Rekindling Pixar

The 2007 documentary, The Pixar Story, reminds you of the animation studio's brilliance.

Rekindling Pixar

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary on that huge productivity killer, Netflix. The documentary was 'The Pixar Story (2007)' and it was fantastic.

To tell you the truth, going into the film I had very little knowledge of Pixar. I knew they were a film animation studio, whose main body of work was in partnership with Disney and they made one of the best films of mine, and certainly many others, childhood - 'Toy Story' along with 'Finding Nemo', 'Monster's Inc.' and 'The Incredibles'. I knew that their logo was the animated lamp that jumps onto the letter 'I' in Pixar and I kind of had a vague knowledge that Steve Jobs was an investor in Pixar. That was as far as I had ever got.

As you grow up you start thinking that family films - like a lot of the films Pixar produces - are actually children's films and as a teenager and young adult that is prettyuncool. So my interest in Pixar deteriorated over time. That trend started to change when in 2010 Disney released Toy Story 3, and not only did I actually go to a cinema to see it (yeah - apparently they do still exist) but it was really good too.

'The Pixar Story' piqued my interested and the narrative behind the company is fascinating. I won't give away a lot of the insights that they give in the film, and I would really encourage you to watch it, but there were some great facts that I just had absolutely no idea about.

For instance, John Lasseter - Pixar's Chief Creative Officer - actually used to work in Disney animation in the 80's before being fired from his position there for trying to create a computer enhanced animated short. After this, he joined George Lucas's Lucasfilm Computer graphics group where he created the first computer animated short. George Lucas sold the Computer Graphics Group, it landed investment from Steve Jobs, and became Pixar.

The first short Pixar produced was called 'Luxo Jr.' - featuring two lamps playing with a ball. The animated lamp went onto become Pixar's hopping lamp logo.

Their first full length film was 'Toy Story' and was distributed by Disney and this became a phenomenal hit - because the ideas, the characters and the animation were so clever and imaginative. They managed to replicate this feat over and over again. The documentary concludes with the eventual sale of Pixar to Disney, where John Lasseter was named Chief Creative Officer of both Pixar and Disney's own 'Walt Disney Animation Studios'.

After this I decided to catch up on the Pixar films I had missed during the 'winter years' and almost without exception they are all brilliant. I think in my head I had managed to muddle a lot of computer animated films into one place and decided they were all Pixar films. Most animated films are rubbish, animated on the cheap with very little in the way of an clever story or interesting characters (ahem...Shrek the Halls - I'm looking at you) usually just because it is the 'in' thing. Pixar films are genuinely different, you can tell that the people that work on these films genuinely care about the experience they give people. The documentary even highlighted how many edits and decisions it took to get the expression on Nemo's face just right for about 2 seconds at the towards the end of the film, so that the animation reflected the story.

I had some free Amazon credit, and so I even purchased Frozen and watched that, even with the hype, it was still a really enjoyable film and the usual fairytale ending of 'Prince saves vulnerable woman' was subverted and a different type of love broke the evil spell.

Family films may not come that high on your watch list, but if you had to choose some then make it Pixar films and you won't regret it. Too worried about seeming cool? Find a younger relative, or someone you know that has children and use that as excuse;

"I'm only watching it for the kids..."

That doesn't float your boat either? Turn off Facebook sharing on Netflix and allow yourself to indulge - no one will know but you'll enjoy it.