Friday, September 14, 2012
With all the reports about a Finding Nemo sequel (from where I currently stand, it's still "half confirmed", I still want to see that "interview" that the LA Times mentioned) swimming around, more and more news outlets and writers are essentially getting more fodder for their "Pixar is dead" arguments, a disgusting trend that picked up steam when Cars 2 premiered last year. Just take a look at a passage from this recent article on Indie Wire:
Let's face it, the lamp was going through some tough times in the last two years. During production of Cars 2, a lot of talented folks have left the studio. That same year, Brave had a director change which garnered a lot of controversy within the animation community and the press. Though Brenda Chapman was fired from the project over creative differences, the press had a field day and soon you had people left and right calling Pixar a "sexist" studio, a boys' club that wasn't going to allow a woman to direct a film. A change of directors on a film isn't uncommon, especially in the animation industry. Still, it was a blemish on their reputation, because supposedly they were gods amongst men.
Cars 2 opened last year and was the first Pixar film to get generally negative reviews. Immediately, we kept hearing "RIP Pixar" and "Pixar is dead". These may be simple comments on sites, but it shows that some people are now convinced, with Monsters University and a Nemo sequel on the horizon, that Pixar has stopped being a great studio. Ignorant of the original films that are coming out between 2013 and 2017, these people most likely want to see the seemingly-invincible studio fall. This is a terrible way of thinking, and for many reasons, and now we have articles... Articles... That are also chiming in.
Brave's positive but not-so-enthusiastic critical reception didn't make matters any better, despite being a bigger success than Cars 2 and garnering significantly better word of mouth. But one must remember, Brave went through a director change and a lot of other problems were going on at the studio. This kind of thing happens. Remember Ratatouille? We're lucky that Ratatouille, despite the director change and production problems, turned out to be an excellent film. It's just a rare moment when a studio turns out eleven films that all garnered good critical reception. You know how many studios would want that track record?
Perhaps their hot streak drew jealousy. But why be jealous of an entity whose #1 purpose is to make entertainment? To give audiences something to enjoy? It's not like they did anything to them personally. Why rip them apart? They are a movie studio, not someone whose treating you like you are their child. Back to Brave though, the film still got good reviews. The critical reception was on the same level as the first Cars. It's amazing how there wasn't much "Pixar is dead" hoopla when Cars came out. Ratatouille, WALL-E and Up were highly anticipated. Toy Story 3 wasn't met with much skepticism either. So now that Pixar tripped up on one film, a sequel no less, now we can be skeptical? I don't understand that. We haven't seen Monsters University yet, nor have we even heard any early test screening reviews. We have no idea what the next batch of films will turn out to be. They could be solid gold winners, so why doubt that?
Let's just put it another way. Cars 2 was one film that happened to be a critical clunker, though some argue that Cars 2 wasn't as bad as the critics made it out to be. I personally thought it was a passable entry, but a type of film I don't want to see coming from Pixar. Guess what? I forgive them and quite frankly, I thought Brave was a wonderful film despite a few little flaws. That's okay though, if Monsters University is a film I end up giving a B+ to or something, I won't mind. Pixar is a studio, not a bunch of perfection gods. No one is, and to expect them to keep making critically acclaimed films without ever making one dud is ridiculous and dreadfully unrealistic.
Remember Disney's output after World War II began? Walt Disney couldn't launch something like Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan into production just yet, they had to resort to making films that were less costly. Also, they lost a lot of animators after the strike in 1941. Two big blows to the soaring studio, and to their reputation. The results were a mixed bag. Some of the package features are considered classics, such as The Three Caballeros. Others aren't, like Saludos Amigos, Make Mine Music and Fun & Fancy Free. Were people proclaiming that Disney had died because the next batch of films were essentially compilations of short films?
Disney eventually made a grand comeback with Cinderella, but that was followed by Alice in Wonderland, which bombed both critically and commercially. Then, Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp were smash hits and are considered classics today. Sleeping Beauty may have bombed, but it was the second highest-grossing film of the year and is also well-loved. Alice in Wonderland got an audience after Walt's passing and remains a popular title. Also, Disney turned out some clunkers in the 1970s and 1980s and then... We all knew what happened next. After the Renaissance, they made some more clunkers, and look, they're back on track... Bolt, The Princess and the Frog and Tangled, anyone?
Are the same "Pixar is dead" people going to reject any great films they make in the future with an "it's not the same" attitude? Will they refuse to accept anything post-Cars 2 that turns out to be a masterpiece? Given Brave's good-but-not-great reception, maybe, unless a Cars-level critical performance is not enough to satisfy them.
Time to get a grip, Pixar is only human. The people there never acted like they were on top of the world. That's all a product of certain individuals' mindsets, not Pixar's staff. It's great that they had eleven smash hits in a row, and look, Brave is sitting right alongside those very films. Don't let one film and studio politics convince you that the studio is no more.