Rank and File: Pixar Movies - Part 2

We're entering a holiday weekend, which means we get a little extra free time. How to spend it? How about tearing into some Chinese food with my friend Tiffany and having a Pixar triple feature? The happiness that the eggroll generates just might mitigate some of the torture of having to rank movies that are all terrific.

Toy Story 2 (1999)

I remember that Pixar had a streak of homeruns, but had forgotten that they'd released a sequel so early into the run. They're known for original ideas, so I'm interested what people must have thought when they saw Pixar going back to the well of established characters so soon. Whatever suspicions they may have had must have melted away pretty quickly, because Toy Story 2 is fantastic. This one reunites Woody with the other characters from his popular TV show in the '50s. Jessie, Stinky Pete, and Bullseye the horse are thrilled about going to a museum in Japan now that Woody completes the set, and Woody must decide between the admiration of strangers, or the risk of depending on one kid's love.

I don't think I can convey the agony of trying to decide whether this should fall above Toy Story or below. They both excel at different things, and we spent several minutes with our heads bent over our notebooks, weighing the evidence and discussing the casting and the story, and saying things like, "But this one was such an emotional gutpunch!" We finally came to our respective decisions, which was also the first point at which our rankings diverge, though for the most minuscule of details.

The short was easier to assign. Luxo Jr. was produced in 1986, and introduces the bouncy lamp that would become Pixar's mascot. Luxo and Luxo Jr. kick a ball around, and while it's cute, and helpful to understanding the company's history, it didn't do a lot for me. Tiffany, who works with movies for a living, found a lot more resonance in it, so when I publish her ranking at the end of the project, Luxo Jr. will be treated with higher regard.

Current Feature Rankings:

#1: Toy Story 2 (1999)
#2: Toy Story (1995)
#3: A Bug's Life (1998)

Current Short Rankings:

#1: Geri's Game (paired with A Bug's Life)
#2: Luxo Jr. (paired with Toy Story 2)
#3: Tin Toy (paired with Toy Story)

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

The rankings didn't get any easier when Monsters, Inc. came along, as it's just as stellar as the two Toy Story movies. Casting played a big part in this movie; I can't imagine anyone other than Billy Crystal and John Goodman as Mike and Sully, two monsters trying to scare enough kids into screaming to offset the monster world's power shortage. The secondary characters are terrific, too, from bad guy Randall (Steve Buscemi) to Mike's snake-haired girlfriend Celia (Jennifer Tilly) to acerbic office worker Roz (Bob Peterson).

It's a very funny movie, but when a human child finds her way into the monster world, Sully's efforts to protect her provide a huge and powerful emotional component as well. I remembered this movie as being pretty good, and was unprepared for how much I liked it this time around. It's masterfully done.

The short, For the Birds, is cute too, if a bit slight. A bunch of mean little birds wordlessly mock a big, awkward one, only to get their comeuppance. It's well-animated and it made me laugh, but lacked a certain something that made something like Geri's Game so special. It's basically an animated knock-knock joke.

Current Feature Rankings:

#1: Toy Story 2 (1999)
#2: Monsters, Inc. (2001)
#3: Toy Story (1995)
#4: A Bug's Life (1998)

Current Short Rankings:

#1: Geri's Game (paired with A Bug's Life)
#2: For the Birds (paired with Monsters, Inc.)
#3: Luxo Jr. (paired with Toy Story 2)
#4: Tin Toy (paired with Toy Story)

Finding Nemo - 2003

The thing that's most surprising about this Pixar ranking project is how... Well, surprising it is. Despite the impressions these movies left in my mind after I first saw them, I assumed the sequels were always inferior to the original story. I assumed that there would be a clear hierarchy, and that assigning ranks would be pretty easily done. And I assumed that watching a movie I've already seen couldn't recapture the sense of awe and wonder I felt when I first saw it. All of these assumptions have been wrong, and Finding Nemo is responsible for crushing that last one into dust.

It tells the story of overprotective clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks), who sets off on a journey to rescue his son Nemo (Alexander Gould) after Nemo gets captured by a SCUBA diver. Along the way, Marlin encounters a forgetful fish named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) who wishes to help, but whose talents are unappreciated by Marlin at first. Meanwhile, Nemo is having an adventure of his own in a dentist office fish tank.

I can't find enough good things to say about this movie. The animation is stunningly gorgeous. The story has no lagging parts; it's all essential. The voice cast is spot-on. It's funny. It's sad. It's heartfelt. I had been expecting that once the movie was over, Tiffany and I would debate its pros and cons and have to think for a while about where to place it on the ranking. Instead, we both placed it instantly. So far, this is the Pixar movie to beat.

The short is a little more underwhelming. It's another one of the older productions that Pixar was burning off before they turned their attention to new short films. Knick Knack is about a snowman in a snowglobe who wants to hang out with the other, more tropical tchotchkes on a shelf, but is stymied by his barrier. I find myself using the word "cute" a lot in reference to these shorts, but it fits. For the Birds was a similarly light little story, but had the advantage of great animation, so Knick Knack will have to slide below that one.

Current Feature Rankings:

#1: Finding Nemo (2003)
#2: Toy Story 2 (1999)
#3: Monsters, Inc. (2001)
#4: Toy Story (1995)
#5: A Bug's Life (1998)

Current Short Rankings:

#1: Geri's Game (paired with A Bug's Life)
#2: For the Birds (paired with Monsters, Inc.)
#3: Knick Knack (paired with Finding Nemo)
#4: Luxo Jr. (paired with Toy Story 2)
#5: Tin Toy (paired with Toy Story)


Post a Comment

Copyright © Slice of Lime