The Perfection of Pixar
Back before Pixar was populating cinema screens with their unique brand of pixelated perfection, typical animation (including underground and Japanese) could be quite neatly divided between two eras –– before and after Disney. Though Toy Story wore the Disney brand when it splashed into theaters in 1995, it was Pixar who planted the flag in the gee whiz golly wow of an entirely new kind of animation, generated by computer but steeped in the sort of sincerity of spirit that soaks into the soul of any age.
Pixar has released ten films in total, each a massive hit with both critics and box office. Even the weakest (Cars in my opinion) is better than most animated movies intended for an audience with single digit birthdays could ever hope to be. I have loved Pixar since well before I had children, but it isn’t just the movies, it’s the company itself that fascinates me most.
Pixar is my favorite film studio, but they might be my favorite creators of all time. Pixar inspires me to do my best work, and it is easy to watch their films with fresh eyes, each time discovering new things –– like the crash of a symbol in the chorus of a song I’ve sung in my head a thousand times before. Pixar has crafted the perfect marriage of art and commerce to inspire anyone from artist to entrepreneur.
Here are 7 reasons Pixar has come parallel to perfection
1) The Pixar crew are constant learners. There seems to be a direct line between the speed of our emerging technology and our specie’s ability to listen. Sure, we can get email in our pocket, but in many ways it seems we’ve never been more willing to break the speed limit on the way to sudden solutions, instead of taking the time to evaluate our surroundings and realize our true potential. For over 25 years Pixar has constantly asked themselves, what? why? and (most importantly) why not? They have shattered boundaries with every film, leaping light years of learning at every level. Any business would be booming beneath a lucky star to see this sort of growth; any artist would be fortunate to find that sort of creative fuel.
2) Follow your heart. Pixar makes it look easy, but many of there successes should have never worked on paper. Yes, they make it look simple, natural and obvious, but the majority of Pixar deeds were done first by them. Pixar didn’t place near as much weight on practicality as they did on bowing to the grace of their muse. It is impossible to argue with their batting average. Ten for ten is enough to turn any artist, filmmaker or otherwise, ivy green with envy. But Pixar never did it by playing it safe, they did it by playing with fire.
3) Constant teamwork. Pixar takes the idea of teamwork and smuggles it across the border. Of course I have never been inside the Marin County compound, but from everything I’ve ever read or seen, it is easy to harbor the impression that Pixar is a close knit family of friends, neighbors, mentors and apprentices, all reaping the benefit from an environment of solid trust and bonding. There is zero turnover at Pixar.
4) Vision is everything. Pixar has always hacked the edges of new frontier. Each of their shorts built upon the previous until they had finally developed a skill set sharp enough to carve a film. Each film in turn has prodded possibility far past the predicted perimeter. You can look at the Pixar filmography and see a clear line, each film falling right into the next, not in tone or plot or character, but in the playful expectations of what is possible in ninety minutes or so of art in motion.
5) Story and character matter most. In a Pixar flick, story and character are the engines that drive all decisions. Unlike much of the worst Hollywood dreck, Pixar is in the business of building classics. They do not make movies to sell toys, they sell toys because they make brilliant movies. More than one of their films has been taken back to the drawing board and reanimated in service of a superior story, even at the cost of falling far behind schedule and the potential loss of millions of dollars. Perfection is part of Pixar’s key principles. One could perhaps cast an argument against Cars considering Walmart has an entire aisle devoted to their merchandise, well at least you could if the characters weren’t so impossibly charming.
6) Fun, fun, fun. Fun might be an endangered species in business, but not so at Pixar. Pixar loves what they do and it’s obvious in each and every frame they toss upon the screen. There is a reason children and adults can share similar smiles while swimming inside different perspectives. The Pixar team steadily taps into the magic of childhood from inside the mind of adult without ever being condescending. This is a tactic that is often tried in children’s film, but rarely done right. Pixar has rendered it to a science.
7) Overnight success exists only in legend. We all love a good overnight success story, but the truth is – they almost never truly exist. Research most any successful artist or business person and you will find a history flocked with trying times and long, difficult days. It took Pixar a decade to move from Wally B to Toy Story. Without the fervent belief and undying support of Steve Jobs, the fledgling company would have crumbled back when they were bleeding a million dollars a year for five years straight. The Pixar team never gave up, never lost heart, and never surrendered even a single sliver of their dream. They are now running up on three billion dollars in worldwide box office receipts, and that doesn’t even include their unrivaled success on DVD.
I could go on and on about Pixar. At home I often do. This post has me all hopped up and ready to write more. Perhaps I’ll rank my favorites from ten to one next time. Of course, that order seems to change all the time. For now I’m glad Pixar takes me to infinity and beyond.