Ex Situ: The Hidden Message in Pixar’s Films

May 23, 2011

What if I told you they were preparing us for the future? What if I told you Pixar’s films will affect how we define the rights of millions, perhaps billions, in the coming century? Only by analyzing the collection as a whole can we see the subliminal concept being drilled into our collective mind. I have uncovered the skeleton key deciphering the hidden message contained within the Pixar canon. Let’s unlock it.

The Hidden Message in Pixar’s Films
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Catena Ex Situ


Ex Situ: Where’s WALL-E?

September 9, 2008

Over at Jim Hill Media, the eponymous webmaster received this e-mail query:

Can you please help me win a bet at work? A co-worker of mine says that WALL-E makes a brief cameo appearance in “Ratatouille.” More importantly, this guy has bet me $100 that I’ll never ever be able to find that robot in this movie. I’ve watch my kid’s “Ratatouille” DVD three times now and haven’t seen hide nor hair of WALL-E yet. So if I offer you a percentage of my winnings, will you please tell me where I can find this robot in the movie?

J.H. has done more than answer this guy’s question: he has written an exhaustive article detailing almost all of the Pixar self-references he could find. Some of them are so hard to spot, you need an expert like Mr. Hill to do the legwork for you. So, click over to brush up on your Pixar minutia and picayune intelligence. It’s how I would impress my co-workers if they would ever talk to me.

A Special “Where’s WALL-E” Edition of Why For? >Catena Ex Situ


Ex Situ: WALL-E’s Unlikely Love Story

August 10, 2008

Over at CHUD.com, lovable grouch Devin Faraci has written another editorial about WALL•E. The premise of this editorial is that WALL•E‘s less-than-really-expected box office is partly due to “The central love story doesn’t really work.” He then proceeds to make an extended analysis of WALL•E and EVE’s relationship:

But of course this is a story told from the point of view of the social retard, so this creepy behavior is rewarded. This is the wish fulfillment aspect, and it’s here that the relationship story goes off the rails for me. In the movie EVE wakes up essentially in love with Wall*E; having him need to win her at this point would have been more interesting and realistic. Wall*E as a character undergoes almost no change in the movie, which again is that social misfit POV – it’s everybody else who needs to change, not the guy who can’t make eye contact with the check out girl at the supermarket.

I don’t buy the hypothesis of this being the reason for WALL•E‘s relatively lackluster B.O. (Like Ratatouille, it’s a hard movie to sell properly.) Nor do I completely buy his analysis of the romance, but I have to admit that Mr. Faraci makes several excellent, thought-provoking, and essentially accurate points. It’s a valid critique, just one I don’t agree with. I think that the movie works best as a sort of nonliteral robot fairy tale (c.f. A.I.), though that probably is a critical cop-out.

NOTE FOR SENSITIVE READERS: Mr. Faraci refers to Doing It, using the euphemism “Doing It.”

The Devin’s Advocate: WALL•E’s Unlikely Love Story
>Catena Ex Situ


Ratatouille as a Metaphorical History of Disney and Pixar

May 11, 2008

Contributed by Lucas R.

A gorgeous, well-crafted and charming piece of cinema. The design was rich and warm and it made me feel nice and happy just getting to watch that world. All of that is really fantastic and worth more than the price of admission, but on top of that I realized while I was watching, and delighted in the realization, that the movie was a metaphor for Pixar!

Alright, let me explain (or try to explain, because I tried telling a lot of this to the friends I saw the movie with, got a bit carried away and jumped all over the place, and mostly got smiles and nods).

First, we’ve got Gusteau, the almost mythic chef who became a well-known phenomenon because of his work, and because his work was so loved he grew and thrived and made an empire. The empire lost some steam and with the help of some critical voices pointing out the plateau, the momentum was lost and with that momentum gone, the head of the empire died, but his empire kept on. So Gusteau was Walt Disney.

That empire reached far, and despite the energy behind the chef’s message had died, his work had spread and the message itself still inspired, even inspiring someone far away with a love for the same art to learn and grow their skills. That energy, conviction and the excitement of challenges and creation sounds a lot like Remy is Lasseter, discovering his raw tools at the beginnings of Pixar, amongst people who are supportive but have no idea what he’s doing, and folks who realize he’s got something but want to steer it to fit their interest. Remy’s testing for poison while exploring some ideas of food combination, Lasseter’s testing software and testing some character interaction and storytelling with new and developing technology. So yeah, Remy is Lasseter.

So, since the death of Gusteau/Disney, the empire still exists, but isn’t in the hands of the person who began it. It is being run now in a largely totalitarian way by a man without the creative and inspirational vision of the creator, but with a mind for keeping things afloat and profiting on cheapening and exploiting the name and image of the company’s past in mostly cheap and easy ways. In the movie, that’s Skinner; at Disney, that’s Michael Eisner. So yeah, Eisner/Skinner is chugging along, riding high at the helm of another’s empire and keeping many things running without any change and discouraging talk of change, while at the same time making deals behind the scenes to merchandise everything he can plaster the name of the now long-dead Gusteau/Disney onto.

Next, we get a seemingly harmless and ineffectual remnant of the old days who Skinner/Eisner lets on, but dismisses out of hand and sets up in a place where he figures the guy can’t do much/any harm. This new guy turns out to have ties to Gusteau/Disney though, and starts to make some waves after he begins a relationship with a little-known outside party that makes a splash out of nowhere with their first big creative endeavor. Linguini is Roy Disney. Roy staked himself to secure a relationship with Pixar and when Pixar hit big with Toy Story, the eyes were on him, largely like how Linguini could’ve stayed ineffectual and bullied into impotence but found the potential greatness in a small outsider. To the majority of the outside world, this new, great creation belonged to the empire of Gusteau’s/Disney, while within Disney it was Linguini/Roy Disney making a stir and the real power behind it all was Remy/Pixar.

The challenge to replicate the first success and the scoffing that “meh, you can do it with soup/toys, but let’s see if you can do it with something even Gusteau/Walt couldn’t ever seem to pull off: a bug movie!” But by sticking to what he knew to be best instead of trying to simply recreate what was done before, Remy/Pixar pulled it off again and now people wanted more.

During this time, Linguini/Roy Disney falls for Colette, who has worked very hard to get in and stay at the kitchen/Disney studios and who thinks that the only way to work is to tenaciously stick to the classic formulas and rules and immediately jumps in with warnings that deviation can lead to disaster. She does clue Remy/Pixar into some technical aspects of their work that do improve his skill, but he blows past Colette because of his experimentation and sense of artistry, and Linguini/Roy Disney is left in the middle trying to be supportive of Colette while still providing an outlet for Remy/Pixar and being pulled all around in the process. Colette is Disney Animation (the department and the animators). She viewed Pixar/Remy as a threat and an anomaly at the beginning, and eventually had to bite the bullet and join in to be able to really make anything worth making by the end of things. But I digress, back to where we were in the story.

Roy/Linguini was now riding high, but didn’t really understand his relationship with Remy/Pixar and was even trying to steer them along himself, even though it was done pretty innocently. Eisner/Skinner saw things slipping away and was grasping at straws to find a way to keep control. He even tried to trap Remy/Pixar (Skinner with a literal trap, Eisner with contracts) so he could take advantage of what they were succeeding with and force it into his cheap merchandising plans, but Remy/Pixar fought around that and finally got Linguini/Roy to realize that for his relationship with Remy/Pixar to really work, he’d have to take the support role instead of the leader/sponsor role and give them the chance to be the force they are. Still, when Remy/Pixar finally enters into Gusteau’s/Disney, the people who were there running the machine left and Remy/Pixar found that they had to rally their own forces with the reluctant Colette/Disney Animation. In the end, Remy/Pixar finds out that they can’t just continue in the shell of a former empire, they have to take the good from that and make something new if they’re going to be able to succeed.

Finally, Anton Ego represents the critics of animation in general. People who figure it’s all been done to death already, but if you think you can impress them, then go ahead and hit them with your best shot, because they don’t know what they want out of animation, just that they don’t think they can be impressed by it any more. With that challenge, the people in the studios figure they should bank on something flashy and new and shiny, but Remy/Pixar goes for something simple and nostalgic with enough of their own twist to make it theirs without taking away from what makes the subject matter belong to the audience, and instead of trying to make their audience like something completely new, finds new ways to remind their audience about something they already loved. It’s not so much a formula as a recipe that Pixar has used well and continues to, and it’s the kind of meal that stays with you and really satisfies.

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Mini-Analyzations

May 2, 2008

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  • “I don’t know if Disney has a house rule about which animals can speak and which cannot, but guidelines seem to be emerging. The rule is, if you are a predatory carnivore, you don’t talk, but if you are a pacifist, a vegetarian or cute, you do. In Tarzan, the apes spoke, but the leopards didn’t. In Dinosaur, all of the creatures speak, except for the vicious carnotaurs. A Faustian bargain seems to be at work: If you are an animal in a Disney picture, you can speak, but only if you are willing to sacrifice your essential nature.”
    -Quoted from Roger Ebert’s review of Dinosaur >Catena Ex Situ
  • A black & white Betty Boop in Who Framed Roger Rabbit was employed a cigarette girl at the Ink & Paint Club circa 1947. She bemoaned how “work’s been kind of slow since cartoons went to color”. Perhaps Miss Boop forgot about her starring role in the 1934 Fleischer Color Classic “Poor Cinderella.”
    -Contributed by Brendan S.
  • In Ratatouille, whether Remy walks on all-fours or on two feet depends on his mood:
    “If he feels exuberant, he tends to be more upright, and his hands pulled back. Later on, when he feels shame in front of his father, and [his dreams] have all turned into disaster, he folds back in again. It’s not just a mannerism. It’s a thing that helps tell the story.”
    -Quoted from an L.A. Times interview with Brad Bird >Catena Ex Situ

Ex Situ: Conflict and Tension in Ratatouille and Surf’s Up

February 20, 2008

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It’s no secret that the editorial staff here at J. Cart. Overanal. thinks Ratatouille is just about the greatest thing since sliced Gertie. It’s smart, well-acted, with beautiful imagery and character animation, and it has amazing set pieces, and dialogue, &c.

On Surf’s Up, on the other hand, we cannot comment since we have yet to see it. However, Mark Mayerson, blogmaster of Mayerson on Animation, has seen both. Recently, he wrote a thoughtful article comparing and contrasting the dramatic conflict in both movies. I would not be so gauche as to cut-and-paste the entire article, but here is an excerpt from his introduction, followed by the appropriate link:

Having just seen Surf’s Up, I was struck by the nature of conflict in the film compared to Ratatouille. Both films have animals who are obsessed with something and that obsession brings them into conflict with those around them. While I enjoyed Surf’s Up, the nature of the conflict in that film is much less compelling than in Ratatouille and I think that is one reason for the film’s relative failure at the box office.

>Catena Ex Situ


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