Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Pixar is trash

(Okay all you Pixar nuts and Appleheads out there: as a special public service, I am hereby giving all of you the chance to back out of this entry right now. The reason why I'm doing this is because it should be immediately apparent from the title above which I have given this entry regarding the Pixar studio that I do not like it, and this entry will only incense you and proceed to drive many of you to do what so many of you have done in the past over the years and start immediately spamming me with all sorts of vile and vulgar hatemail strewn with profanity and various violent threats regarding what a pathetic and worthless individual I am, how moronic and talentless I am, how I have no imagination or vision, how much I am supposed to be appreciating Steve Jobs's "artistic genius", and how much I deserve to die all sorts of gruesome, graphically described deaths and forever afterwards rot forever in hell. Let's just agree on the fact that our opinions differ and that nothing you say or do or even threaten me with is going to change the fact that I do not like this studio and we can just continue on our merry ways. That will save everybody a heck of a lot of time, headaches, and trouble. Are we agreed on that? I certainly hope so this time. Let's begin.)

Now that I have gotten that little chore out of the way...

So I've been finding myself in the weird defensive position of being apparently a member of a select few who will actually dare to publicly admit that they haven't instantly fallen in love with the output of Pixar. Every since the motion picture Toy Story had proven itself to be quite a huge moneymaker (not beforehand, mind you: before it was a hit, critics were pointing out its many glaring flaws, all of which are still apparent to this day, and it was only after it was a smash that they started unanimously praising it), each following movie produced by the studio has been instantly trumpeted as something of an instant masterpiece. Each one gets championed up the wazoo by critics who guarantee that Pixar's input will get around 90% or so on the Rotten Tomatoes notorious "Tomatometer" on an annual basis; they each get cooed over by a salivatingly delirious mob of fans who regularly proclaim each film flawless; they regularly snatch up Academy Award nominations each year in various categories; and many critics have even gone so far as to proclaim Pixar as being one of the best animation studios ever founded in the medium's history.

And no, I don't care for them at all.

Oh, on occasion I may find an angle or two here and there interesting or a new idea on how to finish a shot, but mostly I find these movies simply bore me to pieces. The truth is, the Emperor has no clothes.

Want to feel shunned and alone in the world? When asked, try politely responding that you personally don't care for Pixar. And when asked why, trying politely explaining that you don't care for their writing because it is the exact same formulic writing for bad movies that we had to put up with throughout the seventies and eighties. Try explaining that Pixar movies are filled with the precise same formulas that you yourself try desperately to avoid in your own work, that their plots and situations are by-the-numbers cliche, that their characters fail to be completely rounded and developed personalities. Try saying that you find their visuals ugly, cheap looking and lacking any genuine expression or emotion whatsoever. And to top it all off, try saying that Pixar as a whole reminds you of the writing and quality of DIC Enterprises.

The Pixar brigade will hear none of this, of course. Dare to find flaws in Steve Jobs's series of alleged "masterpieces" and you will be called uncaring, unthinking, unfeeling, worthless, untalented, lacking a heart, lacking any personality, anti-Disney, even anti-American. You will eventually run into others who will tell you that they don't care for Pixar either, but they will admit themselves that they do it quietly so as "not to offend anybody".

Personally, I've grown exhausted with being forced into the whole debate, especially when such people squawk, "But you're SUPPOSED to love Pixar! You're an animator!". As if. As if that was sort of prerequisite for existing within my field.

It doesn't matter how polite you are in answering such questions either.

So why is it that Pixar films are so wildly successful these days if they are so terrible? Well, the films have basically won out by default. Pixar is pretty much the only studio in this country that doesn't really rely on focus groups (that may have changed by now, but I can't say for sure). And as we've all seen many times in the past, any time a studio comes along that had creative control over itself will instantly gather a following over a studio that creates material by committee simply because audiences in this country are starved for artistic honesty in their entertainment these days, a problem which has only grown worse and worse throughout the nineties and the 2000s with the ever worsening commercializing of Hollywood. Even if, say, an animated film was hideous, it will still be more interesting to your average audience than something really smooth and slick and has been preprogrammed by committee. This is the main reason why Japanese animation has been so wildly popular during these past two decades, for instance; some of it is great, some is not, but in either case the output is still guaranteed to be interesting simply because there is far more artistic freedom allowed for animation artists in Japan than their enslaved Hollywood counterparts. Which is really sad.

So yeah, of course Pixar is going to look really impressive to most if you compare it to most of the other animated works offered by Hollywood today, but that's a sad statement on the sorry state of the industry in this country and how little we in the field are allowed to take the reigns of our own work. Most of them are just awful.

One last point I would like to make regarding Pixar: with each new film that rolls around, I seriously get the impression that Steve Jobs and company must really hate people. I mean, seriously, have you ever noticed how people tend to be portrayed in their movies? Either they're the bad guys (Finding Nemo), or not to be trusted (the Toy Story movies) or are simple too greedy and stupid as to create their own doom (Wall-E).

I won't go into just how badly they tend to rip off other films and ideas, nor about how lousy I think John Lasseter is; I'll save that for some other time. But I just needed to write this for now to get it out of my system. Audiences deserve better than Pixar. And even now after spending twenty-five years of doing so, I am still proclaiming that we need a creative call to arms in this country and that we artists need to band together in order to take back our industry and our material.

Whether or not that will ever happen at this rate, however, I have no idea.