Thursday, June 04, 2009

Pixar Power Rankings

Just saw Up (capsule review: Loved it!) and found myself marveling at Pixar's flawless track record. What is it about Pixar movies that works so well? I think it's because they take one outlandish conceit — toys come to life! A floating house! — and by the end you're a total believer.

All this animated thinking made me want to rank the Pixar movies, which is like choosing your favorite Dodger Dog (the pre-game dog, the third-inning dog or the seventh-inning stretch dog?). Very, very difficult, but I gave it a shot.

Please bear in mind that just because these movies are ordered doesn't mean the lower-ranked ones aren't great. It just means the lower-ranked ones are slightly less great. No one makes movies like Pixar does.

I go to the movies to escape. And Monsters, Inc. serves up a fantastical world grounded just enough in real-world emotions to both thrill and move. An ingenious screenplay and clever character design help make it a masterpiece of imagination.
Conceptually, almost the opposite of Monsters, Inc.: A single whimsical element is introduced into a mostly realistic universe. And it works equally as well. The most adult of Pixar's movies says different things to kids and grown-ups. And it's a cheap way to see Paris.
Ah, the original. The ideal conceit for an animated movie, and the use of real-life toys as characters provides a depth that transcends any cynical product placement ploy. And those three-eyed aliens (above) rule.
On the surface, the most conventional Pixar work. Underneath, amazingly witty and chock-full of smart pop-culture references as well as human moments. And it has probably the best action scenes of all of Pixar's movies.
Only a studio that has had nine features with an average domestic gross of $220 million would have the clout to make its tenth about the adventures of an elderly man and a chubby Boy Scout. A must-see for dog lovers.
If its second half were as sublimely perfect as its nearly dialogue-free first half, WALL•E would be the greatest movie ever, not just the greatest Pixar movie. As it is, it's merely so moving you find yourself caring much more for the movie's robots than its humans.
Like Ratatouille, Finding Nemo contains different messages for children and adults. It's also the most visually stunning Pixar movie, as underwater colors are used to great effect. By far the highest-grossing Pixar movie ($865 million worldwide), and deservedly so.
Pixar's only sequel to date manages to capture the charm of the first movie while expanding its characters and situations in an organic fashion. If Toy Story 3 maintains the streak, it would complete one of the strongest movie trilogies ever.
Perhaps it loses some uniqueness points because of the similarly themed Antz, but A Bug's Life more than earns its audience goodwill with a strong cast of supporting characters. The circus scene is a true delight.
Pixar's first venture into machines as characters, and the experience likely served them well in creating WALL•E. Cars manages the not-insignificant feat of making car racing appeal to non-fans. Paul Newman's voice doesn't hurt either.

My next big must-see: Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo on the Cliff. It's been a great summer for the Dodgers...and moviegoing!


Eric Karros said...

I've only seen Cars, the original Toy Story, and the Incredibles.

As you say, it's tough to rank them as I thought they were all very good. But I'll say Toy Story, Incredibles, and Cars.

MR.F said...

I've never been a HUGE Pixar fan but I've enjoyed all the ones I've seen. I really should check out Monsters, Inc.

rbnlaw said...

The advantage of having kids; you see every Pixar movie. . .multiple times.
The appeal of Pixar comes from the writing as well as the animation. Dream Works relies heavily on the celebrity voices and ignores the writing and animation (exception: Kung Fu Panda. . .genius writing, probably because of Jack Black).

If I had to rank them (haven't seen Up!):
1. Finding Nemo (2 words: Albert Brooks)
2. The Incredibles (3 words: Samuel L. Jackson)
3. Toy Story (2 words: Don Rickles)
4. Tie: Monsters Inc. and Ratatouille. Animation should always be this good; this detailed; this seamless. Jaw dropping at times.

Not so much: Cars (3 words: Git 'er Done)

Chris said...

The Incredibles has to be ranked a 1 or 2, IMO. Best combination of fun action, humor for kids and adults, and some of the best representations of family interactions I've seen in almost any movie.

Neeebs (The Original) said...

When my daughter was much younger, we watched Nemo over and over and over and over and get the point.

Nemo rocks. Love Monster's Inc.

So I'd give them both a One Two rating.

Only one question...Why didn't they spell it FINDING NEEEMO?

Jon Weisman said...

I think Cars gets a bad rap and that "Bug's Life" is their only one that doesn't quite work.

People talk about the opening of "Wall-E," but I don't know if Pixar has ever done a better sequence than the marriage montage in "Up."

Snarktwain said...

I might be wrong, but I believe "A Bug's Life" as a whole was a reference to the working relationship between the ant-like Pixar and the grasshopper-like Disney, since Disney got all the name recognition and most of the money for Toy Story. This makes this movie better, for me, although it still doesn't get near The Incredibles or Monsters, Inc..

Josh S. said...

I tried ranking the Pixar flicks, but I just couldn't (for one, I haven't seen Cars or Ratatouille). I know for sure that Up is the best by far, though. Incredibles is an easy second, and then the rest of them are tied for third.

rbnlaw said...

Keeping with my theme (that I slipped from in my own rankings):
Monsters, Inc.: 2 words; Steve Buscemi.

Unknown said...

WALL-E is the best Pixar film and definitely one of the greatest films around. The "second half" whining is just a crutch used by people because they can't find anything actually wrong with the film, so they complain the second half was too cute or whatever stupid thing they've come up with.

cigarcow said...

Waaayyyy off here. Monsters Inc blew (plus Billy Crystal blah). Wall-E was the greatest cartoon movie ever.

Felix Pardalis said...

As a father of a 2-year old who is currently rewatching the Pixar canon with her, I have to agree that Monsters, Inc is underrated. Not only does it have an incredibly cute kid but the last half hour more than makes up for any slowness of the beginning.

Biggest disappointment so far has been Bug's Life, which is very amusing but without a focused message.

It's not surprising that on a sports-related blog the great Cars isn't loved. It makes a great case for "it's only a game".

Fred's Brim said...

Orel will you be updating the power rankings now that Toy Story 3 is out?

I have seen all three Toy Storys for the first time this week and would be interested to hear your take on the new one

Kyle Baker said...

I may be one of the few people who loathe Monsters, Inc. I love animated movies (thankfully, as I am married to a DreamWorks employee), and I see and enjoy most of them. But Monsters? Blech. It was just John Goodman running around yelling "Boo?" while running in and out of doors for 92 minutes.

Fred's Brim said...

I have only seen parts of Monsters Inc, but Billy Crystal puts me off of that one straight away

The intro cartoon for Toy Story 3 was pretty awesome. It must be so fun to make things like that. I took an animation class in college but we didn't get too much past zoetropic animation (still cool though)

I may have missed it but I was hoping to see a shoutout to the late Jim Varney. There didnt seem to be anything in the credits

Kyle Baker said...

I'm aiming for zoetropic animation tonight.

Fred's Brim said...

Breaking out the strobe light tonight?
*does robot dance*