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3.86

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Worth A Look85.71%
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1 review, 1 rating


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Pixar Story, The
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by brianorndorf

"Nerds, Inc."
4 stars

The Pixar that the world knows and loves today is a powerhouse animation machine, churning out hit after hit with a rigid story template that grows more powerful with each passing year. What aren’t as widely reported are the company’s humble origins; its start as a haven for ambition and imagination, struggling mightily to find its place in the industry. “The Pixar Story” is a documentary by Leslie Iwerks (granddaughter of the famed Ub Iwerks) itching to look inside the famous oasis of computer animation and discover just how the home that Woody and Buzz built came to be.

To be honest, “Pixar Story” is a bit of a whitewashed viewing experience. The Pixar portrayed here is a bottomless pit of wonder and respect; a literal magic dispenser that dollops cinemas with a creamy sugary snack every year or so, created by professionals presumably made up entirely of smiles and foresight. Iwerks doesn’t dare probe too deeply into the personalities of company founders Steve Jobs and John Lasseter, preferring to address the struggles of the production team and Pixar itself with a casualness that does a great disservice to the true toil of the company as it wrestled with Disney over the years for financial dominance and artistic lucidity. Heck, even Walt had a dark side, and he’s still beloved.

Instead, “Pixar Story” is inspirational hokum, but it’s great hokum.

Starting as a small group under the Lucasfilm umbrella, “Story” tracks the birth of Pixar as this ungainly collection of animation refugees who were seeking the pathway to innovation. Inspired by the preeminent visual humdinger known as “Tron,” the squad, led by Lasseter, soon found shelter under the wing of Jobs and his vast bank account, churning out commercials and producing shorts in an elongated effort to hone their company vision. These were lean years for Pixar, constantly threatened with closure unless they lurched forward with a bold idea.

The sheer challenge of a feature-length CG endeavor was a towering one for Pixar, and the documentary takes great delight exploring the history of 1995’s “Toy Story.” From the lows of disastrous early development (where Woody was more a jerk than pal) to the highs of box office success and Disney certification, “Toy Story” was the film that solidified Pixar’s place in the industry and the entertainment world. It brought CG animation to the forefront, even snuffing out 2D animation for a short time. Pixar was here to stay.

“Story,” with interview access to all the Pixar names and celebrity associates (including Tom Hanks, Roy Disney, and George Lucas), is a cheery, aw-shucks documentary that is better swallowed as a time capsule than a historical piece. Once the film starts to discuss the subsequent efforts from the studio, it gets lost in an overtly smoochy tone. When narration by Stacy Keach describes “A Bug’s Life” as “masterful,” then any expectation of hard-biting journalism is swatted away.

The best moments of the film come in the demonstrations of joy folks such as Lasseter display when discussing Pixar. Kicked around the industry (specifically Disney), Lasseter had every reason to feel resentful toward his competition and view Pixar’s success as the ultimate revenge. Instead, the creative gale force wind behind the company uses his supremacy to propel others toward success. His affection for Pixar, and now Disney, is endearing to witness, and the documentary is simply delightful charting that enthusiasm around the Pixar property.

As a film critic, I’ve grown weary of Pixar’s storytelling stencil and rusted reliance on the familiar, but I’ve never doubted their ingenuity and giddiness. Watching clips of “The Incredibles” and the lush animation of “Finding Nemo” washes away any cynicism I hold toward the brand. Iwerks may not have the gumption to pop open Pixar’s hood and explore the mechanics, but she’s created something warmly nostalgic and uplifting instead.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=16902&reviewer=404
originally posted: 12/07/07 18:05:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/10/07 ceredo good animation 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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  28-Aug-2007 (NR)

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