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Snarcasm: A Bug’s Life vs. Antz vs. the Rest of Us

bugs life

It’s been 20 years since 1998, and you know what that means! Blog posts about films from 20 years ago / 1998!

And there are some great stories to pick from. Eight-year-old Jon Negroni was too busy stuffing his face with Warheads (the candy, dummy) on multiple schoolyard dares, so he/me didn’t get a chance to litigate the Antz vs. A Bug’s Life debate, unless you count my Hopper alarm clock as a stake in what is obviously a very petty fight between DreamWorks and Pixar that has never officially ended.

That’s where Bill Bradley comes in, writing for Huffpost Culture, and aside from having a name that would make Lois Lane blush, BB has the serious press credentials necessary to remind you why it’s pointless arguing about two movies that are barely similar where it counts, but similar enough where it generates heated arguments based on grudges that don’t really affect you in real life. So, the internet, basically.

Go on…Snarcasm: A Bug’s Life vs. Antz vs. the Rest of Us

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Snarcasm: This WALL-E Theory Makes So Much Sense That It Doesn’t

wall-e theory

Snarcasm is an editorial column I do when I read something so upsetting, I have to publish something snarky and sarcastic about it. Thanks for indulging, and definitely take everything you’re about to read incredibly seriously.

Hi. Fan theories are both the best and the worst. Kind of like people! But you can’t say the same about Pixar’s WALL-E, a triumph of animated cinema about the reckless, capitalist dangers of mankind passively wreaking havoc on the environ—

“Sinister WALL-E fan theory will change the way you watch the sweet Pixar film forever”

Oh, OK. I forgot we were watching this “sweet Pixar film” all wrong. How, exactly, was WALL-E some sort of overtly nice and go-lucky tale, considering all the dystopian apocalyptic subject matter?

Go on…Snarcasm: This WALL-E Theory Makes So Much Sense That It Doesn’t

Snarcasm: It’s Time For A New Pixar Theory, Sort Of

snarcasm pixar theory

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read. 

The Pixar Theory is old news, everyone. You know it. I know it. Lee Unkrich practically breathes it into the cease and desist letters he claims his lawyers send me. And then there’s Joshua Eyler, who graciously wants to speed the process of a new Pixar Theory along. So much to unpack here. Perhaps we should begin with a tweet?

My new post (with all due respect to @JonNegroni‘s original): “It’s Time for a New Pixar Theory”

First problem: I am due zero respect.

Go on…Snarcasm: It’s Time For A New Pixar Theory, Sort Of

Snarcasm: Disney Ruined Pixar Because Why Not?

disney pixar

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read

Did Pixar lose its way, or did we lose our way with Pixar? There’s no real answer to the latter part of that question because it makes no sense. But the article we’re snarcasming this week actually does make a lot of sense and deserves to be approached thoughtfully. Even though it’s basically wrong for the most part.

Writing for The Atlantic, Christopher Orr titles his piece “How Pixar Lost Its Way,” because at this point, Orr is confident there’s no other conclusion to reach.

For 15 years, the animation studio was the best on the planet.

Studio Ghibli would like a word.

Then Disney bought it. 

And the Fire Nation attacked.

Orr begins his piece with a line from Ed Catmull, Pixar’s own president who at one point claimed that sequels can represent “creative bankruptcy.”

He was discussing Pixar, the legendary animation studio, and its avowed distaste for cheap spin-offs.

Good thing Pixar doesn’t make cheap spin-offs!

Hold on, we’ll get to Cars 2.

More pointedly, he argued that if Pixar were only to make sequels, it would “wither and die.”

Good thing Pixar doesn’t only make sequels!

Yet here comes Cars 3, rolling into a theater near you this month.

Ah yes, it wouldn’t be a hot take on Pixar without car-related puns.

You may recall that the original Cars, released back in 2006, was widely judged to be the studio’s worst film to date.

“Worst,” however, is a misleading phrase. It wasn’t the strongest of the Pixar films, but most critics believed the film was good mainly on the strengths of its production value and a decent story. The problem was that Cars was the first Pixar movie made mostly for children. Cars 2 was made for merchandising to said children and was the studio’s first flop, coincidentally.

if Cars 3 isn’t disheartening enough, two of the three Pixar films in line after it are also sequels: The Incredibles 2 and (say it isn’t so!) Toy Story 4.

Of course, Pixar has made great sequels as well, including two for that last movie you mention. And they just made Finding Dory, which audiences loved—

The golden era of Pixar is over.

Yeah, ok, here we go.

It was a 15-year run of unmatched commercial and creative excellence,

Filled with sequels and large gaps in between movies.

Since then, other animation studios have made consistently better films.

This is somewhat true, but not necessarily fair. The only studio that’s been making those better films is Disney, which has been creatively led by Pixar’s John Lasseter since the studio’s purchase. Orr also mentions two Laika films, but one came out the same year as Up and the other came out the same year as Finding Dory.

To Orr’s point, Disney has made Wreck-It RalphFrozenBig Hero 6Moana, and Zootopia, all of which are widely regarded as better than BraveCars 2Monsters University (arguably), The Good Dinosaur (arguably), and Finding Dory. But Pixar has also made Inside Out, which most critics consider the superior film out of every single one of those Disney and Laika films.

Now, I get Orr’s point. That’s just one Pixar movie while Disney has had an aggressive output of great films that have managed to catch up to Pixar’s level of quality. If that were Orr’s only argument here, it would be a noteworthy one, but the jump to concluding that this means Pixar has lost its way ignores plenty of other important information, including Pixar’s excellent short animated films, which are consistently better than Disney’s, and the fact that they’ve still made good movies in the last seven years.

One need only look at this year’s Oscars: Two Disney movies, Zootopia and Moana, were nominated for Best Animated Feature, and Zootopia won. Pixar’s Finding Dory was shut out altogether.

First of all, Pixar won an Oscar just a year ago. Second, Finding Dory isn’t any less of a good film simply because it didn’t win a certain award. It just wasn’t as original and compelling as Zootopia and Moana, which is fine, and the Academy has a persistent stigma against sequels, anyway. Orr’s standard of Pixar being on the right path is too restricting, apparently arguing that movies are best when they manage to best other movies, ignoring, for example, Kubo and the Two Strings, which numerous critics argue was better than both Zootopia and Moana. Even if they’re right, all three movies are pretty good.

Simply put, a film being great doesn’t make another film any less great. This is only relevant if the value you hold in a movie is tied into how it compares with the reception of its competition.

Orr goes on, however, to expand on his own standard for what makes Pixar great, citing its technical achievements (which none of the sequels have erred on) and how it has provided great cinema for kids and adults (which hasn’t changed at all since Toy Story 3).

Even as others gradually caught up with Pixar’s visual artistry, the studio continued to tell stories of unparalleled depth and sophistication.

Some Pixar movies, however, weren’t so brilliantly received by critics at the time they came out. Films like Ratatouille and Wall-E, for example, were criticized plenty for trifles that no one even considers now. Monsters Inc. wasn’t exactly critic-proof either (it didn’t even win an Oscar?!), and that goes even more for A Bug’s Life.

Two films that unquestionably cemented Pixar’s eventual reputation beyond Toy Story were The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. Several other Pixar movies have managed to match them, in my opinion, but only Inside Out has truly reached the standard Orr sets here, which isn’t one that has been consistently met by Pixar with every film they’ve put out. Good Dinosaur is a good example, in that it’s a film directly trying to be far more bizarre and experimental than what’s worked for Pixar in the past.

Orr goes on to talk about Pixar’s achievement with crossover storytelling, raising some great points about how and why their movies are so consistently well-received.

And then, after Toy Story 3, the Pixar magic began to fade.

Here we go.

The sequels that followed—Cars 2 (a spy spoof) in 2011 and Monsters University (a college farce) in 2013—lacked any thematic or emotional connection to the movies that spawned them.

I truly take issue with Orr essentially lumping these two movies together, because Monsters University in no way lacks thematic connection to Monsters Inc. If anything, it adds flourish to the Mike Wazowski character and tells a poignant story about how we deal with our limitations. It’s far from merely being a “college farce.”

Though better than either of those two, Brave, Pixar’s 2012 foray into princessdom, was a disappointment as well.

I’m not sure which movie is better—Monsters University or Brave. Orr isn’t wrong in saying that Brave was a bit of a disappointment, but it’s about as serviceable as Cars and hey! It won an Oscar.

The studio rallied with Inside Out in 2015.

If by rallied, you mean they put out one of their best films in 20 years, sure. They “rallied.”

But the inferior The Good Dinosaur (also in 2015) and last year’s mediocre Finding Dory only confirmed the overall decline,

Here’s where Orr and I differ the most. To him, Pixar has lost its way because it’s made a few movies that aren’t as good as its very best ones. For me, Pixar has been unable to top themselves year after year, same as Disney wasn’t able to do in the 90s, well before that, and in the near future. But in reality, they never really did that in the first place.

Is Pixar experiencing an overall decline? Sure, no one really disputes that. But does an overall decline mean that the studio has lost its way? Not necessarily. It might just mean we’re witnessing a studio in transition, swinging for the fences with some movies and biding time with sequels as they prepare for a new era that may be entirely different.

Even Orr points out that at the time of the merger, Pixar was already facing huge problems as a studio. And these are the shifts that have led to the Pixar we know today, which has produced occasional masterpieces like Inside Out and artful experiments like The Good Dinosaur. Orr doesn’t even mention Coco, which comes out later this year, but laments Toy Story 4 and Incredibles 2, the latter of which is a sequel to one of Pixar’s best films ever and could very well be the first Pixar sequel since Toy Story 3 to actually be better than the original.

The Disney merger seems to have brought with it new imperatives. Pixar has always been very good at making money, but historically it did so largely on its own terms.

I agree. Merging with Disney is a big reason for the sequels, but that’s likely because Pixar knew they couldn’t survive much longer without them. Pixar movies take years to make, and their standards are too high to make new worlds from scratch at a quick enough speed to pay the bills. Sequels take much less time and can make even more money when done correctly. That’s not an excuse, of course, but it is indicative of what could happen next.

Merger or no, there’s plenty reason to believe Pixar would have kept making sequels anyway in order to support their simultaneous need for great original films to also fill the pipeline. That’s not Pixar losing its way. It’s Pixar changing course in a more sustainable direction, consolidating their talent and taking steps toward a future where they may not have to rely on sequels so badly. And this has led to some good results over the years, along with some unfortunate branding ones, admittedly.

Then Orr makes his worst argument.

There are a dozen Disney theme parks scattered across the globe in need of, well, themes for their rides.

Don’t do it, Orr. Please. Think of the children.

the overlap between the Pixar movies that beget sequels and the movies that inspire rides at Disney amusement parks is all but total.

Seriously? You’re trying to argue that Pixar is basing its creative decisions around theme-parks?

Theme-park rides are premised on an awareness of the theme in question, and young parkgoers are less likely to be familiar with movies that are more than a decade old.

That explains why Disneyland is filled with movie themes from over 50 years ago.

This idea that kids are going to forget what Toy Story is without a Toy Story 4 is almost enough for me to dismiss all of Orr’s previous arguments out of spite. I won’t because clearly he’s not entirely wrong about a lot of this, but…really? Theme-park rides?

Look, there’s a point to be made about how sequels can be properly timed with theme-park attractions in order to maximize exposure. But to suggest that a legendary storyteller like Lasseter is guiding one of the best animated studios of all time (with Catmull’s approval) around what will look good on a brochure is nothing more than a brainless conspiracy theory. They’re not making Toy Story 4 because of a theme-park ride. At best, and if we take Pixar at their word, they’re making it because they truly believe in the story and it would be easier and more profitable than a new IP.

Pixar has promised that after the upcoming glut of sequels, the studio will focus on original features.

And honestly, I believe them. Pixar has built up decades of credibility with its fans, but Orr would dismiss all of it because the studio has only put out one masterpiece in seven years, assuming Coco isn’t as good as it looks, while other studios like Disney haven’t really made any masterpieces of their own in the same amount of time.

I’m not sure I dare to expect much more of what used to make Pixar Pixar: the idiosyncratic stories, the deep emotional resonance, the subtle themes that don’t easily translate into amusement-park rides.

Seriously, it’s been two years since Inside Out. Two. And the people who made it still work at Pixar, and for the last time, they’re still making good films. What makes Pixar Pixar hasn’t changed, just the frequency of its best material, and impatience (while understandable) is a poor excuse for trying to accuse an animation studio of being enslaved to theme-park rides.

Orr finishes by rounding off examples of what he loves in RatatouilleWall-E, and Up, finally stating:

Would Pixar even bother making those pictures anymore?

So the implication is that because these movies supposedly wouldn’t translate well to a theme-park ride (though they actually would, considering the Axiom is begging to be in Tomorrowland and Ratatouille has its own part in Disneyland Paris, which Orr even admits), he questions Pixar’s willingness to make great movies. You know, despite the fact that Coco comes out in November and virtually nothing about Pixar tells us that they’re disinterested in making great movies.

As I’ve pointed out numerous times here, Orr makes a lot of accurate observations, and I don’t blame anyone for believing Pixar really has lost their way. But it really depends on what you look to Pixar for. Even their worst films still contain a level of quality that far surpass the worst of the Disney movies and DreamWorks movies for that matter. It’s definitely true that they’re not putting out a slew of original breakthroughs almost every year like they once did, and yes, that is a shame.

But we also can’t discount that their competitors really have caught up to them in a lot of ways. And there are a ton of learning curves to managing a bigger studio that is no longer as unique and creatively compact as it once was. From what I can tell, Pixar has embraced this decade with a new caution, desperate to preserve its best material by investing in more conventional ways of making money. I’m not saying this is necessarily the best choice they could’ve made, and I don’t agree with all of their decisions since Toy Story 3. But all of this does mean that Pixar can still make the masterpieces we want to see from them.

In other words, I very much doubt a movie like Inside Out, heralded as one of the greatest animated movies of all time, would have been able to come out if it weren’t for Cars 2 and Monsters University. These are movies that came out instead of failed concepts like Newt, and Pixar would have been in a tailspin if not for the box office they made off of Toy Story 3. You don’t have to like it, and hopefully this isn’t a new norm for Pixar, but it is the reality of a studio that has reached maturing age. It’s a different time for Pixar, but not necessarily a bad one.


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Snarcasm: The Cars in ‘Cars’ Aren’t Really Cars. Obviously.

cars

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read

I’ve always liked MatPat’s “The Film Theorists” videos, because they’re entertaining, fun, and have a great energy. For that reason, I don’t usually criticize their theories, but that’s all about to change.

One of MatPat’s latest videos involves Cars, and it directly calls out my timeline for Pixar movies, assuming they all share the same universe. This was embarrassing on my end because Mat worked off of old Pixar Theory material without fully researching how it’s changed over the years, so his new theory about Cars is…well…let’s just say it could use some Snarcasm.

Oh, and here’s an important note. If you want to check out the better version of this “cars are alive” theory, check out the video SuperCarlinBros already did for it seven months ago…which MatPat doesn’t reference at all or give credit to in his video. And…well, he should have.

The Cars in the Cars Movie AREN’T CARS!

I don’t know if I’m ready for this.

Are the Cars in Cars really cars?

{Raises hand}

I mean sure, it’s the title of the movie.

[Raises hand more}

and they look and behave like cars

{hand floats away}

I mean they have eyes and tongues

Right. So there’s no way they’re cars with eyes and tongues. Eh, yeah that’s weird, but we’ll get to that.

How does a society of cars come to be in the first place?

Well, the Pixar Theory states that—

What are these creatures? I am 100% confident I figured it out.

Like I was saying. I outlined all of this in my book about how—

what started as a simple, stupid question led me down the rabbit hole of this bizarre car-themed universe, and the answers I found will upend everything you thought you knew about Mater and the gang.

Mat then cuts to an image of my Pixar Theory Timeline. Well, the old one at least. See when this video first came out, a lot of people asked me what I thought, and I felt guilty for not updating the timeline since I did the book, which is a small reason why Mat ends up working off of old information (we’ll get to that).

See, the theory itself was certainly at its most plot-holey when I did the first draft of the timeline in 2013. I haven’t even updated it with the newer movies. To rectify this, there’s a new timeline in place of the old one, but as you can tell, the damage is done.

and the details I find here pose some interesting questions about that infamous Pixar Theory

Infamous?

a theory that you all have wanted me to cover for quite a long time

Spoiler alert: MatPat is working on his own “mega” Pixar Theory. Well…bring it on?

it probably merits taking a second to acquaint you with that Pixar Theory. A theory that started with, as far as I can tell, online movie blogger Jon Negroni.

Hey.

which aims to unite all the Pixar movies to not just the same universe, but also come up with a cohesive timeline of events where one movie leads to the next, leads to the next.

Mat shows an image of the actual blog post for the theory itself, which begins by telling you that the theory has been updated. So why didn’t Mat “start up his search engines” then?

He does go on to talk about how he won’t be getting into the “nitty gritty” of the theory, but offers an example of how Buy n Large plays into multiple movies.

now the reason I wanted to start talking about this today is because I have a few problems with the Pixar Theory timeline. 

So Mat then goes on to recite some big elements of the theory that, again, are ancient history. And he gets some basic stuff wrong, like this:

that’s why you don’t see humans or animals in either car movie

Except we do, actually. We see the birds from For the Birds (a Pixar short) in the first Cars.

this whole Pixar Theory is an interesting explanation, but there are a lot of assumptions

So why didn’t you research the updated one? And spoiler alert: his entire theory is nothing but assumptions, starting with Mat’s assertion that they aren’t sentient machines brought to life like the toys from Toy Story.

The cars are actually organic creatures. Living creatures with the car body of the top exoskeleton, but containing some sort of internal organs. A soft and squishy inside like the center of a Tootsie Roll pop.

I get it. So Mat took all of the clever revelations SuperCarlinBros already figured out months ago…then made it worse. Neat.

First, they breathe oxygen. 

And they also drink oil. And we see they have engines multiple times in the movie. How does that make them organic?

See, Mat goes on to point out how the cars must be organic because they basically act like humans. They eat “food” and one car wears an underwater “breather” like in spy movies. I contend that they do this because they think they’re the humans who owned them. Multiple Pixar movies point out that human emotion (a la Monsters Inc.) is the source of energy that can bring inanimate objects to life (like in Brave and Toy Story). And in movies like WALL-E, we see that the life of these machines is sustained by interactions with human belongings, like the movie Hello Dolly that WALL-E watches all the time.

I’m sorry I have to keep saying this, but Mat is completely missing this stuff because he didn’t even seem to look for it. And now we have to suffer through what is at best an amusing sideshow full of weird body horror jokes.

Mat then goes on to say that because of a “studio stories” video by Pixar, this is all confirmed in addition to McQueen having the hiccups in a “Tales from Radiator Springs” short. He quickly cuts in and out of a quote that McQueen can’t open his doors because “that’s where his brains are.”

they have a brain! A giant, pink, pulsating brain hidden behind those car windows!

Nope.

This is terribly misleading because Mat leaves out the fact that this same animator was trying to think of ways to make Lightning capable of producing a map to Sally. He mentions that using the doors wouldn’t make sense conceptually because that’s where his “brains” would be. He also proposed that maybe a monkey drove the car and showed the map, and many more examples that are nonsensical.

So none of this comes close to confirming anything about cars having organs. Rather, it’s just an animator discussing the challenges of making the Cars world a believable one that isn’t gross or creepy. That includes avoiding this kind of “brain” implication in the first place.

so it would appear that the cars are actual living creatures and not just some highly advanced driverless cars.

“Appear” is a strong word. If anything, there’s far more evidence that the cars are, in fact highly advanced driverless cars compared to this idea that they’re animals. But Mat ignores all of that inconvenient evidence so he can champion his own theory.

Like I said before. Bring it on.

there’s an actual evolutionary chain present throughout these films. 

Go on.

[In Cars 2] we see birds. Except they’re not actually birds. They’re actually mini planes. 

Oh boy.

In another of the Tales from Radiator Springs animated shorts, you get VW beetle beetles. Tiny cars with insect wings.

Which is why the theory states that the cars work off of an unreliable narrator. Which means that to them, organic creatures on Earth look like cars to them, but elsewhere we see real birds, and we know from WALL-E and A Bug’s Life that birds and insects are still around in this post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Have you noticed that for a Pixar theory about Pixar movies, Mat doesn’t seem to include a lot of the other Pixar movies?

Mat goes on to talk about how the alien stuff from “Mater’s Tall Tales” is totally real rather than…a tall tale. And their tires being independent from their bodies must “prove” his theory rather than support the idea that they are, in fact, machines with tires. Good stuff.

these are living creatures with internal organs that are protected by a car-like exoskeleton.

Did they grow this exoskeleton themselves? And where do their engines (which we see) come from?

and with multiple differentiated animal-like species that have evolved over time from literal boats, planes, and cranes to bug-like and bird-like animals

But The Pixar Theory has too many assumptions? And my main problem with this is that Mat goes into zero detail over how and why machines would suddenly turn into bugs and insects. Or why the personified cars don’t. He just drops that evolution part in and moves on. You know, like in the original Pixar Theory!

In short, when you look at all of this evidence, there is only one possible conclusion:

Mat put as little effort as possible into tackling the Pixar Theory? Because this is just sloppy, and a bit uninspired.

the cars in Cars aren’t really cars at all, but are much more likely a highly evolved form of insect.

Remember kids: “this whole Pixar Theory is an interesting explanation, but there are a lot of assumptions.”

Mat’s entire argument here is that because cars have a metal “skin”, that must mean they’re evolved from insects, which (whoa!) also have an exoskeleton. Ignoring literally everything about science that has ever been known about how insects, you know, have evolved and are composed biologically.

Remember when Mat said, “Oh they have brains! Confirmed!” Well, he even shows diagrams of insects that don’t have brains (or eyes or tongues or teeth) like what he describes, yet that doesn’t matter because this is my life now.

I get it. The Pixar Theory is about having fun, not being scientifically accurate. But this is just weird for the sake of it and not at all informative of what the theory’s really about: telling a grander story behind all of the movies and characters.

the cars aren’t cars! They’re insects!

I mean come on, does anyone else think Mat is just spoofing at this point? He literally has to say “The cars aren’t cars.”

that does some really interesting things for the Pixar Theory

At best, it ruins the Pixar Theory and undermines everything we actually know about the Cars movies.

First and foremost, it removes Cars from the era of humans

Thus making it completely implausible. The point of Cars is that the machines are brought to life through memories of humans. Taking that out to make room for some random insect nonsense adds literally nothing to the theory. It only takes away evidence that brings everything about the machines together for what happens in Monsters Inc.

that sort of evolution is going to take a really long time, so get it away from the WALL-Es, Nemos, and Incredibles of the world.

So then what’s the point? And how would human civilization be what it is in the Cars universe if this was so far in the future? Where are the monsters? Why are the cars remembering events from the 20th Century, like the Piston Cup? If they’re so far removed from the Pixar timeline, why even suggest that the timeline is even purposeful?

but surprisingly enough, we do happen to have one film in Pixar’s lineup that does follow super intelligent bugs in their quest for survival

What about the birds? If we’re bringing A Bug’s Life into this, then you also have to point out that the birds are primal and “dumb” compared to the insects.

in a world where there are remnants of human society but you see no humans present

But we do know they’re still around because one insect had his wings clipped by a kid.

what I propose to you is that Cars isn’t so much its own entity, but rather A Bug’s Life 2, 3, and coming up on 4. The natural progression of insects evolving and taking over the planet Earth. 

So insects naturally evolve…into cars? That explains the millions of years established by the Pixar timeline (starting with Good Dinosaur) where they, you know, didn’t evolve into cars. But don’t worry, because all of these theory holes will be solved (maybe!) next time.

and with that we have the first puzzle pieces in place as we all start to build our own Film Theorists approved mega Pixar Theory!

Go for it. Seriously. These are your movies too. Just don’t be surprised when the Snarcasm rolls around, because if you’re going to build off of my initial ideas and timeline without fully looking into them for your own purposes, plus rip off another YouTuber’s theories without giving them any credit for it, then this is a Pixar Theory war. 


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Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


Snarcasm: Carl From ‘Up’ Is Insane And So Are You

up

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read

Word of warning: if you tag me in a tweet promoting a fan theory you “wrote,” then expect the Snarcasm treatment in the most lighthearted way possible .

So here’s the background. Two years ago, SuperCarlinBros did a fan theory video about Pixar’s Up that proposed Carl Fredricksen is “insane” for reasons that sound anything but. It’s an amusing video from a couple of good friends of mine, which is why it’s strange to see the theory popping up again…from someone else.

Jonathan Sim, a different writer, tagged me in his own write-up for a theory he didn’t write, but instead rewrote with credit to the SuperCarlinBros. Now that this is in written form and it’s coming out while this column is a thing, we get to dive into why the “Insane Carl Theory” is…well, to say it’s insane is giving it at least a little credit.

What if I told you that Carl Fredericksen was actually insane and this movie was a figment of his imagination?

I’d tell you that it’s spelled “Fredricksen.” Then I’d tell you that at least 20 million “fan theorists” have been speculating that any given piece of fiction is “in someone’s head” since Descarte.

So, we start off this theory with that scene in Up where Carl assaults a man with his cane.

It’s a walker with tennis balls, but alright.

This is assault and battery as the man is later seen with blood on his forehead. And we later see Carl in a courtroom. And they sentence him to…a nursing home?

We’re not about to have a discussion about legal precedent are we—

Doesn’t it seem strange that this old man has committed what can be considered third degree assault and battery and his sentence is a nursing home?

Well, no, if we use our thinking caps. As you state, this is third degree battery, which is a misdemeanor. As in, not a felony. Most states will either put you in jail for 30 days and/or make you pay a $500 fine. Depends on the judge, though.

Now, let’s look at the situation Carl is in. This is, by all reasonable accounts, his first offense ever. In addition, a huge corporation has a clear stake in getting him out of his house. So we can surmise from the wordless court scene that BnL’s lawyers have arranged to make a deal that forces Carl to stay at a retirement home so that they can bulldoze his house. We even hear from the police officer in the next scene say that Carl doesn’t seem like a “public menace,” likely referencing the arguments made to kick him out.

You could also consider that Carl doesn’t have the money to pay the fine (he’s a balloon salesman, after all), but the state would rather put him in a retirement home than jail because of his age and the fact that he lives alone. This seems like a pretty logical ruling from a judge who has to sentence an old man without a criminal record.

I mean, he should honestly just receive a jail sentence or something like that. But a nursing home is not legitimate.

Let’s not pretend nursing homes don’t exist as punishments.

So, Carl actually was sentenced to a prison.

Wait, what? No he wasn’t?

And when this happened, he had lost everything. He lost his wife, his freedom, and now, he loses his mental health.

Um…no? The police officer told him that the retirement folks would pick him up in the morning. Where exactly does his mental health collapse for you? And why are you convinced he’s gone insane in the first place, just because he’s sad? Is that your only criteria?

What Carl then does next is absolutely impossible: he lifts up his house with balloons.

At this point, that seems way more plausible than what you’re suggesting.

Well, first off, that would mean he was a really bad balloon salesman.

Oh, I get it. Jonathan is just joking with us. Right?

Right?

Second, according to production notes from the film,

No, no, no, hold up and don’t you dare switch the topic. Carl is a bad balloon salesman? How does that…what? Because…he has a bunch of balloons? That means he’s bad…at selling them..but he’s retired…

WHO ARE YOU?

So, in one night, we’re expected to believe Carl had the stamina and physical ability to fill that many balloons with helium?

No, we’re expected to believe he already had those balloons ready to inflate and finish tying up, secretly. Remember, he and Ellie were planning on taking the house to Paradise Falls, hence the drawing of the house…on Paradise Falls. But they never did because she got sick, and the point of this next scene is to show that Carl’s willing to embark on the adventure they always dreamed of, but he’s not really alone because Ellie is the house and—

Oh sorry, you were saying?

He can’t even walk down the stairs without his machine.

Right. That means all the other times he’s running around and attacking construction workers were all a hoax. Which part of the movie is “in his head” again?

And not only that, but lifting a house with 10,297 balloons is not possible.

Neither is having a head shaped like a perfect rectangle, but you don’t question that for some reason.

Up co-director Pete Docter recently told Ballooning magazine

Recently? You mean in 2009?

that technician Pixar estimated

Who is technician Pixar?

it would take 23.5 million party balloons to lift a 1,800-square-foot house like Carl’s.

The funny thing is that in this same article, they point out that if the house did have enough balloons to lift the house, it would shoot off like a rocket rather than leisurely float away. So Pete Docter’s idea here never would have worked in the real world, but they went with it anyway because they like to dream big. Which doesn’t mean Carl’s dreaming big, an argument that Jonathan (both of them) haven’t even gotten to defending yet.

And then, when he is on his way there, he finds a child on his doorstep.

Thank goodness for babiesovernight.com.

He and Ellie never got to have children in their lives, and this crazy dream sequence (or you can call it heaven if you want) is giving him everything that he didn’t have before.

Let’s break this down. First, Jonathan just sneaks in yet another fan theory about Up that suggests Carl is dead the whole time. Which has been debunked by almost everybody because it’s such an overused fan theory that no one cares anymore.

Second, why would Carl be dreaming of a kid he’s already met? And that he hates? And if the kid represents what he wants in life, why does he try to get rid of the kid throughout the entire movie?

Carl and Ellie grew up loving adventurers and exploring and this kid shows up at the door, who loves adventuring and exploring and would be an ideal, perfect child for Carl and Ellie. 

Thanks, IMDB.

But that’s not the main reason why I don’t buy this.

Don’t buy what? You don’t believe what you just said?

See, Russell said that he saw a snipe (a type of bird) and chased it under his porch. However, that was when Carl lifted up his house and he remained on the house.

You don’t see Russell either, but you know he’s still there. Also, you know, birds fly.

I don’t see how it would be possible to get under that porch, and when he noticed the house lifting up, why would his immediate response be to grab on? It doesn’t make sense, and therefore, Carl’s mind is simply creating this vision for him.

Russell didn’t “grab on,” he clearly was hiding in fright. We don’t see him because the filmmakers wanted to keep his presence a surprise. We would have been distracted if Russell had been shown. This is a plot hole in the movie, not a definitive piece of evidence that Carl is imagining the whole movie.

The only kid that gets into Carl’s house is the kid that somehow knows how to get from the United States to South America, navigating with a house he’s not familiar with steering.

He uses his GPS to navigate. And he’s steering a floating house, not a B52. Movie logic aside, the nonsensical premise of Up is deliberate. To suggest that it’s all a fabrication is pointless,  because the movie is already a fabrication.

There is a scene in which Carl tries to drop Russell into the street by suspending him with a rope while about six stories off the ground. Carl then drops Russell into the street by accident, but in the next scene, he shows up in Carl’s house again, completely unharmed without a single scratch.

Jonathan…did you watch the movie? Because…Jonathan, if you watched the movie you’d know that this happened IN AN ACTUAL DREAM SEQUENCE CARL WAS HAVING.

See, Carl was considering dropping off Russell, but he DREAMED the scenario and realized it would harm Russell.

And we also have the character of Kevin.

Oh, don’t you even dare bring Kevin into this.

when we first meet Ellie as a child, we can’t really tell whether or not she is a male or female.

Yes you can? True, she’s a tomboy and it might not be immediately clear to everyone, but it doesn’t take long.

Russell names the bird Kevin (a male name), but we find out at the end of the movie that she is a female, as she gives birth.

You’re not about to say Ellie is the bird, are you? She’s already the house, mate.

To add on, Kevin can have kids, but Ellie had a miscarriage.

(Voice of Buzz Lightyear) Themes! Themes everywhere!

And right when Carl lands in Paradise Falls, he meets his childhood hero: Charles Muntz.

…who is the inspiration for why Carl wants to go to Paradise Falls in the first place.

Muntz is 92 years old during the main events of the film and though there are people who live up to 92 years old, he cannot be this impressive.

Why not? We see him struggle in his fight with Carl later on, so it’s not like he’s the pinnacle of health. Wouldn’t a life of living off the land make him hardier?

Anyway, it doesn’t matter because a dropped plot point of the movie is that Muntz’s age was slowed down by Kevin’s eggs, explaining how he’s still alive at such an old age.

He is living in the jungle with no healthcare, no way to treat any possible diseases, and not a lot of food.

OK, this is actually offensive. You do realize that people in other countries who have no modern medicine are still able to live a long time, right? And he lives on a zeppelin with tons of food shown onscreen, because his dogs take care of him.

And there is also the fact that when Carl points out a skeleton of a giant Somalian leopard tortoise, Muntz says, “I found it on safari with Roosevelt.

Here we go.

There are two likely Roosevelts that he was talking about: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt.

To even suggest it was FDR is laughable, but go on.

Now, Theodore Roosevelt wouldn’t really make sense because Muntz was born in 1911 and Roosevelt died in 1919. That would mean that the oldest he could have been while hanging out with Roosevelt is eight years old and apparently, Roosevelt was going on safari and cheating at gin rummy games with eight year old kids.

Technically, Charles could have been a child on safari exaggerating his role. And kids are certainly capable of playing card games. But the more likely explanation is that Charles went on safari with Roosevelt’s son, Kermit Roosevelt, who was also an adventurer who actually went on African safaris.

OK, now hopefully Jonathan will reveal all of the evidence pertaining to Carl’s mental health by—

This means Carl was either insane, or, as other theories have said, he could have died and this may simply be his ascend to heaven. Russell, Kevin, and Dug are all just in his imagination.

That’s it? That’s the whole thing? This entire fan theory is just one argument over and over again: the movie is a bit silly, so that means it’s a dream.

This isn’t a fan theory, it’s a fan guess. And not a good one at that. There’s nothing about how Carl does actually have some clear psychological problems with thinking his wife is a house and how his attachments clearly blind him to reality over the course of the film. But rather than address anything like that, Jonathan just tells us it’s all a dream because movies aren’t real. Or something.

So in a way, doesn’t this mean we’re all insane for believing them?


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Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


Snarcasm: ‘Moana’ Is Formulaic Once You Ignore All Of Its Originality

moana

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read

I correctly predicted that Zootopia would beat out Moana for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars this year. Not because Zootopia deserves it, but because I know an Academy Award winner when I see it, borrowing from the same universe where a socially relevant movie like Spotlight will outshine the crowd-pleasing favorite for Best Picture. Only in this case, Zootopia happens to be a favorite among many Disney fans, as well.

My issue with all this is less an attack against Zootopia and more a lament for how under-appreciated Moana is as both a movie and one that happens to be made by Disney. If you slapped the same movie with the logo of any other animation house, it would deservedly be hailed as a new classic and breath of fresh air. But as we’ll get to in a minute, Moana is dragged down by baggage it didn’t ask for, and in many ways, went out of its way to defy.

Why? Because film critics can be a bit lazy. They see something that sort of resembles something else and jump at the chance to make a comparison, usually knocking the film down because of their pseudo-intellectual word associations and cultural references, as if film borrowing inspiration is something to be ashamed of. This is a persistent annoyance with reviews for animated films because nearly 80 years after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, some critics are still refusing to take the art form seriously. Seriously.

Thankfully, most critics do appreciate good animated movies and approach them fairly. Of course, there were a small amount of unfavorable reviews for Moana in November, but most of them were perfectly fine for what the reviewer was trying to accomplish, which was a basic interpretation of their own subjective take on the film. But one in particular caught my Snarcastic attention, not because it was badly written or as outrageous as what I usually bring up in this column, but because it’s so tragically misguided in its bias. It’s also a summation of the criticism received by many who did like Moana overall.

Writing for Sight and Sound, Vadim Rizov writes, “Disney’s Hawaiian folk fable paddles safe waters.

Hey, did I mention the other thing that really bugs me about a lot of critics? It’s the wordplay headlines. Just the wordplay headlines.

Disney’s big-ticket seafaring saga lets rip with its computer animation, but sails the same old storyline.

To Rizov’s credit, he really does go into detail over what makes Moana a technical achievement in animation, so let’s focus on his main argument, that Moana is same-old, same-old for Disney.

In a way, that’s true. A young “princess” is the heroine, and she has to go on an adventure to save her village. Of course, most movies can be boiled down to a well-established plot structure, but we forgive it because of everything else that happens on top of the familiar “good vs. evil” and “buddy cop” tropes that show up again and again. Let’s see why Rizov disagrees.

Moana is an animated film of the subgenre codified at the start of the ‘Disney Renaissance’ by 1989’s The Little Mermaid.

Oh no. He’s not about to compare Moana to Little Mermaid is—

Both films are co-directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, and start from the same premise:

Sighing intensifies.

a young woman next in line to be queen/chief

OK, hold on. Ariel from Little Mermaid was not next in line to be queen, and in fact, Triton never even implies that her future has anything to do with running the kingdom. Rizov even has to point out here the difference between “queen” and “chief,” which is already a false comparison of the two movies in order to argue that Moana is somehow formulaic. But let’s keep going.

chafes at the for-safety’s-sake boundaries imposed on her.

Two huge differences you leave out, Rizov. First, Moana actually accepts these boundaries over the course of the first number, which chronicles how she chooses responsibility and duty over her own personal desires. It’s only later out of necessity that she challenges this authority, but it’s a far cry from the rebellious personality had by Ariel, who was going behind her father’s back in perpetuity before the movie started.

The second difference is that Triton’s hatred of humans is never really justified in a way that makes sense. Why are the aquatic folk so scared of humans? These rules come off as very authoritarian, which makes sense for a 1989 movie. But Moana actually presents a believable case for why the chief is so against their people (not just her) venturing beyond the reef. He’s given a backstory, and the script treats Moana’s father as a complex character, even though you somewhat root against him.

But Rizov would have you believe, “Nope! Same as Little Mermaid!”

her father…insists his people don’t venture past the coral reef. It’s as inevitable as her journey of self-discovery and vindication that, in between musical numbers, Moana will have reason to leave and prove herself.

Eh, more or less. And I see why Rizov is simplifying this in order to avoid an over-explanation. But it’s unfair to boil down Moana’s motivations to self-discovery, when it ignores how the first act effectively explains why she wants to “prove herself.” And it’s compelling, not just inevitable. For one thing, she’s energized by how her ancestors were voyagers, and part of her motivation to leave is to restore her people’s culture, in addition to answering the call to help her people that is set up earlier when she’s learning the ropes in becoming chief.

Rizov goes on to praise the movie a bit for not being as racist as Aladdin, bring up the weird controversy over Maui’s weight for some reason, and gush over how pretty the movie’s water and hair is. Eventually, he brings up the music and points out some of the clever lyrics.

But no matter who wrote the songs, there was always going to be a line about listening to your ‘inner voice’ – it’s pretty much Disney company policy.

I also shudder at the simplistic plot device that is “listening to your heart.” Disney popularized it, to be sure, but what’s so depressingly absurd about Rizov’s assessment here is how he missed the part where Moana blatantly defies this boring cliche.

First, I want to point out that one of my favorite things about Moana is the music, because Lin-Manuel Miranda and the other writers did a fantastic job using each song to lend the story a lot of complexity and depth (seriously). In “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana spends the entire song declaring her situation and moral conflict that will define the film. That what she wants consistently clashes with what is expected of her, while she pontificates the benefits of “playing along” and how that will work out better for everyone but her, only for the “voice inside” to make her question if this is truly what’s best for her people.

The inner voice is recalled throughout the film, but it’s foreshadowed in the first number, when Moana’s grandmother tells her exactly what that inner voice means and why it’s important. She tells Moana that if her inner voice essentially spurs her to action, that means the voice is “Who you are.” Later, in “I Am Moana,” her grandmother again starts to sing this part, but then asks Moana to answer if she knows who she is. This contrasts with the film’s other repeated theme of understanding “where you are” (the name of that first song). Moana answers her grandmother by saying that she’s defined by where she comes from, what she’s doing, and where she’ll go. Not her inner voice. Her inner voice is simply her.

These are complicated ideas that appear formulaic when you just tune out at the mere mention of “the voice inside,” but following the music leads you to a completely different understanding of what the writers were going for. Moana isn’t another a “follow your heart” diatribe, it’s an attempt to better explore what it means to make decisions about what you’ll do with your life based on your circumstances and instincts. It makes the case for balancing these two struggling concepts and carving out your own path by being fair and honest with yourself and the people around you.

If that’s Disney’s company policy, I’m game for seeing another animated movie tackle a trope so competently.

All of these affirmational bromides are a regrettable staple of the late Disney corpus, and while they coincide nicely with the recent boom in self-proclaimed ‘empowerment ballads’, they do little to actually raise the spirits.

Translation: I didn’t feel particularly empowered, so there’s no way you did.

for all the technical skill on display, this feels as inessential and disposable as any Shrek or Ice Age, only with ostensibly loftier pretensions. 

First of all, only the Shrek sequels (after the second) are disposable. To say that Shrek is inessential is obvious, forgetful nonsense. Second, to compare Moana to Ice Age is so off the mark, I have to believe Rizov did a spit take when he realized that nearly every single critic in the world completely disagrees with him.

Now, I’m not here to tell you that Moana is somehow a lot better than you realize. It’s a personal film for a lot of people, myself included, and I believe it has more than enough merit to be regarded with high praise outside of water and hair effects (which are gorgeous, don’t get me wrong). It’s still my favorite movie of 2016, Oscar or no, and that’s only being strengthened by repeated viewings.


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Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


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