I was around 7 years old when "Toy Story" came out. It was one of only two movies that my school ever decided to take all its students to. Like every child, I loved animated movies and had grown up on a fair share of Disney classics like “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and “Aladdin.” However, Toy Story was different from the rest. It looked like something I had never seen before. To my naive eye, the cartoons looked so real! It was almost as if I was watching real toys act out in a box; like I could just reach out in the screen and play with them myself. At the same time, the movie itself was exhilarating! I remember literally cheering in the theatre as Woody and Buzz Lightyear shot across and landed safely in Andy’s toy carton. It was pure joy and a rush I had never felt at the movies before.
That was 15 years ago. Little did I realise then that this was the beginning of a new age in animation which was going to revolutionise the genre like never before. There were several films after, each brilliant and each a classic: “A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” “Cars,” “Ratatouille,” “Wall-E” and most recently “Up.” As I recently revisited “Up”, I realised that some of my best memories at the movies, both as a kid and as an adult, I owe to Pixar. Hence, I wanted to write this letter to thank Pixar and all the people behind it, particularly Steve Jobs, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird, Lee Unkrich and Pete Doctor.
Thank you, for not only revolutionising animation and giving some of the most memorable sequences in recent movie history. Sequences involving Wall-E and Eve flying across the universe in balletic harmony; that of Remy sitting atop a building with an unforgettable view of Paris beautifully animated to perfection or the sight of Carl's house flying with the help of thousands of air balloons are not just stunning examples of mastery over animation but also great movie moments more generally. You have proven, over and over, that animation movies are not just for kids. Each of your movies, particularly the later ones, has successfully reached out to a universal audience. They have had themes which everyone can relate to, be it pursuing your own ambitions in “Ratatouille”, the environmental degradation of Earth in “Wall-E” or something as simple and inevitable as aging in the lovable “Up”. For once, family entertainment was not simply a euphemism to describe adults being dragged by kids to theatres to watch something no one but a 6 year old could enjoy or relate to.
Thank you for showing that animated movies can simply be great movies as well; for taking huge risks for the sake of creativity and for emphasising on a screenplay and story just as much as dazzling animation. In 15 years, you have told us stories involving toys, superheroes, fishes, monsters, bugs, odd aspiring chefs and robots. Each has been more endearing than the one before. In “Wall-E”, you gave us a love story with all the classic elements but involving two robots in post-apocalyptic earth. With sustained periods without dialogues, you showed us how much poetry can be found in silence; how much a nudge or furtive glance can convey. You gave us a movie that could be appreciated by kids and adults; romantics and sci-fi enthusiasts. In “Up” you used music and animation to tell the story of Carl and Ellie in such a poignant manner that many in the audience (including myself) were left teary eyed. These are not just great cartoons; they are great stories...great movies. You have made me laugh and cry; tapped into real emotions by giving me characters that I cared about immensely. In an age when movies like “G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra” and “Transformers 2” rule the roost, your movies have shown that big budgets can still be used to create high art.
Just over 73 years ago, the great Walt Disney made one of the biggest gambles of film history and gave us the feature length “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”. In so doing, he ushered in the golden age of animation where Walt Disney churned out one classic after another. However, over time, a formulaic approach crept in and today, even the best of Disney’s solo films fail to recreate the magic of the old movies barring “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King”. In a time where marketing gimmicks and target audiences have taken precedence over aesthetics and original storytelling, the people behind you have emerged as the new age Walt Disney(s); taking risks with every venture simply for the sake of original story-telling, pushing the boundaries of animation and creating a universal audience for it. Yours is one of the few places (in the animation business and outside it), where passion is still integral to film-making. And the result is there for all to see. Thank you, Pixar.
An Educated Illiterate.