Posted by: Paul | November 21, 2010

Pixar 2

A few months ago I wrote a short post about the Pixar movies. Since then, I’ve watched the entire Pixar feature film canon again – all of the films I’ve seen more than once in this time, with the exception of Toy Story 3 (it’s on the Christmas list).

They are all still captivating in their own way, and Ali and I were distilling each film down to it’s central moral message the other day. For example, Toy Story – everyone’s different and that’s a good thing. Cars – you need the support of good friends around you. A Bug’s Life – even the seemingly insignificant is capable of great things.

But like the very best in kids and family entertainment, these brightly coloured stories of triumphing against the odds often have surprisingly dark sides when you strip them down to their essentials. Finding Nemo for instance begins with the death of the main character’s wife and destruction of their eggs, with the surviving offspring being disabled as a result, and then being abducted! In Up, the main character’s wife also passes away at the beginning of the movie, which garnered plaudits for the opening sequence including an Academy Award nomination. But for some reason, as the characters in Nemo are fish the trauma does not register with us in the same way!

Anyway, the reason for this post is this. Since my last post on the subject, Cars 2 has become Pixar’s major cinematic release for next year, becoming only the second Pixar IP to earn the sequel treatment. As much as I like the first Cars movie, and feel it was unfairly criticised at the time (repeat viewings reveal depth and subtlety not evident at first, and the visual fidelity I still feel is unsurpassed), I don’t think it needed a sequel and I suspect this is the first time the creative Pixar is bowing to the commercial one.

I mean, it’s self evident how merchandiseable the movies are, and their popularity ensures continued financial success, but why go back to a story which had run its course when the original IP movies have all been so creatively successful and rewarding for the audience? I can’t help but feel Cars 2 is far more a commercial decision than a creative one – looking at the trailer it lacks imagination (Finn McMissile, the British secret agent? Oh please).

I’m willing to predict this will be the movie where the critics accuse Pixar of losing its shine and going instead for naked profiteering. There’s no denying the success of Cars as a franchise and merchandising machine, and it feels to me like the movie sequel is milking the cash cow. I hope to be proved wrong – I do love the first movie – but I think this is a bit too far off-road.

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