Okay, so I know Pixar Animation Studios is not a person, but I felt compelled to include them in my exclusive list of favorite cinematic things. Why Pixar you ask? Let’s take a look at their films from worst to best and make a conclusion at the end.
Cars 2 is the only exception. This movie doesn’t care. Or, at least I refuse to believe it does.
Cars is about winners and losers, and how those definitions aren’t always white and black. Sometimes, losing that test, job, or race is a moral victory.
Brave is about bravery. It’s about breaking traditions. It tells little girls that you don’t need no man to be a princess. It empowers us to respect each other’s differences and allow people to love the people who they truly love.
A Bug’s Life is about embracing the inner nerd, weird person that’s inside all of us and makes us unique. Instead of trying to hide that person deep down inside, A Bug’s Life tells us that those seeds need love to sprout into beautiful trees.
The Incredibles is about the importance of family and what it means to be a superhero. Syndrome is not any more of a hero by enabling himself to fly, and neither is Mr. Incredibles once he puts on the suit again. Mr. Incredibles is a hero once he watches his son place 2nd in a track event and starts caring about his family.
Monsters University is about nature vs. nurture and how you need a balance of both to be successful in life. The naturally talented will eventually need to work hard, and the nurtured hard-worker will eventually need to divert his or her attention to places where their talent resides. It’s about finding what makes you special.
Monsters, Inc. is about adversity and change. Adversity sucks at first, but its these conflicts that make us who we are and defines us for the better. Sully’s whole career was in jeopardy once Boo entered his life, but after realizing Boo is a monster just like he is, with feelings capable of fear and love, Sully’s entire career is at stake because he no longer believes in what he does for a living. Sully changes for the better, but without first resisting those changes.
Toy Story 3 is about the inevitably of death and how to move on from death. Woody and the gang know that Andy is grown up and ready to leave them, but that doesn’t mean you should lock yourself in an attic, shut the world out, and resist any form of love again. Not only does Andy’s toys learn to let go and move on to a new owner, Andy accepts that his toys will be loved and taken care for by someone else besides himself. That is true acceptance of the inevitable.
Toy Story 2 is about love vs. admiration. Stinky Pete says, “How long will it last, Woody? Andy’s growing up, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s your choice, Woody. You can go back, or you can stay with us and last forever.” And Pete’s actually right. It is our choice. Love isn’t perfect. The occasional, or permanent, heart-break is inevitable. But Woody discovers perhaps love is defined by this very feature. Sure, you will never be abandoned or forgotten if you don’t commit yourself to love, but then are you really living? Love is only for a lifetime, but it makes love just that more precious.
Ratatouille is about the inner critic in all of us. The half of us that constantly doubts and judges. The half of us that bullies the inner child in all of us. Ratatouille speaks to those critics and reveals how easy it is to be a critic. Rather, it is the defense of the “new” that is not only more risky, but also that much more important. It’s easy to join in and hate that piece of food, literature, or form of entertainment, but it’s flat-out rewarding to find something that’s gone under-appreciated. There is no trash pile too rotten to yield treasure, no background too definitive to hide talent. Let the inner child out and defend whatever art or artist you find worth defending.
Toy Story is about our place in life and challenges the part of our mind that assigns every object with its purpose or function. The heart is made to distribute blood throughout our body. That chair to sit on. But not every object is built with a purpose in mind. What is the purpose of the mountains? To provide scenery? What is the purpose of that river? To provide us with water? It’s silly to think of these objects with functions, much like it is silly to think of humans to be born with a purpose. Buzz learns he wasn’t programmed with an all-important missions as he thought he was. He assigns himself with an all-important mission: to be a friend to Andy.
Finding Nemo is about the unfairness and brutality of life. Perfectly good people will suffer. But Marlin realizes this doesn’t mean you should be afraid of living. It’s not about what happens to you, but what you do when those things happen. Life is a journey. There are peaks and there are valleys. In order to get to the peaks, you need to keep swimming. Finding Nemo recognizes the unfairness and brutality of life, but it also recognizes that it is this unpredictability of life that makes it fun, exciting, and worth participating in.
Up is about life. It’s about regret, guilt, broken promises, broken people, and heavy memories. None of us will live out the life we have planned out for ourselves. None of us will keep every promise or cherish every blessing. Every one of us will experience regret and guilt. These memories will weigh us down. Up is about leaving all those memories behind and filling those empty spaces with new memories. Only then will our spirit be able to take off and enjoy what life has in store for us. Our dreams may not come true in the fashion we envisioned them, but this doesn’t mean we can’t live out the life we always dreamed of. Ellie says as a little girl, “Adventure is out there!” A phrase that should resonate with all of us.
WALL-E is about being alone. It is about being tiny, small, meaningless. WALL-E looks up to the night sky hoping for a life form to fall down each and every day whereas we find ourselves populated in a globe that has 7 billion humans and another 9 million species. WALL-E encourages the robotic self to break its programming and make that human connection. WALL-E recognizes our laziness and self-centeredness while promoting our way of life. The life where we forge bonds, build homes, take care of our families, and hold each other hands. Sure, there is a lot of trash to be found in human culture, but WALL-E believes it is our capacity to love that makes us worth saving in the first place. In the end, that’s how the night sky becomes a beautiful portrait. Sure, we are tiny, small, and meaningless. But we are not alone.
I love Pixar because they have impacted the way I view life and the way I live my life. Thank you for all the wonderful lessons, magical adventures, memorable characters, and some of the best movies I have ever seen. I will be forever thankful for Pixar Animation Studios.