Welcome to the latest Snooty Ushers collaboration. From time to time, we will be taking a topic of mutual interest and giving our thoughts and opinions, all on the same post. The release of Inside Out this weekend marks the fifteenth movie from the animation juggernaut that is Pixar Animation Studio. Originally a graphics department at Lucasfilm, Pixar was spun off as an independent company in 1986 as a computer company. To showcase the capability of their computers and software, John Lasseter started showing some of the short demo animations he had made around various conventions. This led to them working on adverts, and eventually a deal in the early 90’s with Disney to make a film called Toy Story. And the rest is history!
At one point Pixar only made excellent films. There have been a few missteps along the way, and the buyout by Disney has improved their output but doesn’t seem to have done the same for Pixar. Inside Out is being billed as Pixar back to their very best, and we’ll have a review up soon.
So here we are: The Snooty Ushers on… Pixar!
Dan: Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)
I’m sure that all of the ushers will echo my sentiment that this is an extremely tough choice, choosing a single film from a studio that has churned out nothing but hits. My choice here has to go back to the film that started it all, Toy Story is not only an industry defining film but it is also a masterful story that resonates perfectly with adults and children. The animation has inevitably dated somewhat with progression in technology, but its dramatic effect has not. Toy Story is a rare film where every element of the production is in perfect harmony, the voice acting, the story and the soundtrack are all on point in what is one of the most important films in film history.
Dave: Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, 1999)
This was a tough choice. Up, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3, just so many amazing films, but for some reason Toy Story 2 sticks in my mind. I think it’s the idea that Woody came from somewhere that appeals to me, he was the Buzz Lightyear for a different generation. The film strays from the buddy movie formula of the first film and opens things out, giving more screen time to the other toys. I just loved the nostalgia of Woody’s Round Up gang, Jessie (a favourite with my daughter), Bullseye and Stinky Pete were a welcome addition, the latter particularly effective as the surprise villan of the piece. If the first one was a buddy movie and the last one a heist movie, is this the road movie of the trilogy? Until recently, I wasn’t a fan of the animated film (so how I changed my mind here) but this has always been a favourite. There certainly are better and more polished films in Pixar’s back catalogue, but I think this one will always be my favourite.
James: The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004)
Up and Wall-E are fantastic films, all the Toy Story films are iconic, but The Incredibles just edges them all for me. From depicting the tedium of Mr Incredible’s life as Bob Parr or Violet’s lack of confidence, the story feels real, before building to a satisfyingly bonkers villain. Maybe the fact that it is the only Pixar film to have a single director/writer gives it a more focused feel than any other Pixar film (and also why it has taken so long for the sequel, but it should be Brad Bird’s next film).
Welshy: The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004)
I am a massive fan of superheroes. The Incredibles is a Children’s Version of Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Before Snyder adapted it. It encapsulates the idea of Superhero identity, the thrill of being a hero and the need to help and all the complications that arise. Add to the mix a genius villain who intends to make everyone super because he himself cannot be. Jason Lee plays this role really well and the film as a whole looks at the genre. Something even more apt in this day and age of cinema.
Least Favourite Film
Dan: Brave (Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman, 2012)
So, another tough choice for the same reason as mentioned in my favourite film selection. Now I’ve not seen the films that might be generally considered the weaker Pixar entries, but from those that I have ‘Brave’ is the one that I enjoyed the least. It felt unusually standard and lacked the spark that has made films like ‘Toy Story’, ‘Monsters Inc’ & ‘Up’ stand out. A disappointingly lacklustre film for me.
Dave: Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007)
It was between this and Cars for me, as I mentioned before, I have come quite late to the Pixar world and all the buzz about this film was amazing. Critically adored, I think I was just expecting too much. I just didn’t get it. Mixing the world of talking animals and humans just didn’t work for me here. Where Cars was poor, the appeal for kids is obvious, this, not so much. My daughter, who, to be honest, doesn’t have the best attention span, checked out of this very early, A big disappointment
James: Cars 2 (John Lasseter, 2011)
There is nothing wrong with a film studio making money. Cars was a decent enough film, and created a world ripe for sequels and spin-offs. Then there’s the billion dollars worth of merchandise. This film for me however is the weakest Pixar film by a distance. Michael Keaton was the bad guy in the first film, and there wasn’t really an adequate replacement for him in Cars 2. The globe trotting aspect of it was ok, but still, not great, and for Pixar, that’s a disappointment.
Welshy: Cars (John Lasseter , 2006)
Not much to say but in my opinion its just boring. It does not have the inspiration, wit and imagination the rest of the Pixar collection has. It has a few clever jokes dealing with the fact the world is one of anthropomorphic vehicles but that is not enough to be a winner in my view.
Dan: Partly Cloudy (Peter Shon, 2009)
There are a few stand out shorts that I had to choose between here, I really like ‘Day & Night’ & the unusual nature of ‘La Luna’ but ‘Partly Cloudy’ trumps them all. It’s a nice short about dedicated friendship with trademark Pixar humour, plus the animation still looks fantastic 6 years on.
Dave: Boundin’ (Bud Luckley, 2003)
This is a tough category for me, as I don’t tend to remember the short at the beginning of the film and given my apathy towards animation for the first 35 years of my life I had limited knowledge to pull from. Having said that, the short that played before The Incredibles always stuck in my memory. The story of a dancing sheep who loses its confidence after being shorn. Enter a happy-go-lucky jackalope, who teaches the sheep the art of boundin’ (getting up every time you fall down). A simple idea, with a lovely message.
James: Day and Night (Teddy Newton, 2010)
Usually, I prefer the little vignettes (Presto!, Partly Cloudy, Gerry’s Game) that tell a quick story, rather than the slightly more abstract, less traditional shorts like Blue Umbrella or La Luna, but this is brilliant. A mixture of 2D and 3D animation, this was released as a companion to Toy Story 3, and although seeing it on the IMAX screen made the animation look amazing, it was the simple, universal message that made it truly memorable. Teddy Newton is apparently working on a Pixar film as a director, and I’m very interested in what he can do with a longer format.
Welshy: Partly Cloudy (Peter Shon, 2009)
A very nice little short that builds on the old Slavic and European folklore surrounding storks delivering babies. This was developed by Hans Christian Anderson and is apparent in numerous books and films. The idea came when Sohn was watching Dumbo as a child: in the movie, a stork delivers Dumbo, leading a young Sohn to wonder where the birds got their babies from. Its very sweet and funny and I think the animated clouds just look fantastic.
Dan: Woody (Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3)
The characters in Toy Story have an unfair advantage on the rest of the field due to the sequels that they have, and as a result through each film Woody has the most interesting story arcs, which in turn make him my favourite character to watch. I don’t necessarily relate to Woody, but my affinity for toys helps.Wall-E was a close second, because any character that can hold your attention without saying much of anything has a lot going for them.
Dave: Carl Fredricksen (Up)
A grumpy old man. Seems a perfect fit for me, if you listen to my wife and daughter at least… Carl, more than any other Pixar character really resonated with me. From the tender back story through his present day life where he appears to have given up, to the rejuvenated explorer and reluctant mentor to the young Russell, his development is a joy to watch. Ed Asner is such a perfect fit and continues Pixar’s uncanny knack of picking the perfect actor to bring their characters to life. Up is as close to a masterpiece as animated film making will ever get, and Carl Fredricksen is at its heart.
James: Woody (Toy Story/Toy Story 2/Toy Story 3)
Like picking Tony Stark as my favourite character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe article, I’ve chosen the character who started it all. Without a successful Toy Story, Pixar wouldn’t have been able to make the series of excellent films it has. Moreover, Woody avoids the trap of being neutered in the sequels. He becomes a better person (toy?) in the first film, but there are still flaws in the sequel (a selfishness to be willing to leave the toys of Woody’s Round-Up for example).
Welshy: Sully (Monsters Inc.)
Sully is a great character and although he is big and scary is actually very kind and gentle. The other reason I love him is because, many children that I have taught over the years tell me I remind them of Sully…..sooooo
Favourite Voice Actor
Dan: Billy Crystal/Tom Hanks (Mike Wazowski/Woody)
Sorry…I cheated, I simply couldn’t pick between the two. As a gamer, voice acting is something I pay quite a bit of attention to and often professional screen actors just aren’t cut out for the art of voice acting. Pixar doesn’t seem to experience that problem too much due to careful casting and they absolutely nailed it with both Crystal & Hanks. Animation only creates a sense of life with a character through movement, but the voice acting from these guys provides the essential soul that makes them feel real, as opposed to watching a talking toy and a little green monster.
Dave: Ellen DeGeneres (Dory in Finding Nemo)
As Dory, a good-hearted, energetic blue tang with short-term memory loss, Degeneres brings a wonderful energy to the character. Apparently cast when Andrew Stanton saw an episode of her TV show, where she changed the subject 5 times in one sentence. Dory is the heart, comic relief and side kick all rolled into one. Hilarious and a total delight.
James: Billy Crystal (Mike Wazowski)
Apparently he was offered the role of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story, which would have made a very different film. As the comedic sidekick who becomes the films true hero (seriously, Sully is the one who needs Mike’s help rather than the other way round), Crystal is perfect as Mike Wasowski. He absolutely embodies the role, and the relationship between Sully and Mike is a brilliant double act with John Goodman and Billy Crystal playing off each other. I’m not sure any animated performance has felt as off the cuff and natural as them in Monsters, Inc.
Welshy: Jason Lee (Buddy/ Syndrome in The Incredibles.)
I am a big fan Jason Lee and have been for years. In the role of Syndrome he combines many of the best traits from Brody (Mallrats) a love and knowledge of Superheroes and Azrael (Dogma) as a Machiavellian villain. His voice and tone are so cruel and mocking, making you truly hate him.
Dan: Ellie and Carl and an Entire Life Together in One Scene (Up)
Pixar are a sadistic bunch, plunging us into sadness just as much as they make us feel warm and fuzzy. Seriously though, my choices are becoming eerily similar to those made by James and I have become very aware of that, and though there are a couple of scenes I could have chose to be different, it would be an injustice to one of the two best montages to ever grace the silver screen (Team America: World Police being the other, but that has no place here!). I’m a hardy fellow when it comes to emotional scenes in film but boy did this put me to the test. It’s unfortunate that the scene overshadows the rest of the film, but it’s such a real & powerful sequence that encapsulates life. As a side note, the goodbye to Boo in ‘Monsters, Inc’ was a fairly close second, when she opens the door and Sully isn’t there, chokes me up every time. Pixar…my emotional film kryptonite.
Dave: The Furnace/Goodbye (Toy Story 3)
As James went for the Carl/Ellie scene, I will go for another scene that causes a tear duct malfunction. With these characters we have loved for a generation facing certain doom as they head towards as raging furnace, they are all resigned to their fate, take each others hand and look at each other with widening eyes…this isnt the end is it? Thankfully no, they are saved, but there is that heart in mouth moment. Then, there is the scene where Andy hands his beloved Woody to Bonnie. I have a Superman figure that has been with me for years, I don’t know if I could be as noble as Andy was… a wonderful end to a wonderful trilogy.
James: Ellie and Carl and an Entire Life Together in One Scene (Up)
Any explanation needed? There’s a strange thing that happens whenever I watch this film, the pollen count increases, my dust allergies kick in, my tear ducts start malfunction. It’s bizarre, because I always have tears on my cheeks about 10 minutes in, including when I went to see it in the cinema with my sister, who also surprisingly seemed to have suffered a similar attack of hayfever. I will take this last opportunity to say I really miss the outtakes that Pixar films used to do! I know they would have got repetitive, but I reckon the Monster’s Inc and Bug’s Life outtakes may have started the Pixar theory rolling… although surely their mere existance disprove it.
Welshy: The Furnace (Toy Story 3)
Copying Dave here. I adore this scene, it is the moment that they resign themselves to their fate, and although they are meeting their end, they will be together as they do. It such a powerful moment and at one point I actually expected them to fall into the furnace. I am aware that would have been a very different film.
So there you have it, the Snooty Ushers on the Pixar film catalogue. What do you make of our choices? Agree or Disagree? Like or Loathe? Let us know!