Monday, June 23, 2008

Is Pixar Further Out On A Limb?

Photo: Ratatouille Movie

When Pixar rolled out 'Ratatouille' I thought their streak would end. I just couldn't see how there could be that much interest in a movie about a rat who wants to cook classical French cuisine. I didn't care that he wanted to be a chef. I didn't even like the way he looked -- not that he's a bad rat, he's just drawn that way. I thought it was a mistake to name a movie after a Provencal soup. 'Ratatouille' did pretty good business, though (not as good as previous Pixar benchmarks, perhaps, but...). So, I was wrong. (I haven't finished watching the DVD yet, but...).

Photo: Wall-E by Pixar

Now comes 'Wall-E', a robot that processes garbage, who lives alone, loves to watch 'Hello, Dolly', and yearns for a robot girlfriend. Katrina Onstad at NYT feels Pixar is gambling with this one. I don't see it. If Pixar can make a successful movie about a rat that aspires to preparing oh so haute cuisine for the French upper crust, why can't they make a successful movie about a lovelorn robot that collects garbage? I agree with Onstad that 'Ratatouille' seemed like a hard sell at the time, but can't see why 'Wall-E' is a gamble. The guy is cute, with those big eyes, and that snappy endearing ancronym/name -- what's not to like?

According to NYT, the film's writer-director, Andrew Stanton, scoffs at conventionality saying, "I never think about the audience. If someone gives me a marketing report, I throw it away." Fair enough. Add to that: "I'm not naive about what's at stake," he said. "But I almost feel like it's an obligation to not further the status quo if you become somebody with influence and exposure. I don't want to paint the same painting again. I don't want to make the same sculpture again. Why shouldn't a big movie studio be able to make those small independent kinds of pictures? Why not change it up?"

I'm not sure I'd call 'Wall-E', which cost $180 million dollars, a small independent kind of picture, but it certainly doesn't further the Hollywood status quo for fluff animation (unless you're Pixar and the status quo is making movies with increasingly off-the-wall premises. (Yes, I'll admit I thought about saying 'off-the-Wall-E' premises).

If Remy the rat can carry a movie about cooking classical French food, then Wall-E the cute robot can carry a movie about collecting garbage and looking for a girlfriend. The rat chef may have been a gamble but I think 'Wall-E' is money in the bank.

Pixar may be further out, but they're not on a limb. However, they might consider, just consider, making their next movie a bit more conventional -- the kind of thing where you don't have doubts about the premise and don't cross your fingers and hope for the best before taking the family. Just saying, is all.

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