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STUDIO RANKED: Pixar (Features)

Pixar Animation popped onto the scene in 1986, practically pioneering the way in focusing on computer generated animation as a whole storytelling tool. After almost ten years of creating experimental shorts, the company released the first ever fully computer animated feature-length film, Toy Story, and Pixar become an instant household name.

The Pixar name has also been synonymous with "great film" for a long time. Not everything they've put out has been perfect, but the hits certainly outweigh the misses. Pixar seems a to be able to bring new perspectives to their audiences, all while advancing the technology used in the process which keeps them leaders in the animation genre.

  • WALL·E

    1.WALL·E

    ★★★★★

    WALL-E is without a doubt Pixar's riskiest film. It's also the better because of it, setting it significantly apart from the rest. While the company has never shied away from tackling serious topics, this film in particular starts off in a vacant, post-apocalyptic dystopia and continues to grow the problems of this possible future from there. Combine that with a story centering around artificial intelligence, told mostly in silence through pantomime, and you'd be hard pressed for a production company creating for the children's market to give it the green-light. A couple of live-action scenes and some hard-hitting social commentary push the film over the edge, making it Pixar's most art house production, in addition to its heaviest, and arguably its most important.

  • Up

    2.Up

    ★★★★★

    Up delivers an action adventure film with two least likely action adventure stars: an old man and a chubby young boy. The idea to do so freshens up the genre completely and the characters still feel completely natural in their parts, even if it could only reasonably be done like this in animation. The film is truly unexpected, full of laughs, and deeply endearing. The first few minutes, in fact, probably make up the best sequence of storytelling that Pixar has put to screen.

  • Inside Out

    3.Inside Out

    ★★★★½

    The way that Pixar seems to effortlessly handle such psychological themes the way it does in Inside Out is absolutely mind (pun intended) blowing. It is done simply enough for younger viewers to understand and well enough for it to grasp older viewers as well. Anyone can relate to these themes, because everyone has dealt with them one way or another. The emotions are perfectly cast and play off of each other so well that it makes perfect sense why they are each so important and how they and their interactions affect us all. Inside Out is Pixar's smartest film.

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  • The Incredibles

    4.The Incredibles

    ★★★★½

    Not only is The Incredibles one of the best films to be created by Pixar, the company also managed to put out one of the best superhero films to ever hit the screen, even coming long before the superhero genre picked up its momentum and such a generous audience following. This is top notch action and suspense, wild romanticism, and an honest coming of age story all rolled into a stylish, vintage film noir tale of superpowers. Fan favorite characters like Frozone and Edna Mode supporting the incredible family, and a formidable foe like Syndrome, round off the movie to create Pixar’s most feel good experience. All set to an incredible score by Michael Giacchino.

  • Toy Story 2

    5.Toy Story 2

    ★★★★½

    Toy Story 2 is more than just the company's best sequel. On the surface, it manages to expand upon the themes of the first film in an organic way, introducing new characters to the stable as well as one of the most moving songs to be featured in a Pixar film. But deeper than that, I would call Toy Story 2 the very essence of Pixar itself. This is the company at its hey day delivering the exact high quality, genre bending, all ages film that it would become known for. And although only the 3rd film in Pixar's canon, coming early in the production company's lineage, Toy Story 2 doesn't look or feel nearly as dated as either of the films before it. It's the most classic of a film to come from Pixar altogether.

  • Toy Story

    6.Toy Story

    ★★★★½

    Toy Story is important for a few reasons. In addition to being Pixar’s first feature film, it’s the first feature length film created completely with CG animation, shepherding in a new era of animated film and changing the look of the entire animation industry. Had it not been successful, who knows what animation would be like today. Although its graphics are now dated by today’s standards, it holds an ingenuity that has yet to be matched in the genre, and its story, heart and characters have become a cherished part of film history and pop culture just the same.

  • Toy Story 3

    7.Toy Story 3

    ★★★★½

    It is rather hard to separate the Toy Story movies because they build upon each other in ways that the other Pixar movies with sequels, or prequels, don’t. The impact of this movie could not exist without the previous ones. A whole generation grew up with Pixar’s first beloved characters, so the nostalgia and sentimentality with Toy Story 3 is strong, and for many, tears and fears are inevitable in this story about growing up, loss and moving on. There are not just 1, but 2 devastating moments in this film, making it Pixar’s biggest heart tugger.

  • Monsters, Inc.

    8.Monsters, Inc.

    ★★★★

    The notes for this film reportedly contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    For its time of release, the rigging and rendering on Monsters, Inc. must have been staggering. Not only are the monster details, like Sulley’s fur, so intricate, but this film finally nails Pixar’s design of humans, such as Boo, who can be odd to create in CGI, often falling into the uncanny valley. Aside from the technical wonders, Monsters, Inc. also holds one of the dearest relationships in the company’s library, that of sweet innocence and the thing that goes bump in the night, and how that unlikely friendship, looking past one’s own perception, can change the outlook of an entire world.

  • Coco

    9.Coco

    ★★★★

    Pixar’s first film to center on a culture of people of color does so exceedingly well. Coco is unapologetically Mexican from beginning to end and, while not perfect, its nice to see the company make the effort to pay proper respect by employing many cultural advisors and other Latin talents on the film. The end result is a great step up from where Coco’s production began, with Disney trying to copyright the Dia de los Muertos holiday.

  • Ratatouille

    10.Ratatouille

    ★★★★

    Perhaps Pixar’s most inspiring movie, Ratatouille is a love letter to artistry in every form, and especially to the unlikely artist everywhere. It so well captures the experience of being an artist, thinking outside of the box and the societal marginalization that comes with it. The passion of needing to create, the struggle of learning the tools needed, and the harsh criticism that always finds its way to an artist are important aspects, but none as important as the idea that you too can create on such a level, no matter who you are or where you come from. Wonderful.

  • Finding Nemo

    11.Finding Nemo

    ★★★★

    Finding Nemo is an interesting take on the father / son dynamic, as the father and son are rarely seen together within the context of the movie. Instead, we see their relationship grow as they learn to understand themselves and the world around them and how they relate to one another and apart from each other. It is growth that would not be given the chance to happen if they were to always be together. It is true freedom, and what place could be better to symbolize such than the great expanse of the ocean.

  • A Bug's Life

    12.A Bug's Life

    ★★★½

    It is certainly Pixar’s most underrated and oft forgotten film, having come directly between the first two Toy Story movies, but the company’s second feature length film is both inventive and charming. With a voice cast of top talent comedians like Phyllis Diller, Madeline Kahn, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Dave Foley, along with co-director Joe Ranft providing the memorable voice of Heimlich and Roddy McDowall in his last screen role, these tiny bugs become larger than life in a story based on one of Aesop’s fables. The film also features lively animation, a zany Randy Newman score and one of the company’s creepiest villains, Hopper.

  • Toy Story 4

    13.Toy Story 4

    ★★★½

  • Incredibles 2

    14.Incredibles 2

    ★★★½

    Incredibles 2 surely holds the spot of most anticipated movie to come from Pixar. After releasing multiple Cars continuations and odd returns to the worlds of Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc., sequels that no one asked for, Pixar decided to finally answer audiences' long time request for another Incredibles film. Perhaps 14 years was a bit too long of a wait, as the build up of anticipation resulted in an expectation of something epic, making the movie itself somewhat of a let down, as fun and nostalgic as it is.

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  • Finding Dory

    15.Finding Dory

    ★★★½

    Finding Dory is a bit of a rehash of Finding Nemo, except for one important thing. Dory was definitely a scene stealer in the first film, even if many jokes were made at the expense of her lack of short term memory. Putting a character with such a serious mental disability in the lead role of a mainstream film for children is an important step to make, and hopefully other films will follow Finding Dory's lead and do similarly with other disabilities. It shows viewers that no matter how your brain (or anything else really) works, you are the star of your adventure and can still work things out.

  • Brave

    16.Brave

    ★★★

    In concept, this is an exciting film in that it is the first Pixar film to feature a woman protagonist and a woman director. That, aside from the beautiful animation of Merida’s hair, is unfortunately where the excitement of the film ends for me. Brave, or Mother Bear as I sometimes refer to it, is a complete rehash of Disney’s earlier film Brother Bear, only this time told from the point of view of a bratty teenager playing against her stubborn mother. The true conflict of the film boils down to bad communication and forcing others to suffer because of a different workd view. While lessons are learned from these mistakes, its done so haphazardly, without the natural steps that would need to be taken to actually do so, i.e. good communication and understanding.

  • Cars

    17.Cars

    ★★★

    I’ve never really been that into automobiles in general, so Cars inherently holds the least amount of personal interest for me of any of Pixar’s stable of films. Still, the company manages to imbue these metal machines with endearing personalities and relatable conflicts that update the old city mouse / country mouse moral. With the likes of Cheech Marin, George Carlin, Jenifer Lewis, and Edie McClurg, there is some great talent rounding out this cast, making some of the side characters my favorite of the film.

  • Monsters University

    18.Monsters University

    ★★★

    Monsters University is probably the least hopeful or inspiring of the Pixar canon. As a prequel, it gets away with it because the audience knows the greatness that will later become of these characters, but the idea that not everything always works out according to your plan, even if you dream it and you work hard, is an important lesson, and one that is very rarely explored in content geared towards children. But again, we know what will eventually happen with Mike and Sulley, and really the entire core value of the monster world, so any impact here is greatly lessened.

  • Cars 2

    19.Cars 2

    ★★★

    Despite stories about one’s inner being from the point of view of emotions, toys that come to life when you leave the room and a robot that has been left on to work endlessly alone in a post-apocalyptic world, Cars 2 has to be the most far-fetched, out of left field idea to come from the company. These large, cumbersome metallic objects are going undercover as international spies. The ridiculousness of it alone is what makes it at least interesting, and laughable, and thereby, even, slightly enjoyable.

  • Cars 3

    20.Cars 3

    ★★½

    The Pixar film seemingly least likely to get a sequel has somehow managed to become a full blown trilogy, in addition to a slew of related short films. But after the ridiculous action of the previous Cars film, Cars 3 is a step back to the boring old town. There is a nice idea here of helping someone else who is underprivileged get a chance of their own, but the main plot of age vs youth just doesn’t have the same impact through machinery as it already has had in Up, or aspects of other Pixar films, including the first Cars. Pixar can’t seem to see the allegory of that within the Cars franchise itself, or else this film would never have been made to begin with. There is only so much you can do with cars while keeping it interesting. This is probably 2 movies and a slew of short films too much.

    Oh, except the franchise does sell toys.

  • The Good Dinosaur

    21.The Good Dinosaur

    ★★½

    I never thought I'd see the day that Pixar would delivery a truly bad movie. Even Cars 2, unliked by many, had its share of redeeming qualities. The Good Dinosaur has exactly 2 things going for it: the backgrounds are spectacularly photo-realistic and the character designs are simplistically adorable. Unfortunately, these two points immediately cancel each other out, as the characters and settings do not fit in the same world and visually fight against each other. Add to that a disjointed, unoriginal plot that, by the movie's end, turns out to be entirely pointless, and you get a film that just doesn't stand up to Pixar's own standards. The company's success streak was long, but sometimes when you're too good, a miss has to happen to keep you grounded.

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