Muppets Most Wanted is coming out this weekend and with it comes a new Pixar short, Monsters University Party Central, set to play before the film. It was also announced this week that both The Incredibles and Cars 2 will get sequels. I thought I’d get ready for it by ranking some Pixar films. These are my top five, based on entertainment value and strength of story. Here are my Top Five Pixar Films.
5. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Pixar is known for telling wonderful stories through unique and interesting characters. They are somehow able to bring to life mirth and whimsy, while telling a heartwarming story that inevitably teaches us a lesson about human nature. The first Toy Story started it all by taking us into the world of Andy’s room and the secret lives of toys. While Toy Story is brilliant, Toy Story 2 takes it to the next level. This is a rare case where the sequel outshines the original. In this film we are asked to question what existence toys serve once their general purpose has been completed. What happens once we outgrow them and what do they do next? Why should it matter? I think it’s a question that applies to every stage of human life. What do we do when we outgrow our toys, our childhood? What purpose do we then serve? Pixar tricks us into thinking we are simply watching an entertaining family film when really they are reminding us that it’s okay to have fun, to use our imaginations and to question the big things in life. It’s what makes us human.
4. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
We fear what we do not understand. That’s the theme of Monsters, Inc. We just get it fed to us in the form of the monsters in our closets. This is what Pixar does best, they take something normal and turn it on its head. We’ve all heard the stories of a monster in the closet that only comes out at night to scare little children. Well, what if those monsters were simply doing a job? In this case it is the monsters who fear us. Even though their job is to collect screams by scaring children, they don’t fully understand humans and think that everything about people is meant to harm them. Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) learns through Boo, the small child that makes it into their world, that you need not fear the unknown. Not everything is as it appears and sometimes we can gain great knowledge, and even great relationships by stepping outside of our comfort zones.
3. Ratatouille (2007)
The more I see this film the more I like it. I didn’t like it much when I first saw it but with each subsequent viewing, its charm has grown on me. In it, everyone keeps telling Remy that he can’t cook because of what he really is, a rat. You can’t change who you are and you can’t dream outside your norm. Remy ignores this lesson and proves that you don’t have to be what society says you should be. This is another don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover kind of situation and it works so well because Pixar really knows what they are doing. The moment when Anton Ego takes the first bite of ratatouille and is instantly transported back to his childhood home is one of the best moments in all of the Pixar films. Food is best when it brings with it both rich flavors and rich memories. His following speech about the philosophy behind Chef Gusteau’s famous saying, “Anyone can cook,” is beautifully written and Peter O’Toole has such a perfect voice for that character. The only flaw with this film is that when you stop to really think about that kitchen scene (the one where rats are doing the cooking), it gets a little gross and creepy.
2. Cars (2006)
This will probably be the most controversial choice on my list. Cars is my personal favorite and I think it is one of the most well-done of the Pixar films (just, whatever you do, don’t go anywhere near Cars 2). It is much slower paced than most of the other films (I would argue that Up and WALL-E are just as slow) and it has the least action of all the films. However, I think it has one of the best messages and the animation is gorgeous and the scenery so breathtaking you will think it is real. Lightning McQueen is a racecar on the track to endless fame and acclaim. On his way to a special race, he gets separated from his team and ends up damaging the main road of a small town. He is ordered to stay and fix the road. While he is serving out his punishment, his interactions with the other cars in town teach him that there is more to life than racing and fame. There are small moments in life that measure up far more than some of the things we spend our time obsessing over. It is good to take a breath once in awhile to appreciate life in its simplicity. Take the road less traveled and enjoy the warmth that comes from meaningful relationships and experiences, rather than speeding through life.
1. The Incredibles (2004)
Everything about this film is perfect, the animation, characters, story, even the music. I think it may be the only Disney film that has the whole family involved in a major portion of the story, rather than just the child and one adult. Not that this inherently makes it better, that was just an observation. The film is great because it tells a well-developed, exciting story that also features a traditional Pixar lesson. It deals with real family issues that are simply magnified by incredible circumstances (see what I did there). How do you handle children that are growing up quickly (and have super powers)? How do you work on a marriage that’s in a rut (because the husband is off fighting evil)? How do you handle getting older and exiting your prime time of life? These are questions that practically any family can relate to. The Incredibles shows us that even extraordinary people have issues and don’t always have all the answers. The way you work through your problems is to band together and tackle them as a family, and if you can do so, save the world while you’re at it.