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29 June 2011 @ 12:49 pm
Schadenfreude at Pixar  
I like Pixar. In general i like Pixar movies. However when they announced Cars i went "huh", and when i first saw the trailer i said "that looks dumb to me, i have no interest in seeing that." And nothing i heard after the movie was released convinced me to change my mind about it.

(Both Wall-E and Up shared the same initial "huh" reaction from me for their initial teasers, but both of those movies easily redeemed themselves with later promotional material and of course turned out to be excellent movies as well.)

If you go and check the Rotten Tomatoes score now you find that Cars has a 74% rating. That's technically a "good" movie by their scale, but it's a pretty damn poor for a Pixar movie. In every other case they've gotten above 90%. And on an even more prosaic note, it is also currently the lowest grossing movie of theirs since A Bug's Life.

For some reason though Pixar itself loves the franchise. Not only did they make _nine_ different shorts for it after the movie, but it's the only Pixar movie to get any sequels aside from Toy Story (which Pixar practically had to be arm-wrestled into by Disney if i remember correctly.) I have no idea why they're obsessed with what seems to be considered their "worst" movie by a large number of people.

So as someone who wasn't interested in the first movie, was kind of turned off even more by the numerous shorts i did see, and didn't understand why they wanted to do a sequel in the first place, the schadenfreude part of me was very happy to see this week that Cars 2 scored 33% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Let me restate that.

33%

As in two thirds of the critics who saw it thought it was a bad movie. You know what other movie is coming out this week that is (so far) scoring higher than 33%? Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which is currently at 39%.

So by one metric of critical appreciation, Pixar managed to make a movie that was worse than a Bayformers movie.

On the downside, despite being very poorly rated it's still pulling in a ton of money (also like a Bayformers movie =P) and has apparently has currently made about $100 million in less than a week.

It's a very empty pleasure on my part though, cause i'm not sure what lesson Pixar ought to learn from this, much less what lesson they _will_ learn.

"Only make sequels to movies i like" would be great, but admittedly a bit egotistical :) "Make sequels to your most popular movies rather than your least popular movies" would be a bit more democratic. I feel a little bad saying they should let popular consensus or profits override their artistic sense, but i really can't see where the artistic sense occurred in the process of deciding on Cars 2 either.

Of course it's at least remotely possible that they may learn the lesson "Hey, we don't actually have to make _good_ movies in order to make lots of money! Oh yeah! Door's open, boys!"

Hopefully this will be just a minor hiccup in Pixar's history. I wondered a little if they were jumping the shark when i first saw the trailers for Cars, but they came back strong after that with Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up and Toy Story 3.

So what's coming up next this time? "Brave," their first movie featuring a female protagonist, which was first conceived of by Brenda Chapman, who was also going to be Pixar's first female director... until they recently fired her from the project and replaced her with a guy. WTH? That certainly makes me feel rather conflicted about it. _Maybe_ there was good reason for that, maybe she was making some stupid decisions or they had a fundamental disagreement on how the movie should be progressing, but they liked her idea well enough in the first place didn't they? It's unfortunate that even if Pixar was justified there are probably legal reasons why they can't tell us what really happened.

And now after having said the above i discover that the next movie after "Brave" is going to be "Monsters University" a sequel to Monsters Inc. Well i guess they're following part of my advice then, at least if they're making another sequel they're at least doing it with one of the more popular movies?

So since we're on the subject, apparently a new teaser/trailer for "Brave" just came out, so if you want to see it and start speculating, here it is:

Brave Trailer

Not much to go on there. It certainly looks pretty, but that's not really saying a lot given what we've come to expect from Pixar. Guess we'll have to wait and see.
 
 
 
Madman Across the Water: Hermitmadmanatw on June 29th, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC)
I believe the Cars franchise sells more toys than just about anything else Pixar does. Probably combined. And there you have your reason.
DonAithnendonaithnen on June 29th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
Well that's a depressingly realistic analysis :)
Pava: Osaka Sez!jmpava on June 30th, 2011 12:04 am (UTC)
I was just going to say the exact same thing. Kids LOVE it and it is a major merchandising cash cow. Which might have something to do with the quality... Maybe they recognized that was the reason and put the c team on it or something so the primary people could focus on... whatever is next. I dunno. But, yeah, this.
Melissa Bthumbie on June 30th, 2011 01:10 am (UTC)
Yeah, I have little respect for the things that kids these days seem to find funny and worth watching. (wow I sound old) For example, I was in Costco, and this little girl was glued to the front of a flat screen watching that annoying-ass little rat from Ice Age get his ass kicked and going HEEHEEHEEHEE loudly and... well, I think in some ways, society is really moving towards the future depicted in Wall-e.

Due to TV Tropes, I recently became aware of the Animaniacs skit "Jokahontas" which, while not exactly on-topic here, pretty much summed up the whole "if it makes boatloads of money we don't care if you judge our creativity and think we sold out, nyah" thing.
Ambermaggiedacatt on July 7th, 2011 06:34 pm (UTC)
Heeeeey, I like the Ice Age squirrel! *frump*
Beth Leonardbeth_leonard on June 29th, 2011 09:06 pm (UTC)
*nod* That was my first thought too.

My son's room was full of cars merchandise (mostly birthday presents from friends) until a few weeks ago when he was willing to shed it all to get a 3DS. My daughter sleeps in lightening McQueen sheets. I'd estimate there's at least $200 of Cars merchandise in our house, nearly all of it purchased by people other than myself and Jon.

Sometimes you have to make the good business decisions in order to fund the good art decisions. But it would have been nice if they'd been able to make the film good too. Cars 1 is on my bottom 3 list from Pixar. I also have on that list "Up" which started off awesome and ended in "what were they thinking??!!??" and "Wall-E" which was ok, but not as compelling as Incredibles or as cute as Monster's Inc.

--Beth
Kimchalgaryn on June 29th, 2011 08:08 pm (UTC)
My vague impression (which may or may not have any basis in fact) is that Cars 2 was made based on the continued popularity of the toys after all these years. I'm guessing it was much more a Disney decision than a Pixar decision.

(Oh, and in your 2nd paragraph, both ??? and Up?)
DonAithnendonaithnen on June 29th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
Whoops, wonder how i managed that typo? =P

For both Wall-E and Up i thought what i saw in the teaser _looked_ cool, but i had no clue how they were going to tell a compelling story around it.

As opposed to say Incredibles and Brave, which are both based on well known tropes so it's not hard to figure out how they're going to tell a story, just a question of if they're going to do a good job of it.
Squidceph on June 30th, 2011 01:21 am (UTC)
Yes, what they all said. Critics do not like Cars, but small children LOVE Cars. They love it so much it can damn near bring them back from the dead.
(Deleted comment)
Squidceph on June 30th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)
I recall seeing an article a while back about how Blue's Clues is very deliberately designed to appeal to small children in ways that make it torturous for adults to watch (repetition, predictability, etc.) They contrasted it with Sesame Street as a show that has broader appeal. I wonder if Cars or Cars 2 were written with children specifically in mind, or if it was merely a happy accident?