Category Archives: Pixar

Movie Review: Wall-E

Wow, what can I say? I’ve been anticipating every new Disney/Pixar release since they wowed me with their first theatrical release, Toy Story. Now Wall•Eis out and I’m as impressed as ever!

Set far into the future we encounter Wall-E as he happily labors away at a job he’s been doing for the last 700 years, which is cleaning up the Earth. As he’s worked through the centuries, he’s developed a few quirks: He’s befriended the last living inhabitant of the Earth (that we know of), a cockroach. He watches the songs and dances from Hello Dolly over and over and fantasizes being able to have someone to love and sing to of his own. And he collects things that he finds interesting. Everything from rubber duckies, to lighters. As far as Wall-E is concerned, he’s a robot who has it all.

Soon a probe ship arrives at Earth and launches EVE whose mission it is to seek out signs that the planet is once again able to sustain life. Of course, as far as Wall-E is concerned, when he sees EVE it’s love at first sight.

From here we embark on a wonderful adventure of Wall-E discovering what has become of the former inhabitants of the Earth as he attempts to stay close to EVE. The wonderful part of this movie is how the simple fact of Wall-E’s presence impacts every person he comes in contact with, and changes them all in very positive ways.

Wall•Enot only displays Pixar’s state-of-the-art expertise in computer animation, but it’s also a showcase for the skill level of their animators. There is very little dialogue in this movie at all. Most of everything we learn about Wall-E and the other robots who inhabit most of this film is done through synthesized voices and pantomime. It’s quite a joy to watch these seemingly inanimate objects display a wide range of emotions that allow us to empathize with them.

For the first time in a Disney/Pixar film, the future looks bleak. With our planet so polluted that we’re forced to evacuate to space and humanity evolving into helpless blobs because the technology they’ve developed spoon feeds them everything they need, it’s really the boldest statement about world issues that Pixar has ever made. I’m sure that many people will take environmental messages from this film, and maybe appropriately so, but the strongest message that I got out of it stems from some of my personal relationships with people who have let their health go so far south that they need full-time caregivers to help them accomplish simple tasks in their daily lives. The message I got from this movie is to never give up your ability to control your own life, whether it’s your personal abilities or social freedoms, because if you ever do, it’ll take nothing short of a revolutionary effort to gain it back.

Thomas Newman - WALL?E (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)Watching this movie, I fell in love with Wall-E in much the same way I fell in love with E.T. when I was a child. My favorite part was in the beginning when we got to see him doing his daily work, and then watch him stop to take in the wonder of the simplest of things. That child-like curiosity is something that I could have watched for hours.
Whether or not you have children, you owe it to yourself to see Wall•E. It’s a visual delight and a heartwarming treat that’s bound to inspire and touch audiences for years to come!
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Movie Review: Cars

Knowing that I’m a big Pixar fan, I decided that I would try to be as impartial as possible in watching the new movie, Cars. I did a good job too—I thought. At first I was jaded as I heard Randy Newman’s Disney/Pixar logo fanfare at the beginning and I thought, “Oh yes, this is a John Lasseter film and he ALWAYS uses Randy Newman.” Then I was cynical as the movie started and I thought, “Is this going to be an hour and a half long Chevron talking car commercial?” And then the race began… I was hooked.

The story is about Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, Shanghai Noon), a rookie on the racing circuit with a huge fan base and even larger ego. When his arrogance leads to botching his easy victory which ends up being a three-way tie, a showdown race is scheduled between the three winners in California for the following week.

On the way to California, his impatience causes him to be stranded in Radiator Springs, an old forgotten Route 66 desert town with an unusual automobile population. It’s here that he learns that his one-man-team/win-at-all-costs mentality is not the way to find true happiness and make real friends.

Pixar definitely is the top CGI animation studio for technological innovation and it showed in the smoke left by the squealing tires and the visual depth of the crowds in the opening racing scenes. The reflections on the cars actually made me think that they must have used real cars in places. The realism was amazing!

As with all Pixar films, their technological prowess never upstages the depth and charm of their characters. Owen Wilson is perfectly cast as the self absorbed speedster, and the Radiator Springs gallery of misfits all have their special charm and appeal. Tony Shalhoub (Monk, Galaxy Quest) does a perfectly unrecognizable accent as the obsessive Luigi, the European auto mechanic; Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting) has a powerful presence as the road weary Doc Hudson; but perhaps the most memorable of the bunch will be Larry the Cable Guy (Larry the Cable Guy), who voices the innocent and brash Mater, the tow truck.

Apple iTunesI have to say that Pixar has done it right again. While I wouldn’t classify this as my most favorite of their movies, it in no way tarnishes their reputation for putting out the finest in CGI Animation, if not the finest in family entertainment.

I dare you not to enjoy this movie.

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Movie News: Ratatouille

Collective fans of Disney, Pixar and Brad Bird will no doubt rejoice to hear the news of the upcoming Ratatouille, the story of a rat who lives in a Parisian restaurant—though I don’t know if the French will be keen on the idea that we think there are rats in their fine eating establishments.

Apple iTunes

Ratatouille features the combined directorial efforts of Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant) and Bob Peterson (one of the writers and Mr. Ray on Finding Nemo, voice of Roz on Monsters Inc.). The only confirmed cast member is Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond) as the eccentric chef who works in the restaurant, and an assumed cast member will be John Ratzenberger who has appeared in every Pixar production from the very first Toy Story where he was the voice of the piggy bank, Ham, to The Incredibles where he voiced The Underminer.

Also worthy of note is that the music is set to be scored by Michael Giaccino who created the memorable soundtrack for the Incredibles and also does the impressive music for the hit shows Lost and Alias on ABC.

Not much else is known of the production yet. I’m sure they’re waiting until the upcoming Disney/Pixar release Cars has had its run before flooding the newswires with news of this latest production.

This is likely to be billed as a Disney production, since the acquisition of Pixar should be complete by the speculated June 29, 2007 release date, but just in case the acquisition fails for some reason, Disney and Pixar signed a one-picture extension to the distribution deal that was set to end with Cars. In this deal, Pixar would pay for all of the production costs and pay a fee to Disney for distribution of the film. One of the apparent differences, though, is that Pixar would own the film—as opposed to previous deals where Disney retained a certain degree of rights that would/will allow them to make sequels without the involvement of Pixar.

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Coming Soon: Cars

If there’s any studio that I’d be willing to give a “free pass” to—meaning that I’ll go see anything they make whether or not the initial previews interest me—that would have to be Pixar Animation Studios.

Pixar is the only studio I can think of that fosters an environment conducive to developing a great story above everything else. True, they are on the cutting edge of CGI technology, and have developed many of the tools used by many in the industry, but when one of their movies is on I never sit back and ogle at their technical prowess, I’m enthralled by the story.

Another thing that I really love about Pixar, is that it never talks down to the kids and never thinks that crude humor and innuendo are the only ways to keep adults who are watching the show interested. I’m never worried that my kids are going to start saying words they shouldn’t (like I was from Dreamwork’s Antz) or that they were going to ask me to explain what something meant (like why Pinocchio wearing women’s underwear was such a big deal in Dreamwork’s Shrek 2). Pixar’s movies are sincerely funny and sophisticated.

Why am I bringing this up? Because Pixar’s new movie Cars is due to be released in the theaters June 9th, 2006 and I’m not really all that keen on the concept of the story. I can’t help but think, as I watch the trailers, that this movie is going to seem like a 90 minute Chevron talking car commercial.

But, I will see it and I’m expecting to thoroughly enjoy it. Why this dogged optimism you may ask? Well, I guess it’s in large part faith in the director, John Lasseter. He was the one responsible for Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and A Bug’s Life. But not only that, if you listen to Brad Bird’s commentary for The Incredibles, you’ll hear how many times John Lasseter told him to do what it took to tell the story—that was his primary concern even if it meant increasing the budget or the running time. If you recall, The Incredibles was a remarkably long movie for an American made animated film.

So, from a Disney press release, the story of cars goes like this: “Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson), a hotshot rookie race car driven to succeed, discovers that life is about the journey, not the finish line, when he finds himself unexpectedly detoured in the sleepy Route 66 town of Radiator Springs. On route across the country to the big Piston Cup Championship in California to compete against two seasoned pros, McQueen gets to know the town’s offbeat characters – including Sally (a snazzy 2002 Porsche voiced by Bonnie Hunt), Doc Hudson (a 1951 Hudson Hornet with a mysterious past, voiced by Paul Newman), and Mater (a rusty but trusty tow truck voiced by Larry The Cable Guy) – who help him realize that there are more important things than trophies, fame and sponsorship.”

Sounds like it could be a heartwarming tale if you ask me, and with it’s G-rating, definitely something I won’t think twice about taking the family to.

On a side note, my interest in the future of Disney animation took a great leap when I heard that Disney was acquiring Pixar. But not only that, John Lasseter is the new Chief Creative Officer of their animation studios. Already there has been a stop put to production of many projects. Hopefully all of the retooling will be a good thing and we may even see traditional animation return? I hope so. Milt Kahl, one of the early Disney animation veterans said in the 70s, that the problem with Disney features was that “Walt had to go and die.” Walt Disney was the heart and soul of everything Disney put out. Hopefully John Lasseter will be just the person to bring it back.

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