Thoughts on the “New Yorker” Profile of Pixar

Elastigirl

Anthony Lane’s fawning eight-page profile of Pixar in the new edition of The New Yorker (May 16) has convinced me that it is next to impossible to write anything of substance about the studio at this time. The studio’s unparalleled string of successes at the box office inevitably leads to writers attempting to figure out why they’ve been so good, and the response from within the studio is always the same tired line about how all the elements of the film are created in the service of the story. That’s a great point, of course, and deserves to be shouted from the rooftops, but it doesn’t exactly make for thought-provoking commentary. Nor does it explain Cars. Lane’s article isn’t on-line, but if you’ve read anything about Pixar in the past few years, then you’ve probably read this piece, too.

Well, actually, Lane does have one original revelation: he harbors a fetish for the, umm, elasticity, of the The Incredibles’ Helen Parr, aka Elastigirl:

Helen, with bendy limbs adaptable for both vacuuming and fistfights, is a living joke about society’s expectation that women should have it all, or do it all, and never take a break. There is, of course, another skill that she could master with her natural sinuosity, but that is never mentioned. Back in 2004, some of us in the movie theatre wanted to shout, “Bob, she’s wearing a black mask and thigh-highs. What are you waiting for, man?” For the sake of the kids, though, we kept quiet. Bedrooms, in Pixar, are places where you chat to monsters, or horse around with your toys: not perspiring rumpus rooms, where Mr. and Mrs. Incredible play adults-only Twister.

Such is the state of commentary about Pixar today.


  • http://ratso.podomatic.com Carl Russo

    Hell, I’d do Boop in a second–as long as she’s not sporting doggie ears!

  • http://www.zoepiel.com zoe

    I’m so sick of “story.” “Story” has pushed out character as the top priority of the process.

    Pixar is great at “story” but not quite as good at character. For example, a movie like UP traded in completely formulaic characters — a main character whose defining attribute was pretty much that he was old. Or Ratatouille: I adored the movie, but I can’t say that it has really stayed with me on an emotional level. WHO IS Remy, or Linguini? To me, only the Toy Story series presented fully fleshed-out characters with extremely distinct personalities.

    • http://www.facebook.com/pages/JM-Urbina-Animation-Director/138440486216374 J.M. Urbina

      …yet,cliche characters. The Buddiest film of all Buddy Films?, come on.

    • Tim Hodge

      You make a valid point, but to suggest another facet of the “heavy on the story/skimpy on the character” idea, when a storyteller leaves certain dimensions of a character unexplored it allows the viewer to fill in the blanks with his/her own personality, and identify with the protagonist.

      It’s the plight of the “everyman”.

      I’m not disagreeing with your statement, just presenting another way to look at it.

      • http://elblogderg.blogspot.com Roberto

        On one hand I thought Up was one of the most character focused movies Pixar has done recently. A lot of the movie is just the characters talking to each other and little gags about their personalities.

        They were also quirky characters, an old man, a fat Asian American scout, a dog who talks, a strange bird.

        On the other hand I agree with you that Carl, in particular, wasn’t the most defined character out of those four. He’s grumpy and he has a back story, and we know he likes adventure, but yeah, for the most part he’s kind of a generic old man character.

        This is not new. I think Disney have always had a tendency to use generic characters as the protagonists of their movies, minus a few exceptions.

        It’s true that Pixar, at first, was more refreshing cause the characters seemed more specific. Even the ones in A Bug’s Life, I think they are less generic than others we saw later.

        Monsters Inc. was another movie that had interesting characters.

        In Finding Nemo te secondaries were more specific than the main ones.

        The Incredibles was fifty/fifty. Both in this movie and Ratatouille I feel they have potentially great characters but they don’t develope them enough. The designs suggest more personalitiy than what the characters finally have.

        I thought Toy Story 3 was also a little self-indugent in how it was an homage to the whole group of characters more than a new exploration of their characters. I guess all of them acted in character in the movie, but there were so many toys in the movies that it just doesn’t have the same focus on their personalities you’d get in the first one or even in some moments of the second one.

    • http://fortaxreasons.com Burnett

      Interesting characters aren’t interesting if they have nothing to do for 90 minutes. Story is king in the world of feature films.

      • http://elblogderg.blogspot.com Roberto

        The Three Caballeros didn’t have a lot of story, but it had great characters and IMO it’s one of the most entertaining animated movies ever made.

        Of course, the characters do a lot of things in that movie and those things are entertaining. But there’s not a plot, so to speak.

        There are many ways to keep the interest of the audience. Story is one of them, but visual style, good gags, funny dialogues or strong characters have a lot more value than many people use to give them today. Story today is considered ‘plot’, but plot is not the only thing that makes Terry Gilliam’s or Stanley Kubrick’s films so memorable. Cinema is a visual medium as well.

        How many times can you rewatch a Shrek film? I don’t even like the writing so much, but the visuals are just boring and ugly, so once you know the story and the gags they don’t have a lot to rewatch.

    • http://kandjcomic.com/ John S

      Story and Character should be intertwined. Character should inform and push story.
      You didn’t know who Remy or Linguini was? You really didn’t feel you knew them after watching the movie? Wow. I did. What did you feel was missing?

    • Gray64

      That’s a good point. I’ve loved most of Pixar’s films at first viewing, but can’t say that most of them have much replay value (except, in my opinion, for the Incredibles, which had very strong characters).

    • Ergo

      In a good movie story should reveal character and vice versa. I hate the way people shrug off any critism of their characters as, “Oh, my film’s more story based.” The two are sides of the same coin.

    • Ergo

      Ratatouille though, that was a character driven story. I like Toy Story, but I always felt the character work was a bit over the top (not a bad thing. It works for the movie it’s in. I just prefer more subtle character work). In Monsters Inc. it was really over the top (again, it works for the film though).

      But Ratatouille nailed it. Every single inciting incident in that film is driven by character and each character has their own voice. Especially Colette.

      So much of the character isn’t vocalised too. There is so much subtlety in their body language. So much of their character is expressed in movement (or lack of movement), it really is a story perfectly suited to the animation medium.

    • http://agoynamedjew.blogspot.com Anson J

      Good story grows out of good characters. Although you can have fun characters inhabiting a bad story, you can’t truly have a good story unless you have good characters.

      • Funkybat

        I agree with Anson. Character flaws, rather than story flaws, were my main critique of Cars. I’m not bothered by any similarities to “Doc Hollywood,” and I am actually very interested in old cars and nosalgic tales of “taking it slow.” However, when your protagonist is an arrogant jerk, it really kind of dis-invests you in the movie. I guess for some he is a likable/lovable jerk, but pulling off that kind of character successfully is rare. Q in Star Trek was a lovable jerk. Tony Stark in Iron Man was a likable jerk. Lightning McQueen just got on my nerves.

        I liked some of the supporting characters, especially Doc Hudson, who I felt had the most depth of them all. I wanted to get to know others like Flo, Fillmore and Sarge, but they remained mostly background elements more than developed characters.

        I don’t have as much of a problem with Cars as some people, but I can’t say that I really liked who McQueen was any better by the end of the movie than I did at the beginning. I ended up liking Mater more than I expected. Still, I’d say Raymond from “Princess and the Frog” made a deeper impact on me in the “hillybilly with a heard of gold” department.

    • http://helloprints.etsy.com jennifer

      i’m still pretty convinced that lilo & stitch’s lilo & nani are two of the best developed animated characters of the last 20 years but back to pixar… monster’s inc & incredibles told their stories perfectly and the level of character development was exactly right. remy works for me but linguini doesn’t.

  • http://www.animationanomaly.com Charles Kenny

    It is often said that lucky people make their own luck; usually by making decisions that ordinary people wouldn’t make. Pixar is a prime example of this and fair play to them for it. They are not invincible however, and the day of their first bomb is getting ever closer.

    As for the Elastigirl thing, Lane’s proclamation that she is a ‘living joke on society’s expectations of women’ is a pathetic attempt to debase an extremely positive and assertive female character of the type that is all too rare in the entertainment world.

    His blatant confession of his infatuation with her ‘natural sinuosity’ simply destroys any shred of credibility he has left.

  • droosan

    Mr. and Mrs. Incredible have three kids.

    As Syndrome himself said, they “got BIZ-zay!”

  • Jim M

    John Siracusa, a gentleman who is usually a tech blogger/writer, did a fantastic “Hypercritical” on “What’s Wrong with Pixar.”

    Basically, Pixar’s institutional fear of failure will never allow them to reach the pinnacles of what an auteur like Miyazaki has reached. Nor will it let them sink to the low points.

    An interesting episode: http://5by5.tv/hypercritical/12

    • CC

      I think it’s an interesting point that is made in this podcast (the Pixar related talk starts at minute 49). He basically insists that he wants to see Pixar take a huge risk and fall on their face rather than not take the risk at all. There is some truth to this, however, Pixar would not even exist if they had a fear of failure. Each film they make has risk, and the more they succeed the riskier it becomes.

      I don’t know, I think Pixar has made some films that have raised the bar in what the audience expects from animation. I think they have made films that had the potential to fail. No story is a sure thing, and they certainly aren’t making cliche, predictable films.

      It’s an interesting podcast nonetheless. Pixar’s success is a fascinating topic.

      • http://toonlets.com Chris Romano

        Wait? Not predictable? How many of them are about a character that gets lost and then is found?

        Please don’t make me list them.

    • GhaleonQ

      That wouldn’t even be a problem for me if they were critically assessed as the “solid B” films that they are. I’d love for there to be more successful middlebrow entertainment.

      The universal, over-the-top, and (as Amid mentioned) shallow praise given to them makes me a bit resentful. This is coupled with the fact that these same critics have no idea what’s out there internationally in the world of feature animation, much less shorts. Even a less obscure picture like Mind Game would test their views of animated genius.

      I used to want a backlash; now, I’d settle for them getting assessed like, you know, live-action adult movies are. It’s absurd that there’s no major figure critiquing the most popular creators of the world’s most popular storytelling form.

  • heykidz

    To me, a more illuminating article on Pixar today is this one from Variety magazine. Its more about the business of ramping up production, and how Pixar, too, is struggling. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118036839

    Lets hope Pixar can withstand these current pressures and maintain its success story.

    • Josh

      That variety story is a great article, and it begs the question as to why Pixar really needs to ramp up production to have so many projects happening at once? Why put so much stress on a timeline that has been (almost entirely) successful?

  • http://mayersononanimation.blogspot.com Mark Mayerson

    The way the media works, the moment Pixar has a failure (or a movie that the critics perceive to be a failure), the articles will all be negative, knocking the very films that the media is celebrating right now. Then, after awhile, somebody will rediscover Pixar and then the re-evaluation will begin.

    It happened to Disney (several times), to Chaplin, to Welles, etc. Just wait for it.

    • The Gee

      That’s so true. I swear that manically applauding success, the eventual death watch and then the praising of second acts is a rampant problem with analysis when it comes to business and media.

      Apple, Inc. is the best example of the type of coverage you mention.
      Not coincidentally, there is a Jobs connection between the two companies, Pixar/Disney and Apple.

      Fortunately for Pixar, Jobs never asserted himself as the public face of the company. He never galavanted around presenting himself as heir apparent to Walt Disney. If he had, the articles would be speculating like crazy right now on how Pixar would thrive should Jobs no longer be involved.

  • http://www.taberanimation.com Taber Dunipace

    I’ve become increasingly interested in the role of fight of flight desperation in the success of many of animation’s top efforts. It seems when I read biographies and the history books about the golden age, there was always a feeling of “succeed or be destroyed” floating in the air and driving these guys to really push themselves.

    I’m not just talking about Pixar either. Both Warner’s and Disney seemed to have a real desperate need to get it right when they started out. It’s even been repeated a few times with TV series or movies like the Iron Giant.

  • pizzaforeveryone

    given the magazine’s reputation i was hoping for a more in-depth piece, something more like the talks given by catmull himself. really interesting stuff:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2h2lvhzMDc

    • http://robertkohr.com Rob Kohr

      Thanks for sharing this was a really really great listen and has a lot more to do with business than the art of pixar (where the interviews normally focus). The part that I found the most interesting dealt with the idea that sometimes assisting your competitors for the sake of the industry is more important than keeping your IP to yourself. In the case of Renderman, Pixar looks at is as elevating the industry as a whole which makes more people attend films and thus helps Pixar. When I hear this I never full understand why some artists hide all of their technique and don’t want to share. Sharing helps everyone and it elevates the art.

      • Jim

        To be fair, RenderMan is not free (far from it, in fact). But I agree with your main point.

  • snip2354

    Lane obviously never seen that Robot Chicken sketch.

  • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com Elliot Cowan

    Cars is my favorite Pixar film in years (true!).

    • wgan

      dare you said that, this is cartoonbrew!!

  • cbat628

    I thought the last line was the perfect retort to Lane’s post. Seriously though, I was in a “WTH?” face at the part where he wanted to shout encouragement to Bob. It makes me think that he only watches the DVD alone.

  • Gray64

    Speaking of Incredibles, I thought the “Making Of…” documentary included in the deluxe Incredibles DVD package was pretty enlightening as to how and why Pixar is so successful. I can see Amid’s point, somewhat, in that people writing about Pixar keep trotting out the same cliche’s about why their films are popular, and aren’t really doing any in depth analysis. My own theory is that it’s a combination of creative freedom and the fact that the public has yet to mentally pigeon-hole them (as they have, to a great degree, with Disney; people will say they’re bored with Disney Princess films, and then complain when Disney tries to do something else…)

    • Ergo

      The Incredibles was a really smart choice for Pixar to make from that point of view. Pixar was very close to being pidgeon holed and then The Incredibles went a rather unexpected direction. And Pixar seems to have kept that up.

      • Funkybat

        Pixar has continued to push unusual premises for their films as they’ve launched new ones. Ratatouille, Wall-E, and Up were all risky in some way, even if they followed the “Pixar formula” (whatever that means) to some extent.

        The risk of getting lost lies more in the sequels. While both Toy Story sequels were excellent (both as follow-ups and as standalone films) they still hearken back to the tone and even the plot of the original film. Cars 2 at least sounds like a radical, almost parodic departure from what Cars was all about. They seem to be using the characters/universe without dealing with any of the story themes that drove the first one. Should be interesting if nothing else.

  • http://danielmaraya.blogspot.com Danny

    I think the people at Pixar genuinely enjoy making the movies they make. For people on the outside to shout “Stop making the kinds of movies you like, make the ones that I like” seems kind of silly to me. Demanding that Pixar make a drastically different kind of movie just for the sake of doing something risky seems really stupid to me.
    I don’t think they’re “playing it safe” I think they’re just continuing to sing in their voice.

    • Funkybat

      Good point, one I think doesn’t get made as often as it should. And not just in regards to Pixar, but Dreamworks and Disney as well. Of course, there are different reasons why Disney and Dreamworks kept to certain formulas (though one could argue it’s the *same* reason, if you catch my drift.) It really comes down to whether or not the lead creative minds in a given studio are really pursuing the kind of stories they want to tell, or if they’re being stifled by higher-ups/economics/internal dissent.

      I get the impression that Pixar has and continues to tell the stories they want to. Even Cars 2 seems like a completely different kind of movie than Cars 1. Lasseter just wants to have more fun with the “Car Universe” that we barely got to see outside of Radiator Springs in the first film.

      Maybe Pixar and other studios are doing things that they wouldn’t do otherwise because they are afraid to try something different. But if that’s true, you have to admit that it shows a skewed perspective if what constitutes “proven mainstream appeal” to them are movies about two barely-verbal robots falling in love on a garbage-strewn planet Earth, or a cranky old man and a chubby Asian kid flying to a deserted jungle in a house lifted by balloons.

  • Matt

    It’s hard to look at Pixar as anything but perfect but if you don’t want to continually reiterate the same Pixar praise, you can instead start looking into some of the negatives surrounding the studio. Such as the recent antitrust lawsuit seeking class action status by a former LucasFilm Software engineer accusing Pixar, Lucasfilm, Google, Apple, Intuit, Adobe, and Intel of having “no solicitation” agreements with one another to curb competition for skilled labor and cap employee pay. Time will tell if it’s true or not, just hope they continue making entertaining films.

  • Katie M.

    I dislike the elitism that goes along with Pixar hate. They make great films, arguably the best. Millions of people love them, of all ages. Whats wrong with that?? What, do you want them to fail so that you have something interesting to talk about?

    Maybe family films aren’t your thing. So why are you targeting a studio that makes successful family films? I thought animation was an artform, and not a genre.

    And you have to admit, Wall-e was kinda ballsy.

    • http://yeldarb86.deviantart.com Mr. Semaj

      “What, do you want them to fail so that you have something interesting to talk about?”

      That’s the general impression I get from Pixar haters, who are always ripping on other studios for operating based on mediocrity and failure. So we have a studio that runs on a consistently successful track record, but there’s something “wrong” with that too?

      Gimme a break.

    • http://www.daryl-rhystaylor.co.uk Daryl T

      I agree. What’s wrong with what they do? Leave them to it.

  • Roberto

    I don’t want them to fail but I’m a little sick of everybody praising everything they do without a single negative commentary. Their movies are good, but not perfect. They are not Gods, they deserve some mixed criticism like everyone else. If they were offering classic Looney Tunes quality in every movie then maybe they should be treated like Gods.

    On the other hand other studios have been releasing great movies like KFP, HTTYD, Rango or Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, to put some examples of movies I liked more than most of recent Pixar, and I never saw the same consensus in the reviewers and a lot of them compare these movies to Pixar even if they don’t have anything in common.

    • Funkybat

      Even the classic Looney Tunes were not all created equal, and not all of the directors were equally talented.

      Pretending that they were all “perfect” is a disservice to the entire body of work, just as much as doing so in regard to Pixar is an insult to the studio and all of the people who work and have worked there. If everything they did was perfect, there would be no reason for the artists to push themselves to do even better.

      It’s fine to acknowledge that Looney Tunes were, on the whole, more amusing, entertaining and well-animated than pretty much every other major cartoon short series from the 30s-50s, just as it’s fine to credit Pixar with being the best animation studio of the late 90s-early 2000s. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to acknowledge their stumbles, which even then are still better than much of the competition.

      • http://elblogderg.blogspot.com Roberto

        During the 40s most of the Looney Tunes were masterpieces, including the work of directors like Freleng, later there was maybe more mediocre stuff.

        But yeah, I admit I oversimplified my message a bit and I agree with most of what you said.

        It’s just that the level of praise Pixar gets is almost incomparable to anything else. I guess it’s the prize they get for being so regular, but like I said, it should be some sort of mixed reviews. At least the possitive reviews should include some negative statements.

        I mean, if I were to rate Toy Story 3 in a place like Rotten Tomatoes I’ll probably go with fresh cause it’s a fine movie, but to my view it was far from being a completely perfect ending for the trilogy. I think there could have been better, more interesting and more surprising approaches.

        Whether I’m right or not about this, it’s not the point. I know I’m being subjective and some other person may think it’s the best one of the trilogy. I just can’t believe almost everybody thought it was absolutely flawless, considering the expectations most people have when it comes to sequels of a popular saga. There’s always some discussion.

        This is just an example, you can apply this to almost any Pixar movie. At least there were a significant number of reviews that said Wall-E was less interesting in its second half.

        But for the most part it just seems everybody is just repeating their usual “Pixar is great” statements and not thinking too much.

  • david

    i’ve only watched 1 1/2 pixar films. toy story. and parts of finding nemo. I plan to keep it that way because i can’t stand the dad jokes. it’s the lasseter white washed i just came back from hawaii and i’m starting my wine company jokes/storytelling. I’d rather watch cheap 80′s post apocalyptic anime than something pretending to have HEART.

    • http://www.drunkduck.com/anecdote Marbles

      Wait, what? Dad jokes? Did you mean to say bad jokes?
      At any rate, taste is taste, but your reading of what (very little) you’ve seen appears to be quite shallow.

      • James

        MARBLES!

        From Diversity Lane!

        It’s me, James! I’ve wondered what you were up to! HI!

        That being said, I think he meant the father related, sitcom-esque jokes from Finding Nemo.

    • Bud

      I doubt you’d not have a good time sharing a beer with Lasseter, but the LAST thing I’d say is he wasn’t trying to be sincere.

  • James

    Oh god Anthony Lane. Not a bad critic but pretty clueless when it comes to cartoons (this is the guy who half-assedly bashed Watchmen).

    First: I love Pixar’s films. They have yet to make a movie I really, earnestly dislike (no, not even Cars).

    But Amid, you are dead on.

    Enough with the mindless slobbering and brain-dead exultation. Enough with the “critical” anaylsis that could have been written by PR folks. Enough with the endless repetition of the same memes, over and over again (seriously, get yourself a shot everytime you hear “Pixar is better than Dreamworks because they focus on characters/story over making money.” Enough with the commentary that doesn’t MEAN anything!

    And, worst of all, enough with the hero worship that obscures the view of some very obvious flaws within the company. Some of the reactions to the recent Lucasfim debacle are scary.

    Pixar makes good films, and has talented animators and directors within it. It’s time they started getting some serious critical scrutiny.

    Amid, why don’t YOU do it?

    • Bud

      “this is the guy who half-assedly bashed Watchmen”

      I agree. He should have WHOLE-assedly bashed Watchmen, one of the worst films in the last few years.(both versions). Incomprehensible, juvenile, and just plain boring.

      • James

        I was talking about the comic.

  • FigmentJedi

    Silly Amid, a huge percentage of the internet is sexually attracted to Elastigirl, not just Anthony Lane…

    • Funkybat

      I think the reason Amid mentioned it was that it seemed kind of puerile for Lane to articulate in so much detail how & why he likes Elastigirl. I think most male animators “appreciate” her in a similar way, but have the couth to be silent, or chuckle about it in private conversation, not explain it in The New Yorker.

      • http://toonlets.com Chris Romano

        Oh, wait, you said “articulate.”

  • Baboo

    Sigh. A great opportunity to look at the future of Pixar, especially since it is now under the same imperative to create spinoffs and sequels and turn animated features into money machines as regular Disney is.

    The questions unanswered:

    1. Why did John Lasseter take over the reins of Cars 2 from Brad Lewis.

    2. Why is there a Cars sequel at all, since it is one of their least popular films? (that one is easy to answer — merchandise sales from Cars were huge. But Lane should have asked it.)

    3. Why was Brenda Chapman, who was to be the first female director and created their first female lead character, demoted to co-director and a male director took over?

    4. Just why is a company that prides itself on originality producing at least two sequels — Monster’s University being the second.

    5. Why was the plug pulled on Newt.

    6. And with competitors producing such top notch animated features as How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Rango and, yes, even Rio, how do they plan to keep ahold of their lofty spot on the cartoon food chain?

    Lane writes oh so cute and cleverly. But a reporter, he is not.

    • Bud

      1-probably because brad lewis couldn’t cut it.
      2-Cars is one of the most Popular Pixar films–among a very large portion of the usual Pixar family audience. True, it’ skews more “young” than most of the Pixar films, but that’s precisely why it’s so popular.
      3-Brave has apparently always had a male co-director–and still has two directors (both male).
      4-To make Money. Walt made 3 sequels to The Three Little Pigs.
      5-Who cares? Looked rather dull, like Rio, anyway.
      6-By not worrying about it and making great films. I’m quite sure there’s a slew of original films in line at Pixar.

      • Baboo

        You are wrong about Brave always having a male director — Chapman originated the story and was on board to direct solo. They made a big deal out of her being their first female director. Now Mark Andrews is the director and she is co-director. There has been no official explanation of why this shift was made.

        Cars way underperformed overseas. And no way can a Pixar film make the sort of money the studio usually makes without appeal beyond 4-year-old boys. Funny how they made the sequel so international? For story reasons? Probably not. It is fine to make decisions for commercial reasons, but not when they are still selling the philosophy of story first and personal emotional investment in what they create.

        The animation marketplace is more competitive than ever. And that competition is learning how to do it better and to draw bigger audiences. They better pay attention if they are now cranking out sequels and upping the number of films they produce.

      • Bud

        Not talking about Andrews. And no, I’m not wrong.

      • Baboo

        If you are correct, that would mean that everything that has been reported on The Bow and the Bear/Brave has been wrong — including news reported on this site — and there must be a grand conspiracy/cover-up afoot. And the interviews Chapman gave when she was called the director were lies.

      • Baboo

        That would mean everything that has been reported on the film — including stories on this site — are wrong. There must be a grand conspiracy/cover-up afoot.

  • Skeptical

    Finally got to read the New Yorker article. You know it’s a puff piece when Lane buys Lasseter’s carefully scrubbed excuse for why he was fired from Disney. Didn’t he bother to talk with anyone Lasserter actually worked with back then? He wasn’t fired for ‘pursuing this newfound passion [computer animation]‘ but because he was considered talented but kind of lazy, and not very productive or focused. And you know Lane swallowed his own critical faculties when you read one of his few Pixar reviews and find he trashed ‘Cars,’ but once dazzled by the Emeryville campus, he can do nothing put effuse.

    What’s most striking is that the New Yorker issue is about innovation, and other articles emphasize how unruly innovation is, and how it can’t really be managed and scheduled. Missed in the Pixar article is that the company’s major innovations all came in a burst, years ago, when the stories for most of their key films were hatched. Before JL was beatified, Pixar was a small, isolated group of guys playing and experimenting and doing whatever they felt might be cool. The results were stunning.

    Compare that to the huge, polished company they are now, where the facade of innovation has become more important than fostering real innovators. Soccer fields and Lego sculptures, carefully sanctioned by the top brass, prove the company is ‘different.’ Unmentioned is that, now that the stories for that original creative burst have been told, the company is in the business of sequels, with their original properties struggling to even get made.

    The original brain trust (at least the few who still care about animation) continue to rule the roost, and you get fired if you don’t sufficiently appreciate the greatness and benevolence that is JL (I can’t help but see that cereal bowl incident as straight out of Oliver Twist). The article is a picture of a company that creatively peaked years ago. It also appears to be a brittle company, one that won’t tolerate the inevitable failures well.

  • http://www.twitter.com/jasclarkewriter James Clarke

    Hi there.

    Did anyone read THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR’S thoughtful series of Pixar-themed essays a while back ?

    Here’s the link: http://www.slantmagazine.com/house/2009/10/a-pixar-week-compendium/

  • Baboo

    If so, that would mean that everything that has been reported on The Bow and the Bear/Brave has been wrong — including news reported on this site — and there must be a grand conspiracy/cover-up afoot. And the interviews Chapman gave when she was called the director were lies.

  • http://toonlets.com Chris Romano

    I thoroughly enjoy their work, though some of their shorts are painfully self-indulgent and over-rated.

    Their films look great and have top notch production value. However, I do tire of the lost and found story lines.

    Much of the hating probably comes from competitors who made solid films that don’t get the same amount of attention, like SURF’S UP.

    As far as the whole colluding with ILM to keep wages down part, I’d say that’s a worthy negative to write about.

  • Kevin

    They did a great job with “character” in The Incredibles. They stole the characters Stan Lee & Jack Kirby created in The Fantastic Four.

  • theoutsider1983

    Skeptical’s comment about JL being fired from Disney for being lazy reminded me of an interview I read with JL recently. He said one of the things he loves about animation is the fact that it involves a lot of colaboration. If it wasn’t for that, he would procrastinate a lot. I had never heard about him being fired for being lazy. I do remember reading an interview with a Pixar employee saying that what was so amazing about John is that he’ll fall asleep during production meetinngs (espeically after lunch), yet he’ll wake up and have something erudite to say.