Tag Archives: Pixar

Tangled (2010)



Tangled marks an interesting point in Disney’s evolution. For a decade, Pixar had produced more creative and more artistic films. It had produced more memorable characters and more impactful stories. With that company’s acquisition in 2006, Disney also bought the brains behind Pixar’s magic in John Lasseter.

With Lasseter in charge of all creative for both companies, though, the vision behind each set of films began to meld and slowly become indistinguishable from one another.

Tangled marks a clear beginning of that process. It is the first film that Lasseter oversaw from start to finish. The film was announced a year after Lasseter took hold of the reins and Pixar became part of the Disney family of companies.

With a budget of $250-million, Disney bet big on Tangled being a huge success. Given the box office gold that had come with Lasseter’s previous projects, it was more than likely a safe bet. But it was still $100-million more than anything Disney had spent on a film in the past decade.

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Chicken Little (2005)

Chicken Little sounds the sky-is-falling alarm.

Chicken Little sounds the sky-is-falling alarm.

Chicken Little is a familiar story: An old moral tale about the true meaning of courage and community. Walt had originally produced the story as an animated short in the 1940s, but this modern rendition is a computer-animated romp that touches on the original lessons while losing much of the magic.

The original story that became Chicken Little was actually born in Buddhist scripture. In a story called Duddubha Jataka: The Sound the Hare Heard, a hare is startled by the sound of fruit falling nearby and immediately comes to the conclusion that the world is coming to an end. Terrified, he gathers up all the animals of the forest and together they stampede for safety. A lion quickly stops them, though, and investigates the cause of the noise. Upon realizing it was just a falling fruit, and not the end of the world, the lion restores calm and order. The story is about the power and importance of deductive reasoning and evidence-based actions. It is a classic morality tale.

That story was written approximately 2,500 years ago and it has since morphed into dozens of forms. In the 20th century, it is more commonly called Henny Penny, The Sky is Falling or Chicken Little. It is a story for children. The Disney version of the story is not so far off the original tale. While it takes the traditional liberties the studio has always taken with its source material, it is still about a careless panic squelched by deductive reasoning and calm examination — sort of. This story also has aliens.

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Home on the Range (2004)

Roseanne Barr's and Judi Dench's bovine alter egos.

Roseanne Barr’s and Judi Dench’s bovine alter egos.

Disney’s downward spiral of an identity crisis continues with Home on the Range, the story of two dairy cows and a show cow who set out on a western adventure in a bid to save their ranch, Patch of Heaven, from foreclosure.

Rather than focus on the expert storytelling for which Disney had become known during the renaissance, this film was more about playing catch-up to the other animation studios that had burst on the scene in the 1990s — notably Dreamworks and Pixar. There was a lot going on in this film that was clearly about imitating the primary competition, and it proved to be very distracting. Lucky Jack, the rabbit, drew similarities from Ice Age’s Scrat; the slapstick comedy of the farm took a page out of Warner Brothers’ famous Saturday morning cartoons; and the antics of the pigs and goat bore an amazing resemblance to Chuck Jones’ Looney Tunes. In this case, though, the story was weak and the opening setup was just plain dull, even confusing. The film never came close to rivalling the films coming out of both Dreamworks and especially Pixar at this time. Disney was being left behind in a bad way.

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Brother Bear (2003)

Kenai and Koda — unlikely brothers.

Brother Bear is an odd film. It attempts simultaneously to be a buddy movie, a deep drama about coming of age, a lesson on dealing with loss and responsibility, and a morality tale on respecting nature. But it never actually found its footing. It’s the next, but sadly not the last, example of Disney’s lack of direction in the early 2000s.

Brother Bear opens with brothers teasing each other as brothers do. Kenai, voiced by Joaquin Phoenix, is a young Inuit man who is awkward, absentminded and often out-muscled by his older brothers. In his desperate need to prove himself a brave warrior, he chases a bear that had raided his stockpile of fish and, in the ensuing hunt, his brother Sitka is killed. Kenai, in his resentment, hunts the bear and, in turn, kills it. Kenai is then promptly transformed into a bear himself to learn a lesson in empathy and love.

The remainder of the film centres around Kenai and his new friend Koda, a younger bear he meets as they migrate to the salmon spawning grounds. Along the way, they meet their fair share of amusing secondary characters, including a pair of Canadian moose voiced (in accent) by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. Meanwhile, Kenai’s remaining brother, Denahi, is hunting them in vengeance for the perceived death-by-bear of his two brothers.

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Lilo & Stitch (2002)

Lilo introduces Stitch to her friends.

Lilo & Stitch is a heartwarmer. Stitch is an adorable, if extraordinarily quirky, character who manages to be both sidekick and hero. At the same time, it’s a movie that hardly knows what it’s supposed to be: part sci-fi epic about a misunderstood genetic experiment, and part family story about two sisters trying to make it work in trying times.

The combination works, though. Stitch is an adorable character that, like Wall-E, whom Pixar would later invent, manages to convey real and universal emotions without the use of language. Lilo is a child desperately trying to fit in when she’s just a little bit stranger than her friends: something almost everyone can relate to. Ultimately, Lilo & Stitch — despite space aliens, a trip across the galaxy and a genetic experiment falling on a Hawaiian village — becomes the perfectly normal story of two people desperate for love and acceptance who find each other and forge a perfect friendship.

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