April 26, 2009

Apropos of Nothing: Pixar Poll

Although WALL·E was the first Pixar movie to make my annual Top 10 list, it's hardly my favourite from the studio. With Up just around the corner, curious to see if there's a consensus around here as to the best Pixar feature; I think my personal order of preference would go something like:
  1. Monsters, Inc.
  2. Toy Story 2
  3. WALL·E
  4. The Incredibles
  5. Finding Nemo
  6. Toy Story
  7. Ratatouille
  8. A Bug's Life
  9. Cars

What say you? And does anyone actually like Cars?

29 comments:

Dan said...

For me:

1. WALL-E
2. The Incredibles
3. Toy Story
4. Monsters, Inc.
5. Toy Story 2
6. Finding Nemo
7. Ratatouille
8. A Bug's Life
9. Cars

I'm sure Up will be good, but I'm not actually that excited yet. Pixar films plays better on Blu-ray at home for me, too (too many shrieking kids at the cinema.)

Patrick said...

1. Ratatouille
2. WALL·E
3. The Incredibles
4. Monsters, Inc.
5. Finding Nemo
6. Toy Story 2
7. Toy Story
8. A Bug's Life
9. Cars**

I haven't even seen Cars, so not interested am I in that. As an honorary Pixar, I would also rank The Iron Giant at Number 1. As for UP, I hope it can make the Top 5, but I don't expect contender for the top spot.

Dave Gibson said...

What a track record--seems to me that "Cars" is the only one on the list which seems to be anomalously mediocre--but mostly relative to the other Pixar features.

My #1 vote would be for "Toy Story 2" the best sequel ever made, keep "Cars" at the bottom and just mix and match the others as you please, they are all great--maybe not as fond as Monsters Inc--but that's probably a Billy Crystal thing

Jonathan said...

I'm in a similar position as Bill with regard to Wall-E: it isn't my favorite of the Pixar films, but, because the local art-house theater had taken to running things like Iron Man and Puppy! on one of its two screens and had The Visitor running on the other screen for three months last year, I had to say that it was near the top of my best-of list for 2008 until well into this year when I was able to take care of most of my major blind-spots via DVD.

As for breaking down the Pixars, I hold most of them in high regard; because I work with children, I've had to watch most of them more times than I can count, and I've been impressed by how well they tend to hold up over time and over repeat viewings. So I'd say:

1. Ratatouille.
2. The Incredibles.
3. Finding Nemo.
4. Wall-E.
5. Toy Story 2.
6. Monsters, Inc..
7. Toy Story.

Those seven, I would argue, all belong to varying degrees in any discussion of the best films of their respective years.

8. A Bug's Life.
9. Cars.

The former of those two is pleasant but slight, while the latter is noxious enough to make itself into the easy target it has become. Needless to say, Cars is the favorite of most of the children I work with, so it's the one I've had to endure most often. But it's still preferable to any of the Shreks or Madagascar.

Anonymous said...

nemo
incredibles
----------------
ratatouille
toy story 1&2
wall-e
----------------
monsters inc
a bug's life
----------------
cars

Tom

Midgard Dragon said...

WALL-E is the best Pixar film by far. Note the number of Best Picture awards from regional critics groups that no other Pixar film has even come close to. Note the relative ranking between WALL-E and other Pixar (heck, even other animated) films on IMDb. WALL-E has shown time and time again that it's not only one of the best films, but Pixar's best by far.

mark palermo said...

1. Toy Story
2. Ratatouille
3. Toy Story 2
4. Finding Nemo
5. WALL-E
6. The Incredibles
7. A Bug's Life
8. Monsters, Inc.
9. Cars

Alex Jackson said...

1. WALL·E
2. Toy Story 2
3. Ratatouille
4. The Incredibles
5. Toy Story
6. Finding Nemo
7. Monsters, Inc.
8. Cars

I never saw Bug's Life.

Strangely, it doesn't look like there is a consensus.

Have you guys seen Toy Story 1 lately? The animation is 14 years old and it shows. It's obsolete and aesthetically it doesn't compare to Pixar's later achivements. One of the depressing drawbacks that CGI has relative to cell animation.

maximilian said...

The Incredibles
Wall-E
Finding Nemo

Monsters, Inc.
Toy Story 2

Ratatouille

A Bug's Life
Cars
Toy Story

As a college stoner who adored animation, I loathed Toy Story and thought it was madness that those dead-eyed marketing dolls had not only gotten rave reviews but had grossed a fuck-ton of $$.

A Bug's Life was an improvement, especially over the travesty that was Antz; but I was torn about jacking The Seven Samurai wholesale...sure, (some) kids won't get it until years later, but while I admired the improvement in technique, it still didn't bode well.

Then Toy Story 2 floored me. Didn't even want to go, but I had dragged the special lady friend at that time to plenty of films she didn't want to see, so I figured turnabout is fair play and all.

After that, excepting Lasseter's vanity project Cars?

Double plus wins.

Kyle Puetz said...

1. The Incredibles
2. Wall-E
3. Ratatouille
4. Finding Nemo
5. Monsters, Inc.
6. Toy Story 2
7. Toy Story

8. A Bug's Life
9. Cars

For me, Bird and Stanton are where it's at. I think I adore Ratatouille because it works so well as a companion piece to The Incredibles, which I think is the stickiest of the lot.

Cars is stunningly bad, and I only even saw it because I was doing a project on regional and social dialects in children's films.

Jefferson said...

WALL-E at the top, Ratatouille a close second, and Cars somewhere lower than the bottom. The stuff in between is so close in quality that it becomes a multi-way tie.

O'JohnLandis said...

Not only have I ranked the Pixar films here before, it's possible I might have done so twice. Still, any reason to talk about Pixar works for me. And, though they're hardly different, I'll offer both a "Best" list and a "Favorite" list.

Best
1. Ratatouille

2. The Incredibles
3. Monsters Inc.
4. WALL·E

5. Finding Nemo
6. Toy Story 2
7. Toy Story
8. A Bug's Life

9. Cars

Favorite
1. Ratatouille
2. WALL·E

3. Monsters Inc.
4. The Incredibles
5. Finding Nemo

6. Toy Story
7. Toy Story 2
8. A Bug's Life

9. Cars

Ratatouille is a transcendent masterpiece--funny, charming, and inventive, it's the best movie about creating art and criticizing art that I've seen. WALL·E, in its second half, is a bit of a mess, but I cried at the end. I couldn't really ignore that.

The Incredibles is an awesome essay and an awesome action movie AND it has Sarah Vowell, but deep down I'd rather my Pixar movies have a bit more emotional resonance. In this respect, Monsters, Inc., though slight, is nearly perfect and it marked an important evolutionary step.

Finding Nemo is very sweet, but the story kinda bugs me. It seems like the most traditional story Pixar has told, which doesn't make it bad, but I think it suffers from obstacle fatigue. Toy Story 2 is better than Toy Story in pretty much every way, but when I think of the series, I think of the first.

A Bug's Life is pretty bland. I prefer Antz--it has inferior art direction and animation, but it also has Woody Allen and a pulse.

Cars is terrible. From what I hear, everyone at Pixar kinda suspected it was going to be terrible, though they probably didn't predict it was going to be bad in such a weird way. It has the stupidest concept in the history of the medium, forced on the company by its boss, who has done some very good things and who is, from what I can tell, a pretty nice guy. Still, the concept is "Larry the Cable Guy in a car racing movie in which every machine and sentient being is a talking car" and someone had to stop this movie from happening. The funny thing, though, is that if it had been made without all the drowsy emotional padding it didn't come close to earning, I might have regarded it as a goofy failure instead of an Emperor's New Clothes atrocity.

DaveA said...

1. Monster Inc.
2. Wall-E tied with Incredibles
4. Ratatouille
5. Finding Nemo tied with Toy Story 2
7. Bug's Life
8. Toy Story
9. That movie with those speaking cars

I dearly love Monsters Inc., since I absolutely dig the slapstick elements in Pixar's movies, and 'Monsters' embraces this element without restraint. I always have to laugh just by thinking at the opening minutes.

Wall-E would be tied with Monsters Inc. without the second half, which was just too obvious and sometimes on the brink of lecturing the audience. This is also my main beef with some of Pixar's movies: a lurking anti-modernist stance, which is ironic given they are the ones who made computer animation the business it is today. This is especially the case with The Incredibles, where anytime I see it I can't help sympathizing with Syndrome. Isn't it a much bigger achievement to build this stuff, than just being born with it? Also, all this saving of the nuclear family in the end just gives me the creeps.

Anonymous said...

1. Ratatouille/The Incredibles

Brad Bird's beautifully humane sort of objectivist ideals make cogent arguments for both a decrease in liberalism and in a increase in certain conservative values while still remaining resolutely pro society and co-operation.


2. Monsters Inc

The final 15 minute chase through the doors is one of the most imaginative things I've ever seen.


3. Wall*E

That sparse, lonely, first 30 minutes might the most purely cinematic stuff Pixar has ever done and though I can never really get behind "foolish mope wins girl way out of his league" love stories the visuals and sound design make it more than bearable.

4.5.6.7. Nemo, Toy Story 2, TS1, Bug's Life

All amazingly fun films with high re-watchability factors. I've not seen Cars.

jer fairall said...

Jonathan: Puppy!?

***

I still haven't seen A Bugs Life or Monsters Inc, but here goes:

1. Ratatouille
2. The Incredibles
3. Toy Story 2
4. Toy Story
5. Wall-E
6. Finding Nemo
7. Cars

ray said...

I think by far WALL-E is best and my favorite. It captures perfectly the spirit of the pre-Brad Bird Pixar (which is highlighted in the Pixar documentary included with the WALL-E DVD). But unlike most Pixar movies, WALL-E has a depth and sophistication that is timeless.

Still, here's my top 5:
WALL-E
Monsters, Inc.
The Incredibles
Finding Nemo
Ratatouille

Bemis said...

1. Wall-E
2. The Incredibles
3. Toy Story 2
4. Ratatouille
5. Toy Story
6. Finding Nemo
7. Monsters Inc.
8. A Bug's Life

Haven't seen Cars - my wife warned that it was like listnening to "Life is a Highway" for two hours - and I was bummed but not surprised to read that it's Pixar's biggest cash cow. A friend's kid has Cars clothes, toys, bedsheets, etc., and I'm not sure if he's ever seen the entire movie. I've seen Monsters Inc. far more than any of the others as it's one of six features my two-year-old will watch from beginning to end (she also loves the films of Wes Anderson, for some reason).

Mike A. said...

WALL-E is brilliant for how its environmentalism is mainly window-dressing for a much more complicated statement about machine love and the definition of humanity. It's all about how life bursts, chaotically, from the un-life of programmed uniformity. And in its metafictional aspects, it becomes a commentary on WALL-E's real-world status as a beloved corporate cartoon mascot.

It's this essay "Metal Gender" that put WALL-E's love story in perspective for me. I actually prefer the second half over the first. In a perfect world, this would have came with the DVD:
http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=384

I can't quite decide if it's a better attempt at defining life and humanity than Blade Runner or Ghost in The Shell 1&2 are, but it's certainly in the same league. And it's refreshingly, realistically optimistic about it all.

Toy Story 1 and 2 both get better in retrospect, when they're read as presenting people's anthropomorphization of mass-produced objects (like robots, dolls and cartoon characters) as a way of literally imbuing them with agency.

With all the thematic connections between their films, I'm staring to think of Pixar as a collective auteur, which makes me hesitant to single out any one of their directors with the most praise. Their strongest films, however, always strike me as being specifically about cartooning, as a process, while their weakest don't exhibit that self-awareness over drawing life from a machine. Cars is like a negative version of the WALL-E story, and arguably a prediction of the misanthropic anthropomorphizing in Transformers. Bug's life also suffers somewhat, ending up a much weaker version of WALL-E's 'life emerging from a hive-mind' story. I think this quote from Outlaw Vern's Cars review sums up the difference: "I mean the main thing I wondered was how do cars reproduce? Do they mate, or do they just build other cars?" Wall-E succeeds because it answers those questions.

That being said, I'm very much looking forward to UP now that it's revealed to be about dogs literally being enhanced with cartoon technology to make them appear more human. Heady stuff, this children's films.

Jonathan said...

Jer, my old epinions web-of-trustee,

Puppy! = Marley & Me. At the local "independent" theater.

Back on topic: I'm glad to see the overall fondness for Monsters, Inc. in the comments here, since I've never understood either the popular or critical preferences for Shrek over that one, even if it isn't Pixar's best.

Stephen Reese said...

1. Monsters, Inc.
2. The Incredibles
3. WALL·E
4. Toy Story 2
5. Toy Story
6. Ratatouille
7. Finding Nemo
8. A Bug's Life
9. Cars

Jefferson said...

For discussion: WALL-E as a for-kids equivalent of Dark Knight.

Dan said...

Hehe, I play this game with my nine-year-old all the time - his list changes more frequently than mine, but I'm somehow always relieved to hear that Cars is nowhere near the top of the list, even for him.

1. Ratatouille
2. The Incredibles
3. Toy Story 2
4. Finding Nemo
5. WALL-E
6. Toy Story
7. A Bug's Life
8. Monsters Inc.
9. Cars

Actually, Monsters Inc. used to score a lot better on my list, but I watched it again recently and found it overbearingly noisy and frenetic - especially in comparison with other Pixar joints. Its quiet moments are worth savoring (e.g. the Barry Lyndon scene with Boo, the hide-and-seek game in the locker room). But I got tired of the enormous amount of screaming and yelling.

Si said...

Glad you brought this up, Bill! Anyway, here we go:

1. Finding Nemo
2. WALL-E
3. Toy Story
4. Monsters, Inc.
5. Toy Story 2
6. The Incredibles

Have only seen bits of A Bug's Life. Haven't seen Ratatouille (Okay, I've no excuses - I must rectify that in time), and I avoided Cars after reading Walter's review and hearing of Pixar's merger with Disney. Heck, after Cars I was ready to give up on Pixar altogether until WALL-E came along...

Nate said...

1. Ratatouille
2. The Incredibles
3. Monsters, Inc.
4. WALL-E
5. Finding Nemo
6. A Bug's Life
7. Toy Story 2
8. Toy Story

9. Cars

The only one I genuinely don't like is Cars (hence the separation). I never understood the negative press that A Bug's Life gets. I worked at Circuit City (good riddance) when they were pushing it on DVD in 1999 and watched it on repeat for months, and I still like it even after all that.

Anonymous said...

Curious about all the love for Monsters, Inc. - Bill, others, can you shed some light on this with a few paragraphs? It's no Cars but it doesn't strike me as deserving of top of a Pixar list.

Bill C said...

For me at least, MONSTERS, INC., it's just pure joy. I feel like it's brimming with imagination but also has a firm grasp on archetype and tradition--like the ludicrously-appealing walking teddy bear that is Sully, or that killer "Feed the Kitty" homage, respectively. (It might be the most "gateway drug" of any Pixar movie in terms of alighting an interest in Looney Tunes and the like.) There are a million little things I love, too, like the last line of dialogue, which brilliantly inverts the monster's weapon into a question fraught with hope and heartbreak. ("Boo?") The door climax is like something Zemeckis would've concocted at the height of his powers, and beyond that, of all the Pixar features, it's the most solid "hang-out movie," the one you return to for that RIO BRAVO aspect of revisiting old friends.

jer fairall said...

The Monsters, Inc. talk sent me scurrying into the FFC archives to look for an original review, which also turned up the Best of 2001 list. Reading through this, which I hadn't seen before (didn't discover the site 'til 2003, thank you Epinions) I remember Walter expressing some regret over having ranked In The Bedroom so enthusiastically at the time. Which got me thinking...

What other films from this decade (in anticipation of the Best of the Aughts lists on the horizon) has anyone, or perhaps films fans as a whole, really cooled on? Me, I'll be surprised if Monster's Ball, Traffic or any Gus Van Sant film that isn't Elephant are still being talked about by decade's end.

Generally I tend subscribe to Alex's theory that loving a movie once means probably always loving it, but Garden State and Brokeback Mountain are two that I already find myself recanting.

Tony said...

1. The Incredibles
2. Ratatouille
3. WALL-E
4. Finding Nemo
5. Toy Story 2
6. Monsters Inc.
7. Toy Story
8. A Bug's Life
9. Cars

permazorch said...

My favorites, not necessarily what I think is the best:

1. The Incredibles
2. Monsters Inc.
3. WALL-E
4. Ratatouille
5. Finding Nemo
6. Toy Story 2
7. Toy Story
8. A Bug's Life
9. Cars

Honestly, the first 6 are so damn good, I've got nothing to add!