While I personally have yet to strongly dislike any Pixar release, the animation powerhouse clearly does have two tiers of films: emotional films with powerhouse stories like “Toy Story 3” or lightweight breezy fun pictures like “Cars 2.” ”Brave,” resisting easy classification within the Pixar canon, straddles a very happy median between the two.
The humor is definitely more of the “Cars” variety, zany and perhaps a little sophomorically silly. Though it’s not a tearjerker like the “Toy Story” movies, “Brave” most definitely boasts the present, beating Pixar heart that has made them the preeminent name in animation for nearly two decades.
Boasting a spunky, independent hero looking for satisfaction, wisdom, and maturity who just happens to be a girl also makes “Brave” the feminist movie of the year. The film doesn’t forcibly adhere to any of the conventional coming-of-age conventions for girls, nor does it degrade her femininity by deriving all her strength from manliness. It’s a nice reminder that self-discovery and self-realization is not relegated to one gender.
I’m a movie ticket collector, not a stamp collector. But I must say, given this announcement, I may take up the incredibly common pastime. (Not likely, but I just like saying that.)
The USPS announced today that in 2011, they will issue Pixar-themed stamps! There will be 5 stamps in the collection from the “Toy Story” movies, “Cars,” “Ratatouille,” “Wall-E,” and “Up.” I’ll probably run out and buy a bunch next year and forever make my letters festive, but I have to hesitate some since postage is always going up!
I’m ecstatic that these stamps are going to be arriving on my mail next year! It makes me excited to receive snail mail. But I do have to point this out – where is “Monsters Inc.” among the stamps? It’s a lot better than most of the movies that made the stamps!
However, it will be without one familiar face. Wheezy, the lovable penguin that Woody risks his life to rescue, does not appear in the latest installment of the beloved series. His absence is quickly explained, but it’s easy to let out a sad “aww” when the news is broken.
Why is there no Wheezy? Unfortunately, there’s some tragedy behind that.
Joe Ranft, the Pixar animator who lent his voice to the character, passed away in a car accident in 2005. He was 45 years old with a wife and two children. Ranft was the head of story at Pixar beginning in 1991, helping to craft every story from “Toy Story,” for which he received an Oscar nomination, to “Cars.” He also lent his voice to many Pixar characters, most memorably Wheezy, Heimlich the caterpillar in “A Bug’s Life,” Jacques the Shrimp in “Finding Nemo,” and Red the shy firetruck in “Cars.”
The movie “Cars,” which he co-directed, was dedicated to his memory. And I’d like to dedicate today’s random factoid to Ranft, who stole our hearts with Wheezy 11 years ago.
As part of my tribute, enjoy Wheezy’s song from the end of “Toy Story 2″ (although it’s sung by Robert Goulet – also RIP – and not Ranft).
Pixar and “Toy Story” have really come to define the cinematic landscape for animation in my lifetime. When I was 3 years old in 1995, they rolled out the first full-length animated film made entirely with computers. At the time, it was an anomaly. Now, I can hardly imagine a world where every movie isn’t made with computers.
In some ways, you could even say I’ve grown up with “Toy Story.” It’s a movie whose characters I have grown very attached to, and not just on the screen. I had countless “Toy Story” action figures and toys in my childhood, from the hand puppet Rex and Hammy to the stuffed Woody to the Buzz Lightyear transformer. Like any good toy does, they provided countless hours of entertainment and stimulation for my imagination.
So needless to say, I had the highest of expectations for Pixar to once again create not just a movie but another authentic piece of childhood bliss enjoyable for kids and kids at heart. The “Toy Story” crew has been up in the attic for 11 years, and they could have easily gathered some dust over time. But as soon as they appear on screen, they win you over with a charm that feels fresh out of the box. Pixar preserved them all in near mint condition, and “Toy Story 3” quickly reminds you how easy it is to fall in love all over again with these plastic pals.
Pixar once again demonstrates their incredible capacity for creativity by keeping the story king and fully fleshing out characters that we can really care about. Their simple formula has worked flawlessly for 15 years and has never gotten rusty. But the Pixar magic isn’t limited to the screen. The spirit of the movie spreads through the theater, inspiring a new generation of “Toy Story” fans and reminding all of the untold power imagination can have.
I saw “Toy Story 3″ last night. Be EXTREMELY jealous. Sorry to gloat … my review will be up very soon.
Anyways, I won a prize at my screening last night! Unlike at the “Step Brothers” screening where I had to answer an insanely challenging question about Will Ferrell, I won the prize based on my knowledge of a running segment on a morning radio show. The segment always runs about the time I leave to drive to school in the morning, so I know it very well.
As soon as I heard a word that tipped me off to the segment, I stood up in my seat and yelled “CARMEN CALLS!!!!!!!!” at the top of my lungs. The DJ running the contest made some comment about me being enthusiastic as I ran down to claim my prize like a contestant on “The Price Is Right.”
I got three things: a giant “Toy Story 3″ poster that now takes up a third of my bulletin board, a game where you use a Buzz Lightyear gun to shoot disk that save the other toys, and a lovely photo op. The game is officially titled the “Space Shooter Target Game,” something I only found out after my brother threw it in the trash (whole lot of gratitude for me winning it, I guess).
The best thing of all: the movie made me want to play with the toy. But alas, I didn’t get to.
Back in Random Factoid #73, I manned up enough to say that I cry in movies occasionally. But what I didn’t tell you is what those movies were.
Now, 249 days later, I’m ready to reveal some of those movies. In keeping with the spirit of Pixar, you can probably guess what I’ll tell you.
Three Pixar movies have made me cry.
The song “When She Loved Me” from “Toy Story 2″ makes me sob. It’s so beautiful and wonderfully done.
The climax of “Monsters, Inc.” – which I won’t ruin for those dumb enough not to have seen it – made me cry the first time, although I don’t think I’ve cried since.
And I pretty much cry the first and last 15 minutes of “Up.” The “Married Life” sequence at the beginning is so incredibly powerful that I cry earlier and earlier every time, anticipating the tragic end.
In celebration of the release of “Toy Story 3″ on Friday, I’m going to try to make most of this week’s factoids tie in to Pixar movies somehow.
So, let’s begin.
Honestly, where have the Pixar outtakes gone? Usually released two or three weeks after the movie originally came out, the outtakes provided me a reason to return to the movies – and I faithfully did. The last time I remember them doing outtakes was for “Monsters, Inc.” back in 2001.
Maybe Pixar has just gotten too mature for them, or maybe the outtakes have found a nice place in the DVD extras. But whatever the reason, I sincerely miss seeing them attached to the movie itself. Maybe “Toy Story 3″ will have them … although it looks like Pixar will be printing money with it. They won’t need the outtakes to get people to come back.
The 2009 Oscars were a little more than three weeks ago, so I think we’re ready to move onto 2010. Next year’s ceremonies are 47 weeks away, but it’s never too early to start the chatter.
I felt like I should kick off my Oscars commentary this year with something that we all know will be in the running in some shape or form: “Toy Story 3,” the latest Pixar output.
Because it bears the Pixar brand, it automatically becomes the frontrunner in the Best Animated Feature race. In the nine years that the category has been around, Pixar has won five of the seven times it has had a movie in the category (losing only with “Monsters, Inc.” and “Cars”) and the last three years in a row. The studio is a juggernaut, and their movies clearly stand head and shoulders above any other animated film.
And “Up” scored Pixar its first nomination for Best Picture last year. The expanded field is no doubt to thank for this, but it got me thinking. With ten nominees every year, will there always be a spot for Pixar’s movie?
I looked at the history of the category, and it really doesn’t lend us any insight. To be honest, it’s pointless and arbitrary to apply the rules of a five nomination field to one with ten. But it’s obvious that having more nominees increases the chance for a niche to be carved in the category. I think few can argue with the fact that Pixar has the respect in the industry to have their movies represented repeatedly.
But ultimately, it comes down to the movie, as it always does. And “Toy Story 3″ as expectations almost as unreal as flying a house with balloons. Both of the original “Toy Story” movies have a perfect 100 score on Rotten Tomatoes, but in the eleven years since, Pixar has continued its unprecedented run with only one movie with below a 95. ”Cars” scored a 75% largely because the plot was stale in comparison to the other gems (in fact, it was the only Pixar movie since 2003 not to score a Best Original Screenplay nomination).
That proves a perfect segue into what must be the key element of “Toy Story 3″: the story. People have incredibly fond memories of the first two installments, and in order to hit big with audiences, it has to strike the perfect chord of staying true to its roots but offering a new and exciting experience. I’m a little tentative about all the new characters that Pixar is introducing in the movie. They all need to serve a purpose to the plot and be used tastefully, otherwise they are just noisy lawn ornaments.
But honestly, this is Pixar we are talking about. Time spent trying to find flaws in their work is time squandered.
Before I leave you, I want to talk about my plans for the “Oscar Moment” column this year. We’ve been through a whole season together, and looking back, I can’t help but feel like I was just talking to a wall. I set out to inform, and in doing that, I seemed to forgot to include. This speculation is only fun if you all engage in it with me. From now on, I am going to attach polls on Oscar Moments when I feel that they are worthwhile to gauge your opinion.