Tuesday, 21 August 2012

When Disney Met Pixar

I haven't yet seen Brave and judging by the trailers and reviews I probably won't see it for a while. These are just some general thoughts following the claims that Disney's acquisition has finally taken its toll of the seemingly invinceable Pixar.

In 2006 it was dramatically announced that The Walt Disney Company bought Pixar Animation Studios, and the animation film world, which was largely made out of those two companies, gasped and anxiously waited to see what would happen to Pixar.
The merge between Disney and Pixar was surprising considering the history of bitter rivalry between the companies, made worse when Disney, who handled distribution and marketing for Pixar before the merge, had a disagreement with Pixar following the release of Toy Story 2, and Disney's first attempt to buy Pixar in 2004 ended with Steve Job announcing that Pixar would no longer release films with Disney and that they were looking for another partner to work with. However, in 2006 with Disney's new CEO Robert Iger and a different approach, Disney and Pixar finally came together. 

It was expected that Pixar would change and trample under Disney's regime, but Disney needed Pixar, quite possibly more than Pixar needed Disney, so they can step into the world of computer animation and breath some life into their increasingly flopping films. Therefore, Pixar, which was always with the finger on the pulse technology wise and paraded a row of excellent and successful films both critically and financially, became precious and almost untouchable. It's as if the almighty Disney is tip toeing around Pixar, just as long as they continue to do what it is they're doing to bring in the crowds. 

And indeed Pixar delivered with fantastic and exceptional films like the brilliant Wall-E, Ratatouille and Up. And while I personally don't go crazy for Toy Story films, no doubt I don't know what I'm talking about and am a minority if not the only one. Even Cars and Cars 2, which received mild reviews was forgiven by critics, and made up for for with box office and merchandising success. Disney-Pixar seemed like a match made in heaven. 

What interested me at the time was that no one wondered what happened to Disney. Not only did they buy Pixar, a relatively small company at the time, for a crazy sum of money and the kind of conditions that makes you wonder who actually bought who in this marriage, but it Disney must have put a lot of eggs in that Pixar basket, because it seemed as if Pixar was not affected by the merge at all and only grow stronger. Disney practically made Pixar its animation department and the company that brought us classics like Bambi, Jungle Book, Lady and the Tramp, Aladdin and the only other animation film nominated for Oscar as best film, Beauty and the Beast, almost abandoned animation altogether in favour of a bizarre collection of live action films. Previously talked about hand drawn animation project got lost in between High School Musical and Pirates of the Caribbean films. Disney's own unique animation faded until it almost completely disappeared. With the exception of the lovely Tangled and the charming Enchanted, which while not animation is very much Disney in character, it feels like the animation giant is nearly swallowed by little fish Pixar, and I, for once, miss a bit of Disney.
It feels a little wrong writing any bad word about Pixar. I do love many of their films with a passion and there is no doubt that when it comes to animation technology the company who started as a part of Lucas studios and then was owned by Apple, have no competition, but then again that's kinda what always bothered me about Pixar. Their films are always so slick, smooth and shiny, it's like they are too perfect and daring to think that the Toy Story films are not all that is blasphemy. However, it looks as if Brave is the first film from Pixar to cause a big enough disappointment amongst critics to raise the question has Pixar finally changed following the evil Disney acquisition. 

I don't think Pixar has changed at all during its time with Disney, and I believe the drop in quality of Brave is a result of complacency and the comfortableness that come with the kind of critical and financial success Pixar has been enjoying and not a 'Disney effect'. From what I saw in the trailer as well as the reviews I read, nothing about Brave looks non Pixar-esque, and Pixar kept its own identity after the acquisition with such zeal that I find it hard to believe that things suddenly changed, Brave simply looks tired and banal and doesn't have the kind of originality one would expect from a Pixar film, but it doesn't feel like a Disney film, good or bad, either. It's been a while since any animation film felt like a Disney film.
I'm not an animation expert, I don't even like Anime, which until not long ago I was still referring to as Manga, I have a soft spot for DreamWorks animation, even when they are rubbish, I liked the first Toy Story and the other two bored me and I preferred the first and second Shrek and How to Train your Dragon to all of them, I like Wallace and Gromit, The Fantastic Mr. Fox and I love the Pixar shorts, sometimes more than the film they precede. Most of all I prefer my animation to look like animation, even the most primitive one, and not like an imitation of live action. So really what do I know? Only that maybe Pixar needs a little Disney magic right about now.

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