Hi. Me again. Welcome back to more ramblings. I was feeling pretty nostalgic this week, so I decided to compile a Top 5 list of Pixar movies. These films have been and continue to be the staples of countless childhoods, having introduced many of us to iconic characters and stories. I’m absolutely positive that if you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard the bass boosted remix of the Monsters Inc. theme song. The instantly recognizable catchphrases of “Kachow!” and “To infinity, and beyond!” have become synonymous with many of our upbringings. These movies have a unique appeal to younger audiences, as well as messages that age with the audience through life. Pixar films have an immense presence in today’s pop culture, and I can definitely say that they’ve had a profound influence on my own life. Because I unfortunately haven’t seen every movie from Pixar, this Top 5 is going to include only those that I’ve seen. Let’s get into it.
5. Finding Nemo (2003)
Starting off our Top 5 is this absolute classic. I’m sure we’re all familiar with this coming-of-age story, and I’m sure that we’ve all tried to speak whale at least once in our lives. What I find to be one of this film’s highlights is its incredible use of color and lush visual style. The coral reef scenes are vivid, very textured, and even the dentist’s fish tank is given an expansive feel that extends beyond its walls. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of this movie is how the relationship between Nemo and Marlin advances throughout the film. Despite the fact that they don’t directly interact for the majority of the time, you can see their connection evolving and developing. The way this dynamic is managed is subtle and masterful.
4. Toy Story (1995)
What might be one of the most iconic songs from a film franchise, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” is the stamp of this landmark movie. At the time of its release, Toy Story was the first of a lot of things. It was Pixar’s first feature film. It was the first installment in the franchise. It was even the world’s first entirely computer-animated feature film. Believe it or not, this was also the film that launched Tom Hanks’ career. This movie deserves a spot on this list because of its ability to bring all of us back to our early days, regardless of age. It is this that gives Toy Story its timeless quality – the common ground of our childhood attachments. We all had toys, stuffed animals, or other objects that we closely associate with our youth. The way in which this film almost forces us to reflect back on these things is beautifully done. What I find most enjoyable about this film is one of its core components being the message of acceptance into a new family, something we’ve all had to deal with in our first year.
3. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Well, well, well. What’s this? A sequel you say?? OF COURSE. Not only is this animation improved, this movie picks up right where its predecessor left off, adding more depth and richness to previously established characters while also introducing new figures. What places this movie above Toy Story is the reversal of roles between Buzz and Woody, with the Space Ranger’s struggle to find a sense of self in the first installment now mirrored in the cowboy. Because Woody had been previously portrayed as the most dependable out of the group, witnessing his newfound uncertainty on where his heart truly lies is an effective contrast that makes for a fantastic character arc. The introduction and inclusion of the new characters of Jessie, Bullseye, and Prospector Pete works to add to the pantheon of Toy Story characters, their interactions also enrich those we were already familiar with.
2. The Incredibles (2004)
Taking the number two spot on our Top 5 is this action-packed film that brings reminiscences of James Bond, both in its musical score and use of snazzy outfits. I find that this film maintains an *incredible* balance between the fairly fast-paced plot and its message of the importance of family. I also appreciate that just about all of the main characters, even Jack Jack, get their own fleshed out, unique personality. I feel that we’re especially able to get a firm grasp on who each family member is as an individual, a facet of superhero movies that I feel sometimes gets overlooked. I also believe that this movie does a fantastic job of showing rather than telling, allowing for the audience to figure out the plot progression via actions of characters and visual storytelling.
Of course, before we get to the Number 1 spot on this list, we have to take a look at some of the movies that didn’t quite make the cut. The honorable mentions are:
1. Ratatouille (2007)
Taking number one on this Top 5 is this masterpiece. Everything about this film, from its captivating plot to its gorgeous visuals, ties together to create a compelling story about a journey to chase a dream. The decision that Remy has to make between family and cooking becomes increasingly prevalent throughout his time in Paris, and I feel that this is eventually resolved in a perfect way, allowing Remy to have the best of both worlds while still following what he loves. Pairing this with Ego’s monologue/review gives us a look at not only the impact that a good meal can have, but also gives us a glimpse into the artist’s perspective. In addition, one of the factors that truly separated this film from others is the stunning score composed by Michael Giacchino. He was able to heighten every scene via music, whether it be a scene of suspense, drama, relaxation, or action. The song “La Festin” has also taken a place of prominence in pop culture. In rewatching this movie several days ago, I found one of my favorite quotes from an animated film, spoken by Remy in response to his father asking where he’ll go when they part ways: “With luck, forward.”