Discussion of movies and ReelThoughts topics

It is currently Tue Sep 30, 2014 5:06 pm




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 17 posts ] 
The Complete Works of Pixar 
Author Message
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:42 pm
Posts: 1424
Location: Bangkok
Post The Complete Works of Pixar
I was doing this at another forum, and want to post it here as well.

Pixar may be the most consistent American studio I can think of. Even in the perceived "slump" period of right now (which I don't quite agree with, but that's for later), it constantly puts out works in which the care and touch of filmmakers can be felt throughout. Even the quality of their "bad" ones are impressive compared to the average level of other studios.

So for this, I will go through the output of Pixar, in both shorts and features, from way back even when putting together a 2-minute computer animated short is a struggle. Some of them I have seen many times, some I have seen only once or twice, and many shorts I have never seen before.

Note: I will only rate their stuff from the 90's forward, as I feel the early shorts are more of demo and technical experiments than fully formed stuff. I will go through them chronologically, except for shorts that are set in a feature's universe. In that case I will go through all of them after that feature, before moving on.


Mon Nov 11, 2013 6:36 am
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:42 pm
Posts: 1424
Location: Bangkok
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
The Adventures of André and Wally B. (1984, John Lasseter)

Image

This two-minute clip (one and a half if you discount the end credit) about a character named Andre escaping from a bee is rather notable for being groundbreaking in 1984 more than its content, which has a simple story and consists of characters made of basic geometry shapes. Still, for a short clip demo illustrating what can be achieved (this is the first use of motion blur in CG animation and complex 3D backgrounds), I suppose it is mildly amusing enough and very interesting when placed in context within computer animation history. Sidenote: Although the short is not technically done by Pixar, the animation is done by John Lasseter under Lucas film's subsidiary The Graphics Group.

Watch it here.




Luxo Jr. (1986, John Lasseter)

Image

The first animation made under Pixar's name after John Lasseter and computer scientist Ed Catmull left ILM's computer division, this short also features the hopping desk lamp that will become Pixar's logo. It feels quite astonishing how far they have come in just 2 years since the first short. This one is really good-looking and naturalistic, with uses of shadows and fully-formed emotions of its characters, and a good punchline at the end of the story. Lassester's tendency in telling stories of inanimate objects coming to life (Toy Story, Cars) is also first evident here.

Hard to imagine these days, but for this 2-minute short, both Catmulll and Lasseter had to work overtime, with Lasseter sleeping in a bag under his desk to work immediately the next morning.

Watch it here.


Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:41 am
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:42 pm
Posts: 1424
Location: Bangkok
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
Red's Dream (1987, John Lasseter)

Image

If Luxor Jr. was Toy Story's first predecessor in having inanimate objects coming to life, Red's Dream began the tiny seed of the whole philosophy in the Toy Story universe right here. From a red unicycle languishing in the store's "clearance corner", to his dream of being useful and loved in a circus, Lasseter has developed, in just over three years, what could have been a gimmick into another medium of delivering emotionally resonant stories. There is not much of a narrative, but as a melancholic tone poem it's very good.

Watch it here.



Tin Toy (1988, John Lasseter)

Image

That was one creepy baby.

I wasn't a fan of returning to the first short's geometric sensibility in animation, even though this is way well done more than that time, accompanied by an entertaining, fully-formed story (that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film). It's striking how much the day care in Toy Story 3 is owed to this short, and easy to see how this would get the attention of Disney, sealing an agreement that would lead to Toy Story. They even almost did a half-hour sequel to this short, which would include a pink bear named Lotso.

Watch it here.




Knick Knack (1989, John Lasseter)

Image

This was the last Pixar's short before they devoted their time fully to making Toy Story. More of a pure comedy in the vein of Looney Tunes and Chuck Jones, I very much enjoyed its slapstick (which made the geometric shapes didn't bother me as much). Nothing much to add, except a funny trivia I read that before Lasseter released this short with Finding Nemo, he altered the toy girls' breasts to be smaller and had the mermaid properly wear a bra instead of just starfish, citing him becoming a father as the reason (as opposed to Disney wanting him to do it).

Watch it here.


Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:42 am
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:42 pm
Posts: 1424
Location: Bangkok
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
Toy Story (1995, John Lasseter)

Image

"Look, over in that house is a kid who thinks you are the greatest, and it's not because you're a Space Ranger, pal. It's because you're a toy. You are HIS toy!"


Around the time Toy Story 3 came out, someone posted the original draft footage of what Toy Story might have been. In it, Woody was a jerk, and the general tone of the movie has been pushed towards "edgy", especially in regards to the two main characters. Thankfully, it had been scrapped, or we might have been robbed of the wonderful characters, and their remarkable progression throughout the three films. However, watching the original movie that has started it all after I hadn't seen it in some years, I wonder if the push to reverse that might have been a tad strong. There is no denying the wonderful gags, witty dialogue, and intimate characters. But early on in the first half, there is a pervading sense of almost too much simplicity in the pacing and characters' interaction, without the nuance that even some lesser Pixar films would go on to have (the way the group of toys quickly disregard and/or gang up on Woody for about two or three times, for example). It showed in the animation as well. The toys are fully realized (even though they will go on to be more realistic and better detailed in the sequels), but the rubbery humans and weird dogs are a bit clunky, and their scenes at times give off a sense of watching a tech demo.

However, in the end, technology here is in service of story, and that will trump over the age-related issue of the movie any time. I keep being reminded of Jurassic Park, another technology-landmark movie that has its share of story issues, and of special effects having been surpassed by a lot of films. Still, what both movies possess that their successors have a hard time duplicating, if at all succeeding in the same way, is the sense of wonder. The creators of both films understand that the effects in and of themselves can be impressive, but they will lack that awe-inspiring kick which will contribute to the endless rewachablility, if there is nothing to support them. In Toy Story, the toys' rules are a delight to observe and get lost in, and watching them overcome our normal, everyday objects provide that kick of wonder. And the film has no shortage of grand sequences to show off either: pizza planet, Sid's room, and the climatic chase scene. In all of them, we are not only fascinated because of the special effects behind it, but for the unique characters that inhibit and struggle through them as well.

Often, the innovator sets a high bar to live up to. Even though I am not as enamored with it as I once was (I was pegging it as B+, but a couple of sequences in the second half elevated it), Toy Story is one such innovator that still has the ability to entertain greatly, and it never fail to create a sense of thrilling wonder, because we are keenly aware of witnessing a breakthrough, of seeing great technology led by an even loftier imagination.

A-


Stray Observations:

- Seeing Joss Whedon's name at the beginning, I kept thinking throughout the film that Mr. Potato Head may be his voice peeking through. But after reading about the movie, it turns out that the neurotic Rex is his addition, which also makes a certain kind of sense.

- Didn't remember Bo Peep being this overtly risque before this watch. Heh.


Nitpick Corner: Things that have been said above; at times a little simplistic, and the animation is still rough around the edge (which ended up working fine for this installment, since it's more about Buzz and Woody than Woody and other humans).



Two of my favorite scenes:

- When Woody and Buzz ventured into Sid's house. I love when a "kid movie" isn't afraid to tackle a creepy tone, and this was delightfully grotesque with some great visuals.

Image Image Image


- The climatic chase at the end. Still thrilling, exhilarating, inventive, and cleverly executed after all these years.

Image Image Image


Thu Nov 14, 2013 4:21 am
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:42 pm
Posts: 1424
Location: Bangkok
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
Geri's Game (1997, John Lasseter)

Image

Despite winning an Academy Award, this short has never impressed me that much. I feel it gave away its hands too early with scenes of Geri walking between opposite sides of the table from the get-go. Certainly most of us will never doubt at the beginning that there is only one of him, but by showing that scene there, instead of near the end, it robs the story a certain narrative power, and renders us to just watch a crazy old man walking back and forth and Gollum-speaking to himself. It's competent and well-edited, as is the animation (focused on a human this time), but in the end feels rather uninspired.

B-


Watch it here.


Fri Nov 15, 2013 1:39 am
Profile
Producer

Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 11:04 am
Posts: 2208
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
Geri's Game is one of my favorite shorts ever. Definitely my favorite that went before a Pixar flick.

Toy Story is my second favorite Pixar flick, after Up.


Fri Nov 15, 2013 9:09 am
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:42 pm
Posts: 1424
Location: Bangkok
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
ilovemovies wrote:
Geri's Game is one of my favorite shorts ever. Definitely my favorite that went before a Pixar flick.

Toy Story is my second favorite Pixar flick, after Up.


I find it straddling a line between clever and slapstick, and end up middling. There are some other Pixar shorts down the line that I like a lot more.

I have seen Up only once in theater. Love the first 5-10 minutes, unsure about the rest, but I suspect I will like it more this time.


Fri Nov 15, 2013 9:18 am
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:42 pm
Posts: 1424
Location: Bangkok
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
A Bug's Life (1998, John Lasseter)

Image


"You let one ant stand up to us, and they all might stand up! Those "puny little ants" outnumber us a hundred to one. And if they ever figure that out, there goes our way of life! It's not about food. It's about keeping those ants in line."



Much like the difference from "The Adventures of André and Wally B." to "Luxo Jr.", the leap in the animation aspect from Toy Story to A Bug's Life is quite amazing. Gone are some clunky or awkward look and movement. Everything is detailed, smooth, and beautiful, which must be quite a challenge since they had to animate the nature in close-up. From the underground ant cave, to the cracked earth that separates the island from other places, to the potentially fatal rain, the movie never fails to be pleasing to the eyes.

Well, that's most of the positives I had for the picture. Even as a kid, I've never really warmed up to A Bug's Life, and this watch nails the reasons why. The movie is very plot-oriented, intending on moving from one set-piece and important event to another, and the characters get the short shrift. It creates quite an imbalance when I feel that the most developed character is Hopper, the villain, followed by some of the circus clowns, with the ant colony a close third. Flik is a little too over the top in incompetence for a protagonist, enough that it is almost grating, and his romance with Princess Atta never becomes more than half-hearted. Quite a difference from the characters nuance in the more engaging Toy Story.

Still, let it sound like I outright dislike the movie, there are still some treasure moments to be found, as in every Pixar film. As I said, Hopper and his many speeches made for a really good villain, but another unintentional villain eclipses him: the bird. From my first watch as a kid up to this one, that very realistic freaking bird never fails to be so pantshittingly scary, because it's the only character in this universe that has no consciousness. He exists as a perfectly natural killing machine. The filmmakers don't tone down him either, what with those violent peckings and his chilling screeches. Every scene with him raises the tension and involvement several notches. I still shudder at the violent scene near the end with Hopper and the bird.

Overall, I quite like this film as a spectacle, but in the same year, Antz was better and more sophisticated, and the spark that drives Toy Story and many Pixar films later on just isn't there.

B-




Stray Observations:

- Just notice that there's Pizza Planet van at the Bug Central.

- I also love the bloody elementary school presentation, where the circus clowns' realization are slowly dawning in.

- In fact, this movie is generally a bit more gross and violent than I remember (I mean that as a compliment), which seems to happen when they don't tone down the various bug's real-life look or behaviors, like those flies.



Nitpick Corner: The protagonists are somewhat bland and uninvolving.



Two of my favorite scenes:

Not surprisingly, they all involve birds.

- The bird's first attack. The movie gets a considerable boost in energy at this point.

Image Image Image


- When the rain starts falling, to Hopper's fate (*shudder*). The movie amped up both the visuals, dangers, and stakes to create a very good climax.

Image Image Image


Sat Nov 16, 2013 12:13 am
Profile
Critic
User avatar

Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:35 am
Posts: 7433
Location: Easton, MD
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
Cool plan! I love completism! Also not a huge Bug's Life fan. It's too childish

_________________
I'm lithe and fierce as a tiger


Sat Nov 16, 2013 10:21 am
Profile
Auteur
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 12:02 pm
Posts: 3646
Location: Zion, IL
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
JamesKunz wrote:
Cool plan! I love completism! Also not a huge Bug's Life fan. It's too childish

I really liked that film as a kid, looking back on it now it admittedly isn't as strong as the rest of Pixar's lineup, still enjoyable enough though.


Sat Nov 16, 2013 1:56 pm
Profile
Producer

Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 11:04 am
Posts: 2208
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
I love A Bug's Life. One of the more underrated Pixar movies.


Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:20 am
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:42 pm
Posts: 1424
Location: Bangkok
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
Toy Story 2 (1999, John Lasseter)

Image


"You still worried?"
"Who? About Andy? Nah. It'll be fun while it lasts."




There was always a nagging feeling the back of my mind about this film, that carries over even when I was older. I loved it, but tentatively, and thought for a long time that it may be the best that Pixar has done, but still, with a note of hesitation. It took Toy Story 3 to answer that lingering thought: the unsure, slightly haunting ending. Mind you, it can be called a happy ending, but the fact remains that, as seen in the quote above, there is a definite note of resignation about it, of pushing the sad inevitability off for some more years. Before the third installment came out, I always left this film in a very contemplative mood.

Honestly, it is quite an accomplishment for a film to do that, let alone an animated sequel. It builds from the original in every way, from animation, characters, and themes. The leap in animation from A Bug's Life to this isn't as big as from Toy Story to that film, but still immediately noticeable. The best object to gain from this is the people in Toy Story universe, befitting a film that moves on to explore the bond between toys and humans. No longer clunky blocks, they move with grace and are consisted of amazing details. Andy showed more emotions, and Big Al's face close-up when Woody tried to get his hand back demonstrates how far Pixar has come.

The film takes the characters and themes to a more daring place as well. It must have been tempting, after two consecutive successes, to coast by and just let the toys have "another adventure". But no, right from "You know toys don't last forever" by Andy's mom, it injects a shot of startling reality at the beginning, leading a toy or two to have crisis of existentialism. It comes complete with uneasy nightmare filled with throwaway toys in a trashcan (foreshadowing?). In the first film, Buzz has a somewhat similar pang of realization, but it was played more for laughs. But in this, Woody has to ponder if it is good to be loved intimately for a short while, or admired coldly from afar behind a panel of glass. The first film's theme can be seen as sibling's jealousy; this one has a mind about parents' fear of aging, and their children growing up and moving on. Even in small dose, heady themes for a kid's movie, and Pixar doesn't shy away, giving it a somber, serious treatment, most notably in Jess' mournful and affecting "When She Loved Me" sequence, and Woody staring into the dark oblivion of the air shaft afterwards.

However, let it sound like all doom and gloom, all of these are accomplished with some wonderful humor and warmth. Buzz is similarly examined, but by a funnier, satirical way. The movie has him finding many duplicates of himself in a toy store. He basically lived through Woody's arc from the last film, right down to having the same shot when he climbed up and found another toy, and with the speech "You! Are! A! Toy!". This storyline also has a gentle parody on Star Wars and commercialization, complete with a very fun adventure throughout the city and airport.

I have always thought the use of the song "You've Got a Friend in Me" to be a very strong motif throughout the three films. At the beginning of the first one, it is to establish the strength of bond between Andy and Woody. In this sequel, it popped up on Al's TV to remind Woody of that bond when he was at a crossroad. It is also used to end the film in a Sinatra style version. But by playing it over the uncertain tone of the ending, it has a heavy note of melancholy, with the lyrics' meaning echoed in one of the closing lines: "I can't stop Andy from growing up, but I wouldn't miss it for the world."

A



Stray Observations:

- Rex's sad talk about his short arms early in the film has me wondered if he is the source of that sad dinosaur meme.

- When he is not busy playing chess with himself in the park, Geri fixes toy for a living. Wonder if his "you can't rush art" is in reference to the movie's troublesome production? (Tight and grueling schedules were required to meet the rushed deadline, so much that one very exhausted employee briefly forgot his own child in the car's backseat at the parking lot)

- Apart from the Star Wars and 2001 references, the film also has some foreshadowing to future projects, like Rex's "find some balloons to float up to the top" (Up) and Stinky Pete's "Spending eternity in a landfill" (Toy Story 3).


Nitpick Corner:
It almost goes off into too many tangents, and the movie loses a little focus towards the end.


Two of my favorite scenes:

- The toys crossing the street. Much like the climatic chase of the first film, it still remains breathless and tense throughout, with a plus of having some strong humor undercurrent ("Well, that went well!").

Image Image Image


- Car chase to the airport. I probably rate this highly because I love every time the green aliens show up, and their appearance here is the funniest yet ("Whoooooaaa" and "You have saved our lives. We are eternally grateful"). It's also a hoot to see the toys trying to operate a car.

Image Image Image


Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:13 am
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Nov 18, 2012 2:37 am
Posts: 1065
Location: Laurel, MD
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
These are awesome! Keep them coming. My favorite Pixar film is Wall-E, can't wait to see your thoughts on that.

_________________
https://www.facebook.com/ken.rossman.5


Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:48 pm
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:09 pm
Posts: 1296
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
Yes, "A Bug's Life" is minor Pixar, but I'll still take it over either "Cars" movies or "Brave."

Funny how when "Toy Story 2" came out many people thought it was better than the first, but when "Toy Story 3" came out many people suddenly thought the second one was the weakest. :?


Thu Nov 21, 2013 12:40 am
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:42 pm
Posts: 1424
Location: Bangkok
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
Hmm, I like the first Cars and thought Brave was rather... interesting, if not successful. Both I watched only once though.

This will be going at a slower rate until the end of this month. So many projects and exams.


Thu Nov 21, 2013 7:18 am
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:42 pm
Posts: 1424
Location: Bangkok
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
For the Birds (2000, Ralph Eggleston)

Image

Another Academy Award winner, and this time it is fairly easy for me to see the love. The most complete short Pixar has done yet, both in term of look and story. Gaining after the accomplishment of animals and insects in A Bug's Life and (partially) Toy Story 2, the surrounding and especially the birds are rendered with meticulous details. The tiny round birds and their insistent chirping are also instant causes for chuckles. The short builds constantly with one good little gag after another, until it culminates in one great moment of slapstick. Although it doesn't have the full comedic or emotional power of some later shorts, it still remains very funny, with a message reminiscent of Carrie: don't underestimate or bully that outsider.

B+


Watch it here.


Thu Nov 21, 2013 7:20 am
Profile
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:42 pm
Posts: 1424
Location: Bangkok
Post Re: The Complete Works of Pixar
In the meantime that I'm too busy to rewatch stuff, down the memory trip, had any of you 90's kids ever played the Toy Story 2 PS game? In hindsight it's kind of mediocre, but back then it was one of my first games and the game's world (which is the movies' world of the toys) felt so lived in that I must have replayed it about 10+ times, just to get lost in that word over and over.

Image

Image

Image


Sun Nov 24, 2013 9:08 am
Profile
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 17 posts ] 


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.
Designed by Vjacheslav Trushkin for Free Forum/DivisionCore.
Translated by Xaphos © 2007, 2008, 2009 phpBB.fr