Pixar Films: Anything but Robotic

For more than a decade, the folks at Pixar have provided the world with the finest family entertainment. However, the label “family entertainment” has turned many people away from the Pixar brand. Too often, people say that Pixar’s tales are only entertaining for children. There are also whispers that the latest Pixar film, “Wall-E,” is too serious and political, but these are probably the same people who put “The Lion King” in slow motion to find hidden sexual messages. At the end of the day, Pixar’s latest success is about a lonely, lovable robot looking for love.
But outside of the social commentary peppered throughout “Wall-E,” the main complaint I’ve heard from college students against Pixar goes something like this: “Oh, snort, those movies are all the same! Friends are in a dilemma, get out of the dilemma, live happily ever after—scoff. How can you watch that stuff?”
I hate to break it to you, but Pixar isn’t the first to try this formula. I’m as big a fan of the “Saw” franchise as the next guy, but things don’t always end with the bad guy getting the upper hand and maniacally laughing until he is resurrected in the next sequel. So after name-dropping dozens of Hollywood’s most successful non-animated movies, the next argument from a pretentious, too-good-for-Pixar peer is its lack of stimulation for his or her huge brain.
Pixar’s life lessons have matured along with the animation. From stories of the friendship between monster James and toddler Boo in “Monsters, Inc.”, to the dilemma of identity facing Remy, Alfredo and Ego in “Ratatouille,” there is always plenty to keep adult minds occupied. My mind has never been so wrapped around a story like it has with the “Toy Story” movies. The first “Toy Story” was very simple, as it developed the characters’ friendship and made you fall in love with the toys as if they were your own. The second deals with issues of abandonment and belonging, a movie that undoubtedly lead countless adults to their basements looking for their box of rusty childhood toys. Since the story works on so many levels, it’s one of my favorite movies. But while that’s food for thought, Pixar’s bang can frequently be found in its endings.
I like to think of Pixar endings as a roller coaster of happies. What are happies? Happies are when you grin from ear to ear like a school boy in a candy store. In every Pixar ending, there is seemingly always an instance where the protagonist is on the brink of success right before getting hit with unbearable odds. It is in these moments that Pixar outshines the competition. They bring you back to when you were a kid rooting for your hero, make you feel as helpless as he feels when he falters and then bring you along for his exuberant success. A combination of illuminating visuals and witty dialogue helps to keep parties of all ages satisfied.
A Pixar opponent may say, “Hah, fool! You just proved that Pixar movies are predictable!” But that’s not the point. It’s easy to see a story about washed-up superheroes, a kid fish and his dad, or a depressed bug and say, “Oh, I know how this ends.”
But this narcissistic attitude opposes the atmosphere these films want to create. The Pixar flicks are supposed to take you back to a time when you were just excited to watch a movie as a giddy little kid. Every year I look forward to those two hours of childhood, two hours I desperately need after a year of forgetting what it was all about.
Too often we become so pleased with a celebrity failure magnified in the tabloids that we forget that we’re really all the same. We fail to take advantage of the simple things in life. The Pixar films bring us back to a time of innocence when we rarely read into things and took things for what they were. The inner adult needs to be reminded of innocence, and the folks at Pixar annually make this wish a reality.

Shapan Debnath is a fourth-year psychology major. He can be reached at sdebnath@uci.edu.