Which is Your Favorite Pixar Movie?
Toy Story - 3
A Bug's Life - 0
Toy Story 2 - 2
Monsters, Inc. - 9
Finding Nemo - 4
The Incredibles - 12
Cars - 1
Ratatouille - 6
Wall-E - 5
Up - 9
Pixar Shorts - 0
I Like Pie - 4
Total votes: 55
Okay, this poll has been closed for some time now, so I'm long overdue on posting the results for posterity. Let's see how it all turned out. Maybe I'll put this one up for another vote in another six months. We'll see if the voting is overly in favor of the more recent movies, or whether everyone honestly thinks Pixar's movies are getting better.
I always stay out of these polls, because I don't want my opinions to influence the results. That said, I have a soft spot for the original Toy Story, and Monsters, Inc. Of the third-wave Pixar movies (Cars forward), I think Ratatouille is the best. There's a lot to like from Pixar's "Rubber Soul" phase, but it's clearly been an adolescent phase, lots of growth, lots of struggling, very uneven but still very entertaining.
Sometimes, I find myself really enjoying Pixar's short film experiments before Toy Story. There's a spirit of discovery in those works that the later, more formulaic features lack. This is why I included the shorts in the poll. The recent forays into silent film in Wall-E and Up call back to these roots, and they also happen to be among the finest moments in the studio's canon.
The Rubber Soul era has ended; next on the lineup are sequels to Toy Story, Cars, and Monsters, Inc. The next original Pixar feature, three years away, is the first directed by a woman, which is an important step forward. But it's going to be a Disney fairy tale. A step backward.
Pixar still needs its revolutionary breakthrough, their Horus, their Heidi. Ratatouille came the closest, the latter movies seem to be holding back. This break in the production schedule should give the brain trust an opportunity to step back and determine where, exactly, they want to go. For they are now at a crossroads. One direction is the safe path, towards predictable formulas, safe routines, easy profits, and the warm embrace of the Disney brand. The other direction is far riskier, less safe, less reliable to make money. But through that path lies the salvation of American animation.
To put it easier, it's like this. The hard path takes us towards the husband-and-wife story in Up's first act. The easy path takes us towards the loud Star Wars-fueled chase scenes of acts two and three. Wall-E had grappled with the same dilemma, and wasn't able to resolve it. You either liked the first half or the second, but not both, and certainly not equally. There's a real and definite pecking order.
Where will Pixar go? Nobody knows. They could go either way at this point. And there's no question that the public would love more and more sequels. They've been conditioned to it. But for a studio that imagines itself the American Ghibli, playing it safe isn't good enough. They must continue to push forward. They must create their own Horus, their own Heidi. But it will not be easy. If creating art instead of commerce is truly the goal, they will have to risk failure. Nobody ever truly asks to be ahead of their time, but art demands it. The artform must evolve. Animation must finally break free from its babysitter ghetto.