How Pixar Changed the Path of Animation Forever

While I was home on winter break a few months back, I happened across a Netflix documentary called The Pixar Story. My excitement kind of reminded me of the feeling when you find $20 you didn’t know you had- “Oh, this is a happy surprise!” We all have elements of nostalgia from our childhood that permanently imprint on our adult lives; movies, video games, songs, television shows, etc. You get the picture. A large (and probably the biggest) audience of early Pixar films was the millenials, the notorious generation that I proudly happen to be a member of. Technology and media were accelerating at a rapid pace in my childhood, and I’m genuinely grateful that I was able to be a part of that.

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I’m sure there are going to be older generations who criticize us youngsters for this intimate bond we’ve developed with movies, especially animated ones, but I don’t really hold it against them. Baby boomers can go on believing I can’t afford a house due to my unruly consumption of avocado toast, if it makes them feel better.

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent, so back to The Pixar Story. If you also grew up surrounded by Pixar films, this documentary is a must-see. It definitely had a conversational tone, like I was actually sitting down with the creators of Pixar to discuss their incredible life experiences. The development of Pixar was really everything I assumed it would be- a bunch of shaggy-haired, 1980s college students hanging out together in a cramped office space, spending their days and nights cracking the code of modern animation. You, as the viewer, could really put yourself in their shoes and laugh along with their inside jokes, and emphasize with their mindsets.

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I’d always known that animation was something intricate and sophisticated, but The Pixar Story also opened my eyes to the notion that animation could also be a creative process. Of course, it is very mathematics-heavy, but a good animator also needs to be imaginative and have an abstract mind. John Lasseter and Steve Jobs were truly pioneers of a sublime new art form- the beauty of 3D.

The most beloved childhood Pixar movie that comes to my mind is Monsters Inc. I’ve always been a visionary person, especially as a child with an intense imagination, and Monsters Inc. just really nourished that creative development for me. Rewatching it now feels like getting a big hug from childhood, a hug from warm memories and creativity and genuine happiness. Finding Nemo also left a hefty imprint on me; it’s one of my mom’s favorite movies, so rewatching it automatically reminds me of her. (She’s not dead, I just love things that remind me of her).

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, (more specifically, my movie reviews), you might have read my analysis of the 2008 film WALL-E. The article more or less highlights, in detail, all of the deeper meanings and lessons that Pixar incorporates into their films. Even though the films are primarily aged at children, the storylines and themes translate successfully into adulthood and continue to inspire me.

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I can’t find the exact verbatim quote, but one of the creators of Pixar said something about Pixar that gave me a lot of clarity. It was about transition from traditional Walt Disney animation to the prosperous breakthrough of 3D computer animation, but more specifically, what Pixar offered that 2D Disney films just didn’t. Pixar films are generally much more satirical, “adult”, and critical; they are the manifestations of slapstick humor and genuinely meaningful storylines. They aren’t traditional fairy tales, by any means, and a “happily ever after” doesn’t come without adversity.

I love Pixar because their films have  permanently touched my heart. Their films are a perfect cocktail of of creativity, emotional softness, timeless humor, and complete uniqueness- Pixar really started out as a group of misfits, just trying to paint a little more color into the world. It’s not often a film can cover topics like consumerism, the corruption of major corporations, mental health, environmental pollution, family dynamics,  and still do so in a way that young children can understand. In the words of one of my good friends who also loves Pixar: “They do cover some woke shit.”


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