This was originally written last summer.
I have a theory that I’ve been toying with for a few months and I’m going to put it out there now. I theorize that Pixar has reached a peak as a film studio.
First, let me say, that I love Pixar. In the film industry, Christopher Nolan as a director, with his lineup of films, is the only brand more sacred to me. I consider most of Pixar’s movies to be great and a few to be great enough as to be considered among the all-time greatest films ever released (Toy Story trilogy). They have beautiful animation, warmth and heart in their storytelling, as well as potent social awareness.
Pixar has to be considered one of the most consistent brands, if not the most consistent brands out there, among all entertainment when discussing commercial and critical success. Let’s look at their thirteen films to date starting with Toy Story in 1995.
Toy Story (1995) — Rottentomatoes score of 100% — Domestic Box Office of $191 million
A Bug’s Life (1998) — Rottentomatoes score of 92% — Domestic Box Office of $162 million
Toy Story 2 (1999) — Rottentomatoes Score of 100% — Domestic Box Office of $245 million
Monster’s Inc. (2001) — Rottentomatoes Score of 95% — Domestic Box Office of $255 million
Finding Nemo (2003) — Rottentomatoes Score of 98% — Domestic Box Office of $339 million
The Incredibles (2004) — Rottentomatoes Score of 97% — Domestic Box Office of $261 million
Cars (2006) — Rottentomatoes Score of 74% — Domestic Box Office of $244 million
Ratatouille (2007) — Rottentomatoes Score of 96% — Domestic Box Office of $206 million
WALL-E (2008) — Rottentomatoes Score of 96% — Domestic Box Office of $223 million
Up (2009) — Rottentomatoes Score of 98% — Domestic Box Office of $293
Toy Story 3 (2010) — Rottentomatoes Score of 99% — Domestic Box Office of $415 million
Cars 2 (2011) — Rottentomatoes Score of 38% — Domestic Box Office of $191 million
Brave (2012) — Rottentomatoes Score of 77% — Domestic Box Office of $237 million
Ultimately too, Pixar has made over $7 billion at the worldwide Box Office, collectively. Additionally, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up and Toy Story 3 have all won for Best Animated Film at the Academy Awards. The latter two are only two of three films to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards (the other being Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, 1991).
To me and this is where my theory comes into play, Pixar’s Peak is with the commercial and critical success of Toy Story 3 and the conclusion of that whole trilogy, as bolded above. The film is the only Pixar film to make over $1 billion and it’s their best Rottentomatoes score since Toy Story 2 in 1999. Moreover, it is their biggest success domestically besides Finding Nemo, when adjusted for inflation. After that, you have the first film in the Pixar library to have a rotten ‘Tomatoes score and to commercially go under $200 million at the Box Office in over a decade with Cars 2. Brave returned Pixar to fresh territory, but it didn’t exactly set the critical world on fire. And yeah, it’s predicted to get back to the benchmark of $200 million at the Box Office, but it doesn’t seem to be doing for audiences what Toy Story 3, Up, and previous Pixar films have done.
Let’s also look at Pixar’s future. They have a prequel to Monsters, Inc. with Monsters University coming in 2013. I’m excited for it because of how much I enjoyed the one in 2001, but I’m concerned about another prequel/sequel.
Of course, I think Pixar is going to continue to deliver quality and commercial success, but is my theory sound? Did they reach the pinnacle of their success, commercially and critically, with Toy Story 3 in 2010? In any event, it may be too soon to tell. A trend would have to be established to truly substantiate it, I would think. However, I find it interesting to consider.
For the record, looking at that list of Pixar’s thirteen films, I would likely go this way with them in terms of my favorites:
1. Toy Story trilogy
2. Monsters, Inc.
3. The Incredibles
6. Finding Nemo
7. A Bug’s Life
I have not seen Cars 2 or Brave. Also, it should be noted, a great case could be made that Toy Story 3 should have won Best Picture over The King’s Speech and even The Social Network.
And are you still crying after the credits rolled from Toy Story 3, like me? Are you looking forward to their latest outing with the upcoming Monsters University?