Episode 83: Pixar: Disney’s Best Friend and Savior


So, last week, I was telling you guys about Disney flubbing most of the films they made after the Disney Renaissance period. Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Treasure Planet. Home on the Range. These films were mere blips on the radar of any Disney fan. They didn’t resonate with movie goers. It looked like Disney lost its magic touch.

So, what does Disney do? Outsource the magic making, of course!

When Pixar and Disney released Toy Story, it was unlike anything even seen before. I could be wrong but I think Toy Story was the breakthrough when it comes to computer animated theatrical films. No other film has ever tried that before and I’m assuming that was an extremely big risk! And I don’t think Disney even needed to be taking the risk because when it was released way back in 1995, it was right in the middle of the Disney Renaissance! Okay, it was at the tail-end of the Renaissance but I don’t think Disney knew that then!

Pixar did continue to do business with Disney ever since. Three years after Toy Story, they released A Bug’s Life…. which I didn’t like that much. I always thought the ants looked really weird because I’ve never seen purple ants before! I’m not even sure purple ants exist in real life! But I still enjoyed it as a kid, watching it at home but only because I found the stick insect and the caterpillar who wants to be a butterfly funny.

They also released a sequel to Toy Story 2. I have some vague memories of how excited my brother was for the film and how he just had to watch it one the first day of showing. I didn’t get to join him, of course, since he watched it with his friends and my parents didn’t want me to since the lines were awfully long all the time! I guess that was the time when I was fully aware of how big cartoon movies have become. Then again, I only thought of them as movies, period.

Anyway, the first Pixar movie that I actually got to watch at the movies was Monsters Inc. And I was blown away by the film! When I was a kid, I was also afraid of monsters hiding under my bed. For a while, I would sleep with a night light on because, in my mind, the monsters wouldn’t come after me as long as there was a light in my room. But, after I saw Boo not being afraid of “kitty,” I tried being more brave when going to sleep.

And Pixar just kept on giving us great movie after great movie. Finding Nemo was a great adventure under the sea. The Incredibles was a fantastic superhero film even if it didn’t come from Marvel or DC! Cars, while it did have¬†anthropomorphic vehicles, it was, at its heart, a story about a hotshot growing up and becoming more mature. Ratatouille showed us that we shouldn’t let other people tell us what we want to do. Up was a great adventure, showing us that, even though you’re old, you’re never too old to have a great adventure or change.

My favorite Pixar movie would undoubtedly be WALL-E. WALL-E was a fantastic film and, even though I was a pre-teen and I thought I outgrew cartoons, proved to me that you just don’t hit a certain age and stop liking cartoons. I loved the designs of WALL-E and Eve. Even though they were just robots, they managed to convey feelings in a very realistic and, dare I say, human way.

Oh, and it was a message movie about how we’re destroying our environment… without hitting us over the head with the message! That was brilliant and opened my eyes to how were were needlessly destroying the planet. It took a cartoon to teach me this thing! Imagine that!

I guess Pixar has its own kind of Disney magic. It was unlike the Disney magic of old, definitely. Disney, for the most part, told stories only that kids will enjoy. They would give us fairy tales and heroic stories of people going above and beyond to save the world. There was always a good guy and a bad guy. The villain would do bad things because they were bad and the good guys would foil them because they were the the heroes.

Pixar, well, their films were different because they told tales that could be enjoyed by both kids and adults. There were different layers to their stories. The good guys may do things for selfish reasons. The bad guys may feel that they have to do bad things for the greater good. These are concepts kids may not understand or even notice but adults will!

Pixar also focused on telling good stories first and then making money later, something that I think Disney didn’t try doing after post-Disney Renaissance. They tried grinding out movie after movie, hoping the next film would be a hit. Pixar stories are definitely more refined. Even shorts like Presto, managed to tell a great story even if they only have 5 minutes… and no dialog!

That’s why Toy Story, Monsters Inc, WALL-E and most of Pixar’s movies are classics: they work for both kids and adults alike. A good kids movie will be loved by kids even as they grow up. But a great kids movie will be enjoyed even by the parents and guardians that have to watch the movies with their kids.

Eventually, Disney knew they couldn’t let Pixar go and they bought the company outright. After that, I’m sorry to say that Pixar seems to have gone by the wayside, following Disney’s mantra of making money. Since then, they released Cars 2 and Monsters University, films that felt like cash ins hoping to bank on the success of their previous films.

Thankfully, when Disney bought Pixar, the somehow managed to recapture the magic of old… with a new Disney Renaissance! And I’ll talk more about that next time!

What’s your favorite Pixar film? Let me know what it is in the comments section below!


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