Is Pixar in trouble?

The short answer is, no. The long answer is still no, but one day it might be.

Pixar Animation Studios has a groundbreaking reputation being that they were one of the earliest and by many are still considered the best studio that primarily focuses in computer animation. They even produced the first feature-length CG-animated film (“Toy Story”), and for years enjoyed dominance in this still early but promising area of filmmaking, although they haven’t had much competition for a very long time, as their only real rival prior to the 2010s was DreamWorks Animation, who, like Mike Myers, will probably live off of the “Shrek” franchise till the day they die.

But since the new decade, Pixar has gone lax, and has faced new opposition within Disney, specifically from Walt Disney Animation Studios, whose recent features “Frozen” and “Moana” have blown up in a way no Pixar film has in a while. Don’t get me wrong, I think Pixar is worth keeping around for the time being, at least until they fail to pump out films that remain consistently higher than those of their brothers in the mouse house, but I can’t help but notice that Pixar post 2010 has been overly reliant on unnecessary sequels that seem studio mandated and mechanical despite often being made ten or more years than their predecessors, interspersed with original films that are either hit-or-miss.

Image result for the good dinosaur
Pixar is not infallible, though even their misses remain to maintain some baseline quality. Still, Pixar of the 2010s can be seen as a shadow of what they once were.

When you look at the overall Rotten Tomatoe score of all the sum of Pixar’s films (not that aggregator websites are the be-all-end-all indicators of a film’s quality, but I think they are correct in this instance), 7 of the bottom 10 lowest rated films Pixar has ever made have come after 2010, which includes all three “Cars” films, “Brave,” “The Good Dinosaur,” “Monsters University,” “The Incredibles 2,” and “Finding Dory.” By this measurement, only “Toy Story 3,” “Coco,” and “Inside Out” can bat with the Pixar films of pre-2010. So what happened?

For one, oversaturation. The early Pixar that made “Toy Story” was not producing a film every year, and when it started doing so in the 2000s, it did so with a roadmap. Quite famously, there was a single lunch in 1994 in which Pixar planned out films such as “Finding Nemo,” “A Bug’s Life,” and “WALL-E,” and while Pixar did not follow this release plan exactly to the tee, it did give them some direction. What I think we saw after 2010, specifically after the release of “Up,” was Pixar finding themselves at a place where they had already produced all of their original ideas, and having to brush off some of the ideas they had shelved for years, such as “Toy Story 3,” which only would have worked if it were produced at a time where “Toy Story”’s original audience had grown up with the franchise, and “Cars 2,” which probably should have just sat in some drawer.

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I’m most excited for the “Untitled” Pixar film.

Also, notice Pixar’s release schedule. In 2015 and 2017 alone, they produced two movies a year, which were both years were they made a lackluster film (2015’s “The Good Dinosaur” and 2017’s “Cars 3”) and a breakout film (2015’s “Inside Out” and 2017’s “Coco”). As we’re halfway into 2018, bearing any surprise releases, it seems like Pixar realized that this release schedule is not a good idea, with the only upcoming films we know are coming being a fourth “Toy Story” sequel. However, it is worth noting that 2020 and 2022 are set to be double release years for Pixar, so maybe the studio thinks that those are ok so long as Pixar is given time in advance to work on those double-year films, but history would say otherwise.

Pixar’s tale is a tale many once-great studios face: Increased demand and then burnout. It happened to Disney’s hand drawn animation studio before them, and unless they can negotiate a release schedule with Disney that is sane enough that it will allow them to keep producing high quality films at the caliber they’re known for, they will suffer a similar fate, most likely in the form of consolidating their forces with Walt Disney Animation’s, although there are merits of having two animation studios that can pump out films of roughly the same quality. It means that Disney can easily have Pixar work on a film a year set to release at one time of the year, and have Walt Disney Animation do the same and have their film release at a different time of year. Either way, animated films are still hot, and Disney can benefit from making the most of them that they possibly can.

Like anything, Pixar should be fine so long as they continue to make money. But it is important to note that giants bigger than Pixar have fallen before, and nothing is guaranteed to exist forever. As it stands, I think Pixar still edges Disney Animation as the more quality studio and as long as that’s the case, Pixar should be allowed to keep doing its award-winning thing.

One thought on “Is Pixar in trouble?

  1. Great post, but you do know that Frozen (which Cars 3 deserves way more credit than even though it’s far from Pixar’s strongest works which Up, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo and Toy Story 2 which thankfully AniMat will review soon) has an understandably bad reputation, eh?

    Liked by 2 people

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