I was watching the trailers before Despicable Me 2 when the trailer for the latest animated movie came up on screen. Two minutes later, my one and only comment was “Rest in peace Pixar”. It seems however that I was somewhat mistaken. It turns out that the trailer is actually for a Disney Animation movie, and not a Pixar film. But when you consider how close the two companies are these days (and the fact that it’s set in the universe of another Pixar film) it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a fair amount of collaboration on it. But why has this got me worried? Well, before we get into that, let’s take a quick look at the two animation studios recent history.
On one hand, we have the almighty Pixar, who seems to be a little less than mighty these days. When they first started out, their work seemed to be entirely focused on original ideas and really strong stories. They’ve made a total of 14 movies to date, and if you look at the first 7 movies they made between 1995 and 2006, there’s only one sequel. If you take a look at the last 7 movies that they’ve made between 2007 and 2013, there’s 3 sequels, all of which have been released since 2010. It really makes me wonder, is the creative well at Pixar starting to dry up?
Then there’s Disney Animation’s 3D department. Starting in 2005 with Chicken Little, Disney has shown steady improvement with each successive release. Their last two films, Tangled in 2010 and Wreck-it Ralph in 2012, have shown that they’re ready to throw down against some of Pixar’s better movies. They’re not quite at the level of Pixar’s best movies, but they’re getting there. Their last two movies had me thinking that maybe the better part of Pixar was starting to rub off on them.
And then Disney Animation goes and ruins it all by making this:
Take a generic sports storyline, make it kid friendly, turn the people into vehicles and you have Ca… I mean, Planes. Seriously, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Owen Wilson’s character Lightning McQueen from Cars makes a cameo in this movie. But at the end of the day, my beef isn’t with Planes itself. A kid friendly movie that looks pretty and has a horribly generic story and characters? Well, you won’t find me in the cinema but if it makes some kid happy, then who am I to stop them?
So what is it that’s got me worried?
The thing that’s got me worried is that we’re seeing both Pixar and Disney Animation heading down a “creative” path that seems to be filled with sequels and franchise focused movies. Original ideas and concepts like The Incredibles and even Wreck-it Ralph might become more of a rarity as Disney milks their successful and established franchises for all their worth (yes, even more so than they are now). I really hope that this never happens, but if Planes is a sign of things to come… better fasten your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen, it looks like it’s going to be a bumpy ride.