Pixar’s Enduring Legacy

Tyler Christiansen ’21

Opinions Editor

Since its inception in 1995 with the release of “Toy Story,” Pixar has owned the animated movie landscape. Ask anyone what their favorite Pixar film is and you will most likely get a vast array of answers: “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” “Up,” etc. Pixar has time and again released masterclass films with only a few exceptions (looking at you “Cars 2” and “Cars 3”). Since “Toy Story 4” is coming out in June, I figured I would give you a sense of what my favorites were and what I think are the underrated ones. Here’s my completely biased top 5:

5. “Finding Nemo”

        “Fish are friends, not food.” “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” Who doesn’t know these iconic lines?

        Marlin and Dory’s quest to find Nemo gets better with every viewing and never gets old. Ellen Degeneres as Dory is a miraculous pairing and the personalities inside the fish tank at the dentist’s office complement the film perfectly. As with most Pixar films, this is a film with adult themes that children can also enjoy. Themes of parenthood and letting children have their independence is shown in Marlin’s realization that Nemo can set the fish free without his help. It’s unfortunate that “Finding Dory” did not meet expectations, but luckily this film is still a marvel in its own right.

4. “Toy Story 3”

        Hear me out. I think this is the best “Toy Story” film thematically, don’t get me wrong. Growing up and leaving your childhood behind is a universal aspect and one that’s emotionally wrought. It’s also about aging and accepting your mortality. This is a kid’s movie, right? Watching this one is exhausting in the best and most rewarding ways; the trilogy really could not end any other way. And it’s not like it’s a downer of an ending. It’s actually quite happy, given the context of things; the toys and Andy both move on to different stages of their lives. We all grow up and move on. The movie has a low rewatchability factor, so that’s why I had to put it at #4. “So long, partner.”

3. “Inside Out”

        I really didn’t have any expectations going into this one. I saw it because it was Pixar, plain and simple. And was I surprised.

        The film centers on the emotions of Riley, an 11-year-old girl who just moved to California. Her emotions in “Headquarters” are Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust. Joy and Sadness get sucked away into Long Term Memory and have to find their way back quick, since the rest of the emotions are causing Riley to shut down (aka depressed). Again, Pixar nails the thematics here; mature ideas in a kid friendly fashion. When people console others when they are down, he or she will say things like “think positive!” or “look on the bright side!” Pixar throws those notions out and goes down another avenue. “Inside Out” tells us it’s okay to be sad. Not everything needs to be happy. Sadness creates a way for empathy, which is how we connect to others. Nostalgia and memories are never purely happy or sad; they are usually a mixture of both. You’re sad because you can’t relive those memories, but happy because they happened. Who knew a kid’s movie could say so much? “Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.”

2. “Toy Story 2”

        People always seem to forget “Toy Story 2” in the “best of Pixar” discussion. The writers and directors made this sequel, in some ways, an improvement on the original “Toy Story.” Jesse and Bullseye are fantastic new characters and the Prospector is as despicable as ever. Who can forget Jesse’s flashback scene when she talks about how she was abandoned with Sarah Mclaughlin’s song playing over it? Heartbreaking stuff. The film also deals with mortality by telling us not to be afraid of death (or in the toy’s case, not played with anymore and thrown in the attic, or worse), but to instead embrace the time we have now with the people who make us happy. “I can’t stop Andy from growing up, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”

  1. “Toy Story”

In my mind, “Toy Story” is the quintessential Pixar film. It has pathos, memorable characters and one of the best songs in film: “You’ve Got A Friend In Me.” It’s the one that started it all and if this one didn’t work, the animated movie landscape would look much different.

It’s a very short and simple film, running at 81 minutes, but its conciseness makes it a fun, fast-paced ride. The film’s theme of accepting others and friendship is an enduring and universal theme, making it accessible to everyone of all ages. Buzz and Woody’s friendship is an unlikely one, but they learn from each other at a pivotal point in the film that they need to work together to get back to Andy, not on their own accord. The climactic sequence where Buzz and Woody use the rocket to get back to the moving truck is as breathtaking as ever. “That wasn’t flying… that was falling with style!”

Underrated Picks:

“Wall-E” – A cautionary tale about climate change, obesity and how technology hinders our connections with others. Probably the best Pixar film thematically.

“Coco” – A story about not forgetting those who have died and the importance of family.

Up” – I wouldn’t say this is underrated, but I would feel bad for not mentioning the heart-breaking four-minute sequence in the beginning of the film in a “best of Pixar” discussion.

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