'Ratatouille' maker Pixar is doing a Disney

Mumbai, Aug 30 'Ratatouille', an animation film revolving round a rat in Paris, is set to become a monster of a hit. But even without that, Pixar Studios has already entrenched itself in pop culture and is establishing a legacy few can rival.

Thursday, August 30, 2007 | 9:07:14 AM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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Mumbai, Aug 30 (IANS) 'Ratatouille', an animation film revolving round a rat in Paris, is set to become a monster of a hit. But even without that, Pixar Studios has already entrenched itself in pop culture and is establishing a legacy few can rival.

Disney, which has distributed the film, for a long time wore the mantle that Pixar now seems to be taking over. It is important to note that Disney owns Pixar, but the two have a tumultuous relationship. They are still learning to get along.

Pixar's first six releases - between 'Toy Story' in 1995 and 'Cars' in 2006 - have earned more than $3 billion worldwide with such hits as 'Finding Nemo' (2003) and 'The Incredibles' (2004) in between.

These films have even won seven Oscar awards on the way to becoming cultural phenomena. Kenneth Turner of Los Angeles Times even went on to label Pixar as 'the most reliable creative force in Hollywood'.

Since it is here to stay, a little background into the workings and success of Pixar is warranted for any film fan. You are sure to end up watching a Pixar film sometime, especially if you are in any way connected to children.

On an elementary level, Pixar's formula for success is pretty simple. It has an incredibly nuanced understanding of acting, human body and movement. On the thematic side, Pixar stalwart John Lasseter puts it best saying, 'It's gotta be about the growth of the main character, and how he changes.

'It's all about self-improvement. Add to this that moviegoers prefer psychologically complex cartoon characters; it is easy to see why children and adults lap it up.'

For a long time, moviegoers enjoyed cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny, Batman and Superman, thinking they were watching zany antics. But the creators of those cartoons delicately loaded their works with the psyche and the environment of those times, thus allowing the audience to connect on a subconscious level.

Pixar has mastered this as their modus operandi. Whereas Disney spoon-fed audiences mainly childish fare, Pixar has boldly delved into more graphic, serious and mature themes. While Disney focused more on magic, Pixar has chosen to explore inner struggles.

The wildly funny and entertaining 'Finding Nemo' on closer look is about the death of a mother, loss of home, the cruel and unfair world and the search of the father and son for each other. Not exactly fun and fluff, but it is the genius of Pixar that can pull off the theme by making it appealing.

As has been in the case ever so many times in show business, the Pixar dream run could end. There are already some clear challenges up ahead. Its continuity will depend on how well it will handle them.

The all-too familiar dangers for animated films lie in dealing with the business aspect of filmmaking. Since animation relies too heavily on cutting edge technology, the studio is forced to be competitive and showcase innovation. This comes at the cost of story, character and themes. The balancing of business and art becomes increasingly difficult. Profit soon begins to trump meaning.

Another trap that Pixar will have to avoid - and that eventually snared Disney - is becoming a victim of its own fate. Disney became too big for its own good. People started looking at it as a behemoth and a force that had to be reined in.

(Sevanand Gaddala is an entertainment writer and he can be contacted at

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