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Our debate from last week was one of those impossible debates. There are so few that fall into this category as there honestly was no way to narrow Pixar’s glorious library down to just two definitive choices, which we did attempt for a brief few moments before deciding our episode needed to be non-conventional and include several.

But that of course didn’t please everyone since we had more than a few commenters ask us very earnestly, “Where was Monsters, Inc.?” “Did you forget about A Bug’s Life?” “Why no love for Ratatouille?” I feel for these people as I love all of those movies as well and could easily argue for every single one if asked, but were three and a half separate Pixar debates not good enough for one episode?

A few others would say, “No, that is not good enough.” At least one comment suggested this be a special half-hour episode, but the result would have been largely the same with Kyle and I throwing our hands up and saying that we just couldn’t decide, though if the editing took any longer, Dan would surely have gone insane.

Pixar is impossible to argue regarding “best” for much the same reason as the Best Animated Disney Movie was neigh impossible in that “best” usually comes down to which movie you have the most connection to from your own childhood. Pixar is unique as most of us grew up with it, specifically starting at Andy’s age for the first Toy Story and carrying on perfectly for the two sequels, so more than having a favorite, each movie generally represents a different emotion for us all.

With Toy Story, you have a fun, child-like wonder about the world, as well as the worry about becoming obsolete, something that carries throughout the trilogy. A Bug’s Life is great for when you feel like getting reminded of the power of many voices together and how you can do anything if you work together. Finding Nemo is a great father-son movie that instills that feeling of wanting to be independent from your parents without actually losing them. Monsters, Inc. is the movie about already being the best but realizing that isn’t necessarily what you need to be. The Incredibles is the very classic desire to relive the glory days. Ratatouille is the story about being the best, but being refused a chance. Wall-E is a story of hope. Up is a story of acceptance. Cars is about the changing world and nostalgia for the small town charms. Brave is a wonderful mother-daughter dynamic that we rarely get.

You add all those together and it becomes too difficult to decide which is your favorite, mostly because your favorite changes with your mood at the moment. As of now, I don’t think I could honestly decide on one or two favorites. I can’t even give a top 5 ranking here. I love them all for entirely different reasons, again, depending on my mood.

I do get the general distain for Cars 2 as that’s a movie that was very clearly made because the first was so popular in terms of merchandise, but why people dislike or even hate Brave is far beyond my comprehension. Did you not see the same movie I saw? People saying, “It’s good, but it’s not Pixar’s best” is no excuse to then say it’s a bad movie. It’s different and somewhat less progressive than the others, but it was still an amazing movie. Don’t forget that you probably aren’t a kid anymore. Imagine how that movie would have looked to you as a young child or if it came out a year after Toy Story.

Plus, when we’re getting to the point that people are questioning whether Dreamworks is starting to do better movies than Pixar now, that can only be good, not because it implies that Pixar is getting worse (their shorts can prove unquestionably that they are still masters of their craft), but that Dreamworks has been getting better, and that is easily a good thing.

Now let’s just hope Toy Story 4 manages to keep the dream alive. Monsters University absolutely will though, no question about it.

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We catch a little guff from folks for being three big Pixar fanboys. Yep. I’m cool with catching that reputation.

This debate was probably best used as a conversation starter regarding the state of Pixar. Several weeks ago, Pixar announced their lineup for the next few years of features. Needless to say, people were less than impressed with the sequels and prequels dotting the list. Is Pixar falling into a trap?

I would say no. Think of it like this: Pixar is aware of what worked in the past, and they try their best to build on it. Meanwhile, Dreamworks has improved considerably with their original features, but they still fall into the trap that Disney invented: straight to TV and straight to DVD spin offs and sequels.

The best part about Pixar is that there’s no clear frontrunner for their best feature, and I think that was the thesis of Chris’s arguments. In the event that you must defend a Pixar movie, it’s hard to choose which one. In the event that you must attack one, you have obvious choices for that route.

My main focus of the episode was that I tend to elevate certain Pixar flicks over the rest due to different reasons. For Toy Story, it’s nostalgia. For The Incredibles, it’s the way they immersed the Pixar style into a very specific genre. For Ratatouille it is how much it reminded me of the animated movies of the sixties and seventies in terms of embracing the setting and mixing both the human characters and the smaller world of the animal characters. For Up, it’s how well the metaphor worked; a simple adventure story as an exploration of life after loss.

This set of films hit so many different buttons.

I will profess my complete ambivalence about A Bug’s Life and Cars. No love for these? No. Definitely no love. In my opinion, A Bug’s Life failed to give me much to connect to. It seemed less like a Pixar movie and more like a generic Disney animated feature from 2003. Familiar territory. Cars is, as Chris put it, an amazing marketing decision. But the protagonist is unlikable, the nostalgia points that they grab for have no meaning to the majority of the audience, who is either too young to understand it or too old to accept it without any skepticism, and there doesn’t seem to be enough conflict for a compelling story.

Oh, crap. You know what I should have argued for? The shorts. If there’s a single Pixar project that trumps all of them, it’s the flawless, Oscar-winning short animated films that have preceded each feature for almost the last two decades. We did not specify that we were arguing only features. It’s that type of lateral thinking that could be winning me some debates. I wish I could employ that when I’m laughing my ass off listening to the crap spewing from Chris’s deranged mind.

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Thanks to the Disney channel, I had the pleasure of watching Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and Ratatouille. The shear awesomeness per minute ratio is off the charts for Pixar movies, and I was getting hit in the feels left and right. Jesse’s song? Ohmagush it’s crazy. I do however have several Pixar movies that I cannot watch again, due to the overwhelming rush of emotions they cause. Up is one of them, for the obvious first 10 minutes of that film. Toy Story 3 is the other, but for different reasons. Without getting too spoilery, the toys realize Andy is too old to play with them, list off toys that already got thrown away, almost get separated, and then spend the rest of the movie in a toy concentration camp. WTF, Pixar? Low blow, man … give the toys a break for like 5 minutes, will ya?

Anyways, as you might have noticed, there were no points on this episode. It’s pretty clear that when we do a multi-topic episode, you’re going to have a free-for-all. So, in the spirit of Pixar, I will take this time to focus on the most depressing moment in Up, what I consider to be the saddest moment they have made thus far.

Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers.

The first 10 minutes of Up, referred to me earlier and many fans in the comments. What is so sad about it? Where do I start? They start with a kid meeting a girl who shares his love of adventure, if anything surpassing it with her shear moxy. We’re then treated to a montage of their entire life together, good times and bad. Always close to their goal of a trip, life keeps holding them back for a little bit longer. It’s extremely relatable to save up for some purchase or trip, only to have a last minute flat tire or broken leg cause you to say “Well, maybe next year.”

This is where Pixar is genius. They distract you with the life of these two people, and start slipping in the idea that there’s always tomorrow to have your great adventure. Then, the build-up begins. The fella decides that there might not be so many more tomorrows left, so he plans to surprise his lady with the tickets for their trip. We as the audience are ecstatic, because we know what this is going to mean to them. Then Pixar kills the wife before they take the trip, going so far as to give her a heart attack as she walks towards the tickets.

This is almost obscenely sad. And that’s just the first 10 minutes of the movie. I can’t watch this film again, I just can’t.

The reliability of life being hard is such a low-hanging fruit that it’s astonishing no one has grabbed it as hard as Pixar has. Perhaps it’s because cartoon movies on the whole try to distance themselves from harsh realities. The fact that it’s all done sans dialogue makes it even more groin-kicky, because they show scenes that we all have been in. The flat tire, the sudden illness, the ever growing and shrinking savings jar that never quite gets to the top quick enough to be used for the right reasons … all work together to rope in the audience to have an emotional connection with these collection of pixels.

Then we have the elephant in the room that Pixar completely sweeps under the rug. The wife has a miscarriage. Oh, I’m sorry, didn’t you remember that? Probably not, because so much other emotional time bombs were exploding in your feel place. That’s right, during the montage of their lives together, Pixar had the 3d rendered balls to have a miscarriage in what at least partially can be called a children’s movie. They could have just as easily have skipped kids entirely, by showing the couple laugh at parents with unruly brats. They could have simply had the guy firing blanks, and not had a dead baby thrown in the mix. But no, as long as we’re killing your wife right as you were about to take her on the trip that both of you have spent your entire lives saving up for, why not throw in the fact that you almost were a dad but no … dead baby.

10 minutes … and we have a dead baby, a dead wife, and an old man who lives alone. This is a family movie, and Pixar kills a man’s entire family as the exposition to the story. And yet we love them for it, which only goes to show how fantastic they are at their jobs.

I’m going to go cry now.

Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.

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