Four Empire writers definitively put the animation studio’s output in order
Helen: So, Pixar. Are we pro? Are we anti? Are we on the fence? I don’t expect an anti.
Olly: Pretty pro.
Ben: Same. One thing that I think comes through in Pixar a lot is how much of an impact they make on you at different times of your life and how you carry that with you between the older films and some of the newer ones. That comes through in my list.
Dan: I was there at the start with Toy Story in 1995, and was an instant convert. I will say that my enthusiasm for Pixar has waned gradually. I don’t get as hyped now about a new Pixar movie as I did ten years ago, for example.
Helen: Is it not just the name Pixar that excites you? It has to be the actual premise.
Dan: Well, there seems to be two types of Pixar movies now. Sequels and notsequels. I almost wish they’d just lay off the sequels. I love Incredibles 2 but I’d rather see another Inside Out. Not literally another Inside Out, but a film like Inside Out or Up.
Olly: I feel they still do that. The sequels thing, I get it. They are a business. They’re not against making money.
Dan: They should be. Story is king, wasn’t that the motto? Not, money is king.
Olly: Fine. You go see your communist movies then. I think something like Coco, no-one else is doing something like that. Even in the early days not every single one was amazing. A Bug’s Life is good, but it’s not in my top ten. Helen: We’ll start with Toy Story, which was released in the States in 1995, and wasn’t here until 1996, so unless you were on holiday, Dan, you’re lying.
Dan: Are you calling me a liar?
Dan: That’s nice. Olly: Toy Story is untouchable. It changed everything. Regardless of the fact that it was the first major computer animated film, it’s just such a brilliantly written movie. It’s so funny. It’s one of the best comedies ever.
Ben: It’s like the absolute nucleus of everything Pixar have done since. It’s so funny, it’s about creating this world you’ve never seen before, and also with these weirder, darker elements that come through in quite a few Pixar films. Dan: Toy Story is a workplace comedy, isn’t it? Toy Story 2 is a great action film. And then Toy Story 3... It’s funny, I absolutely loved it, but there’s one scene in 3 that has wiped almost every scene in that movie out of my memory. The one in the furnace.
Helen: I genuinely thought for a moment that in a Disney-distributed, Pixaranimated film, they were going to kill all the toys. I believed for a second that this is it. Wow, that’s dark.
Olly: There is no other animation studio, possibly Ghibli, that you think might do that.
Helen: I think Toy Story 2 is phenomenal. The divide between toys as toys and toys as things that a lot of people fetishise is brilliantly done.
Olly: It doesn’t matter what age you are because there’ll be different things you’ll get from it. There’s so much going on in that film.
Helen: The pinnacle of that is Inside Out. Kids are watching some brightly coloured characters have a brightly coloured adventure. Parents are watching a psychologically, really solid, examination of emotions, culminating in actual depression. This is one of the most astonishing depictions of depression I’ve ever come across.
Ben: This film gave me a vocabulary to understand the idea of happy memories within your past becoming sad. They’re still happy, but they’re sad at the same time. It’s so perceptive about emotion.
Olly: It’s a genius piece of filmmaking. It’s so rare that you go and see a film and go, “I don’t understand how that came together in someone’s head.”
Helen: There’s a whole heck of a lot of great Pixar directors, but Pete Docter might be the number one. Up has a very solid emotional throughline which is a man losing the thing that means most to him and finding some sort of comfort in the rest of his life. It’s incredible.
Ben: I love Monsters, Inc. so much. It’s the greatest world Pixar ever made, the characters are my favourite Pixar characters. I never get bored of it.
Dan: That’s interesting. It’s my least favourite Pete Docter film. It was too much the template they set up with Toy Story: a workplace, the secret life behind something you know about, at the heart of it is a buddy dynamic.
Helen: I will say that they became aware of that themselves. They’ve talked about that being a part of
The Incredibles’ move away from it. They recognised they were in danger of that becoming their thing.
Dan: The Incredibles is top. It almost makes you believe that a family could get on with each other and work together as opposed to constantly bickering and driving their dad mad. Look, it’s the summer holidays, I’m two weeks in and I’m going a bit mad.
Olly: I love the level of minute comedy detail. The fact that the baddy’s lair is on Nomanisson Island is just one of the best jokes I’ve ever seen in a film, and it’s thrown away.
Dan: I didn’t even know that joke. Oh my God, you’ve just given me something new about The Incredibles.
Helen: Right, enough squabbling. Let’s vote!
THE PIXAR MOVIES ARE AVAILABLE NOW ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWNLOAD
To listen to the full Pixar debate as a podcast, go to www.empireonline. com/podcast