Friday, June 22, 2012

Is Pixar Losing It's Edge?

New Movie Release
What is up with the greatest 
studio to ever grace our screens?

I am a huge Pixar fan, ever since Toy Story wowed me back in '95. I follow the careers of the visionary people working there, because they are true, uncompromising artists...

Until recently, at least.

I am actually not in the mood to get into all of the recent behind-the-scenes drama and backstabbing at Pixar - mainly because I find it disheartening and rather sad. Quite frankly, I thought the higher-ups in management at such an obviously innovative company were above all of that crap...but apparently I was wrong.

Go to the gossip columns for the sordid news at Pixar....we're not here for that.

And concerning Brave, let's get one thing straight, right up front.

I'm a writer, and a pretty darn good one. And every single one of my main characters is female. I like, want and look forward to a good strong female lead. As a matter of fact, my most popular character is a girl much like Princess Merida. 

So, I really wanted to see this flick, that it's from Pixar is just icing on the cake.

The Incredibles

Pixar has long-prided itself as a filmmakers studio....and there was a time that Pixar could do no wrong. 

Everything they touched turned to gold, and everything they invented was a merchandising bonanza. And they took huge risks that paid off handsomely. 

Make a rat the chef in a restaurant? Or give a non-speaking robot the starring role in our new movie? And have it be worthy of an Oscar? We can do that. 

Have two monsters brought to life by Billy Crystal and John Goodman? No problem. 

Have a fictional tow truck absolutely steal a film? Err...we didn't really plan on that, but we'll take it, thank you very much.

But then came Cars 2, and all of my hopes were dashed that Pixar would never become a corporate shill. 


Then DreamWorks upped the ante big time with How To Train Your Dragon. And they proved once and for all that the Pixar empire could be tumbled. More on that in a moment.

Now this new film, Brave, has a few flaws that can't be overlooked. Nevertheless, it is somewhat likable, and has good energy and overall flow. I think - and this is just me - that the inner workings of a studio with some recent failures may be at play here. 

More on that here.

Some of you might be aware that Pixar announced in 2010 - for the first time ever - a female would direct their new film - Brenda Chapman. 

Then they fired her a month later. 

It seems Chapman was more interested in making a hour and half Hallmark card rather than a family film. There is no way of knowing at this point if Chapman's vision would have been better than the end product. 

This indecisive leadership - along with other baggage - might be the reason for the problems in this movie as a result. But this was Brenda Chapman's idea, but we know now that bland Brave is not the final product that she had in her head.

One thing is for certain. The new director, Mark Andrews, co-wrote John Carter, which means Andrews is partly responsible for 200 million boondoggle that Disney had to write off. I guess that doesn't really matter, though, because of the ultra-long gestation period of Pixar movies.

Allow me to tell you what problems stood out the most to me, and this is coming from a fan with an artistic eye that picks up things others don't. Just sayin'. 

It isn't the flat story, nope. 

This film is made for children, and I can forgive the fact that not every movie Pixar makes will excite kids and their parents. I was not really thrilled with their biggest moneymaker, Finding Nemo....and I can see you rolling your eyes at that statement. But my daughter was absolutely enthralled, so who really cares?

And it isn't the story in Brave - which felt very much like a 'DreamWorks Has How To Train Your Dragon, And We Need Something Like That Right Now'. Nuh-uh.

It also isn't because this movie really isn't funny, or that Pixar's trademark enchantment is noticeably missing. 

Nope, nope and nope.

Back in 2006, Disney bought up Pixar after a string of flops had nearly brought the larger company to it's knees. Perhaps Disney was hoping that the incredible vision of Pixar would inject some much-needed originality into it's studio.

Err...not so much. 

Disney seems to be dragging Pixar down, maybe in the search of that elusive bottom line, and the evidence is shown in the look of the Brave characters. 

Sorry, let me clarify that - the recycled characters in Brave.

Princess Merida

Edna from Incredibles
Mirage from Incredibles

Will the average person notice the recycling?

No, it's something I think only a real Pixar fan is going to take note of. Bear with me.

When Pixar made The Incredibles, they needed a lot of background and supporting characters. They used a stock CGI person to accomplish this, and manipulated that figure for every single one of the characters that weren't the immediate 'Incredible' family. 

And that's what all of the characters in Brave feel like to me - left over stock characters from Incredibles, especially Merida, the star of the movie. Because of this, the magic is lost a bit, I think. 

I could be dead wrong, but it was the very first thing that stood out to me.

A Pixar employee may shaking his fist at the computer screen right now, wanting to bash my head in. 

"But that just not true!" He cries.

Maybe, maybe not. But can you think of another instance of a Pixar flick that has characters which feel recycled? I certainly can't.

It makes Brave feel like a half-hearted effort....just like Cars 2. And that makes me sad.

Make no mistake, though, the kids will still love it....and Brave is still far above the quality of Cars 2.  After all, Incredibles is older than a lot of the children that will see Brave, so they won't know. And it will make gobs of money.

I think that three factors are involved with the majesty of the great Pixar flicks, like Monster's Inc and Ratatouille....1: The writing, 2: The voice-work, and 3: The vision of the filmmakers. 

A lot of that magic, sadly, is missing from Brave, although it's always a treat to hear Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson hamming it up. 

So, in a nutshell, the kiddies will eat this movie up...but their parents are going to be somewhat disappointed. 

It's one thing when a low-rent production company comes out with something like Hoodwinked, but it's quite another when Pixar does it.

What Did You Think Of Brave?


Anonymous said...

u m'am are an idiot

Anonymous said...

I agree - Pixar needs some new blood. They have lost their edge and Dreamworks (with the help of many ex -
Disney and Pixar employees) is moving foreward. Doesn't matter, as long as someone has some inspiration and vision out there. The novelty of CG animation is wearing off - need better stories.