Pixar does not need any introduction, and certainly the history of cinema would not be the same if this company had not existed. The animation and film production studio, founded in 1986, has left (and is still leaving) an unmistakable mark with its multiple award-winning and crowd-pleasing projects. Its headquarters, located in Emeryville, United States, is the birthplace of animated masterpieces—indeed, more than 24 feature films and several short films and series that nowadays can be seen on demand through the Disney+ platform. In fact, Pixar delivered some of the most important and influential films of the last few decades, and made animated cinema stride forward to find more adult audiences with bolder proposals, while challenging other animation companies to raise the bar.
Since its debut in 1995 with the first Toy Story movie, Pixar has managed to stand out with stories that move audiences of all ages, and continues to produce blockbusters. The premieres of Turning Red and Lightyear have been announced for this year, two productions that already have people talking. While we look forward to these eagerly awaited releases, let’s review the best films in Pixar’s history.
10 The Incredibles
This homage to superheroes was groundbreaking in 2004, as it was the first time a Pixar movie starred humans. Inspired by blockbusters such as Fantastic Four, James Bond, Watchmen and JSA, The Incredibles has a very interesting and adventurous plot, while standing out for its great visual quality. Winner of the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, the movie takes us to a time in which superheroes were forced to hide and disguise themselves among mortals. The vast majority of them have simply accepted it, but not so with Bob Parr, the great Mr. Incredible, who now works for an insurance company. Bob is married to Helen, who is Elastigirl, and tries to continue his superhero work on the sly despite his wife’s anger and missing out on a lot of important events in the lives of his children, Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack. During the movie, Mr. Incredible is offered the opportunity to carry out a new mission that eventually unleashes a series of catastrophic situations for which he will need the help of his entire family.
Just like all Pixar films, the world of The Incredibles is immensely rich and full of wonderful characters, including Edna Moda, the exclusive superhero fashion designer whose voice is played by none other than Brad Bird, the movie’s director and screenwriter.
The film was so successful that in 2018 they released a sequel, The Incredibles 2, and over the years they also produced a number of short films starring Edna Moda and Jack-Jack as the main characters.
The theme of WALL-E goes far beyond the love story between two robots. In fact, it is a movie containing strong social criticism that invites everyone to reflect on very deep issues, such as understanding what the soul is and where the human being is headed. In this Andrew Stanton production, we travel seven hundred years to a completely evacuated planet Earth due to a huge accumulation of garbage, where a group of robots is left with the mission to clean it. Nowadays, the only survivor of those robots is little WALL-E, who over the years has developed a personality of his own and devotes himself to collecting pieces and strange items. WALL-E’s life changes when he meets EVA, a robot explorer who arrives in a spaceship, and with whom he falls madly in love. EVA tells WALL-E about a mysterious plant that is capable of bringing the people of Earth back to their planet. When EVA decides to travel into space to share the important discovery, WALL-E goes after her, and together they embark on a unique journey.
Through the eyes of WALL-E, the audience witnesses the disaster that humanity can cause and what humans will be like eventually if they do not become aware of the impact of their actions. The peculiarity of this movie is that the voices of the main characters are artificial creations of sound designer Ben Burtt. He himself lent his voice to digitally create WALL-E’s voice, and Elissa Knight did the same for EVA. This excellent production won an Academy Award, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, among many other awards.
Soul may be Pixar’s most adult-oriented film to date, due to its complex concepts that may be difficult for children to fully understand. In this 2020 film, we follow Joe, a frustrated high school music teacher who gets the opportunity of a lifetime to do what has been his lifelong dream: play jazz in a band. His enthusiasm leads to his accidental death and his appearing in an afterlife where his soul has to tutor 22, an unborn and energetic soul who cannot find the spark that will give meaning to his future life on Earth. However, another accident will lead Joe to reconsider everything that was his existence thus far.
Regardless of the story this Pete Docter and Kemp Powers production wants to tell, Soul invites the audience into a never-before-seen sensory experience. How jazz is incorporated, character design, space animation—everything is extraordinary in a movie where greatness is in the details.
This 2017 film was Pixar’s opening to an international culture, this time related to Mexico and its Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Coco is not the first film to venture into the world of the dead, but it certainly has a unique perspective that honors Mexican traditions with very lovable characters. This Adrian Molina and Lee Unkrich production follows the story of Miguel Rivera, a 12-year-old boy who is part of a family where music is forbidden, as they believe it to be cursed becase, many years ago, his great-grandfather left his wife to follow his dream of becoming a musician.
Yet Miguel longs to be a musician, and despite the family curse, he does not want to abandon his dream of playing the guitar like Ernesto de la Cruz, his favorite artist. On the morning of Día de los Muertos, the boy embarks upon a fascinating adventure with his dog Dante in which they enter the World of the Dead and meet their ancestors. Coco transports us to a colorful and musical world that is a celebration of life, family, memories and connection across generations.
This was a particularly innovative movie because it was the first time Pixar introduced clear interactions between humans and animals. In Ratatouille, we follow the story of Remy, a Parisian rat just like any other, but completely different, because with his refined palate and his dreamy and nonconformist personality, this little rat wants to become a chef like the great Gusteau. However, to fulfill his dream he must face two big obstacles: a family that doesn’t understand or support him, and the contempt of humans for rodents. Luckily, Remy meets Linguini, an apprentice cook who will benefit from the rat’s help, while helping him achieve his great dream.
Throughout this 2007 movie lies a very clear message: you can be whatever you want, but above all, you must be yourself. In fact, the main character in the search for his identity must leave behind the comfort and convenience of a family that loves him, but does not understand him, in order to face new challenges that will take him where he really wants to go.
Ratatouille was directed by Brad Bird and won several awards, including an Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe for Best Animated Movie. Among the actors who brought the animated characters to life were Patton Oswalt (Remy), Lou Romano (Linguini), Janeane Garofalo (Colette), Ian Holm (Chef Skinner) and Peter O’Toole (Anton Ego).
If there is one main message in this Pete Docter and Bob Peterson production, it is that no time is a bad time to fight for a dream and a life that is worth living. This 2009 film has one of Pixar’s most memorable opening sequences: the love story between Carl and his late wife. It also holds the peculiarity of having a man entering old age as one of the main characters, a rare occurrence in Pixar films. Up follows the story of Carl Fredricksen, a man who, after receiving a threat of demolition of his home, decides to pursue the dream he shared with his late wife Ellie: to explore South America. Without giving it much thought, the old man attaches his house to thousands of balloons and sets off on a journey through the air. However, his joy is short-lived because he discovers that he is not alone: Russell, a little boy scout and cookie seller, is still inside the house. Together they will experience a journey full of mind-blowing adventures, breathtaking landscapes and, unfortunately, a few dangers as well.
Up‘s success with critics was very clear, as it also won an Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, among several other awards. The audience loved these particular characters so much that the producers brought them back into some productions such as Doug Days and shorts like Doug’s Special Mission.
4 Inside Out
This is one of Pixar’s best-produced movies that literally takes us inside the human mind and introduces us to characters with a wide range of nuances despite having an emotion attached to them. The passage of time can be a complicated journey, and so it is for Riley when, at just 11 years old, she has to leave her life behind to move to San Francisco with her parents. Like everyone else, Riley’s life is guided by her emotions: Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. All of them live in the Headquarters, the control center inside her head from which they assist and direct the girl’s behaviors in her day-to-day life. Although Joy tries to dominate the feelings to keep the girl happy, Sadness begins to change things and make melancholy spread. A series of events causes both emotions to accidentally leave headquarters and travel through Riley’s mind as they try to find their way back.
Inside Out teaches the audience the importance of going through all emotions, and that they can’t constantly be happy. This 2015 film was directed by Pete Docter and featured Amy Poehler, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader and Phyllis Smith as the voices of the various emotions.
3 Finding Nemo
An unusual thing about Finding Nemo is that, as rarely happens at Pixar, the protagonist of the story is an adult character, in this case Marlin, Nemo’s father. During the course of the film, Nemo is captured by humans after approaching a boat on the surface in disobedience of his cautious father’s orders, and so Marlin must overcome his troubled nature and embark on a journey that ends up being both geographic and spiritual. On his journey, he learns along with his new friend Dory, a little fish with short-term memory problems, and discovers that a change is necessary to be the father he really wants to be. In fact, he does something that is unthinkable for him: taking a risk and endangering his life to be reunited with his son.
Finding Nemo teaches the audience the importance of overcoming fears in order to go out and discover the world, while introducing a wide variety of characters of all ages, species and even personalities in the underwater world: there are small fish, sharks that want to do the right thing and avoid eating fish, wise old turtles, and even the ones in the dentist’s aquarium have their own well-defined personalities, with a strong desire to get back to nature.
Some actors voicing the characters in this Andrew Stanton movie are Ellen DeGeneres (Dory), Albert Brooks (Marlin), Alexander Gould (Nemo) and Willem Dafoe (Gill). Dory’s character was so well received by the audience that later Finding Dory, a movie that tells the titular character’s prequel story, was released.
2 Monsters, Inc.
This movie gives a twist to the biggest fear anyone has ever had as a child: monsters. And yes, monsters do exist and visit children at night in their rooms, but not for the reasons one would think: they need children’s screams in order to keep their whole city running. They are not evil; they just need children, those creatures they know so little about. In fact, they consider them toxic and prudently stay away from their belongings, that is, until Boo, a little girl, manages to intrude in Monstropolis and unleash total chaos.
Monsters, Inc. features two main characters, totally antagonistic but great friends. Sullivan, the biggest scarer, is a respected monster in his life and work, who does everything right—that guy everyone would like to be. And on the other hand, there’s his best friend Mike, the friend everyone would want to have: empathetic, friendly and supportive, able to be there for you through thick and thin. Together they must solve the chaos of the city and bring Boo back to her door, except there’s a problem: Sulley has become attached to the little girl.
The film was directed by Pete Docter and won an Academy Award for Best Music. The cast featured the voices of John Goodman (James P. Sullivan), Billy Crystal (Mike Wazowski), Mary Gibbs (Boo) and Steve Buscemi (as the evil Randall Boggs), among others. Monsters, Inc. was such a huge success that it was followed by Monsters University, a prequel to the movie, several shorts, and the series Monsters at Work on Disney+.
1 Toy Story
This is the Pixar saga par excellence and occupies the first place in this ranking. Its premiere in 1995 revolutionized the world of cinema. The success of Toy Story was not only based on its visual greatness, but also on telling a story that would reach the audience’s heart, with well-structured characters and a plot for the whole family. The film, which won John Lasseter an Academy Award, begins by showing us the toys’ mission, led by Woody the cowboy, to find out what is happening on their owner and friend Andy’s birthday. They are very anxious to see if another toy arrives to join the group, and so it happens: the boy is given a Buzz Lightyear, the hottest toy out there! The other toys welcome him with excitement, but Woody, on the other hand, fears that his leadership may be compromised.
In addition to its diverse and entertaining characters, this buddy movie features a great cast of artists voicing the characters, including Tom Hanks (Woody) and Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear) as well as world-famous songs such as You’ve Got a Friend in Me. Critics’ reception was sensational, and the success was maintained throughout three more films that complete the saga, and follow the story of Andy’s toys as he grows up, and what happens to them when he is an adult and doesn’t play with them anymore.The whole story went hand in hand with the audience’s growth, which was mostly made up of children in 1995, and by Toy Story 4 had grown up just like Andy.
Joss Whedon has been on the end of many “toxic” accusations for his on-set behavior, but he doesn’t agree with them all.
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