12. Monsters University (2013)
Featuring the classic college premise without all the crazy parties, alcohol, drugs, sex or debauchery, “Monsters University” shows us how Mike Wazowski and James “Sully” Sullivan first met in Pixar’s only prequel to date.
Breaking continuity with them starting out as enemies when they were said to be lifelong friends since kindergarten in the original, the film fails to hit the same heights as before.
Coming 12 years after the original, the advantage with animation is that they’re able to cast the same actors even in prequels, and Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi haven’t lost their touch. Helen Mirren and Kelsey Grammer add nice touches, making you wish someone would cast them all in a live-action picture.
The story, characters, relationships, and world building all feel forced as they try to fit into the already established universe. It feels overly cliché in a lot of parts; the nerds with self-esteem issues and something to prove face off against the cool and overly confident jocks and strict faculty.
The slight twists the writers try to add make no impact and aside from all of these flaws, it’s still an okay film, and still entertaining.
11. Finding Nemo (2003)
“Finding Nemo” is the film that took Pixar to new heights both critically and financially. It sent them on their way with their classic run where they owned animation throughout the 2000s.
After Nemo is caught by a diver, the panicky and overprotective clownfish Marlin and the short-term memory blue reef fish Dory set out to find him, encountering all the wonders and dangers of the ocean.
Parents can relate to the story more than anyone, perfecting Pixar’s ability to make films that parents can enjoy equally with their kids. But in all honesty, the characters aren’t that special. Marlin is the type of character that works better as support than lead, and Dory – oh, Dory – gets tiresome as it gets going.
The underwater animation and visuals took things to the next level and were unlike anything audiences had seen up to that point. Breathtakingly beautiful and layered with a multitude of colors and details, they surpassed anything Pixar had ever done up to that point.
Unfortunately, the film drags in some places and overstays its welcome with parts like Nemo being stuck in a fishnet, again. As good as it is, it’s overrated to the point of seasickness.
10. A Bug’s Life (1998)
Pixar’s second outing after the groundbreaking “Toy Story” started the rivalry between Disney and Dreamworks with “Antz” that was released earlier that year. Watching them after all these years, “A Bug’s Life” is still relatively fresh while “Antz” is relatively outdated.
It concerns a “Seven Samurai-like” plot, where a unique and naive ant named Flik goes on a journey to recruit fighters to defend the colony against coming grasshoppers who threaten to kill them if they don’t get paid double the amount of food as usual.
Like every character in, like, every kid’s movie, like, ever, Flik is sort of an outsider and different. While the other ants are happy to keep their head down and follow convention, Flik thinks for himself and follows his own intuition, even if sometimes gets him into trouble.
The voice work is excellent from the likes of Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bonnie Hunt and Hayden Panettiere, and while it fails to live up to the aforementioned “Toy Story” there’s still lots to enjoy. Sadly, Pixar’s most underrated film.
9. Toy Story 2 (1999)
A lot of people complain about the abundance of Pixar sequels nowadays, but they often forget that their third feature was such. While none of their sequels match up to the Toy Story series, sequels are nothing new for the studio.
Tom Hanks and Tim Allen bring the toys back to life in another adventure that sees the team on a rescue mission to save a stolen Woody, developing the characters we all know nicely and adding some new ones to the mix.
We get some backstory on Woody, who turns out to be a valuable collectible inspired from a long lost TV show, and we are introduced to Joan Cusack’s Jessie the Cowgirl. Very similar to the first one in both structure and tone, the film still avoids being a retread.
The film touches on themes of mortality next to the familiar themes of friendship and memory. Originally destined for a direct-to-video release, it easily matches what came before, offering the same cuteness we’re used to but somehow leaving you wanting more.
8. Toy Story (1995)
Looking back after all these years, it’s surprising how good “Toy Story” still is. Of course, Pixar had lots of experience before this and worked tirelessly on its production until it was just right. But the granddaddy of feature-length computer animation is just as good as you remember it.
“Toy Story” is a buddy film that sees Woody and Buzz Lightyear put their rivalry and differences aside to be reunited with their owner Andy. With a whole host of diverse characters and some wonderful CGI, the film introduced the famous Pixar trademarks fully formed.
Directed by John Lasseter in his directorial debut and a script by Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, you know the studio pulled out all the stops to make this a success and it sure paid off. What’s even more impressive is that the team had no experience in moviemaking aside from hired writer Joss Whedon.
Although computer animation has advanced tenfold since then, it changed animation and revolutionized Hollywood. You couldn’t ask for more in a first film and although it’s a deserving classic, it would be upstaged a couple of times by the studio’s successive works as they grew more confident, ambitious, and skillful.
7. Up (2008)
Usually, Pixar has audiences crying before or towards the end of the film, but “Up” had people bawling their eyes out in the first seven minutes. A classic opening that’s a short film within itself, it perfectly sums up life, love, happiness, mortality and everything in-between that everyone fears and knows all too well.
But what happens after the “Raising Arizona” opening? There are some balloons and the flying house, of course, and maybe some talking dogs, and the perhaps the battle of the senior citizens. It would be hard for anyone to follow up that opening, to be honest. But that’s the blessing and curse that “Up” has to live with.
Depressing opening aside, there’s still the relationship between an old man and a young kid, the grumpy and cynical Carl and the talkative and overly positive Russell, which is a funny dynamic. Then there’s the nice twist of Carl’s childhood hero Charles Muntz (how old is this guy anyway?) turning out to be the villain, proving that life is just one disappointment after another or that old age is indeed a scary thing.
So it’s not at all bad, as there’s still plenty to enjoy in this heartbreaking adventure story, even if there aren’t any other classic moments after those famous opening minutes.