Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a masterpiece. Its visual storytelling makes the world feel lived in while the blending of 2D animation and real actors set the gold standard for pulling off such integration. With a lead performance from the grizzled yet charming Bob Hoskins and a child-scarring turn from Christopher Lloyd, it’s also a masterclass in acting. It deserves an article of its own but the main point is that it continues to serve as a love letter to the medium of animation, even after 34 years. Disney’s latest attempt to recapture that magic is the IP-laden Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers.
The plot sees the iconic chipmunks living their everyday lives after the cancellation of their hit TV series in 1990. Despite no longer being on speaking terms, they must cooperate to retrieve their old friend Montgomery Jack from the clutches of the bootlegging Sweet Pete. The story isn’t reliant on the original show, meaning that it’s easily accessible to everyone. Die-hard fans may pick up some extra references but it doesn’t make or break the viewing experience. The cast does a wonderful job of portraying these characters, especially John Mulaney and Andy Samberg as Chip and Dale respectively. They’re easy-going, down to Earth, and bounce off each other expertly. Their voices also do a brilliant job of distinguishing between “Chip N’ Dale: TV Characters” and “Chip N’ Dale: Actors”, although those original high-pitched voices still get their moment to shine. These classic tones are provided by returning voice actors Tress McNeille and Corey Burton, who are just some of the returning voice talent.
As an IP-packed project, there are plenty of voices required. Each frame is packed with Disney characters, old and new, many of whom are portrayed by their original voice actors. Considering the preference for hiring celebrities in years (a trend started by Disney’s Aladdin) it’s nice to hear so many of them again. Among them are the legendary Jim Cummings and Alan Oppenheimer (best known for Winnie the Pooh and Skeletor respectively). It would be easy to praise Disney for this move, but it was likely the cheapest option.
Rescue Rangers‘ biggest flaw is that it’s a modern-day Disney production. The relentless cameos, references, and occasionally cringe-inducing humour makes it feel like a corporate product. It doesn’t feel like a love letter, it feels like a victory lap for a monopolistic company. The most entertaining aspect of these cameos is how likely they are to catch the audience off guard, particularly the blue one, but they don’t feel like they belong in this world. A large part of this is the variance in animation styles that don’t gel with each other. The PIXAR-esque characters are especially jarring, although it is amusing that there isn’t a single official PIXAR character to be found here. By far the worst aspect is how the film, and the company, treat beloved childhood icon, Peter Pan.
Now an adult, Peter goes by the moniker of Sweet Pete and he is anything but sweet. As the film’s primary antagonist, he is responsible for major kidnapping toons and altering their appearance to star in bootleg movies. This Peter was hired to portray his signature role as a child but was cast aside by the industry the moment he aged out of it. There’s a solid message here about how poorly child actors were, and occasionally still are, treated but it loses all value when it’s being told by a company notorious for doing this. Bobby Driscoll, the real child voice actor of  Peter Pan was cast aside by Disney, then by the industry. He fell into substance abuse and passed away in an abandoned house at the age of 31. This iteration of Pete feels like an insult to his memory.
Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers has all the vibes of a fun kids’ film. The Voice Actors do a wonderful job of capturing the heart of the characters and JK Simmons is excellent as the chief of police. Fans may get a kick out of it but the film’s biggest flaw is that it feels like a product. It’s self-aware, but not enough to demand you actually hold Disney accountable for the monopoly of IP it’s flaunting here. It may have some sweet moments but it leaves a sour aftertaste.
It’s more Ready Player One than Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. With a story as long as A Christmas Carol, it makes sense that any visual adaptation would be lengthy. However, this isn’t always the case; the earliest films based on the festive favourite by author Charles Dickens were lacking in minutes. A 1901 British adaptation clocked in at just over 6 minutes, an American 1908 adaptation (which is now lost) at 15 minutes, and another American adaptation in 1910 at just 13 minutes. Even the first feature-length adaptation The Right to be Happy was only 55 minutes, just shy of the average 90-minute runtime of later feature-length films. Perhaps the most famous of these short tales was Mickey’s Christmas Carol in 1983.
Running at 26 minutes, and initially released along with a re-issue of 1977’s The Rescuers (in the US) and a re-issue of 1967’s The Jungle Book (in the UK), Mickey’s Christmas Carol features a variety of classic Disney Animated characters perfectly cast in the various roles. The titular mouse brings his childlike optimism to the role of Bob Cratchitt, employee of the notorious Ebeneezer Scrooge, whilst the miserable miser himself is aptly portrayed by Scrooge McDuck, who was named and partially based on the character. McDuck’s Scottish accent gives his iteration of Scrooge a unique quality without ever falling into the absurdity that such an accent can lend itself to. The trio of ghosts are comprised of early-era Disney characters like Jiminy Cricket, Willie the Giant, and Big Bad Pete. Jiminy served as a companion and conscience to Pinnochio in the 1940 film of the same name and brings equal level-headedness to his role as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Willie was the antagonist of Mickey and the Beanstalk in 1947’s package-film Fun and Fancy-Free. He’s much kinder but equally dim in his portrayal as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Pete has been an adversary of Mickey Mouse since the very first short film from Walt Disney Animation, 1928’s Steamboat Willie and his menacing aura is perfect for the role of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The background characters are comprised of an array of background characters from various films like 1933’s The 3 Little Pigs, 1949’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and 1973’s Robin Hood.
One of the film’s finer qualities is that it never focuses on the Disney characters, treating them merely as actors absorbed by their roles. Later Disney films like 2019’s The Lion King would bank their success almost purely on the name of the IP, so it’s refreshing to see the opposite happening here. It aims to tell a story and it’s almost a happenstance that the roles are taken by Walt Disney Animation characters. It understands that the most important aspect is bringing A Christmas Carol to children en masse, although there’s no knowing how successful this goal was. There are of course figures for the Rescuers re-release to which it was first attached ($21,000,000) but subsequent DVD releases and television airings make it difficult to pinpoint any specific number. It is safe to assume it did well given it airs every festive season on national television (stations may vary) and it remains within the pop cultural zeitgeist. It is also the first of (currently) 3 adaptations, being followed by 1992’s The Muppets Christmas Carol [REVIEW HERE] featuring the titular creations of Jim Henson, and 2009’s Disney’s A Christmas Carol [REVIEW HERE] featuring the voice of Jim Carrey.
The most unfortunate aspect is that, despite managing the bare bones of the story, it manages very little else. Each part of the tale is lighter in substance than the original novel and indeed almost every other adaptation. The Ghost of Christmas Past never visits Scrooge’s childhood, opting only to show the Fezziwig party, and the Ghost of Christmas Present spends only moments with the Cratchitts. Many moments that may seem iconic to some, like Scrooge’s fireside dinner and the revelry at Fred’s Christmas lunch, are omitted entirely. Arguably the closest section in terms of content is The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, which doesn’t include Scrooge’s belongings being scavenged but does include a couple of gravediggers (aptly played by a pair of weasels) making light of the miser’s death, noting that it’s unsurprising that nobody attended his funeral. It’s the most memorable scene of the entire story, dripping with a dark atmosphere and oozing the colour red. Using the smoke from Pete’s cigar is an excellent, and very 1980’s, use of props.
It’s the atmosphere that makes Mickey’s Christmas Carol so great. From the timeless look of 2D, hand-drawn animation, and the set design, to the song Oh, What a Merry Christmas Day which was written specifically for the special and plays over the opening. It sounds like a Christmas carol and is full of all the heart, soul, and warmth that those songs contain. Even if you don’t feel nostalgia for those classic Disney characters, this is still a worthwhile addition to the ever-expanding list of adaptations.
Unlike the PIXAR Theatrical Shorts which were made to accompany the feature length films when they were released to cinemas, the DVD Shorts were made to be bonus features on the DVD releases of those film. These were not about pushing the boundaries of animation but were instead about pushing the boundaries of their worldbuilding. Each one occurs within the world of a PIXAR motion picture and, occasionally, within the plot itself. With the release of the streaming service Disney+ it is unknown if they will continue to make these Feature-Related Shorts for DVD releases or for Disney+ directly, though I sense it may be the latter. That’s a real shame because they were always a highlight of DVD releases.
Mike’s New Car(2002)
I love this short because you get exactly what the title tells you you’re going to get. Having got rid of his old red sports car that Sully wouldn’t let him drive to work in Monster’s Inc, Mike has bought himself a new 6-wheeled automobile equipped with all the gizmos. Attempting to demonstrate the capabilities, Mike is beaten, battered and bruised by the vehicle in a slapstick-fest. Violence does the talking and it’s wonderful.
Jack-Jack Attack (2005)
My absolute favourite DVD Short that PIXAR has ever made and another vehicle for slapstick. It tells the tale of Kari’s eventful night babysitting young Jack-Jack Parr who has decided to suddenly explore his many superpowers. This was the first time pre-Incredibles 2 that we saw anywhere close to the full range of his capabilities like teleportation and laser eyes. I’ve always felt bad for poor Kari because babysitting can be hard as it is but she got a super baby but it is nice to get some closure on her part of the story. Also possible that the Mozart-Piano Sonata no. 11 in A Major sparked my interest in classical music.
Mr Incredible and Pals (2005)
This is the most absurd of these Shorts that you will ever lay your eyes upon. It’s an early 1960’s serial of the show Mr Incredible and Pals featuring Mr Incredible, Frozone and their bunny sidekick Mr Skipadoo as they fight the villainous Lady Lightbug. All the bad serial effects are here from still images of the landscape to the actors real mouths inserted over the characters’ to the blatant message of democracy. It is probably the dumbest thing that PIXAR has ever created and I love it with every ounce of my big, nerdy heart. I’d take a whole show.
Mater and the Ghostlight (2006)
I’ve made no secret about how I’m not the biggest fan of Mater so seeing him be the butt of the joke is kind of cathartic. After playing numerous pranks on the cars of Radiator Springs, they decide to get their own back by telling him the story of The Ghostlight and leaving him to traverse home in the dead of night by himself. When the Ghostlight finally appears, you know that this is also a prank but there’s a good message in here about receiving a taste of your own medicine.
Your Friend the Rat (2007)
Not content with Ratatouille being one of the finest PIXAR films there is, they decided that a fun history lesson was also necessary. Hosted by Remy and his brother Emille, we are taught the history of the rat from the Roman Empire, through the Black Death to today. This short is particularly interesting because of it’s combining of animation styles like 3D, 2D and even a musical number to close. At 11 minutes, it’s longer than usual byut not a second of that time is wasted.
Taking place during the events of Wall-E, a Basic Utility Repair Nano Engineer (BURN-E) attempts to repair a running light on The Axiom after it is hit by a meteorite (accidentally caused by Wall-E). Much like the movie it takes place during, there is no dialogue but it still manages to be compelling. You’ll really believe that this little robot is losing his mind and it’s really funny to re-watch Wall-E with this short in mind. I’m sure there’s a lesson about the Butterfly Effect in here somewhere.
Dug’s Special Mission (2009)
Taking place during the events near the beginning of Up, it shows how Dug came to be sat on the exact spot that would lead to him meeting Carl and Russell. Dug is probably the most likable character from Up and seeing him try his best at the behest of the other dogs just warms my heart, There is so much innocence to this character and this short adds even more sympathy to his backstory.
George and A.J. (2009)
The only one of these shorts to be animated in 2D and it prospers for it, giving it the look of a storybook. Shady Acres employees attempt to collect more people for the retirement home but must survive a pensioner uprising cause by Carl. It’s a really neat look at the ramifications of a story like Up, even if those ramifications are utterly bombastic and fantastical.
The Legend of Mor’du (2012)
Another one that does what is says on the tin. In case you wanted to hear the tragic tale of Mor’du the Bear from Brave it is told here through 2D animation and a glorious narration by Julie Walters. Is Julie Walters telling a fairytale enough motivation to watch this? I think so.
Party Central (2013)
A rare Short from PIXAR as it wasn’t attached to a PIXAR film and was only released on DVD as part of The PIXAR Shorts Collection: Volume 3. Instead, this short was attached to the Disney film Muppets: Most Wanted and features the frat of Oozma Kampa, after the events of Monsters Uni, as they attempt to throw the biggest party on campus. Just utterly ridiculous fun to be had here but is also notable as a posthumous role for the late, great Joe Ranft.
Riley’s First Date? (2015)
Following the events of Inside Out, this almost acts as a small sequel of sorts. Having closed out the film by speaking to a boy, we see how Riley’s parents react to him visiting the house to pick her up and it makes her parents look every bit as embarrassing as she already thinks they are. This is less about the emotions and more about the characters themselves, which is appreciated.
Marine Life Interviews (2016)
I grew up watching the Aaardman show Creature Comforts and it was all I could think about when watching this short, which is possibly the shortest of the shorts. It contains interviews with the animals who interacted with Dory during Finding Dory and paints her character in the most positive of lights. I particularly like that they made the footage look sepia-toned like an old-style documentary. I love attention to detail.
Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool (2017)
If you weren’t aware of how badly acted/choreographed local television advertisements can be then there is a whole level of subtext here you are missing out on. This short is literally an advertisement for Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool, clearly organised by Miss Fritter herself and includes a few of her demolition derby friends. Seeing the homemade angle to this really brings back warm memories of my own time in front of a camera for school projects.
Auntie Edna (2018)
This is just Jack-Jack Attacks but with set during the course of Incredibles 2 with Edna Mode as the babysitter and I am more than okay with that. It is clear from this short that Jack-Jacks powers have multiplied and become more terrifying over time and it’s a little amusing to watch Edna – a superhero aficionado – struggle just as much as Kari did. I already loved Edna as a character but her relationship with Jack-Jack is really the icing on the cake. Shout out to the continued use of the Third Movement of the Mozart-Piano Sonata no. 11 in A Major.
Lamp Life (2020)
The first of these Shorts not to be released on DVD but instead to be uploaded to the streaming service Disney+. I’ve mentioned here because I think it’s worth noting as the service becomes bigger and contains more original content with each passing day. The story is that of Bo Peep, as she recounts her life between leaving Toy Story and Toy Story 4, which is a tale I think most of us were curios about and this short delivers. Special mention to Jim Hanks who continues to be the best Tom Hanks impersonator.
*DISCLAIMER: This list is based purely off my own opinion*
When it comes time to write these rankings, I usually already know roughly where a film will sit. Having grown up with both the Star Wars and Middle Earth sagas, I was already fully aware how each one of those films made me feel. The PIXAR Collection is another beast entirely. Not only is the list comprised of 23 individual films (a far cry from the 9 and 6 I had already done) but each film is a different type of film. Star Wars is all space opera and the Middle Earth instalments are all heroic fantasy but PIXAR films range from comedy to action to romance to fantasy. This was no easy task, and let me assure you before reading that you will almost definitely disagree, but this is my list. As far as I’m concerned, even the “worst” film on this list is only mediocre and numbers 9 through 4 are practically interchangeable to me. The top 3 however, will most likely continue to hold their positions.
If you were wondering what the early 2000s country music scene was like then look no further. Cars has proved to be the most dated of PIXAR’s films, but the only real flaw it has is how childish it is. Yes, it’s a children’s film but so is every other film here and they seem to have more decorum. To be fair, I was oversaturated with this one because it was my sister’s favourite so I’m probably a little biased.
22. The Good Dinosaur
This is what many consider to be PIXAR’s lowest moment, and I think that’s a little harsh. The animation is stunningly realistic in places and, although the plot meanders, that’s not a bad thing. I think that pacing is probably the worst aspect of The Good Dinosaur but considering the hell it went through to get made, it’s perfectly a reasonable result.
21. Cars 2
With a more Mater focussed plot, you’d think this would be my least favourite Cars instalment, but no. It gets credit from me for being a spy film in the same campy vain as Pierce Brosnan’s Bond with a stellar performance by Sir Michael Caine. Any film that is willing to go so ham with its plot is always a positive for me.
20. Toy Story 4
The original Toy Story trilogy is near perfect, as far as I’m concerned, however all the friendships and character development of those 3 films feel relatively absent here. I’m fine with having a solo Woody adventure but I kind of wish the film had allowed itself to do that instead of clinging to characters it practically ignores. I still get swept up in this one, just not as much as I would like.
The most recent addition to the PIXAR portfolio is good, but I feel like the ending lets it down. I’m also not convinced that there was enough jazz or time spent with Joe before he falls into The Great Before. Soul isn’t bad, it just doesn’t really hit me like that.
I’m a sucker for fantasy, world-building and stories centring on siblings so Onward was starting at an advantage. It’s a lot of fun, and has a lot of heart, but it feels the need to stick to the “buddy comedy” plot which I feel holds it back a little bit. Also, I really like the running gag about the Gelatinous Cube.
17. Finding Dory
Like Toy Story 4, Finding Dory chooses to focus on one character, but unlike Toy Story 4, it dedicates enough time to other characters too. Marlin and Nemo are never forgotten about or watered down as characters, but it allows so much more depth to Dory. Hank the octopus is also really well developed, with an understandably cynical edge, and they got Sigourney Weaver.
Braveheart is a fine film but when it and all the historical inaccuracies seem to be the primary representation for your home country, it starts to get a little boring. Luckily, Brave is an excellent depiction of Scotland with a suitably lore-heavy plot to boot. It doesn’t do for the country what Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand but I think it should have.
15. Cars 3
I think I’m starting to get sentimental, because the latest Cars film focuses on older versions of the classic characters and it’s my favourite of the trilogy. It’s also a fairly simple plot, unlike Cars 2, and doesn’t have to burden itself with the introduction of a whole tow, like the first. It could also have something to do with the Demolition Derby.
14. Inside Out
As far as handling the depiction of depression for a child audience, I think Inside Out does a superb job. It also fills the story with likable characters, an abundance of imagination and plenty of colour. Despite being relatively new in the grand scheme of PIXAR, Bing Bong has become a favourite character of mine.
13. Monsters University
To date, this is PIXAR’s only prequel and that’s fascinating to me. In all honestly, that’s probably the only route they could have gone down with a follow up to Monsters Inc because a true sequel would have risked cheapening the ending of the original. As prequels go, this one is rather inventive and demonstrates how the “here’s how we all met” plot can be done well.
I don’t think there’s anything in Coco that isn’t beautiful. Between the animation, the plot, and the soundtrack there is so much to fall in love with.
11. Incredibles 2
I love The Incredibles, and I liked the video game sequel, but this really knocks it out of the park in terms of action. It is an excellent demonstration of the evolution of the superhero genre, but it never loses that familial element that made the original so good.
10. Finding Nemo
There is such scale in Finding Nemo, making the ocean look incredibly vast and seemingly empty at times, but when there is ocean life, it is beautiful. It also has what remains to this day the darkest opening to any of PIXAR’s films, and the impact of that opening is never lost, regardless of how funny Finding Nemo can be.
Many people are of the opinion that this is PIXAR’s best film and some have even referred to it as their Magnum Opus, which may be true. Personally, I enjoy the following 8 films more, but we have now hit a point in the list where the numbers are kind of irrelevant. Objectively, Ratatouille is as well made as the rest and it has the added complication of our protagonists being unable to speak to each other, which is handled sublimely.
The first of PIXAR’s films to be helmed by Pete Doctor and he absolutely nails it on his first try. A lot of emphasis is placed on those opening 8 minutes, as it should be, but the rest of the film is just as good. An old man, a young boy and a talking dog is an odd dynamic, but it works well here. The late Christopher Plummer is also oodles of fun as the villain.
“Actions speak louder than words” has never been as true as it is in the case of Wall-E. With our protagonist having a limited vocabulary and often nobody to speak to, the film relies on telling its story with his surroundings, and aces it. There is straight up no dialogue for around 15 minutes, which would turn people off if done poorly, but it was used to the films benefit by allowing us to soak in Wall-E’s surroundings . Truly spectacular.
6. Toy Story 3
This works as a standalone film, and as the conclusion to perhaps PIXAR’s most popular story; it is such a perfect bookend, down to the very last frame, and you can tell how much love went into making it. Toy Story now exists as a quadrilogy but there is no denying that 1-3 told a complete story, and having grown up with that story, I love the ending.
5. Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2 is so good that it started development as a direct-to-video sequel which was upgraded to a proper theatrical release, and well deservedly. From the action to the character to the endless Star Wars references, I can only find enjoyment here. Don’t ever let anybody tell you that sequels are never as good as the original.
4. Monsters Inc
This film could be this high on the list for nothing more than how impressive the animation is. They had to write brand new codes to make some of the textures work, and it’s as good now as it was then. It just so happens to also have a fantastic plot, perfectly camp villain and excellent chemistry between the two leads.
3. A Bug’s Life
This film really sticks out to me because PIXAR have never really made anything similar. Everything else has a sequel or human characters but A Bug’s Life doesn’t, and that makes it really special to me. I also just love a good adventure story, and of all the films in this list, I think this one might be the funniest. The grasshoppers alone make this worth watching, as does the darkest ending I think PIXAR have ever done.
2. The Incredibles
I love superheroes, and the classic superhero aesthetic, and the grand sweeping theme songs. The Incredibles embodies all of that. It feels like a classic “comic book movie” in the very best sense of the term and that familial message really strengthens the story. It is pure unbridled superhero fun and I adore it as much now as I ever did.
1. Toy Story
Let’s be honest, it was only ever going to be Toy Story for the top spot. This isn’t an Objectively Best Movies list, it’s a list of my personal favourites and I’ve lost track of how often I’ve seen Toy Story. This film had an entire group of animators staking their career and, I think, as a result Toy Story feels like it was made from love. It’s witty and dark in all the right places and is a true testament to just how far the plucky little PIXAR Studios has come. I love it.
I have seen several film critics talking about PIXAR’s Soul and how philosophical its message is, and how much of an impact that message had on them. This is great, and I’m pleased that a film could resonate so deeply with so many people, because that is what this medium can do at its best… but it just didn’t hit me like that. Watching the reviews flooding in, it was difficult to not feel like I was somehow watching Soul wrong. Connecting with a film has never been difficult for me, especially when it comes to PIXAR Animation Studios who have a one way road straight to my heart. The message of Soul is that the best way to live life is to go out and live it, instead of worrying that you may never achieve your goals, and that is an important message to convey. I was having trouble comprehending why this wasn’t affecting me as much as I thought it, should and I came to the conclusion that it may have something to do with the film’s ending. To discuss this, I think context is important so I’m about to go through the entire plot which means that if you still have not seen it, this is your last chance to go in completely unspoiled.
The plot follows music teacher Joe Gardener as he finally lands a gig with a popular jazz singer, shortly before he falls through a manhole and dies. Instead of committing to death, Joe (now a soul) manages to fall into The Great Before – where souls are given their traits and their ‘spark’. Having been mistaken for a ‘mentor’ by the Archetypes of this realm (known as Jerrys) Joe is matched with the troublesome Soul 22, and they find themselves falling through a portal to Earth. Whilst 22 ends up in Joe’s body, Joe ends up in the body of a cat and the story follows them as they attempt to return to their rightful places- 22 in The Great Before and Joe in his own body at The Big Gig. Hijinks and heartfelt moments ensue, with 22 developing a spark for life before being thrust back into The Great Before and becoming a Lost Soul, while Joe returns to his body but finds that he still feels empty after his gig. Joe returns to The Great Before, saves 22’s lost soul and embraces his fate. Thus far I have been enjoying the story, which I found to be equally heartwarming and heartbreaking. 22 is seemingly being a better Joe than Joe, which has given her a lust for life that she has been lacking forever. Meanwhile, Joe feels like he has accomplished nothing in life but, in death, has accomplished something that is bigger than himself. It took dying for Joe to realise how he should have lived, but he finally gets to die feeling fulfilled.
And then he doesn’t die.
Joe has accepted his fate and is ready for The Great Beyond, but before that can happen, he is approached by the head Jerry who allows him the chance to return to Earth and keep on living. He accepts this offer, but given the way the film has been portraying its message thus far, I don’t think he should have. I understand that Soul needs a happy ending, and I don’t resent the decision to end the story like this, but I think it would have worked better if Joe had really died. I’m all for happy endings, but sometimes one that is bittersweet can work better. Sometimes we might only become satisfied with life through dying, and (depending on religion) there are no second chances. That really sucks, but that is life so you need to make the most of it while you still can.
There are so many things about Soul that are worth paying attention to and discussing, like how it is the first PIXAR Studios film centring on a Black protagonist and how their culture is represented. It’s also worth noting that Joe’s body spends the majority of its time inhabited by somebody who sounds like a middle aged white woman, but as a white girl, I don’t feel it’s my place to lead those discussions. What I can do is discuss aspects surrounding the release of the film and the ramifications of that.
Soul was release on Christmas Day 2020 directly to the streaming platform Disney+ for free (provided you already pay the monthly subscription fee). This is not the first major film to go to Disney+, with that honour going to the Live Action remake of Mulan several months prior, but it is the first to be ‘free’. Disney had caused quite the controversy when it announced that Mulan would be locked behind a $25 (£18) paywall, because while that was a reasonable price if the platform was being used by a family, it was not so fair on those who were the ‘soul’ proprietors (harhar) of their accounts. For whatever reason, it was decided that Soul would not suffer the same fate and, personally, I think that is a good thing. This along with the Warner Bros streaming service HBO Max announcing it would have same day releasing for the platform and cinemas (much to the chagrin of everybody in the industry) has led to discussions of the viability of this type of release going forward. It’s worth noting that there are pros and cons to on-demand streaming, but the bigger question the industry seems to be taking away from all of this is ‘will it kill cinemas?’. It’s also worth noting that as I publish this, the vaccine for COVID-19 is starting to slowly be rolled out across the globe, and that as a result, cinema trips won’t be a viable option for some time to come. Many are beginning to wonder if, given streaming, cinemas even should re-open as it doesn’t seem to be harming the pockets of big film companies thus far. Personally, I think that the entire conversation is an over-reaction to the current situation and that movie theatres will be just fine. After all, television did not kill the radio.
The one thing that Soul made clear to me was just how well tailored the feature length motion picture is to the big screen. There are so many shots in here that are either a vast expanse of darkness or of light, and I know that those are the kinds of shot that would envelop a cinema crowd. I miss that kind of experience on a level that may be difficult to explain to some people, and I feel that movies like Soul demonstrate why. This film is not perfect. but it really deserved a larger screen.
In 2004, PIXAR Studios released what I consider to be the best representation of the Fantastic 4 ever put on the big screen with The Incredibles. At the time, it was probably my favourite of the 6 films they had released and I was ecstatic to hear that the story was to be continued as a video game. Having played the video game adaptation of The Incredibles on my home computer I was soon playing it’s sequel on the Playstation 2 – The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer. The game allows you to switch between controlling Mr Incredible and Frozone as you make your way through the Underminer’s tunnels and into his lair where you must defeat him. It’s been a long time since I played it, but I remember it being a heck of a lot of fun, primarily because I thought that Frozone was just the coolest. For years, this would be the only sequel that The Incredibles got until it was finally announced that an official movie sequel was underway in 2014, to be released in 2018. It was not an adaptation of Rise of the Underminer.
The plot follows Helen Parr (aka Elastigirl) as she is approached by a business tycoon who wants to help make superheroes legal again. As she attempts to defeat a new supervillain called The Screenslaver, her husband Bob (aka Mr Incredible) faces the challenge of being a stay-at-home dad with his teenage daughter Violet, son Dash and baby Jack-Jack. All of this is made infinitely more difficult when Jack-Jack begins to develop a seemingly endless number of superpowers. These new superpowers were a massive selling point for Incredibles 2, even being the first piece of completed animation shown to the general public, so you might think that it forms the bulk of the plot but this isn’t really the case. I find that the issues facing Bob and Helen balance pretty equally.
Of course, this is not the first time that Jack-Jacks powers have been seen on screen as he used several of them to escape Syndrome’s grasp in The Incredibles and to torment Kari the babysitter in the short film Jack-Jack Attack. However he has gained more powers since the original 13 and this is the first time that anybody apart from Syndrome and Kari have known about them so this is where the real fun begins. On top of this, Violet is gearing up for her first date with Tony Rydinger who, having seen her in her supersuit without a mask, has had her erased from his mind under Bob’s orders. Violet has always been my favourite member of the Parr family and seeing her rebel against them in a way that I never would have felt comfortable enough doing is kind of cathartic. On top of that is Dash’s constant issues with his mathematics homework. Ever since I was in Secondary Education, I have had issues with how the education system is structured and how lessons are taught. It is incredibly rigid and doesn’t really allow for outside-the-box thinking and, in the case of maths, will punish you for reason a conclusion in the wrong way. I feel Bob’s frustration when he exclaims “math is math” because he’s right. The main point here is that these issues (dating, maths, baby) are regular and relatable issues which makes us sympathise with them more. They aren’t a Superhero Family, they’re a family who just so happen to have superpowers.
Meanwhile, Helen’s mission to stop The Screenslaver and to help make superheroes legal again is excellently crafted. I think that the comparisons to The Fantastic 4 are a given but I feel like this sequel more closely resembles the original X-Men film trilogy. The X-Men comics had always been a metaphor for oppressed minorities but the films in particular leaned more specifically into the struggles of the LGBT+ Community. Whilst Incredibles 2 is a children’s film, it refuses to shy away from an important conversation about laws and policies and what to do if they prove to be unjust. The solution seems to be the formulation of new laws but in order to prove that would be worthwhile, the previous laws need to be broken. Society is constantly changing and, provided it is becoming more accepting of people who have been considered “different”, that’s probably a good thing. We, as a society, need to acknowledge when we have done wrong and we need to be open to healthy, positive, inclusive change. That should not be a controversial statement.
On the topic of the X-Men, I think it’s worth noting the difference between the superhero movies of yore and those of today. 2004 and 2018 and two very different years when it comes to superhero films and the public perception of them which means that The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 end up feeling tonally different from each other. In 2004, these films were a light-hearted affair that wasn’t taken seriously as a genre by the public at large. Titles like Daredevil and Catwoman had seemingly demonstrated that superhero films were a lost cause and, apart from franchises like X-Men and Spider-Man, were worth moving on from. 4 years later Iron Man launched what would become the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not only proving that this genre was worth paying attention to, but that it could be hugely profitable. This led to 2018, when Avengers: Infinity War hit our screens and quickly became the highest grossing film of all time. Both Incredibles films are reflective of these different eras with the first being fun, with a punchy score and vibrant colour palette while the second was more of an action blockbuster with a slightly muted palette. Had the first instalment not existed, I wonder if the second would have had Michael Giacchino’s brass score which evokes the Golden Age of superheroes and Richard Donner’s Superman.
There is no denying that Incredibles 2 occupies a different space than it’s predecessor. Superhero films have become a respected, and profitable, genre in their own right but I don’t feel like any of the original’s fun has been lost in this sequel. I don’t want to say this film feels more mature but it is different in much the same way that Superman: The Movie and Man of Steel are different, without losing what made The Incredibles so good. I said at the top of this piece that The Incredibles was, at the time, my favourite of all the PIXAR films and that hasn’t really changed. I still adore that film and I still love this genre, although the old ones really do excite me in a more child-like manner. At that time, Disney sequels were released directly to video but films like Incredibles 2 kind of make me glad that PIXAR never has. This deserved to be on the big screen.
In 2014, 20th Century Fox released the animated children’s film The Book of Life. It follows a young man named Manolo, who having sacrificed himself to save his one true love, attempts to return to the land of the living with the help of his ancestors. The heartfelt story and the animation, which is possibly the closest thing to storyboard art I’ve ever seen, and the influence of Guillmero Del Toro, make it worth the watch. Despite what people at the time may have had you believe, it has nothing to to with PIXAR’s 2017 film Coco. It shares minor plot elements like the Day of the Dead, a mission to return home and a vibrant colour palette, but this does not make one a knock-off of the other. To delve any further than that will require delving into the plot, so let’s just jump into it.
Coco follows a young boy named Miguel who dreams of being a musician, but whose family have banned all music from their lives. After a bizarre incident on the Day of the Dead featuring the guitar of Miguel’s idol Ernesto de la Cruz, he finds himself in the land of the dead and needing to receive the blessing of an ancestor to return home. The plot here has several fundamental differences from The Book of Life, starting with the setting. Whilst both films take place in a small Mexican town, Coco takes place in a town where music feels like it has practically been outlawed by the influence of Miguel’s grandmother. If anything, it reminds me of the legendary 1984 film Footloose starring Kevin Bacon. The second deviance concerns the death of our main characters, because, unlike Manolo, Miguel isn’t actually dead. Manolo made a deal with death which required him to die and so his attempted escape from the land of the dead is something he technically shouldn’t be attempting. Miguel on the other hand ends up in the land of the dead purely by accident, and can leave whenever he wants. His ancestors are more than willing to provide the blessing he needs to go home, but only if he gives up music, which is where the conflict arises. To leave on his own terms, Miguel runs away to find De la Cruz, who he believes to be his great grandfather. Whilst The Book of Life‘s plot is fuelled by love, Coco‘s plot is fuelled by selfishness. I feel like claiming one film to be just like the other prevents either film from thriving on its own. They are both worth watching, and thanks to the Fox/Disney merger, you can find both on Disney+.
A really interesting aspect of Coco is what it has to say about songwriting credits. Over the course of the plot, Miguel meets and befriends Hector, who claims to be friends with De la Cruz but as we reach the film’s climax, the truth presents itself. It transpires that Hector was De la Cruz’s musical partner in life, and that he wrote all of De la Cruz’s songs- including his biggest hit Remember Me, which Hector had actually written for his daughter. To make matters worse, it is revealed that De la Cruz poisoned Hector, because he was planning on returning home before they had managed to make it in the industry. I’m not aware of anything quite like this happening in real life, but the discussion surrounding songwriting credits dates back quite a while. It isn’t something that I’m even remotely qualified to dive into, but I find the use of this discussion in Coco to be really interesting. Ernesto de la Cruz became one of the world’s biggest stars, to the point where he is still left tributes by his adoring fans, whilst Hector who is responsible for his success, was murdered and forgotten. The film definitely comes down on Hector’s side, and therefore, the side of the songwriter. But songwriting credits aren’t just about legacy.
Songwriting credits are vastly important because it determines which people become popular, famous and perhaps most importantly wealthy. It is exceedingly ironic that this message is present in a film being distributed by the Walt Disney Company, whose first feature length film Snow White and the Seven Dwarves made them millions, but had no voice actor credits. The opening credits to the film only feature the production staff, as was common practice at the time, but nobody that provided their voice had there name attached to anything, including the promotional material. The voice actress for Snow White was named Adriana Caselotti, and she passed away on January 18, 1997 at the age of 80, having never made as much money as she should have for such an important role. There are still no voice acting credits in any re-releases of Snow White either. Fast forward to today, and even PIXAR itself is guilty of overlooking people. Mama Coco is based on a real person (María de la Salud Ramírez Caballer) from a real town (Santa Fe de la Laguna) in Mexico, and whilst many people know this now, providing a small tourism boost to the town, she has never been properly acknowledged by PIXAR. As a result of her involvement and the team’s trip to see her, Coco is saturated with Mexican culture. The colours and the designs make this movie pop, and that is amplified by the stunning soundtrack, which has both English and Mexican dubs of its songs. To me, this feels like it is to PIXAR what The Emperor’s New Groove was to Disney, although Coco has proved to be more successful. Which hurts just a little bit.
It’s a common complaint these days that the film industry is all sequels, prequels and remakes, and for the span of a few years, PIXAR wasn’t immune to this ‘trend’. However Coco is slotted quite nicely in between all that, and is perhaps one of the most original films the company has produced in a while. I have to confess that I nearly forgot to review Coco. In my list of PIXAR releases, my eyes somehow glazed over the title, but I’m thankful that I noticed my mistake. It’s worthy of being noticed.
The Cars trilogy is a bit of an odd one. I found the first film to be delightful enough, and a decent dive into the “find yourself” trope, while the second was a mostly entertaining spy/action flick. This brings us to the third instalment, which returns to the “find yourself” trope in what, I think, might end up being the best in the series. There has been a noticeable amount of change in the 6 years between Cars 2 and 3, and so it is perhaps no surprise that the series chose to return to its character-centred roots. With the upgrade in technology and the once new animators taking on more senior roles within the company, there was clearly a passing of the torch on the horizon. That’s what Cars 3 has always felt like to me – a company with its eyes on the future.
We follow star racecar Lighning McQueen as his career faces a massive upheaval with the rise of more technological cars like Jackson Storm. As the last of the old guard and recovering from a severe crash, Lightning is determined to be better than ever, leading him to a new training regime under the eyes of Cruz Ramirez. If you are familiar with the sentimentality of PIXAR and the way in which they tell stories, then you can probably guess how this is all going to end, but that doesn’t make the journey any less powerful. This, like the original Cars, is an Unwilling Mentor story, with Cruz being the unknowing trainee. For the majority of the plot it feels like Lightning might still be in with a fighting chance, he isn’t that rookie filled with unwarranted bravado anymore, he’s a veteran of the sport who is in a great deal of denial and fear- which are perhaps the greatest motivators. The parallels between the original Doc/Lightning dynamic and the Lightning/Cruz dynamic are a given, but Cars 3 spends a little more time on the former than you might think.
Sadly, the world of Cars lost one of its primary voices when the voice of Doc Hudson – the late Paul Newman- passed away. Whilst there are moments in Cars 2 that feel made to honour him and his legacy, this film practically feels like a love letter. There is no denying how heavily his loss is felt during this film, and how much he was loved by all involved. Thanks to un-used and re-used audio, he receives one last turn as the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, but never once does it feel cheap. Whilst Cars 2 was also affected, there never seemed to be a quiet enough spot to properly acknowledge the impact that Paul Newman had. Cars 3 could not have done that job more beautifully.
Whilst the returning cast members are all wonderful in their roles, there is plenty of time dedicated to the talents of the newcomers. Some of these newcomers are already veteran actors themselves, with the likes of Nathan Fillion, Chris Copper and Arnie Hammer providing their voices. By this point, PIXAR has a solid enough reputation that it can call in major actors like these for minor roles, and it feels like a turning point for the company. While it was noticeable in prior films (see Sigourney Weaver in Finding Dory) you now practically expect to hear an A-List star. This isn’t a small studio anymore, it is a multimillion dollar company and a household name. New animators are being hired and trained at the “PIXAR University” all the time, which means that they are now capable of releasing two films per year instead of one film every two years. PIXAR releasing a new film used to feel like a major event, and while it is still A Moment, it doesn’t feel like that gravitas is really there anymore. It has become part of the machine, as it were. I suppose in the same way that Cars 3 is a thank you to the days of yore, my review has become a thank you to PIXAR of yore.
This is now the 18th PIXAR review that I have written and I often feel like I am repeating myself. By now, you know that I find the animation to be first rate, the score outstanding and the voice acting brilliant. I never tire of saying those things, and I have been saying them for quite some time. I know I’m only 23, but watching Cars 3 was a reminder that I’m not some doe-eyed child anymore, and that it’s been more than a decade since I was. I watch this film and I relate more to Lightning and the other racing veterans than I do the newcomers like Cruz. I suppose being blessed with two siblings makes me pine more for nostalgia than I would otherwise. My sister was 2 when the first Cars film was released, and it was one of the first films she ever saw. Cars 2 was released the year before my brother was born and he has now surpassed the age that I was when my sister came along. It’s really odd to me that I have become emotionally connected to the Cars franchise, but that is the situation in which I find myself.
Cars 3 is a film about life. It’s about feeling lucky to live the one you have, and trying not to mourn what has been. It’s about the march of time and the rise of technology and about moving forward. It’s about how sheltered some children might be compared to others, and about whether or not that is for their betterment. Bob Dylan once wrote that “the times, they are a-changin” and movies about life, like Cars 3, make me feel that deep within my soul. Make the most of the time you have with the people you love and the places around you. Appreciate what you can while you can because life’s a beach… and then you drive.
In 2003, PIXAR Studios released their classic heartwarming tale Finding Nemo. It told the story of a widowed Clownfish (Marlin) as he crosses the ocean with a forgetful Blue Tang (Dory) in an attempt to find his fishnapped son (Nemo). There were calls for a sequel in the years that followed, but aside from Toy Story 2 & 3, PIXAR was primarily focused on producing new ideas like Wall-E and Ratatouille. However, as is the way with all film companies, the allure of guaranteed sequel profit proved to be too good, and in 2016 Finding Dory was released. This is, of course, a more cynical view of the movie’s conception, but I like to think that they believed in the story they were telling. PIXAR has always said that they only animate scripts that they deem to be a decent continuation of a previous story.
Finding Dory picks up a year after the events of Finding Nemo, and follows Dory as she travels to the Marine Life Institute in California to find her parents, with Marlin and Nemo following closely behind. This is a story that, for lack of better phrasing, makes sense to tell. We really don’t know all that much about Dory, and as she discovers more about herself, so do we. Her Short Term Memory Loss is a key plot device here, and it almost never feels like the butt of a joke. I’ll continue to commend the film for that, so it’s quite disappointing that the same respect is not paid to her friends Destiny and Bailey. The former is a Whale Shark who has restricted vision whilst the latter is a Beluga Whale who is faking the loss of his echolocation. And then there is poor little Becky. She is a Loon Bird who carries Marlin and Nemo into the Marine Life Institute in a bucket and is portrayed has having a mental disability. (Because she’s a Loon. Get it?) This makes for a great deal of misunderstanding between her and the other characters, which leads to a great amount of hilarity. From the studio that handled mental illness so well in Inside Out, this is a bit of disappointment.
As with many sequels, you are better off watching the original film first. However, I feel like a truly terrific sequel can still stand on it’s own (see Terminator 2) and Finding Dory almost comes close. If you did watch Finding Nemo first then this film carries more of an emotional impact, but if you haven’t seen it then you don’t need to worry, because you can pick up the plot of Finding Nemo from this. Of course, I have no idea why you wouldn’t watch Finding Nemo first… but assuming you did, then the possibility of Dory leaving Marlin and Nemo to be with her parents is Finding Dory‘s biggest emotional thread. The film never shies away from the possibility that this is the outcome, and that something like that can be emotionally devastating, but it never follows through on that totally. This is still a PIXAR film so of course everybody stays together at the end. This is all fine, but where it becomes an issue is in the film’s conclusion where it flip-flops between this being, and then not being, the resolution, before it finally does become the resolution. It really makes the final act of Finding Dory feel like a mental challenge to keep up with.
Where the film really shines is in the animation and the score, which have both come a long way in the 14 years since Finding Nemo. This is PIXAR’s 17th feature film, and the 2nd to be set primarily in water, and WOW you can tell. Water used to be one of the most difficult aspects of animation (maybe it still is) but the animation here borders on realistic. The way that you can see particles floating through the water, the way that the animals are reflected on the surface from underneath it, and the way that it clings to the animals making them continuously moist, is downright astounding. The realism felt a little off in The Good Dinosaur where it was only on the scenery, and the characters didn’t fit that aesthetic. In Finding Dory, there is a perfect balance. If I had to recommend this film for any reason, it would be the animation. The score coming in as a close second. PIXAR brought in composer Thomas Newman, who had previously worked on Finding Nemo, and brings back that ethereal feel for the ocean as well as a fun, quirky vibe when it’s needed. The soundtrack also features a Bondesque rendition of Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable by Sia.
I find that there is more to like about Finding Dory than there is to dislike. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it looks and sounds stunning, while the importance of having the main character voiced by an out lesbian can’t be understated (even if it is Ellen). Also, Sigourney Weaver is here and you’d better believe that they get as much use out of her voice as possible. To me, this is a worthwhile sequel to a beloved classic.
It’s that time of the year when Walt Disney Studios gather their investors together to display some of the projects that they have coming down the pipeline. As with previous years, we, the general public, were able to attend via livestream, although the majority of new footage was reserved purely for investors. With Disney’s intention to provide at least 100 new pieces of content each year, there was a lot of information to unpack, and that’s not what I’m here to do. If you’d like full rundowns of the information, they are readily available online from a variety of sources. Instead, I am going to go through the announcements that had me excited and/or intrigued, although if we are being honest I will end up watching most of what they create anyway.
The first major piece of news for me was the confirmation that It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has been given the go ahead for 4 more series. This pushes the total number of series up to 18 and makes it the longest running live-action sitcom in history – ahead of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet at 14 series. I can’t wait to spend more time with the horrible owners of Paddy’s Pub.
News of a series set around Star Wars legend Obi Wan Kenobi was announced at last year’s Disney Expo, but we now know that the limited series will pick up 10 years after Revenge of the Sith. This sets it 1 year after the events of Solo: A Star Wars Story and 5 years before the TV Series Rebels. The major news is that prequel star Hayden Christensen is set to reprise his role as Anakin Skywalker (now Darth Vader). I’m sold.
Star Wars Visions will be a series of short films brought to us by some of the finest Japanese anime creators. You read that right, we’re getting Anime Star Wars. No, I don’t feel like I need to explain further.
With a title taken from the video games of the late 1990s, which were set between the events of A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, I can only assume then is when this film takes place. The real news here is that it will be directed by the wonderful Patty Jenkins, who is fresh of the heels of the Wonder Woman films. This makes her the first woman to take charge of a Star Wars film and I can think of nothing more important or exciting for this franchise than that.
The book series Diary of a Wimpy Kid has already been adapted into a set of live action films, but this next instalment is to be animated in the style of the original books’ illustrations. I’ve always felt the story would work better that way and it’s nice to see it finally happening.
I did not expect to be excited by this news, but this will be a live action/animation hybrid featuring comedians John Mulaney and Andy Samberg. These are a few of my favourite things/people and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.
It would appear that Disney+ Series are the new direct-to-video sequels, and we’re getting a few of them. Tiana is taking us back into the world of The Princess and the Frog which, I feel, may be one of the most underrated Disney productions.
I’ll be honest, I’m looking forward to everything that PIXAR is developing, but this one is especially exciting. This film will be a Buzz Lightyear origin story that inspired the toy in the universe of Toy Story and I’ve kind of always wanted that. Plus they have Chris Evans onboard to voice the titular spaceman. Now we just need a TV Series of Woody’s Roundup.
This TV Series looks like it will be the most original concept that Marvel Studios has produced in a very long time. The aesthetic looks really interesting, and Elizabeth Olsen is more than good enough to carry a series of her own. I’m looking forward to perhaps seeing the full extent of Scarlet Witches’ powers.
I was probably going to watch this anyway because, Tom Hiddleston seems like he has a lot of fun in the role, but now I’ve seen footage of the show itself and it does look like fun. They also have Owen Wilson, and time travel, which is a combination I would very much like to have.
This is the closest thing we are going to get to a solo Hulk venture for quite a while, which is reason enough to be excited. It’s also going to be focused on her role as a lawyer, so according to Kevin Feige “there’s no telling who might show up”. This feels like a Daredevil tease, but what is confirmed is that Eli Roth will be returning as The Abomination, a character not seen since 2008.
What about the rest?
You’d think that with so many new pieces of media in the realm of both Star Wars and Marvel that I’d have more items on this list, and I’d have thought so too. The thing is that practically all of the other content they announced ties directly into something else, and I would really like some stand-alone content. The Mandalorian has been some of the best Star Wars content, I feel, because it can stand on its own. As for Marvel, I’m honestly a little burned out, as many people are, I think. With both franchises ending their major film plans last year, there was a lot of hype, and for some, a lot of disappointment. I love these franchises as much as anybody (heck, I’m going to keep watching and probably enjoying them regardless) but I think slowing down before speeding back up would have given everyone a little time to breathe. There’s something to be said for selective content.