There is no doubt that Pixar has transformed the animation industry. That opening sequence of the lamp bouncing on a rubber ball until it deflates remains a symbol of my childhood. With its most recent feature film, Coco, breaking box office records in Mexico, Pixar remains to be an institution that continues to change the way we look at animated films. The foundation of Pixar’s award-winning formula are stories that appeal to a core truth about human life. Although seen through the eyes of machines, old toys and rats, the stories resonate with people of all ages.
Pixar stories make us care. They tackle big subjects but present them with compassion and eloquence and are renowned for their underlying messages. Toy Story teaches its audience the importance of cooperation over pride. Finding Nemo informs us that a good parent can be restricted by fear and over-control. Ratatouille reminds us that unlikely dreams can be achieved as “a great artist can come from anywhere.”
This focus on complex characters solving real problems allows for Pixar films to elicit a strong emotional response.
Every project involves extensive research. If they’re going to tell a story from an unusual perspective, they ensure that the characters they create are scientifically accurate. For Finding Nemo, Professor Adam Summers from the University of California Irvine Ecology and Evolution taught a graduate-level ichthyology course to the Pixar staff, so that they could incorporate fish muscle movements into the characters to make them more realistic.
Pixar cast those who are most suited to the role, not just those who improve their ratings at the box office.
Although they have used A-list celebrities, such as Tom Hanks and Ellen DeGeneres, they have also used the scratch performances recorded by Pixar animators, with Andrew Stanton recording the dialogue for ‘Crush’ in Finding Nemo.
Pixar remains to be an institution that continues to change the way we look at animated films
Pixar has transformed the way we think about animated children’s films. When asked to be the voice of ‘Woody’, Tom Hanks famously said, “you don’t want me to sing do you?” Pixar does not rush from musical number to musical number. They present slower narratives with a wealth of detail that demands repeated viewing. They don’t need songs, or happy villages, or love stories to make their films successful. WALL-E features a metal box as its hero, and a steering wheel as its villain – yet it successfully exhibits a narrative that encourages us to make the world a better place.
Coco, which centres on the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, is the first of Pixar’s feature films to celebrate a minority culture. Audiences should feel confident that the story they tell will be handled with care and consideration.
Key creator Andrew Stanton says that “we all want affirmations that our life has meaning and nothing has a greater affirmation than when we connect with stories.”
With the release of Coco in the UK set for January, and the Incredibles 2 teaser trailer recently hitting the internet, Pixar will continue to reign as the leading animation studio.