Ranking the Pixar Films/Ode to New Animation Part 1

Pixar is a company that has basically become the Ur-Example of animation for the 21st century.  The films are both delightful for kids and clever enough for adults. As such, I've recently seen all of the Pixar films except one (Cars 2) and have decided to really put some thought into ranking them while also highlighting some wonderful features about each.  These features come from both a filmic and literary sense. Furthermore, I've highly enjoyed my romp and analysis of these films and will try to rank in order.

Criteria for Ranking:
Artwork/Animation - less in terms of style, but more of what creativity has been done with the style
Literary - Plot lines, story lines, metaphors and more (nods to Miyazaki connections)
Characters - Who do we really remember and care about?
Kid to Adult Appeal - What films are asking those big questions on theme? How much is getting under the radar? How clever are the humorous setups?

Let's Begin!

13. Monsters' University - While I find this film entertaining and creative in that it's a college scenario (a time period that is slowly slipping away from me), there's something that I cannot quite put my finger on. There's humor in a lot of unexpected ways, there's fun with the competition between the houses, the voices are great, but overall it is missing that magic that makes Pixar so special.  Part of the reason may be in that there are not many creative conventions in artwork or story.  Furthermore, Mike and Sully were better in their original film than now and the Headmaster is the only real standout. However, there is one solid moment near the end that while is not exactly canon to the original, it makes MU better for it *spoilers*this moment is the camp door portal *spoilers*. At the end of the day, it was only satisfying rather than being spectacular which you expect with Pixar.

12. Cars - I don't know whether it's because I'm not a car lover or not, but this film also didn't attach me to the characters that well. While I liked Paul Newman's character, Mater and Lightning McQueen held no appeal to me.  The story does a good job at giving the main character a chance at redemption, but because it is hard to connect to the main character you do not feel as much for his struggle to win.  From an animation standpoint, having cars that talk is new, but overall there is not a real wow moment that grabs like the other films do.  Finally, while NASCAR is alluded to throughout the film, it is not an adult concept that I relate to so it's clever moments were a little lost on me.

11. A Bug's Life - Perhaps I saw this film too much during summer camp (it seemed to be the only movie that we had), perhaps it spreads its character focus too thin, perhaps it just wasn't Toy Story, but overall this film didn't stick with me. One reason for that is that I'm not too fond of the Seven Samurai homage, considering that it is not an original concept in the sense that many Pixar films are. As such, I find the story not as appealing to me considering all the other wonderful aspects it has to offer.  For instance, the animation is superb in that Pixar created a lush environment surrounding a fully realized bug-sized universe.  This also carries over to the bugs themselves who are completely stylized as humans for the universe they live in.  Furthermore, the kid to adult appeal is solid with Francis boy/girl issues, the oddities of several bugs, the relation to real life concepts that are dangerous for bugs (rain and birds), and of course the brilliance of Hopper and his legion.  Hopper is one of the best parts of the film (voiced by Kevin Spacey!) in terms of how evil he is and the absurd concept that grasshoppers are this legion of doom descending about the ants once a season for a harvest. This is contrast to the ants who are hard to rally around and the magnificent seven insects/flea who are delightful in their own ways, but not as impressive as Hopper.  Overall, I feel this film was Pixar after Toy Story, but before they became into an animation showstopper: Almost A+, but not quite.

10. WALL-E - Here is where the films really lose their true order. From WALL-E on up, I love just about all of these films for different reasons. However, WALL-E is at the bottom because it is not exactly an A+ film, it's more of an A film for one reason: it's basically two different films in one.  While I really don't want to ruin the film, *spoilers* The inclusion of the humans' plight and their sluggishness is not nearly as charming as the robots and ruined earth *spoilers* not every part is as glorious as the last.  From an animation standpoint, the animation of space expresses both intimacy and vastness; while the ruined earth is brilliantly designed with the permanence of rust seeping through the environment.  Another brilliant aspect of the film is the characters.  While the characters don't say much, they don't have to as WALL-E, EVE, a cockroach, M-O and Auto say everything through their actions & tone. At the same time, the other characters *spoilers* humans *spoilers* hurt the film in the middle.  On the other hand, the literary themes and kid to adult appeal is probably the most impressive feature of this film. From biblical representations, to a green aesop, and warning against the dangers of human excesses, the film has a whole other of depth that will appeal to thematic film analysts.

As such, these films are only the start of the stellar library of films that is Pixar. While I originally thought I'd be able to handle this in one sweep, I'm realizing how much I enjoy these films and will try to 5 films per part. Cars 2 will not feature though as not only have I not seen it, but I don't want to.

Part 2 up next!