If Pixar Fails

Following up on the previous post on Up, I don't mean to be the prophet of doom and gloom (listening to Miles Davis' 1975 live albums Agharta and Pangaea probably doesn't help). But if Up fails to be a huge hit at the box-office, which is to say, if this movie continues the studio's long downward trend, then it effectively marks the end. If this studio is forced to retreat creatively, trapped into making nice, safe, formulaic pictures, because that's where the money lies, then any future hope for this medium is finished.

If Pixar fails, there won't be another one to come along and take its place. What happened here was a once-in-a-lifetime event, a happy freak accident borne of a new technology. Steve Jobs' tiny studio pioneered computer animation while Hollywood slumbered, and in the process completely took over the asylum. That's never going to happen again. If Pixar fails, then this will effectively mark the end of animation as a viable artistic medium in this country.

Don't kid yourself. These are the stakes we are playing for. It's all or nothing.


Malik Ming said...

Danny's back! Good to hear from you again!

Whenever I read your thoughts on Pixar and the state/future of American animation, tears want to leave my eyes. Of happiness (your initial "Rubber Soul/WALL-E" post), and now of sadness. Can it really be that "Up" may be the last great Pixar film, or even the last great experiment in American animation at all? ("Toy Story 3" sounds very, very cool right now, though.)

As an aspiring animator here in the States, I sincerely hope there will still be a big enough audience for artistic animation (my hopes aren't too high: I'm training for traditional). If Pixar stops doing what they do best, who can we turn to? As you've suggested, no one.

I am confident that Pixar will survive this looming threat (in what state, I don't know), and rest assured I will be seeing "Up," first day, with as many supporters as possible. As risk of seeming like a Nazi,


Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

D'oh! Don't despair! Don't panic! I'm just offering up my own opinions on the matter, with the occasional cranky streak. Nothing I say should be taken as the Writen Gospel. I'm only one voice in the discussion, no greater than yours or anyone else.

It is my honest wish that Up will not prove to be the "Last Great Pixar Movie." I hope that the artists can continue to control their future.

But that grim future I've written about is a very real possibility. And this is nothing new. This very same thing happened to Walt Disney himself. But we have a community of animation lovers, and a means of organizing (the internet) that Walt could only have dreamed of. A movie like Fantasia is far less risky today than in 1940.

Like all other things in life, it comes down to you and me. You need to show your support in the only way that Hollywood understands: with your wallets. If a movie like Up becomes a blockbuster hit, then that will open the doors for more movies of that stripe. Likewise, if Ponyo becomes a hit in the United States, that will open doors not only for thoughtful, intelligent animation, but traditional, hand-drawn animation as well.

This is a business, remember, and Hollywood is only responding to the markets. If there is a sizeable audience for good movies, then you will see more good movies. It's really that simple.

Oh, and if I recall, the Nazis had their own slogans, and none of them sounded remotely like, "long live Pixar," so go right ahead and cheer all you want. And good luck on your career! I hope you find many opportunities and many successes.

Malik Ming said...

Sorry. I didn't mean to sound too down, but it's just a testament to how much you have inspired me to continue on with the animation I'd like to make.

And you're right, of course, this has happened before (thinking about the 60s/70s revolution in American cinema), but we must keep charging forward.

Thanks for the encouragement, and again for the wonderful blog!

Chris said...

About ten years ago I left the United States and while I've visited many times since then, I've never lived there and have no immediate plans to do so. There are quite a few complex reasons why I left the United States. But one very crucial reason was this: so many of the things that I love are infernally condemned as "kid's stuff" in the United States.

I love comics, but in the States, comics are for adolescents. An adult who reads them is considered a bit immature or perhaps even strange, someone who needs to grow up. The fact that my favorite comics are The Phoenix series by Tezuka Osamu doesn't seem to shake any of my fellow Americans one bit: a comic is a comic to them. (There isn't a kid alive who could understand or enjoy those comic books. They're solely written for adults.) If I tell them Jean Giraud is my all-time favorite comic artist and his amazing pictures always inspire me immensely, they'll say, "Who?"

In the United States animation is for children, young, young children. Animation is produced for children. Every animated film is geared first and foremost to the youngest child the producers can imagine and then adult references are sprinkled into the narrative so parents can derive some enjoyment from taking their children to see these "films". If, as the thirty-something adult I am, I find the courage to say to a random American this: "I really love animation". Immediately, they will grimace or smile or look at me strangely. "Animation is for kids," they might say and let that matter eternally lie. And the fact is, in America, they are perfectly right. If I try to say to them, "No, no, no. You don't understand. I hate American animation. I can't stomach it. I'm talking about some of my favorite animators. People like Yuri Norstein and Rene Laloux. And perhaps my favorite animator of all time, Raoul Servais. These films are not made for children!" But what I say will be lost. Animation in America is for children and it will always be so.

Pixar and its potential success offers hope for more intelligent and creative American animation for children, but, well, it will always be for children, I'm afraid.

At this point you probably want to say to me this: But, Chris, Studio Ghibli's movies are all made for children! Just look at Ponyo and Totoro and . . . . And I'll probably return your gaze, smile softly, and say this to you: "Studio Ghibli films are made for the child in all of us. Not simply 'for children'." And in my mind there will be a distinct difference and I'll turn and begin walking away, musing silently, until finally, after some time . . . vanishing in the distance.

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