May the best movie win!*
*Seven categories have been carefully picked to decisively crown the deserving winner
Why are these movies facing off?
It’s one of those rare years where we get double the Pixar films. Pixar Animation Studios has plans to make this a more frequent occasion in the future but with sequels, not originals. So naturally, the question arises: which original 2015 Pixar film deserves to win the Oscar for best Animated Feature? Let’s sort this one out!
Category One: Animation/Backgrounds/Effects
The Good Dinosaur. No question.
Winner: The Good Dinosaur (1-0)
The Good Dinosaur reminds me of the wondrous work of art that is Bambi. For my fellow animation fanatics, remember the little April shower scene? The Good Dinosaur takes pages from none other than Walt Disney and his works in the 30s and 40s, the time of Snow White, Pinocchio, and Fantasia. The backgrounds, while photo-realistic, are marvelously framed as it was in Bambi to convey emotion. Inside Out was intricate, but seemed indifferent to recent Disney and even DreamWorks releases.
Category Two: Soundtrack/Songs
Ah, a tough one here. I had to re-listen to parts of both soundtracks before I could decide which one I liked better. By a smidge, I’m going to go with Inside Out.
Inside Out had moments that made me want to cry. And music in movies often play an important role in determining how we react to certain scenes. Michael Giacchino, the Pixar vet who composed Up’s soundtrack, truly understands how to evoke sadness, and that is undoubtedly his best emotion of the five depicted in the film. The Good Dinosaur had good moments as well, but didn’t convey sadness as well as Giacchino did through music, an important emotion in both films.
Winner: Inside Out (1-1)
Category Three: The Pixar Pair/Message
Another tough one. I hope not all the categories are going to be like this.
While I love Arlo and Spot, I think I like Spot a bit more than Arlo. Arlo was, at times–to be frank–a little annoying with all his screaming. To be fair, The Good Dinosaur’s message about accepting fear, loving family, and finding your place in the world was all meaningful. Joy also had moments when she was annoying, but it made sense with her defining character traits–she couldn’t understand the function or usefulness of sadness because she wasn’t, well, Sadness. I think I really enjoyed the Pixar protagonist pair of Joy and Sadness because they start out as complete opposites, and begin to embrace each other by the end, an important reconciliation that all people need to accept.
Winner: Inside Out (2-1)
Category Four: Comic Relief Characters
And… this one is going to Inside Out again. Are we gonna have a blow-out here?
Inside Out has a wonderful ensemble of characters–Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust–to keep life inside Riley’s mind upbeat, even as her life in reality comes crashing down. The Good Dinosaur had enjoyable characters in the Western Tyrannosaurus Rex cowboys, but some of the others were out-right bizarre, even as I admit to liking that strange Styracosaurus… come on, you know who I’m talking about.
Winner: Inside Out (3-1)
Category Five: Plotting
Both films are not very strong in this category, but I’m going to give the edge to The Good Dinosaur. It’s narrative is a bit more streamlined, albeit simplistic. There’s a few weird scenes to be sure–including a scene where our protagonists basically get high like in Dumbo–but these scenes don’t really bother as much as they confuse. Inside Out definitely has the better story, but there’s many puzzling decisions which makes this one not as innovative as the critics claim. The dream production studio and abstract land is as strange as the Dumbo scene of The Good Dinosaur, but more drawn-out and distracting to the message they were trying to get at.
Winner: The Good Dinosaur (2-3)
Category Six: Storytelling/Unique Premise
Easily goes to The Good Dinosaur. The Good Dinosaur has the lofty goal of entertaining through visuals instead of plot. With a strong sense of story permeated by themes of embracing family and fear that guides Arlo’s evolving friendship with Spot and his lessons about life, The Good Dinosaur succeeds. I was engrossed by the world-building experience of Arlo’s if-the-dinosaurs-weren’t-extinct world, which had dinosaurs taking on different roles of human society and the humans taking on the role of pets. Inside Out impressed more with story and creativity than with storytelling and execution of its premise.
Winner: The Good Dinosaur (3-3)
Category Seven: Atmosphere/Pacing
Okay, this is for the win!
Inside Out has the destructive habit of trying to cram too much stuff in too little space. It has great ideas–themes of growing up and being defined by personality traits–which was visited but not inspected. One of my favorite moments of Inside Out is a particularly beautiful scene with Joy projecting one of Riley’s first ice skating memories in headquarters. I really began to feel how important skating was to Riley and understanding her as a person. The Good Dinosaur has these slow, patient moments in abundance. From scenes meant to bond Arlo with his father–as Arlo later does with Spot–with fireflies to scenes of Arlo running through a flock of birds, these scenes communicate and express a lot without comprising the mood via exposition, peril, or action.
Winner: The Good Dinosaur (4-3)
Final Verdict: The Good Dinosaur (4-3)
While Inside Out is a story driven by creative energy and likable characters, we haven’t had a film like The Good Dinosaur in a really long time. And although The Good Dinosaur risks boring younger audiences, it is sure to delight animation fans and adults who enjoyed the better works of Walt Disney. For its artistic merit and its uniqueness, I firmly believe The Good Dinosaur is the best Pixar film of 2015, even as it plays the role of underdog, and deserves to win the Oscar award for Best Animated Feature.
Did the right movie win? Which movies do you wanna see face-off next? Let me know in the comments below and come revisit this site to catch the next Taestful Face-Off.