Disney CEO Bob Iger recently made it public that Pixar is working on The Incredibles 2 and Cars 3, an announcement that is likely to divide Pixar fans right down the middle.
Why? Because they essentially combined “probably good news” with “bad news.” Cars may make tons of money in merchandising and box office totals, but it’s still Pixar’s weakest link in terms of audience reception.
In other words, most of us don’t really care about Cars. We just don’t.
But The Incredibles is a vastly different story. Considered to be one of the top-tier Pixar films, this movie could actually be akin to Toy Story 2, rather than Cars 2.
Unfortunately, my best guess is that we’re getting another Monsters University, a decent, even good, movie that lives up to the original, but doesn’t come close to surpassing it.
Pixar sequels are tricky business. Toy Story is really one of the few franchises in film history that actually improved with each sequel, so it makes sense that the executives at Disney have faith in milking their Pixar properties during the coming decade. Even the best studios need time to rest, after all.
So I’m going to be cautiously optimistic about The Incredibles 2, if only because the great Brad Bird is once again behind the film, and I have faith in his ability to evolve simple concepts into fantastic narratives (see The Iron Giant, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Ratatouille and oh, the first Incredibles).
If you recall, the world of The Incredibles is rich and ready to be further explored. The film excellently combined vastly different aesthetics: the retro-future technology in an alternate 1960s mixed with superheroes and even James Bond references.
And it would be great to see what happens to the Parr family as a superhero team, a dynamic we actually didn’t see until the third act of the movie. There’s plenty to see here, so a sequel really does make a lot of sense.
What do you think? Will The Incredibles 2 break the Pixar sequel “curse,” or do we have another excellent Pixar trilogy on our hands?
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I say “indisputable,” but what I really mean is “really difficult to disprove because the evidence is compelling” (and who has time for that long of a headline?)
Frozen and Tangled are two animated Disney films that exist in the post-Disney Renaissance slew of films that ended with The Princess & The Frog. They are among the first high-profile Disney films, aside from Pixar, to use computer animation as a means to retelling classic “fairy tale” stories.
Tangled, which premiered in 2010, features the story of Rapunzel. The movie was a huge success, mostly because it brought a new kind of enjoyable movie experience to both children and adults akin to the Disney Renaissance films of the 1990s.
As you may recall, the films between The Little Mermaid (you can also count The Brave Little Toaster) and Treasure Planet were animated films that took old classic icons and modernized them for a new audience.
Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King (which modernized Hamlet), Pocahontas, Hercules, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan, Tarzan, Emperor’s New Groove, Atlantis and Treasure Planet all featured established stories with cutting-edge animation.
Then Lilo & Stitch happened—a Disney film that while successful, signaled a departure from the old format. Disney was going for original stories.
For the next few years, Disney would continue experimenting with both CGI and 2D animation, but they would only cover new stories (probably due to the success of Pixar’s original stories).
Valiant, The Wild, Home on the Range, Meet the Robinson’s and Bolt were mitigated successes that ended up being mere shadows of how captivating Disney movies really could be.
This culminated with the release of The Princess and the Frog, an obvious attempt at cashing in on the old formula (revitalizing an old story).The movie was well-received, but it still didn’t have the cultural impact that Disney was looking for—and they knew this a mile away.
That’s why in 2010, Disney threw a hail mary with Tangled, the first post-renaissance film to combine both strategies of the previous generations: computer animation and established storytelling.
Tangled wasn’t an immediate hit culturally, but it would eventually become a mainstream staple upon DVD releases and the onslaught of meme-generation online. It was a good first start.
But Disney didn’t figure out why Tangled worked before they would make a colossal mistake in 2011, which saw the release of Mars Needs Moms—one of the biggest box office disasters in movie history.
That same year was also when they brought back Winnie the Pooh and figured out that 2D animation just wouldn’t cut it anymore—not because it doesn’t look amazing, but because the tastes of the new generation have changed.
Disney’s next experiment would come in 2012 with the release of Wreck-It-Ralph, an odd case study about a movie where video games come to life. The makers of the film clearly wanted to find a new groove for these movies without having to rip off old properties by featuring…well old properties from video games.
Wreck-It Ralph drew in viewers because it was a fantastic homage to dozens of iconic video game characters, even though it featured an original story and computer animation.
So, does Wreck-It Ralph exist in the same universe as Tangled and Frozen? Well, there’s actually more evidence that they take place in the same universe as The Fairly OddParents…
Hold on, let’s zoom in a little bit:
Of course, it’s probably too good to be true.
By 2013, Disney had figured out that original stories coming out under their umbrella need to have something familiar for audiences to grab on to in order to gain momentum in the box office.
And then everything changed when Frozen came along.
One of the most successful animated films of all time (especially our time), Frozen finally got the Disney recipe right. Based on The Snow Queen, the movie was a familiar, but fresh take on a classic fairy tale.
Of course, it was still successful without having to be instantly familiar to children. Thanks to a viral soundtrack, fun storytelling and memorable characters, Frozen has essentially marked the beginning of a new era of Disney movies, and what is a Disney movie without some universe sharing?
Yes, Tangled and Frozen exist in the same universe for plenty of reasons, but the most important being that the two movies are of a significant recipe that is uniquely different from every other Disney film. Also, I have evidence:
See that couple in the bottom-left corner of the image? That’s Flynn and Rapunzel (after her hair changes color and length) from Tangled showing up to Elsa’s coronation in Frozen.
It’s clear that the animation style is seamless enough for these characters to show up in the movie without looking out of place, and you can even see that their wardrobe has subtly shifted.
Another persistent theory you may buy into was proposed by this redditor who claims that Flynn and Rapunzel were at the coronation because Elsa and Anna’s parents died while traveling to their wedding 3 years before the events of Frozen.
He also claims that Flynn actually refers to Arendelle as “being nice this time of year,” but I’ve yet to find the actual clip of him saying that in Tangled or Tangled Ever After.
Another interesting piece of evidence is how similar the settings are conceptually. Tangled is loosely based on the fairy tale about Rapunzel, which takes place in Germany. In the movie, however, their adventures take place in the fictional kingdom of Corona, rather than any real settings.
In similar fashion, Frozen is based on a Norwegian tale, but it takes place in the fictional kingdom of Arendelle. The idea here is that Disney is trying to build new fictional kingdoms to go along with their adaptations, so you can expect to see more of this in future Disney CGI films.
Going forward, 2014’s big animated movie is Big Hero 6, which is an animated adaptation more similar to Wreck-It-Ralph than Tangled and Frozen due to its ties with “geek” culture (the movie is based on a graphic novel and features fighting robots).
2015 will be even stranger, with the release of The Descendants, a Disney Channel Original Movie that calls back to the 90s era with the offspring of the protagonists from those films. If you needed more evidence that the Disney Renaissance movies shared a universe, then that should settle the discussion.
Other than that, however, there are no announced projects on the horizon that will continue the post-renaissance film sharing that has begun with Tangled and Frozen…for now.
Some clever commenters pointed out that The Little Mermaid may exist within this universe as well. The theory (which has now been propagated by Tumblr users and promoted by Buzzfeed) is that the sunken ship in The Little Mermaid is the same one that Elsa and Anna’s parents died on when it was lost at sea.
One piece of evidence has to do with the location of each movie. Tangled takes place in Germany, Frozen takes place in Norway and The Little Mermaid takes place in Denmark. In order for Elsa’s parents to travel from Norway to Germany via boat, they would have passed by Denmark. See below:
I have to admit that this definitely solid evidence (and kudos to you readers who pointed it out in the comments, including my roommate who pointed out the same thing). Of course, the biggest piece of evidence is the fact that both The Little Mermaid and Frozen are based on fairy tales written by the same person: Hans Christian Andersen.
If this is all true, then that would mean Frozen and Tangled exist within the same universe as the Disney Renaissance films, albeit with some new twists to their conceptual design and settings.
Another update: a lot of people like to argue that this is somehow connected to Tarzan and/or Beauty and the Beast. Guys, it’s not. It’s just not.
Several months ago, one of my anonymous Pixar Theory Interns (that’s a thing on a resume) came to me with a crazy proposition: Andy’s mom is Emily, Jessie’s previous owner.
I laughed. I then agreed.
For some time, I compiled all of the evidence and found some incredible support for this theory. For one thing, take a close look at Andy’s cowboy hat he frequently wears in the movies:
Here’s another close look:
As you can see, Andy’s hat is noticeably different from Woody’s. Why is this? Why wouldn’t Andy want to wear a hat that closely resembles the one worn by his favorite toy?
It’s no secret that Andy has a close connection with Woody. In Toy Story 2, his mom (who we only know as Ms. Davis) mentions that Woody is an old family toy.
Remember that Woody doesn’t even recall that he is a collector’s item – a toy made in the 1950s. This is a deviation from other toys who know full well where they come from. It’s possible that Woody doesn’t know because he’s been in Andy’s family for a long time, possibly belonging to his father.
But we need more evidence. Take a close look at Jessie’s hat:
Ah, this hat looks familiar. It’s the same red hat with white lace that Andy wears. The only difference is that Jessie’s hat has a white lace around the center. But look at Andy’s hat again.
There’s a faded mark where the white lace should be. Why do you think that is? And what does Jessie have to do with this?
(Bob Saget’s voice) Kids, you remember the story of Jessie. Her owner Emily grew up with her, much the same way as Andy. She was incredibly loved, but Emily eventually gave her away when she grew older. Jessie ended up in storage for a long time, as confirmed by her in the movie when she has a literal panic attack over having to go back.
Now, take a close look at what’s on this bed in Emily’s room:
That is a hat that looks extremely similar to, you guessed it, Andy’s. The room is also pretty old-fashioned, leaving room for this to take place years before Andy was born.
In fact, you can clearly tell that this isn’t modern day with shots like these:
The only difference between the hat that Emily wears throughout this sequence and Andy’s hat is an extra white lace around the center, which is visibly missing from Andy’s hat. Otherwise, the hats are identical.
Also, in the donation box that Emily puts Jessie in, we don’t see the hat. We do see other remnants of her connection with Jessie, but the hat is noticeably absent. The box isn’t even big enough to hold it. So Emily held onto that hat…and maybe passed it on to her child, who would grow to also love a cowboy doll.
We never get a closeup of Emily’s face, but we do see that she has light, auburn hair as a teenager. Also, it is very short.
The middle picture is closest to the strawberry blonde color we see when Emily is young. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that her hair lightened as she aged, which is clearly the case in these photos (or she could have dyed it).
Here’s what we know for sure:
We don’t know the first name of Andy’s mom. We don’t know Emily’s last name. We know that Andy’s hat and Emily’s hat are the same. We know that Emily is old enough to be Andy’s mom. We definitely know that Pixar is perfectly capable of sneaking this in without being overt about it.
You may be wondering how the two characters could be the same if Emily was willing to give Jessie up so easily, while Andy was far more hesitant.
Actually, the scenarios are quite similar. Andy forgot about Woody as he grew up too, despite their strong connection. Andy even gave Woody away, albeit in a different manner than Emily.
In the end, it makes perfect sense that these two concurrent stories are so similar because they’re related by blood. It’s also a freak of destiny that Jessie would one day belong to her owner’s son, though we never get to see the mom’s reaction to seeing Jessie again.
She was probably indifferent and believed it to be a different version of the same toy. How would you respond if you saw your child with a toy that looked like one that you had as a kid? Your first assumption probably wouldn’t be that they’re the exact same toy.
What do you think? Do you believe that the two characters are the same and that Andy’s mom/Emily found redemption through the love her son had for the toy she left behind? Or, do you hate fun, love, and destiny? Let me know.
As excited as I was about the last Muppets movie, I can’t say I care much about Muppets Most Wanted, a movie with more celebrities than jokes, apparently.
One thing I am excited about, however, is the release of a Monsters University short that premiered at the 2013 D23 Expo and will be shown before Muppets Most Wanted. I’ve been told by some that it includes possible hints at the Pixar Theory (mainly with door technology), so I’m excited to see it all play out for myself.
Here is a quick preview:
It’s not much to go on, but as you can see, the door connects to points within the Monsters’ universe (the fraternity house and the party).
In the theory, I stress how the doors manipulate time, not necessarily dimensions. This is the first time in any of the Monsters Inc. properties that we’ve seen two doors linking within the same time period.
My hypothesis has been that the monsters are actually animals that have mutated and replaced humans thousands of years after the events of Wall-E. The monsters need energy – i.e. humans – to power their world, so they use the magical properties of wood and their advanced technology to travel back in time and harvest energy from past humans.
The monsters don’t know they’re traveling back in time in order to preserve the delicate timeline. They’re taught that humans and their belongings are toxic, which is really a precaution against them messing with anything that would change history.
But in this short, we see that the doors are being used for spacial travel, rather than time travel.
Will this disprove the Pixar Theory? We’re going to have to wait and find out. Discuss!
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We’ve gotten pretty used to CGI animation. So much so, the idea of animation evolving even further doesn’t always get brought up, at least not in my mind.
But the truth is that innovation is always happening. It’s always…innovating (unlike my vocabulary.) When I was doing research for the Pixar Theory, I couldn’t help but notice just how far we’ve come since Toy Story, though the technological advancements have only been incremental.
Well, that may change in the not-so-distant future. Pixar recently published a video showing off a completely different animation style for our viewing pleasure. You can view the full video below:
What gets me excited about this type of style is how close it sticks to the original Disney movies. It feels more drawn.
One major complaint about CGI, at least from me, has always been that it has a knack for lacking expression. It just takes way too much time and effort to make computer animated films be as fluid as the animated movies from just 15 years ago. Wow I feel old.
This fusion of art and pixels, however, provides a new twist on how onscreen characters can be rendered. The crisp frame-rate combined with other big words I’m not going to pretend I know could promise to deliver movies we’ve never imagined before.
Of course, these are just white paper innovations, and Pixar probably isn’t close to incorporating them in upcoming movies. In the meantime, we still have the fortune to enjoy the already masterful animation Pixar (and other great studios) have privileged us with.
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If I make the statement that “Inequality” is one of the most pervasive issues of our time, then most of you will probably agree.
It seems like everyone is always talking about inequality politics, especially when it comes to race, gender and income.
Now, if you’re like me, then talking about politics is really boring and superfluous unless you make sense of it with movies and philosophy, two of the greatest things in the world.
Fortunately for us, The Incredibles is a movie that exists, and it even provides us with some basic philosophy that sheds some insight into how we should honestly make sense of inequality in the real world.
Disney is a strange company, but in the best way possible. They’re bold enough to buy the Marvel franchise, hire Pixar’s mastermind as their creative director of pretty much everything at this point, and continue crafting movies that stay true to the Disney tradition, at least by most loose definitions of the term.
By this tradition, I mean the continuation of the Disney princess phenomenon, including its most recent renaissance (as they say) of the classic Disney Princess movies reinvented to capture the cutting edge animation that reached new heights in the late 80s with The Little Mermaid, only to reach full form thanks to breakout 90s hits like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Mulan.
The rise of Pixar brought on a new age, however, with the onslaught of yet another renaissance in animation — one that rendered any other offering by Disney (ironically) obsolete.
Pixar was their critical and family-driven darling, and the mouse studio didn’t really have the creative direction to answer this problem for quite a while, even when DreamWorks came into its own with the introduction of Shrek and those frankly despicable minions.
This is all to say that Disney plays the long game when necessary. After the tempered success of Princess and the Frog in 2009 and Tangled a year later, it became more than clear to me and others that Lassetter’s Disney was on a true comeback, beginning with Bolt and carrying on today to Frozen.
You see, Disney has been experimenting over the past few years with what I call the “Disney-Pixar-Dreamworks” trilogy. They’ve taken the strongest elements of each animation studio and developed full-fledged Disney movies with them.
One might argue that this all started with Meet The Robinsons or the aforementioned Bolt, but these movies were mere precursors to what Disney would ultimately settle on creatively. No, this all started with Tangled, a new take on a classic Disney character named Rapunzel.
The checklist is simple:
1. Does the movie have a Disney Princess and/or fantasy setting?
2. Are the animation and storytelling in sync, as it is with Pixar?
3. Does it contain lovable side characters that shape the marketing campaign akin to Dreamworks?
This list is a complete yes to the “trilogy” that is Tangled, Wreck It Ralph, and Frozen. And it shows in how Frozen in its most basic components is a mixture of several movies and concepts: It has the character relationships of Shrek, the plucky female from Tangled, and the Broadway musical effort of Wicked (complete with the plot of two sisters at odds with each other).
This is no complaint, as Frozen manages to also maintain its own originality and charm between the pages, mostly thanks to the ambitious retelling of The Snow Queen (though the similarities between stories is slim at best), a story that isn’t told often enough complicated by Disney’s best soundtrack in years, perhaps since Mulan or Lilo and Stitch if you’re an Elvis fan.
The Snow Queen is an old Danish fairytale most audiences have never heard of, centering around two sisters who happen to be princesses living in a kingdom Disney has deemed Arendelle. The oldest sister, Elsa, has magic powers of no explanation: she can turn anything into snow or ice for reasons the audience is never clued in on, thankfully. As she grows older, her powers become harder to control, and for reasons I won’t spoil, she shuns her doting sister, Anna, for the majority of their childhood.
The opening sequence to Frozen is clearly gunning for the same emotional beats of Up and its first eight minutes, offering a lively, albeit sad look at the broken relationship between these two girls. You don’t have to be a sister or have one to feel the cloying sentiment in this number, aptly called Do You Want to Build a Snowman?
After an unfortunate incident, Elsa unintentionally curses the kingdom with an eternal winter (even though it’s summer), covering the land in snow and paranormal snow creatures. She runs away in order to isolate herself and is pursued by Anna and some of her new friends, a group of misfit characters to put it kindly.
Plot-wise, the story is strong and well-written, focusing more on its comedic timing than anything all that dramatic, but the music seems to be the tool that delivers the film’s most poignant moments, including some key lessons meant to empower young girls, including a twist on the romantic love story that is sure to delight parents.
The characters, for the most part, are likable and effortless in their inclusion as this is Anna and Elsa’s story. When we are introduced to Kristoff and his reindeer Sven, who have a friendship reminiscent of Han Solo and Chewbacca, the movie succeeds at making them a worthwhile addition without distracting from the main plot. Even Olaf, who should have been annoying in hindsight, provided the levity and fun required of him in a film that could otherwise be deemed dark and heavy-handed.
The only complaint worth lodging at Frozen in my view is the ending, as it goes with many animated movies of recent years. It’s not terrible in any sense, but it is a slight let down in how the film builds and executes, aside from a minor twist on the material involving the impact of the two sisters and their relationship. For every other character, there’s little for them to do by the final minutes.
Other than that, Frozen is a fantastic installment in the Disney archives, providing a new and fun adventure that children and nostalgic young adults like myself will enjoy thoroughly.