Life at Pixar by Anthony Lane
A CRITIC AT LARGE about Pixar. Pixar has made short movies, and it used to make commercials; if you enjoyed “Ratatouille,” for example, you might pause to reflect that its artistry was honed in the service of Listerine. But the crown of Pixar is its roster of feature films. The first was “Toy Story” (1995), followed by “A Bug’s Life” (1998), “Toy Story 2” (1999), “Monsters, Inc.” (2001), “Finding Nemo” (2003), “The Incredibles” (2004), “Cars” (2006), “Ratatouille” (2007), “Wall-E” (2008), “Up” (2009), and, in the completion of a trilogy, “Toy Story 3” (2010). The total income from these, like the lamb in “Boundin’,” Pixar’s Oscar-nominated short of 2003, has now bounced cheerfully out of sight, and was last seen passing the six-billion-dollar mark. Of the eleven full-length features, eight have been eligible for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, which was established only in 2001. All eight received nominations. Six of them won, and two of those—“Up” and “Toy Story 3”—were also nominated for Best Picture, a distinction that signals a growing bewilderment not just in our prize-giving but in our choices as filmgoers. To put the matter baldly: as a frightening proportion of supposedly grownup movies have reverted to the childish, so a disarming proportion of supposedly child-friendly movies have found friends in an adult audience. Writer visits the Pixar studios in Emeryville, California. Describes a new building on the Pixar campus called Brooklyn. Also tells about Pixar University, where the company’s employees can learn the arts of filmmaking. The funkiest parish is where the animators, a hundred and twenty in number, dwell, and where their fancies are encouraged to sprout. Each den is decorated in accordance with the whim, or the exotic id, of its occupant; thus, one has a Tiki theme, another is lined with Japanese movie posters, and several are built inside garden sheds. (If you want to see the opposite of this, a sum of all Pixar’s fears, watch the office scenes in “The Incredibles,” directed by Brad Bird, where the vast Bob Parr, alias Mr. Incredible, crouches wretchedly in the mouse-gray box of his workspace. Writer interviews Pixar employees, who discuss their work. Describes the process by which Pixar makes films and tells about the creation of “Brave,” which is due for release in June of 2012 and “Cars 2,” which will be released this summer. Tells about the studio’s chief creative officer, John Lasseter, and gives a history of Pixar’s evolution and corporate ownership.
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