Ranking the Pixar Films/Ode to New Animation Part 2

Continuing on from Part 1 of my ranking of the glorious Pixar films. Also, this is most likely going to be the longest of the three parts so make sure you're ready to read.

Criteria is as follows:
Art/Animation
Literary
Characters
Kid to Adult Appeal

9. Up - I like Up. I enthusiastically enjoy Up and that may be just because I have curmudgeon tendencies and could see myself wanting to somehow do one last travel hurrah before I kick the bucket. Anyways, I think want makes Up so charming for me is how it throws everything in but the kitchen sink and it somehow works. Thus flying dogs, colorful birds with trap-dodging skills, floating houses, and a showdown between old men all combine to make a spectacular film.  As such, this lends itself to the hilarious and multi-faceted characters of grumbling Carl, megalomaniac Muntz, curious Russell, and the bizarre, but intelligent animals of Dug, Alpha and Kevin. While Up primarily takes most of literary basis from a sense adventure and the exploration of strange lands, it also deconstructs adventure by having an old man as a protagonist, schizo Tech with the translating dogs, and an adventurer who is far worse than his accolades to show what dangers befall glorified adventurers.  While the animation here is solid in mainly its dogfighting skies, there is a part in the beginning in which balloons go by a child's window to give a prism effect that may be my single most favorite Pixar animation moment. Lastly, the kids to adult appeal is strong with a tearjerker prologue and an odd couple featuring an old man and a young boy scout who bond together for adventure.

8. Brave -Brave is a little bit different than most in that it is essentially a classic Disney fairy tale that uses Pixar's methods and animation.  While I think some people were annoyed by this, I was delighted in having an extremely female-centered story (mother-daughter bond, tricky witch, becoming your own individual) that worked well on all ends. Supporting the feminist viewpoint is the deeply Scottish themes and designs (those tartans are registered) that run throughout the film to give it an extra charm. Those themes seep into the animation from the innovative tartan patterns, to the Scottish Celtic games, and the Scottish landscape which is lush and vibrant. While all of these conceptions are stalwart, I'd be remiss if I didn't include the strange Witch with her will-o-wisps and magic.  As such, these characters/features create the strange side world to the mythos of the Scottish fairytale of Merida (Disney princess!), her mom and the idiotic men of the movie.  In conclusion, the Kid to Adult moments here are different in that they are more on the coming-of-age end here rather than the usual, but it is still a solid film for all either way.

7. Finding Nemo -  I think there are better Pixar films, but this film holds its own in the middle of the rankings well. Overall, I think this is an A+ film with several aspects I love about it, but I still don't think it is the magnum opus of Pixar that tons of people give it credit for.  However, there is still a whole lot that I like about the film and I'll begin with discussing the animation. First and foremost in animation is the water, which is arguably Pixar's greatest innovation in how the fish and water move so realistically that one questions at times if it is not a live-action film.  As such, the water is phenomenal from light reflections and fish movement to changes in pressure, speed, and depth. To put on another great characteristic of the film is to discuss the dichotomy of a father/son protagonist story. For instance, while the story is about well-intentioned Marlin finding his son, it is also about Nemo and his fish tank gang's desire to be freed. This back and forth play ends up being well done (better than WALL-E's two part film). Also, from a K-to-A appeal there seems to be a strong sense of adult fear & concerns that Marlin goes through, along with a fully realized fish from Australian school reefs, slipstreams of surfing turtles, and sharks with/without bloodlust. Lastly, all these features create a strong set of memorable major, Scar, and minor, the crazy seagulls, characters. It is one of Pixar's best, but it is not my personal best and that is why it is number 7.

6. Toy Story 2 - And so it goes...my immense love for the Toy Story Franchise (considering it now may be more than a trilogy). Honestly, a part of me wants to rate the trilogy as 1, 2, 3 but I think there are some Pixar films that are slightly stronger than set of them. Anyways, Toy Story 2, is a sequel that is nearly as good as its first (some argue better) for an insane amount of reasons; however, I think some of the moments are a bit heavy-handed *spoilers*Zurg's reveal, Jesse's backstory, Al himself and Woody's expanded universe *spoilers*. This along with it being the sequel to an original story, rather than an entity to itself, prevent the film for reaching the upper echelons for me. However, there's a whole lot done right here; particularly with the animation from the prologue, the black & white CGI, and Woody's fabric tearing. Furthermore, once again the literary elements play with Buzz and Woody's struggle for lead protagonist.  Buzz's focus is how he goes deeper into the psyche of what it means to be a toy when he encounters Zurg and the second Buzz. Meanwhile, Woody's focus is on how important he is as a vintage toy and the history that resides with that.  There are also some great new additions to the cast too: Mrs. Potato Head, Jesse, Zurg, Bullseye and of course Barbie who make the already great cast even richer. Furthermore, Toy Story's brilliant appeal for getting crap past the radar continues with it's sparkling adult humor veiled through the adventure.  Still, even though it is still an outstanding film, there is something that prevents me from putting the true mark of elite work on the film even when I saw it in theaters.

5. Ratatouille - Although this is the most recent Pixar I've seen, I still think this film is deserving of high accolades and worthy of being one of the top 5 Pixar films. As such, there is some bias here in that I understand several of the French quips and have been able to appreciate the Parisian setting firsthand.  However, there is a whole lot of fun to be had here in that it is arguably the best of human to object (robots, toys, fish whatever) animation/relationships that Pixar has developed in its library. First of all, the animation of Remy's food fireworks, scurrying rats, and food textures unite to support the deep French setting of the film.  With the French setting, comes an unlikely duo who set out to turn the world of French cuisine upside down.  This story is additionally supported with the high level of research done to showcase how French kitchens and cuisine work along with French customs to create a theme of looking beyond the surface. This gaze delves deeper into the characters to give Alfredo his inane skills - serving as a lot of the film's humor -, Remy, a rat with exquisite chef skills, Colette's female power chef, the oddball cooking staff, and Anton Ego's quirks.  Thus, the film is less about heroes and villains and more about individual characters growing in the story. To end, the film also has a lot of Kid to Adult humor that gets crap past the radar, dives into Parisian cuisine/culture, and even manages to critique itself in Anton's final monologue. Needless to say, these components together for a film that finds strength in its ability to genre bust (a rat that is a renown chef) and build its characters' contrasts (rats versus humans) and idiosyncrasies.

Part 3 will close out our exploration of Pixar. Stay tuned