Everyone knows Pixar as one of the premiere animation studios on the planet. But did you know Pixar was originally part of Lucasfilm? It’s true; before Pixar became a separate company it was a division of George Lucas’ company, where it worked on creating computer technology that could be used in special effects. Its early work included some of the first computer-generated special effects in movies, including Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Young Sherlock Holmes. That’s one of the facts featured in this all-Pixar edition of You Think You Know Movies!
Do you wanna build a snowman... again? Disney sure hopes so, as they announced in a new press release today that their mega-successful Frozen would gain a sort of mini-sequel in an upcoming short to be bundled with Coco. But Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is no ordinary lead-in to the main event; it sounds like quite a bit has gone into the short that Disney repeatedly refers to as a “featurette,” running at 21 minutes and including four new songs, as well as returning cast members Josh Gad, Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, and Jonathan Groff. Parents, batten down the hatches, for a new ‘Let It Go’ is close at hand.
For some Pixar fans, the Cars series represents a fork in the road; the moment when Pixar ended its “run of greatness” and “lost its way” after a decade-long string of critical and commercial hits. Writers hold up this franchise as evidence of a corruption in the beloved animation studio’s “soul”; many believe it’s responsible for Pixar’s “first bad movie.”
While Pixar’s animated world of anthropomorphic automobiles may very well continue on past Cars 3, there’s a whole lot of finality going on in the final trailer for Pixar’s latest chapter in the racing saga. “One new turn…One more dream…One last chance” reads the title cards in the new trailer for the sequel, in which Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen suffers a crippling accident that threatens to end his career. I swear this movie is still totally for kids.
Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to Emeryville, California to screen footage from Pixar’s Cars 3, at the company’s headquarters and studio. At these sorts of advanced screenings it’s made clear from the start that you’re not seeing the entire movie, only select portions, and the amount they show you can vary. I attended a similar preview for The Good Dinosaur a few years ago in New York City and only saw three brief scenes from the movie.
To date, Pixar Animation Studios has released 17 feature films. 16 hold positive ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. The lone exception? Cars 2. And the second-lowest scoring Pixar movie on Rotten Tomatoes is the first Cars, with a 74 percent rating. Critics don’t like Cars.
Is Pixar losing their touch? They’re no longer the coolest animation house, having ceded some of that street cred to the international curators of GKids and the stop-motion prestidigitators at Laika. They’re not the most profitable, either, as their box office receipts are regularly dwarfed by the money factories erected by parent company Disney or Illumination. (Last year’s mega-smash Finding Dory was sorely needed after the underperforming The Good Dinosaur.) Pixar’s rep as the industry’s most creativity-driven, unfailingly excellent studio has faded as they’ve leaned a little harder on moneymaking sequels — Cars 3, coming soon! — but today brings the news that they’ve taken a significant step into regaining supremacy over the industry.
Who knew automated vehicles were also subject to the scrutiny that comes with aging? They may not have to worry about wrinkles, greying hair, or sagging skin, but when cars reach a certain age, it’s straight to the junkyard. (This incites a whole other philosophical discussion around the Cars characters and whether or not they are sentient beings – is their consciousness the engine or the frame, the ghost or the shell?) In Cars 3, racing champ Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is forced to retirement as a brand new racer enters the game.
Over 22 years, Pixar Animation Studios has released 17 movies (the 18th, Cars 3, opens in theaters in June) made by hundreds of artists and animators. Their stories feature princesses, monsters, ants, robots, superheroes, fish, and the embodiments of human emotions; their settings range from a child’s suburban bedroom to the rat-infested kitchen of a Parisian restaurant. But all of these movies, no matter what they’re about or who made them, all share a few common elements, principles the filmmakers at Pixar use to guide their work.
Children’s entertainment is full of anthropomorphized objects and animals. To kids, talking automobiles are no more or less strange than babies who are bosses or teenage turtles who get mutated into ninja warriors. But to the parents and adults who watch the Cars movies with these children, their internal logic and rules are a source of endless fascination.
Describing a car as “villainous” is kind of silly, but this is the world of Pixar, where it’s totally normal for inanimate objects to become anthropomorphic friends and foes. The latest batch of photos from Cars 3 reveal a bit of both, including our first look at new baddie Jackson Storm, voiced by Armie Hammer. Pixar has also revealed some additional plot details from their next big sequel, which hits theaters this summer.