Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In Light of Finding Nemo 2...

...I'd like to point you to a post, now a year old, called "Growth, Maturity and Decline."  My impression is that Pixar is done.  That doesn't mean that they won't make the occasional film that is exceptional, but the initial energy that propelled the company creatively is gone.  It was inevitable;  they are now predictable.  In terms of the previous article, they are a mature company.  The question now is when does the studio enter its decline?  This is not a criticism of the company so much as it is a sad observation.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like to wait and watch films before I pass final judgements.

Charles Kenny said...

I agree Mark.

Many thought that Pixar would eventually fall off the proverbial creative cliff, but a slow decline is much more accurate.

The sad part of all of it is that the studio will gradually squander the enormous amount of goodwill it has built up with its audience and fans with these sequels and sub-par films.

Disney has been doing likewise since the mid 90s but unlike Pixar, they have a much longer history to draw down on and make have no bones about being a corporate operation.

Thad said...
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David said...

"The sad part of all of it is that the studio will gradually squander the enormous amount of goodwill it has built up with its audience and fans with these sequels and sub-par films."


History repeats itself. Exactly what we saw happen at Disney in the 90's. Didn't they learn anything from that experience? Apparently not, so now they will proceed to strip-mine Pixar Animation's assets and public good will the same way they strip-mined Disney Animation's .

The proliferation of the Disney hand-drawn "cheapquels" in the 1990's and early 2000's saturated the marketplace to the point where the hand-drawn feature animated films were no longer perceived of as being special or worth spending the extra money on a ticket to see it in a movie theater.

* Sigh * It seems that on an institutional level it's hard to sustain a certain level of creative growth for longer than about 15 or 20 years before the stagnation sets in. When they start churning out the sequels and prequels it is a sure sign that the decline has begun. I suppose nothing good can last very long on an institutional level , but hopefully the "spirit" of Disney and Pixar (what those studios stood for during their best times) can live on in the individual artists who made those places great and new generations of artists who will be inspired by those studio's best work. The good films those studios produced will still be there to delight and inspire.

Geoff Wheeler said...

This is all easily fixed Mark.

You're fogetting that all they have to do is go out for another 'lunch' and whip out 4 or 5 billion dollar original film ideas before the food reaches the table.

Kevin W. Martinez said...

"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss"

That's the vibe I've gotten from post-merger Pixar. They're carrying on the policies and philosophies that made post-Katzenburg Disney so creatively sterile, only with finesse.

Folks like Chris Sanders and Brenda Chapman were treated as shabbily under John Lasseter as the artists under Eisner and his right-hand men were. Their original ideas were sanded down into predictable blandness. Cars 2 is easily as creatively bankrupt a cash grab as any cheapquel, and the sequels just keep coming fast and furious.

It's high time that animation buffs stop this inane studio loyalty (remember the "Save Disney" era when Pixar was heralded as more artistic than Disney or Dreamworks). They're all headed towards the same mediocrity or are there already. I had to learn this hard lesson with Democrats and Republicans, and now I have to learn it again with Pixar.

Floyd Norman said...

Power corrupts.

Thad said...

They've always been predictable. This "coming of age"/"overcoming adversity" B.S. is the crux of the animated family feature. They were just able to put sheen and finesse over their version of it for a couple years. Even TANGLED was more visually captivating and interesting than anything bearing the Pixar label in the last five years, and that movie was clichéd as all hell!

Pixar made the grave mistake of letting Brad Bird prove he was more talented than the other directors and John Lasseter himself. The eavesdropping I've done during Pixar apparatchiks' conversations has been most illuminating in this regard. You'll be in your cold grave before you see another Bird emerge at Pixar. That studio wants pap, and they're getting it in spades.

Oh well. Hitch your wagon to a corporate death star and you're bound to be screwed in the end. At least we got a couple of good movies out of it.

Anonymous said...

"Pixar made the grave mistake of letting Brad Bird prove he was more talented than the other directors"

First of all, that's an absurd comment. But even if it were true (and it's very arguable), Pixar is to be commended for hiring him and guiding him.

As far as artists like Brenda Chapman and Chris Sanders being treated "shabbily" by Lasseter--you obviously have no idea what you're talking about. Both talented artists, but neither are strong directors--evidenced by neither having written or directed a movie by themselves. I saw American Dog. It was terrible--unwatchable. Haven't seen Brave yet, but also have no idea whey there were 3 full time directors on the film.

Pixar is a business. Sequels can be good. And they're good training ground. Not to mention Pixar has plenty of original projects listed as upcoming.

Someone's bitter.

Anonymous's Mama said...

Wishy washy pros and fanboys, always hiding under anonymous to defend Pixar's teat. Don't worry, little one, one day you too can work on Toy Story 4 for chump change. Pick up some wine from J.L.'s estate on your way back, son. (BTW what kind of animator needs a *winery*, FFS.)

Thad said...

First of all, that's an absurd comment. But even if it were true (and it's very arguable), Pixar is to be commended for hiring him and guiding him.

Brad Bird was always great. He didn't need 'guiding'. If anything, Pixar should commend him for salvaging the flaming bag that was the script for RATATOUILLE into something far more compelling than the original material deserved. The man set a bar that nobody at the studio is willing or wants to match.

As far as artists like Brenda Chapman and Chris Sanders being treated "shabbily" by Lasseter--you obviously have no idea what you're talking about. Both talented artists, but neither are strong directors--evidenced by neither having written or directed a movie by themselves.

This isn't addressed to me, since I made no such comment, but I'd like to point out the complete sycophantic nature inherent in anonymous's comment, and the willingness to buy into The Accepted Version. How can you judge the merit of one's direction if the person in question has never directed a film on their own before? Likewise, how do you judge the ability of one's writing if that person has never written a script solo?

Yes, it is a business, but that business was once interesting and inspiring. Do you think TOY STORY 3 and BRAVE as good as THE INCREDIBLES or MONSTERS INC.? If they aren't, what is the difference?

Kevin W. Martinez said...
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Kevin W. Martinez said...

Brad Bird had proved his mettle WELL before Pixar with Family Dog, The Iron Giant and his work on the Simpsons. He's the kind of guy who could thrive ANYWHERE.

Sanders had co-directed Lilo and Stitch before American Dog, and Chapman had co-directed Prince of Egypt before Brave, so they weren't inexperienced neophytes off the streets. I refuse to believe that their original films were so bad that their ****canning was truly warranted.

Playing musical chairs with directors is something that's associated with other, lesser studios, and Pixar is already moving towards BEING just another "other studio". It won't be long before Pixar is at the Hotel Transylvania extreme, throwing director after director at a derivative, half-baked concept, while the only hints of creativity are banished to the "Art Of" books and anonymous muckraking online.

Anonymous said...

I've said it before and it bears repeating, the only interesting feature that has come out of Pixar in a long long while has been "The Incredibles". Its a tight movie from start to finish - masterfully directed and written. In contrast, the films of Stanton (and others) have been long in the tooth, preachy and quite frankly very predictable.

It is not enough for a film to be carried by its visual/animation prowess. This lesson apparently must be learned over and over again. It is hilarious to me how much the "story is king" statement is attributed to the Brain Trust at Pixar. Spare me. The stories are not breaking any new ground.

Let's be honest with ourselves everyone - Pixar is a business and will remain a business. If producing 12 Cars movies and 5 Finding Nemo's works for toys and other franchises then they will be done. Bleed it dry. And then eventually, perhaps, we'll experience a Don Bluth type of exodus out of the studio to set up a new and exciting studio that will have a good 10-15 year run.

As far as Pixar is concerned - it is over.

Martin Juneau said...

Hi Mark! It's since a while i didn't take a tour in your blog.

I agree with the argument. Pixar was a strong innovation in animation back in the 90's/2000's but nowadays is limited to create sequels and made quick cash. My Pixar's humiliation started with Wall-E, and the new "Brave" picture don't convince me more.

swtcurran said...

I really can't figure out why we're still calling them Pixar films. They're completely owned by Disney. These are now Disney films.

Anonymous said...

The difference is that Lasseter went out and CHANGED the industry--dragging it into the 21rst Century, While Brad Bird was making Family Dog (a terrific cartoon), John Lasseter was changing the industry and winning Oscars for his short cg animation. Because of Lasseter, Disney changed their production pipeline, and without those changes, films like Lion King might not have been possible. I'm talking CAPS. That explosion of interest in animation led to WB financing a film like Iron Giant among others.

One is not better than the other. But Lasseter grew the industry far more and allowed the projects of Bird to come to fruition. And yes, without a doubt, Lasseter helped guide Bird's projects to completion.

James said...

Pixar may be in decline. Or they may be like 50's Disney - where films were made to promote merchandise and Disneyland rather than creating films for film's sake.

Just as the experimentation of Pinocchio, Fantasia and the shorts were gone by the 50's, so is Pixar's need to do something different.

I love Walt Disney, but his focus was never just as an animator. He hawked his characters to promote all sort of products and not subtly. Now that Pixar have established their image, they're just doing the same thing.

My point is John Lasseter and the Pixar crew might keep making beloved films even though they've sold out - just like Walt Disney.

Anonymous said...

With Incredibles 2 coming on deck, I guess that means Bird has sold out too.

Mark Mayerson said...

What's your source for that?

Anonymous said...

Mark, when I read the announcement of Nemo 2, my first thought was of your post from last year.

I've been a fan of Pixar for a long time (I made a stop-motion version Luxo Jr. with my Super-8 camera back in 1988), but there has been a large disconnect between my reaction to the last few Pixar films (rather negative), and that of the larger moviegoing pubic. I found myself wanting my opinion validated with indisputable evidence of the decline of Pixar.

When I saw the Nemo announcement, I felt I had that evidence at last. But instead of crowing, I felt only very sad, and ruefully reminded myself, "Be careful what you wish for..."

Zek said...

Catmull and (if I remember correctly) Jobs had made a general announcement in the studio atrium about upcoming projects, of which were several sequels. Since Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 came to fruition in the meantime, I'd assume the others will as well - which goes without saying are some of the titles listed by others above.

Lasseter had made a point of saying that he intended to stop the direct-to-video sequel releases from Disney. This is presumably why Toy Story 3 was moved from the SoCal Disney outfit that was to make aforementioned direct-video incarnation (I know of several people that were unceremoniously let go after only a months' time on the project), with the project moved back to Pixar proper.

I dropped a similar comment on an earlier thread, but to echo one of the above commentators, the earlier incarnation of Bolt (American Dog) was indeed pretty bad. Ascribe whatever reasons you will to the why of it, but the end result (that no one outside of studio circles have seen it) was actually a blessing in disguise for Sanders' career.