Do you remember where you were when you heard the news that The Good Dinosaur was being pushed to 2015, leaving a gigantic Pixar shaped void in your 2014 calendar? It was an incremental realization for me.
“Okay, it’s being reworked, I thought, that’s fine…but then what movie are they going to fast-track for 2014? (Cue Homer Simpson’s brain explaining reality to him.) No movie from Pixar at all?!? @#&*%!”
Like a spoiled brat, this animation company has got me so expectant for their annual masterpieces, I all but threw myself on the floor in an Angelica Pickles-worthy tantrum (forgive the Rugrats reference, but I’m lamenting the loss of Christine Cavanaugh). So, now that we made it through the year without a Pixar movie and look forward to the prospect of TWO films for 2015, a little reflection and contemplation seems appropriate.
First, a question: how was it? How was your Pixar-less movie-going year? Mine was made much better by a few totally awesome animated films, starting with The LEGO Movie, which came out in February. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs fame (another great film) totally shocked me with how solid a film they put out based on what I thought was a cheap, cheesy premise. Between Chris Pratt’s amazing performance and all the unexpectedly hilarious dialogue, this film scratched me where I itched. [See my review of the film for a full gush-fest].
In June, DreamWorks released their follow-up to How to Train Your Dragon. This installment, HTTYD2, was even more exciting and emotional than the first, with additions like Toothless’s new spikes, blue firepower and some surprisingly memorable baby dragons adding to the overall awesomeness of the flick. It didn’t fare epically well in the US box office, which is somewhat surprising, but it scored big overseas and we can expect the franchise to continue–which is a good thing!
Laika also surprised me with The Boxtrolls, a bizarre, but heartwarming film about a boy raised by a bunch of trolls who use discarded boxes like hermit crab shells. I usually appreciate Laika’s work, but am somewhat put off by the darkness of their aesthetic, however The Boxtrolls has such a great story with such adorably disgusting characters, it really works for me.
Disney finished the animation year off with Big Hero 6, a film I was eagerly anticipating and which did not disappoint. I did not write a review for the film, but I was full of opinions and praise nonetheless. It may not be the most innovative story ever told, but it is a supremely positive one with lots of really touching moments and one of animation history’s all-time most likable character performances. No one who sees that film can have anything but whole-hearted love for Baymax (and Tadashi, for that matter). Scott Adsit’s voice is phenomenally well-suited for the robot’s perfectly puffed character design. Sure, Disney did what they do best by killing off our main protagonist’s closest family member and the villain reveal was somewhat anticlimactic, but the redemptive coming-of-age story is almost good enough to justify it.
I also have to mention Pixar’s Christmas special, Toy Story that Time Forgot. It aired on December 2nd on ABC, ranking the highest show in that half-hour time slot with kids and second highest for adults. More than that, though, the short is full of Pixar-quality heart and adventure, with a very warm and toasty Christian message of surrender, perfect for the Christmas holiday. It isn’t exactly the same as a full-length Pixar film, but it’s a nice appetizer for 2015.
Now, as we look forward, we see that the rewards we will reap this year for the Pixar-free 2014 we endured will be bountiful. I have written quite a lot on the exciting Pete Doctor film, Inside Out, as I am literally the most excited for that release as I can remember being for an animated feature (which is saying A LOT). It looks innovative, intuitive and inspiring–I am all in and am counting down the days to June 19th (169, just so you know). Pixar’s fifteenth feature may be a tough act to follow, but don’t count out their November 25th adventurous film, the long-awaited The Good Dinosaur. Just a few days ago, we finally got a bit more concept art and a new logo, but other than that, the news has been much less forthcoming than for Inside Out. That isn’t really too surprising, since Pixar wants to focus our attention on first-things-first, but I predict there will be an epic trailer preceding Inside Out. I see Pixar fans leaving the theaters in June so giddy from the awesomeness of the film they just watched and the prospect of another one only months away, that there will be a baby boom, the stock market will skyrocket, unemployment rates will drop, and peace may finally come to the Middle East. Too much?