduced until the 21st century, because some of Pixar’s early works would certainly have won. While Toy Story (1995) took home a Special Achievement Oscar for being the first, full-length computer animated film, it wasn’t until Finding Nemo (2003) when Pixar would take home the coveted gold statuette. From that point until 2012, they have taken home most of the Best Animated Feature Oscars for the years they have released a film (the exceptions of course being for Cars (2006) and Cars 2 (2011)). Two of Pixar’s films have even gone so far as to have been nominated for Best Picture: Up (2009) and Toy Story 3 (2010). Time will tell if this year’s Finding Dory (2016) will follow in its predecessor’s footsteps and snag another Oscar for Pixar.
After Nemo (Alexander Gould) is stolen by a scuba diver during a field trip, his father, Marlin (Albert Brooks), sets out to rescue him. Marlin’s urge to protect his son is strong due to an incident with a barracuda that killed his wife and almost every unborn child the two of them were going to have. Along the way, Marlin befriends a ditzy fish by the name of Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) who helps him along the journey from the Great Barrier Reef into Sydney, Australia. Despite the setbacks of the deep of the ocean, a minefield, a collection of recovering sharks, and a swarm of deadly jellyfish, the two manage to safely get to their destination. Meanwhile, Nemo has been integrated into the society of fish occupying a dentist’s aquarium. Through their help, they eventually get him out of the dentist office and back into the sea. Once there, it still takes some luck to rejoin the father and son.
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours
Early on in Pixar’s films, it was clear they didn’t want to animate people. I don’t blame them, since the “uncanny valley” is a difficult gap to cross. With main characters being toys, bugs, monsters, fish, and cars, The Incredibles (2004) was their first foray into having people as main characters. While these films are rare for them, they are gradually getting better at it. Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009), Brave (2012), Inside Out (2015), and The Good Dinosaur (2015) all have humans in main roles, but the way they’ve been able to keep these characters from falling into the uncanny valley is to render them to look more cartoonish than realistic. While they might seem out of place in the hyper-realistic settings, these humans aren’t rejected by our brains. I look forward to what the characters from The Incredibles will look like in their 2019 sequel.
Even though the “Glory Years” of superheroes are long gone, Robert Parr (Craig T. Nelson), the super formerly known as Mr. Incredible, longs to continue crime-fighting. His entire family struggles with having superior abilities, but being unable to use them in public. When Bob is contacted by the mysterious Mirage (Elizabeth Peña) with an opportunity to test out battle droids on Nomanisan Island, he jumps at the opportunity. Unfortunately, the purpose of the droids is much more sinister, since their creator, Syndrome (Jason Lee), wants to create a world where he alone can make normal people “super”. Suspicious of her husband’s activities, Helen Parr (Holly Hunter), aka Elastigirl, follows him to the island. When she finds her children are with her, the entire family teams up to take down Syndrome and stop his nefarious plans.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 perfect Pixar pieces