When Pixar Animation Studios unveiled its first feature film in 1995, it represented a rebellious pushback against a formula that some people might not have been conscious of until watching Toy Story. Only then were audiences reminded that not all mainstream animation needed to have Broadway-style songs, straightforward leading characters paired with talking-animal sidekicks, or the like. When The Little Mermaid was released in November of 1989, it felt like the culmination of what Disney animation and its rivals were trying to accomplish in reviving the form for a younger generation; movies like The Great Mouse Detective and An American Tail had paved the way, but didn’t approach the same qualitative cohesion as the story of Ariel and her dreams of being human. But within 6 years, its story structure, characterization, and aural composition were no longer even mildly groundbreaking. The same happened with Pixar and its films; even though Toy Story owes a great debt to the buddy comedies of the 1980s, its combination of unique visuals, childhood nostalgia, and action once felt fresh and new.
The gravitational pull of the endless Star Wars franchise is inescapable in modern cinema. Though there have only been six live-action films in the series, the vast ocean of toys, theme-park attractions, animated TV series, books, and more make it impossible to avoid, even before there were rumors of a new trilogy. After the Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm in the fall of 2012, the rumors became truth: within just a few years (now under 2 years), a new trilogy of Star Wars films would be unveiled, following up on the events of Return of the Jedi. Since that time, it’s been assumed that Disney wouldn’t just make new live-action films in that galaxy far, far away. Why not make more animated films, or spin-off series, and so on? For now, at least, these are rumors.
Pixar is no stranger when it comes to awards season. The animated films have earned a wealth of nominations in the short history of the studio, adding to Pixar’s respectable status as one of the elite studios in the film industry. Even now, after the animation house has released its first films that were not universally beloved, the brand carries a certain sense of quality. Monsters University, the latest great Pixar film, extends that quality and is racking up some love from awards organizations. Today, it was announced that the film had earned a BAFTA nomination.
While Pixar films have received mixed responses from critics over the last few years, the general public continues to come out in droves. The Pixar brand is the strongest in Hollywood, with all 13 of its prior films debuting at the top spot of the weekend box office during their opening weekends. In North America alone, those films have together brought in over $3 billion. Monsters University, which opened this past weekend, has kept the perfect streak going, raking in approximately $82 million. Find more details after the break!
One of the biggest criticisms directed at Pixar today is that the studio has become reliant on producing sequels to its films rather than films based on original stories. We live in an era where franchises are highly sought after by major studios because they are more likely to be successful at the box office. Films such as Star Wars Episode VII and Fast & Furious 7 are currently in development and will likely bring in hundreds of millions of dollars. Audiences have a connection with the characters in franchises, hence the larger success rate. Pixar’s argument has been that it is not looking to develop sequels – it is seeking to bring great stories to the screen. Toy Story 2 and 3 were success stories. Monsters University, Pixar’s first prequel which arrives in theaters today, is another great addition to the studio’s catalog. Check out the spoiler-free review after the break!
We’re just a few weeks away from the debut of Pixar’s first prequel – Monsters University opens June 21 in theaters everywhere. To celebrate, we asked you to submit your best Monsters Mash-Up. Take any of the characters from the ‘Monsters’ universe and smash ‘em up with just about anything else. The results have been unsurprisingly entertaining! In this first batch alone, we see monsters invading the worlds of Star Wars, The Incredibles and The Lord of The Rings.
In early April, I was invited to visit Pixar to preview its upcoming films for the year, Monsters University and The Blue Umbrella, and to speak to the filmmakers that worked on them. One of the concerns (translation: nitpicks) that some Monsters, Inc. fans had after the announcement of prequel Monsters University was the comment Mike made to Sulley in the original film that inferred they knew each other in the fourth grade. With the prequel film revolving around the story of how Mike and Sulley met in college, there was a vocal minority that complained about what seemed to be a contradiction. After the break, read what MU director Dan Scanlon had to say about that!