Princess Merida loves adventures. Her idea of a good time is riding her horse through the wilderness with her bow strapped to her back. However, her mother Queen Elinor does not think her passions are appropriate for a princess. She subjects Merida to regular lessons on how to be a proper princess and in return, Merida gets one day a year to do whatever she wants. But Merida is getting older, and Elinor decides the time had come for her to meet her suitors from the neighboring kingdoms. Merida is furious and thinks she is too young to be thinking about suitors and marriage but her mother thinks it’s high time she accepted she is a princess and start acting like one. Merida tries to prove her point as the suitors fight for her hand but her mother refuses to budge leading Merida to take matters into her own hands. She seeks out a witch to cast a spell that will change her fate but gets much more than she bargains for.
This is Pixar’s first film with a female lead and it is quite a tender story about a mother and daughter learning to swallow their pride for the one they love. I feel like anyone can identify with the very common clash and it’s done in a really respectful way, giving each side a strong argument and not making anyone the bad guy. This is another fine example of Pixar being the masters of creating empathy. However, the trailer was very misleading, implying the central action would be Merida going on an epic quest by herself where she faces many challenges etc. While it seems Pixar is all right with having a female protagonist, perhaps they didn’t believe an audience would line up for a film about lady issues.
One thing I will say about this film, there are way more bears than I expected. I was expecting no bears and I got a lot of bears. Also, the film’s midpoint is a drawn out, with a lot of chasing and hiding, that makes you assume they weren’t sure what to do so they made everyone run around for a while. There were two directors for this film, original director Brenda Chapman left the project unexpectedly and was replaced with Mark Andrews so maybe these scenes are symbolic of the crew running around, not certain of the project’s future.
While many were disappointed with Brave and questioned Pixar’s ability to still make great films, I’m not worried. Brave is still better than most films out there and still contains a lot of what makes Pixar such a quality studio. There’s a lot of tenderness at its core, and while a lot of the wackier moments seem a little off, it’s nowhere near as the mindless as a lot of other children’s films. There are very few films in cinema’s history as perfect as the Toy Story series or Up so I am willing to give Pixar a pass if a film is simply “pretty good”.

Finding Nemo


After losing his wife and all but one egg, Marlin the clownfish is left extremely paranoid and overprotective of his only child Nemo. However, Nemo is a risk-taker at heart, and grows increasingly frustrated living under his father’s oppressive rules. In an effort to impression his classmates, Nemo swims his way up to a boat, only to be captured by a dentist who plans to gift Nemo to his fish-killing niece. The always cautious Marlin must explore the ends of the ocean to find Nemo and along the way meets a collection of characters including the absent-minded fish Dory and Crush the surfer dude turtle.
This film is responsible for the comeback of comedian Ellen DeGeneres. While her television alter-ego’s coming out was a television landmark, her show has cancelled the following year and DeGeneres spent half a decade trying to reclaim her place in Hollywood. Along came Dory, a role written specifically for her, to remind the public how likable DeGeneres naturally is. Dory is forever cheerful despite, or a direct result of, suffering from one of the most severe cases of short-term memory loss in film history. Her mantra, “Just Keep Swimming” helped make Dory one of the best beloved characters in Pixar, or Disney, history, and propelled DeGeneres back to the A-list. She now hosts her own talk show where her forever perky, always dancing persona reminds one of Dory.
One thing I love is while Marlin and Dory develop a kind of love for each other, the filmmakers didn’t push a romantic relationship for the two. It’s very rate to have a male and female character be unrelated and not have them become romantically involved.
Pixar seems like one of the best places to work. While I’m sure team members work long hours, they are often rewarded by having one of their inside jokes stuck into the background or having a character named after them, like Darla, the feisty tot who is every fish’s worst enemy, who is named after long-time Pixar producer Darla K. Anderson. They also love to sneak cameos in the background from other Pixar characters past and present.
Pixar is always making new innovations in computer animation. Toy Story was the first full-length computer animated film and the shiny plastic toys were a good fit for the still somewhat limited artform. With each film they pushed boundaries and developed new techniques. A new shading system called “transblurrency” was developed for the jellyfish sequence. The animators were too talented for their own good, creating surface water that looked so lifelike they worried viewers would think it was live action and had to go back to make it look more fake.
While Pixar has one of the best track record in Hollywood, Finding Nemo is one of their more popular films. While it didn’t touch me quite like Up!, Wall-E, or the Toy Story films do, it’s consistently cute and funny, and who can’t relate to Nemo’s need to pull away from his dad’s controlling way or Marlin’s need to protect his son? Pixar is brilliant at creating stories everyone can connect to and that’s their ultimate weapon.

Why Pixar Always Makes Me Cry Like A Baby

No film studio has made me cry as consistently as Pixar. It sounds a little silly, considering they make children’s cartoons, but I know I’m not alone. Their latest film Brave came out last week, and while it’s getting mixed reviews, some have admitted to not making it out dried eye. I’ve asked myself, what do these storytellers do that allows them to pull on my heart strings like no other? The answer, I believe, is that they are masters at creating empathy. They allow you to put yourself in their characters shoes and identify the emotions they are feeling.
One way Pixar creates empathy is through simplicity. Because these are stories that are supposed to be understood by children, the characters and the plots can’t be too complicated, but this helps the situations become more identifiable for the adults in the audience. Everyone can see a bit of themselves in these characters because they don’t have a lot of specifics getting in the way of making a true connection. In the Toy Story series, all the toys have the same goal- to be loved by their kid. This need drives all the action in each film. It doesn’t really matter that Woody is a cowboy, Buzz is an astronaut, and Lotso is a bear that smells like strawberries, their need for love from their kid is what defines them, and love is something everyone has experienced in some way and, sadly, so is the loss of love. You don’t have to know any specifics about the characters or the plot of Toy Story 2 to feel the emotional impact of Jessie’s Song. All you have to do is hear Jessie explain that Emily was once like Andy and then watch her face as Emily outgrows her and later discards her. Tom Hanks admitted that he found himself bawling at the premiere over that little cowgirl doll! It’s a scene so powerful, I tear up just thinking about it! Great, now my keyboard is all wet!
Also, the themes they touch on are universal. In Finding Nemo Marlin is an overprotective father who just wants to keep his son safe. Nemo is a son who wants independence but gets in trouble when he bites off more than he can chew. Almost every family has experienced this dynamic and can empathize with Marlin’s anguish as he searches for his son.


Pixar is also the masters of showing not telling. In Up! decades fly by without a word but we completely understand the depth of Ellie and Carl’s love for one another. By showing us their love, instead of having them explain it, the audience is forced to connect the dots, allowing them to feel more invested. Also, when filling in the blanks, the situation becomes more personalized for the audience. Each person is thinking about how they would feel if the love of their life died, with so many unfulfilled dreams because in this world, love is, sadly, not all you need.
While a lot of filmmakers waste their energy constructing dramatic act three declarations of love to finish their complicated storylines with their dynamic characters, I will know that as long as Pixar is telling simple stories with their patented skill and heart; I will still have to bring a pack of tissues when I see their newest release.

ellie & carl


Pixar is probably the most evil company ever. No production company makes movies that consistently make me cry like Pixar does.  I can’t even describe the scene where Jessie gets given away in Toy Story 2 without bursting into tears and I was doing pretty good during Toy Story 3 until Andy says good-bye to Woody. But no movie in film history makes me cry like Up! It tells the story of a couple who have a love for adventure but reality keeps them from living their dreams. After the wife passes and developers plot to kick the husband out of his home, he unleashes millions of balloons, which carries him and the house (and an enthusiastic boy scout) to Paradise Falls, the land of his wife’s fantasies.

There are three key moments that make me lose my shit in this movie and not one of them contains a single line of dialogue: 1) Early in the film, we see a montage of Ellie and Carl’s lives together and we see them eagerly preparing for a baby, only to see them later in a stark doctor’s office, Ellie devastated. Carl helps her move on with plans of a trip to South America, which due to a series of financial hardships and the illness that takes Ellie’s life, they can never go on together. 2) Towards the end of the film, Carl discovers Ellie’s scrapbook, filled of pictures of all the adventurous locals she never got to visit. He feels helpless when faced with all she couldn’t do, and then see the scrapbook also contains photos of their lives together. While Ellie didn’t get to live her dreams, she still had a full and meaningful life because she had Carl’s love. 3) At the end we see the house eventually ended up at the top of the waterfall, just like Ellie always wanted. Carl made her dream come true afterall. And I’m a blubbery mess!

When this film came out, a lot of people gave Pixar flack for having another male dominant movie. Brave, will be the first Pixar film with a female protagonist. While the point against Pixar is valid, I felt it distracted from how good Up was. I don’t believe this movie would work as well with if the genders were reversed. Since the two leads are an elderly person and a child who spend a good portion of the film alone together, they have to be the same gender. It’s awkward having a little girl following around an old man, or an old lady being stalked by a little boy. Also, while this film is known for it’s tender moments, there is a lot of comedy and a grumpy old man is funnier/less sad than a grumpy old lady. I’m sorry, it’s true! Also it’s probably more PC to have a husband who is the quieter member of the relationship, than the opposite. If it was the story of an old lady trying to fulfill her dead husband’s wish, people probably would have complained about her being defined as a wife or something. Ellie is such a strong character that we know everything we need to know about her in just a few minutes of screentime and her presence is felt throughout the film. I’ve heard people say Carl and Ellie’s story is more completely told in a few minutes than many other “classic” couples and I agree, because we are not just told they love each other, we are shown why they love each other, a key element missing from some of the most famous couples in romance history.

The relationship between Carl and Russell is great too. They both are missing key people in their lives (Carl ‘s wife and Russell’s father) but show that just because life deals you an imperfect hand, doesn’t mean your life can’t be filled with love. These two fill in the blank in each other’s lives and prove that families can come in all shapes and sizes as long as everyone cares for one another.

Favorite Quote:

Dug: My name is Dug. I have just met you, and I love you.