Today marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. Pixar's 2017 Oscar-winning animated hit would be a great way to start a month of celebration. But, why stop there? Give yourself a proper binge of Pixar movies with our countdown of the animation studio's complete oeuvre, including recent hits "Soul" and "Luca."
Dim-witted tow truck sidekick Mater takes the lead in Pixar's 12th. It was a box office success, but a convoluted spy plot got in the way of a sequel that aimed to expand the universe of "Cars." It also left open a litany of unanswered questions about how this universe works. For starters, what exactly is the purpose of buses and taxis in a world filled with only anthropomorphic modes of transportation?
The Good Dinosaur
Pixar's 16th outing has a lot of heart. In a world where dinos evolved into advanced beings, a lonely dinosaur befriends a misunderstood human "critter." Yet, for all its charm and photo-realistic beauty, "The Good Dinosaur" never morphed into something more than the sum of its parts.
The Good Dinosaur
November 25, 2015
After the box office success of "Cars 2," Pixar went all-in on revisiting their popular movies. Here, the monsters from "Monsters, Inc." flashback to college. It's a prequel that has plenty of funny moments but fails to reach the heights and heart of the original.
In a modern fantasy world that left magic behind, two elf brothers embark on a journey to find any remaining wizardry out there. It's all for a chance to spend one more day with their late father. While other Pixar journeys dig deeper, there's still enough charm from the voices of Chris Pratt and Tom Holland to keep you entertained. It's still a shame that the COVID pandemic thwarted any hopes for this film's box office success.
Parr family matriarch Helen (a/k/a Elastigirl) takes the lead in this Pixar sequel. Yet, instead of carrying the story forward, the sequel places the super Parr family back at square one. Supers are still hoping to regain public trust. And the Parrs still struggle as one member (Helen, this time) embarks on superheroic adventures. In spite of its narrative flaws, "Incredibles 2" does stand as Pixar's highest-grossing movie to date.
After the globetrotting spy adventure from "Cars 2," Pixar's high-octane threequel takes a much-needed turn. In a high-tech racing world, red race car Lightning McQueen struggles to stay relevant. Enter newcomer Cruz Ramirez who helps him upgrade to the times. McQueen and Ramirez fall into a reluctant mentorship. It's full circle for McQueen and the "Cars" franchise. "Cars 3" finds a way to pay proper homage to McQueen's own reluctant mentor Doc Hudson. And in turn, Pixar honors the late Paul Newman, who voiced the aged race car in the 2006 original.
While the sequel to "Finding Nemo" might seem like a cash-grab (and maybe it is in some ways), the story did come organically to director/writer Andrew Stanton. After watching an anniversary screening of the first film, Stanton pondered "Who is Dory and where is she from?" These questions get answered in a sequel that builds on the first, and whose title works in both a literal and metaphorical sense.
The original "Cars" gets lots of flack. And it doesn't help that the story is a rip on Michael J. Fox's 1991 rom-com, "Doc Hollywood." But, for all its faults, it's still quite an endearing story about the need to slow down and embrace life. After getting stranded, race car Lightning McQueen learns to get his kicks back on Route 66. And, who could forget the film's ear-wormy cover of "Life is a Highway" by Rascal Flatts.
Pixar's latest is a literal fish-out-of-water story and summery romp through the Italian Riviera. The titular Luca and his friend Antonio dream of exploring the world on a Vespa. But first, they'll need to win the Portorosso Cup Triathlon, all the while trying to hide their secret -- that they are actually sea monsters. "Luca" is a loving tribute to Italy, while also recalling the wonderful works of Hayao Miyazaki. It might not reach the emotional highs of classic Pixar, but it's just as charming as any of the studio's earlier works.
Pixar's 13th outing gave Disney its 11th princess, who was playfully roasted in "Ralph Breaks the Internet." "Brave" is also notable for a few firsts. It was the first Pixar film with a female protagonist and the first Pixar fairy tale. "Brave" was also the first Pixar film by a female director, though Brenda Chapman got replaced mid-shoot by Mark Andrews. While the story itself is not as groundbreaking as the rest of Pixar's peak, the film does continue to be warmly embraced by its target audience, kids.
Toy Story 4
"Toy Story 3" was a hard-hitting, emotional conclusion to a franchise that Millenial kids grew up loving. It also featured a wonderful passing of the torch, from the now college-age toy owner Andy to Pre-K scamp Bonnie. But, there is always more story to tell. The fourth outing proved its worth as a fitting epilogue, giving an equally emotional goodbye to the franchise's main protagonist, Woody.
The title of Pixar's eighth is enough to make your mouth water. But maybe you should think again when you realize who -- or what -- made the titular French dish. Pixar deserves a lot of credit for making a rat as lovable as Disney's more famous rodent mascot.
A Bug's Life
Pixar's second is an unfairly forgotten journey into the world of bugs and insects. It's also a playful take on the premises of both "The Magnificent Seven" and "Three Amigos." A group of circus bugs are mistaken for warriors and asked to protect an ant colony from a group of marauding grasshoppers. You can also make comparisons to DreamWork's similarly bug-focused "Antz." Both came out at around the same time, but Pixar's charm wins here.
For the studio's 15th, Pixar dives into our minds. Pixar's knack for delivering tear-jerking moments is on full display too (#RememberBingBong). Emotions literally get the best of 11-year-old Riley as her life gets uprooted when dad moves the family cross-country to San Francisco. It's all told through wonderful performances by comedians Amy Pohler (Joy), Phyllis Smith (Sadness), Lewis Black (Anger), Bill Hader (Fear), and Mindy Kaling (Disgust). "Inside Out" went on to become the second highest grossing animated film of 2015, and won the Oscar that year for Best Animated Feature.
Toy Story 2
Pixar's first sequel had a tough act to follow, but everything clicked into place. Following on from 1995's ground-breaking "Toy Story," Andy's toys are on a rescue mission. They must save Woody before he's shipped off to a Japanese museum. "Part 2" also goes into Woody's backstory as a toy-tie-in to a popular 1950s kids Western series. He's even got sidekicks -- the spunky cowgirl Jessie and a trusting steed Bullseye. Last year, Pixar announced a Buzz Lightyear origin story due in theaters in 2022. We hope, in kind, they will dive into the archives and post the complete "Woody's Roundup" series on Disney+.
Don't be afraid of things that go bump in the night. This holds especially true if those sounds emanating from your closet are the lovable monsters from "Monsters, Inc." Pixar's fourth actually owes a bit of debt to their first. Inspiration drew from asking what other things kids believe besides toys coming to life? Monsters! "Monsters, Inc." was another visual feast that worked for people of all ages. As such it was a critical and commercial success. In the first year the Oscars introduced the category, "Monsters, Inc." was nominated for Best Animated Feature -- though it lost to "Shrek." The prequel we covered was inevitable. And the story will continue with a Disney+ series due out soon that serves as a direct follow-up. Billy Crystal and John Goodman are even set to reprise their respective roles, as one-eyed Mike and big and hairy Sulley.
Toy Story 3
Disney and the Best Animated Feature category are practically synonymous. "Toy Story 3," however, is one of only three animated movies nominated for Best Picture. The other two are also Disney films: "Up" (which we will soon cover), and "Beauty and the Beast." Debuting more than 10 years after "Toy Story 2," the threequel had a lot going against it. But, Pixar produced an extraordinary follow-up and an effective conclusion to the saga of Andy's toys. Disney should learn a lot from "Toy Story 3." For starters, the film doesn't lean too heavily into fan service. It works as its own self-contained story. And it introduces new characters in a very meaningful way. It's clear the creators of "Toy Story" know their audience, as this is all what made "Part 3" work so well. Lessons learned for other Disney franchises not named Marvel? We hope...
The incredible feat of "The Incredibles" is just how ahead of its time it was. Pixar's sixth outing debuted in 2004. This was four years after Fox's "X-Men," two years after Sony's "Spider-Man," and one year shy of WB's even more groundbreaking "Batman Begins." The cinematic superhero renaissance was starting to take shape, and Pixar was right there at the beginning. "The Incredibles" is a lighthearted, kid-friendly adventure. It also plays like an unofficial homage to Alan Moore's "Watchmen" and Marvel's "Fantastic Four." The story opens in an alternate 1960s where superheroes are underground. The super Parr family make their way through the doldrums of life as they hide their powers due to government mandates. A mid-life crisis settles in for Parr patriarch Bob (a/k/a Mr. Incredible), and he sets out to find a way to get back into action.
The Mexican holiday Day of the Dead comes to vivid life in Pixar's 19th. The film follows a young boy who travels into the Land of the Dead to learn more about his family's history. Even though Americans conceived it, the filmmakers took great pains to make the film feel as authentic as possible. Though it was not without its controversies. Even still, "Coco" is a remarkable achievement, being the first big-budget animated film with an all-Latin cast. "Coco" is a loving tribute to Mexican culture and traditions. The film's personal journey was universal enough to leave both critics and audiences deeply affected. "Coco" went on to win two Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song ("Remember Me").
November 22, 2017
Where "Coco" takes you on a journey to the Mexican afterlife, "Soul" gets existential. What are souls? Where do we come from? What happens when we die? These are all deep and profound questions kids often ask. And if there is any studio that is best equipped to answer these questions, it's most certainly Pixar. Focusing on a music teacher whose life gets cut short on the same day he realizes his dream, "Soul" is a journey unlike any other. Jazz pianist Joe finally gets the chance to play for his idol Dorothea Williams, but he soon finds himself trapped between Earth and the afterlife.
"Soul" takes you to these magical lands that only Pixar can dream up. It's a beautiful tale, set to some of the best music and score the studio ever produced (courtesy of Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste). "Soul" is also a landmark, featuring the studio's first Black main character. The acclaimed film won two Oscars, for Best Animated Feature (of course) and Best Original Score. It's still a shame that COVID meant that people couldn't get a chance to experience the film's full beauty properly in a cinema.
Speaking of personal, yet universal journeys, Pixar's fifth is a story that everyone can relate to. We all have experienced some kind of loss in life. The journey of "Finding Nemo" is not only of father Marlin searching for his lost son Nemo. It's also a journey within Marlin himself. Marlin is still struggling with the loss of his wife and all his other eggs at the hands -- er, fins -- of a barracuda. This loss affects his parenting, which becomes the cause for Nemo to get lost in the first place.
Yes, this is a story about fish. But its deeper story is something that surprised parents just as much as kids upon release. The nuggets of "Finding Nemo" were not only born from trips to aquariums, and even the dentist. For creator Andrew Stanton, it also came from a trip to the park with his son. Like Marlin, Stanton found he was being too overprotective. Instead of letting his son be a kid, he was ruining what should have been a day of love and bonding.
Considering the ubiquity of Amazon, Pixar's ninth is pretty darn prescient. We open on an Earth devoid of all its natural resources. Our overindulgent reliance on big box stores has left the planet a desolate wasteland. And one humble robot remains to clean up the mess. "WALL-E" juxtaposes all this bleakness with a whimsical introduction and not a single spoken word for roughly 30 minutes.
To get the intro to work just right, creators Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter leaned heavily on classic silent films. Their particular focus was the works of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. WALL-E (the robot) embodies the charm and fancy of both, who can tell a whole story without uttering a word. "WALL-E" also is notable for being the only Pixar movie (so far) that includes live-action. The film floored audiences and critics upon release. It's no surprise that it won Best Animated Feature and still stands as one of the great movies of the 21st Century.
We already mentioned that Pixar has a knack for producing silent, tear-jerker moments. The studio wouldn't become known for this until their 10th picture, "Up." In the lead-up to release, the film's marketing focused on the story's sense of adventure and the buddy comedy moments from grumpy Carl, wide-eyed Wilderness Explorer Russell, and hapless golden retriever Dug. Audiences were, thus, not prepared for the heartbreakingly sweet and sorrowful backstory that sets up the movie and the character of Carl. It's an intro that can serve as a movie unto itself. Yet, a wacky adventure ensues as Carl attaches balloons to his house to fulfill a promise to his late wife to find the legendary Paradise Falls.
As mentioned previously, "Up" was the second of three animated films nominated for Best Picture. Though it didn't claim the prize, it did win the Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. Pixar has rarely returned to the world of "Up," but this will change next year. The studio is working on a series for Disney+ called "Dug Days" that focuses on the relationship between Dug and Carl.
"Toy Story" is the film that started it all. Not just for the studio, but for CG animation as a whole. Without "Toy Story," we wouldn't have "Shrek," "Ice Age," or "Despicable Me." In 1995 computer animation was still in its infancy. As such, Pixar took a big risk to create a feature-length, CG-animated movie. Luckily, Pixar had some key people in their court, including Steve Jobs, and actors Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.
"Toy Story" worked not only because it was the first of its kind. Viewers young and old felt the close bonds between all the characters. A key to the story's success that's summed up perfectly in Randy Newman's Oscar-winning song, "You've Got a Friend in Me." "Toy Story" is universal for children and adults of all ages. After all, what kid doesn't believe that their toys come to life when they are not looking?
Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.