It started out as a means of digital film editing software that George Lucas hired in, something that would make blowing up the Death Star look more realistic. The software was sold to Steve Jobs where it helped make thirty second adverts while the more enthusiastic staff tinkered with what they thought was the key to revolutionising animation. Taken over by a fired Disney employee called John Lasseter, a man with a great vision, the company won its very first Academy Award in 1988 for Tin Toy. And Pixar has never looked back.
Pixar is now a multi-billion dollar company, a powerhouse of animation that has a little hopping table lamp called Luxo Jnr who may well be the most famous desk accessory in the world. And in the last 25 years, it has always done one thing outstandingly well. It has always managed to make phenomenal films, films that speak to every age group; films that manage to touch its audience even amidst the laughter and the screwball adventures. When the cast that you use to reach out to three different generations is made up of an ensemble group of fish, animate toys and a cooking rat, that achievement becomes that little bit more impressive.
With the re-release of Finding Nemo in 3D just around the corner, what better time to have a look at five unforgettable Pixar moments:
Firstly, let’s go back to where it all started; Toy Story. The tale of the popular cowboy toy Woody and his jealousy of the new upstart (douchebag) toy on the block, Buzz Lightyear. The chemistry was instantaneous, the voices were perfect and the film turned Pixar into gold dust. But the greatest bit had to be orchestrated revenge scene on Sid, the sadistic punk who got a little too vicious with his toys. The scene where his mutilated toys rise up around him, led by a sneering Woody, is creepy even to this day, and showed just how versatile animation could be.
Monsters, Inc. is famous for debuting Boo, commonly referred to as the single cutest character ever put on screen. The film revolves around the contamination of the monster world by Boo, a human toddler, who ironically is the thing that the monsters fear the most, and the efforts of Sulley and Wasowski to ‘put that thing back where it came from’. The highlight has to be the madcap ten minutes where the two of them try frantically to contain Boo inside their own apartment, all while trying desperately not to touch her or go anywhere near her.
Finding Nemo took box offices by storm, becoming the second highest grossing animated film ever after The Lion King. The story of one father’s desperate attempt to find his lost son was universally appealing on paper; it was made amazing by quality directing, one amnesiac fish called Dory and the immortal line ‘Woah dude, Mr. Turtle is my father’. The highlight obviously has to be when Marlin and Nemo are finally reunited, a scene that still draws a tear from every father watching.
Ratatouille is one of the most underrated of the Pixar films, not always being mentioned in the same breath as Toy Story or The Incredibles. It is however, a glorious film, suffused with a warm Parisian glow and shot with more subtlety than some of its brethren. The story of a rat who wants to cook isn’t immediately a winner, but it brings a massive grin to the face when Remy the rat finally figures out a hair pulling system that allows him to control his human like a culinary puppet. Several digital pans were harmed in the process though.
And finally, UP. One grumpy old man, one talkative boy, a dog who loves everyone, a rainbow coloured ostrich with a penchant for chocolate and the cone of shame. One of only two animated movies ever nominated for Best Film at the Academy Awards, Up was a testament to great filmmaking. The highlight, arguably one of the best pieces of cinema ever, is a wordless eight minute section charting the life of Carl and his wife Ellie, their highs and their heartbreaking lows. A scene that didn’t leave a single dry eye in the cinema.
Here’s hoping that Pixar continue to make many, many more of these kinds of moments in the future.