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The Films of Pixar Animation Studio

                      James Clarke

David Prendeville delves into James Clarke‘s book on the rise and rise of Pixar Animation Studio.

Since their debut in 1995 with the timeless Toy Story, Pixar Animation Studios have continued not only to make films that excel at the box-office but also that garner huge critical acclaim. With modern classics such as the aforementioned Toy Story and its sequels, Ratatouille, Wall-E and Up the studio has managed to make films that satisfy both children and adults alike.

This book attempts to chart the studios rise from obscurity when they made their first short in 1984 to the success of Toy Story and their subsequent features and their continued, lucrative partnership with Disney. In the book’s introduction Clarke attempts to contextualise Pixar’s work, relating to that of a tradition of American Romanticism in painting and across all the arts. He ponders the question of why it is that animation suits the humanistic emotional qualities inherent in Pixar’s best work. Indeed few would argue that there have been many more emotionally effective sequences in recent cinema than the genuinely heartbreaking opening to Up.

Subsequent to this, Clarke moves on to detailed accounts of the individual films from Toy Story to Brave (2012). The book mixes the type of contextualisation and analysis prevalent in the Introduction with the charting of Pixar’s journey and the stories behind the individual films, examining such things as how the films were cast and how characters were designed. While this occasionally results in the book feeling somewhat caught between two different methodologies, for the most part, Clarke’s book is engaging, informative and insightful.

By charting the individual stories behind each of the films, Clarke illustrates the practical manner in which the artistic achievements of Pixar can be seen to be completely created by human imagination as opposed to live action films which rely on at least some element of a captured reality. His assertions of the power of this imagined universe has on viewers in the sense of taking them to a consciousness untainted by the lived world is a fascinating idea and when coupled with the enormous power of Pixar’s work, makes for a persuasive argument.

Ultimately, Clarke’s book manages the difficult task of being both a rags to riches tail, while also being rigorous, informed and even inspirational in the manner in which it relates the artistic achievements of Pixar in a broader historical sense.

A fine piece of work highly recommended to Pixar and film fans alike.


Paperback: 192 Pages

Publisher:  Kamera Books 2012

Language: English