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November 16th, 2006


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03:35 pm
Jim Hill has apparently calmed down a bit since I last read him (when he was continually blathering about how Cars was a complete and total failure because it didn't bust the box office records wide open like every other Pixar film before it.) Today one of his staff writers presents an article on Pixar's artistic and creative dogma. It's an interesting read, especially the part where it's explained that Pixar made a conscious decision not to let themselves fall into the Typical Disney Story Development traps. This passage completely illustrates it perfectly:
...in charting this course into feature film territory, Pixar came up with a few rules to differentiate themselves from other animated fare. In fact when Tom Hanks was approached to be part of [Toy Story], he probably summed it up nicely when he asked, "You don't want me to sing, do you?"

Of course Pixar calmed his fears early on since they had already determined that in their films there would be:
  • No songs
  • No happy village song
  • No love story
  • No villain
  • No "I want" moment / song
Interestingly enough, when the folks at Disney reviewed Pixar's "Toy Story" script, they were a bit concerned. So some guy named Tim Rice ( I believe it's Sir Tim Rice now) suggested they should add:
  • Songs
  • A happy village song
  • A love story
  • A villain
  • An "I want" moment / song
It was at this point that Pixar knew they were on the right track...
Okay, so perhaps they've gone back on some of these commandments (I would certainly count Al from Al's Toy Barn in Toy Story 2 a villain, and of course Syndrome from The Incredibles...) but when they've revisited that which was forbidden, they've done a good job of approaching the cliches and making something useful out of them. Such as, say, Jessie's song from Toy Story 2, the emotional highlight of the film, or Syndrome's meta-villainous attitude ("Oh, you sly dog, you got me monologuing!")

Cars perhaps went a little too far ("Life Is A Highway" annoyed me) but there you go. In the past 12 years, Pixar has done their damndest to retool American feature animation, to get it out of the Disney Story Mold. There's a lot more to do, and the production company certainly isn't infallible, but man, they've done a lot of good stuff.

Yes, I'm summing up by saying "they done did some more gooder stuff." Deal with it, pinkboy. My lunch is over and I gotta go back to work.

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:nolly
Date:November 16th, 2006 09:45 pm (UTC)
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Cars bugged me because I'd watched Doc Hollywood too recently. Cars is the least original story I've seen from Pixar.
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From:derspatchel
Date:November 16th, 2006 10:43 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, for all of Pixar's dogma, the one story convention they couldn't tear themselves away from was The Fish Out Of Water story. This conflict unfortunately drives way too many pieces of feature animation.

I admit I was also at first amazed that Cars was being knocked as a "Doc Hollywood rip-off" because, come on, Doc Hollywood wasn't exactly a movie masterpiece to begin with. It just had that city-to-rural Fish Out Of Water story angle that Cars picked up on all too well. Personally I think Pixar did a good job with "plussing" the story, exploring the nostalgia of the fading American roadside (I do admit I'm a total sucker for roadside America, so I realize my interests were captivated while others' may not have been so.)

Even so, it's still a Fish Out Of Water story at its core, and if we're trying to get into the habit of no "Happy Village" or "I Want" songs, we may as well explore more story options than F.O.O.W.
[User Picture]
From:nolly
Date:November 16th, 2006 11:01 pm (UTC)
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I hadn't heard Cars compared to Doc Hollywood before I saw it, but I couldn't help noticing the similarities as I watched -- urban superstar (racer|doctor) en route to California commits automotive vandalism in small town and is stuck there trying to make good. Discovers True Love and Hidden Mentor, who allows him to succeed in CA, after which he realizes he really wants to be in Small Town with True Love. Cue Happily Ever After.
[User Picture]
From:mmcirvin
Date:November 17th, 2006 02:11 pm (UTC)
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But! "The Incredibles" is not a Fish Out Of Water story. If anything, it's a Fish Goes Back in the Water story, which is maybe an indication that it was largely a movie for grownups, who are more likely to enjoy that plotline than children.

I think Pixar had a lot to do with the rise of Fish Out Of Water in recent years. It's not so much a Disney cliche as a Pixar cliche, picked up and done less deftly by other CGI houses. Though several Disney films involve somebody adventuring far from home, they don't really have that "react comically to unfamiliar things/learn lesson about the power of friendship" angle.
[User Picture]
From:hyperina
Date:November 17th, 2006 12:02 am (UTC)
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this "I want" moment/song of which you speak is very enlightening
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From:derspatchel
Date:November 17th, 2006 12:41 am (UTC)
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So many modern Disney animated features have an I Want song!

Ariel sings about how she wants to experience life above water.

Belle sings how she longs for more than just a "provincial life" (conveniently, Belle's song at the beginning also doubles as the "Happy Village" song.)

The Lion King gets two; Simba sings about how he wants to be king, while later on, Scar sings of how he wants to be king.

Hunchback of Notre Dame? "Out There." Nuff said.

It's easy to illustrate a character's wants through song. So easy, in fact, it's practically become formulaic shorthand.
[User Picture]
From:hyperina
Date:November 17th, 2006 01:01 am (UTC)
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Your post made me wonder if each of us doesn't have such a moment/song in our hearts and lungs, on occasion.

Disney nabbed it from somewhere, no?

This could be a new religion, tuning into our I Want! Or tuning out, depending on how much is wanted, and what the ramifications of such want are, quality of the accompanying music notwithstanding.

Ay?
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:November 17th, 2006 06:04 am (UTC)
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Tuning out the I Want seems to be part of the fundamental path towards enlightenment, according to some philosophies. Then again, some others preached that tuning in the I Want led to a more beautiful place in general (Dr. Leary, I'm looking right at you.)

I wonder if any of them had a Disney soundtrack.


(And maybe yes, we all have an I Want, one that, were we to have a song in our heart, we'd express through a musical number.)
[User Picture]
From:mmcirvin
Date:November 17th, 2006 02:14 pm (UTC)
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Disney nabbed it from somewhere, no?

They nabbed it from soooomewheeeere over the rainbow, wayyyy up hiiiiigh...
[User Picture]
From:hyperina
Date:November 17th, 2006 01:16 am (UTC)
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p.s. forgive my dumbass commentary. i know very little about theater or cartoons or plots or literature or other things of importance.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:November 17th, 2006 06:06 am (UTC)
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I see no dumbass commentary here.

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