How Pixar lost its way
Opinions that Pixar has been on the decline are not new; this is a great diagnosis about why it’s been the case. I tend to think that “[x] got lazy and became too corporate and starting cashing in” is an overly-lazy answer, but there is a pretty compelling case here: (1) the move of the “Braintrust” to Disney corporate, rather than remaining siloed in Pixar, (2) the resulting acceptance of sequels that did not add additional meaning or color to the original (i.e., Toy Story 2 vs. Finding Dory), (3) the reduction of complex, compelling themes like parenthood and grief in favor of movies that can easily be theme-park-ized.
I’m not sure I dare to expect much more of what used to make Pixar Pixar: the idiosyncratic stories, the deep emotional resonance, the subtle themes that don’t easily translate into amusement-park rides. I’m thinking of the heartbreaking, waltz-set “Married Life” segment of Up, which packs more emotion into four minutes than most Oscar-nominated dramas manage in their entire running time. Or the wistful solitude of wall-e’s robotic protagonist, left behind on Earth to clean up his creators’ mess. Or Anton Ego’s artful critique of criticism at the end of Ratatouille, arguably the slyest words on the subject since Addison DeWitt’s in All About Eve.
None of these films is scheduled to have a sequel. And none is particularly suited to becoming a theme-park ride (though Disney unveiled Ratatouille: The Adventure at, of course, Disneyland Paris). Which can’t help but raise the question: Would Pixar even bother making those pictures anymore?