Thursday, December 13, 2012

Interesting Words From Mark Andrews

Mark Andrews, the Pixar story man who was given the task to finish Brave in less than two years after its original director Brenda Chapman was removed from the project, has been making the rounds lately and has mentioned some interesting viewpoints in his latest interview.

For starters, he talked about how Pixar could possibly venture into PG-13 territory, and possibly even go for films that'll carry an R rating...

Think about that for a second... Pixar films that are rated PG-13 and R...

Now granted, this is what Andrews would want to do, but he knows that it can't happen at Pixar any time soon. Andrew Stanton himself didn't make John Carter a Pixar production due to its content, and how it would inevitably earn a PG-13 rating from the MPAA. Andrews still believes in making PG-13 and R rated animated films, claiming that there is a shortage of them and that those are the kind of films he would like to see. I for one can applaud him for stating this.

I love Pixar. They make some of the finest animated family films on the market. Ditto Disney Animation, and occasionally DreamWorks. However, a big problem I have with the current mainstream animation landscape outside of those three studios is that almost everyone else makes family-friendly fluff. Once in a while you'll get something really edgy (for a family film, even) like ILM's Rango or Laika's ParaNorman, but the non-Pixar/Disney/DreamWorks mainstream animation studios play it safe by just making family-friendly films. We need more "adults-only" animated films, and not ones that try too hard to be "adult" and end up becoming embarrassments in the end.

Over the last couple of years, we've only seen a few mainstream animated releases that got a rating higher than a PG such as Shane Acker's 9 and Fox's The Simpsons Movie (which was obvious). Very few of these films are successful for a good reason, as a lot of them come off as films trying to be edgy for teenagers but they end up not appealing to anyone at all. Teenagers are an audience you shouldn't go for when marketing animation, since teenagers usually shun animation to begin with unless it's something dressed up in coarse language, graphic violence or sexual content. Films like Titan A.E. and Treasure Planet are fantastic examples of how marketing animation to teenagers backfires.

That being said, I have no idea of what kind of plans Andrews would have for a PG-13 animated film. His work in Brave shows that he's not afraid to put material in that would frighten younger audiences, and as such, the film was once again targeted by the same parents who normally moan about the "kiddie flick" being too much for their children. As such, I don't think Pixar "has" to make a PG-13 or R rated film. All that matters is that they have a good story and one that doesn't pull its punches, in which Pixar films never do.

But... I'd like to see another animation studio make films that'll garner a higher rating while also telling a great story and not being cynical about it. I don't want them to make PG-13 and R-rated films for the sake of doing it, I just want some studios to be a little more daring. Rango and ParaNorman may have been PG, but they pushed that rating's boundaries.

Anyways, Andrews does make a good point in saying that there should be more "adults only" fare out there. I personally don't want Pixar to go that route unless the story they have calls for it, because if they just go for a PG-13/R film just to be edgy, it'll backfire...

Unfortunately, Mark Andrews also presented a controversial idea, and that is to ramp up Pixar's production schedule and bang more films out at a time. Andrews admits that coming to Pixar off of a TV background was quite the experience, and how much slower things were, but the Brave director feels that the studio should speed up their productions.

Remember the scene in Toy Story 2 where Geri, the cleaner (and, ahem, chess player) Al calls to fix Woody, arrives? Al frantically asks him, "So... Um... How long is this gonna take?" Geri simply replies with "You can't rush art!"

You can't rush art... This is literally Pixar's motto. They know that a good film will come when it's ready. This is common knowledge in animation, you can't just launch something into production that isn't even ready. Pixar films spend years in development before taking off, and changes are also made as late as actual production. Andrews compares Pixar's process to carefully filling the individual holes in an ice tray, he would rather, in his words, put the tray under the sink and fill it all up.

Andrews still understands story, but again, it's something you can't fly through. To his credit, finishing Brave and fixing what were perceived as story problems in such a short period of time was no easy task, and for the most part, he did quite well. Despite some flaws, Brave still holds together nicely even if it isn't very tight. However, I'm just hoping that Andrews isn't assuming that Brave being a critical success means that you can take as little time as you want on animated films. He happened to acquire a story that had a lot of strengths developed over the course of five years.

Anyways, I thought that piece was interesting. What did you think of Andrews' comments?


  1. I agree with you as far as the edgy factor in ratings go. And too true, you can't rush art. I love that the films go through that much time and work and detail; anything requiring less is sloppy. For the record, does he honestly think there aren't enough R rated films? There's PLENTY of violence and sexual content in most films these days. I like to escape that through Pixar.

  2. I think Mark Andrews believes that there aren't enough R-rated animated films out there, which is true. Like I said, most of the stuff aside from Pixar/Disney/DWA is family-friendly. That being said, if a studio is to make an R-rated animated film, they should be passionate and not just do it to be edgy. They need to use that R-rated content when its suitable, and not be gratuitous about it. If they just cynically throw in heaps of violence and sexual content, they'll make an embarrassment of a film. On the other hand, "Rango" and "ParaNorman" succeed because they are daring but never come off as embarrassing attempts to be a little more "adults only" in tone.

    Pixar may be family-friendly, but that's good. You are right, there is always a place for entertainment for the entire family. It's a great escape, a sentiment shared by my family and I when we recently saw "Wreck-It Ralph". Pixar and Disney Animation, of course, do it with style and never talk down to their wide audience. Mark Andrews probably has good intentions, but I think he was getting a bit ahead of himself in this interview.