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Does “Inside Out” Mark a Turning Point For Pixar?

Does "Inside Out" Mark a Turning Point For Pixar?

The initial buzz
surrounding the upcoming
film from the famous
CGI studio has been
quite positive. It wowed
audiences in Cannes
and the
word of mouth from
various sneak peek screenings
has it that Inside
Out is Pixar’s best
film yet. In more
ways than one, it
also marks a turning
for the studio.

Pixar has been
far and away the
most successful animation studio
of the past 20
years. Every single one
of its films has
been a success commercially,
and the vast majority
have been a hit
with the critics as
well. The studio is
famous for its ‘brain
trust’ and a willingness
to believe in the talents
of its artists. Creative
decisions are discussed
in groups, and by
the time the finished
product reaches the cinema
screen it has become
a finely tuned and
highly polished piece of
artistic entertainment.

Pixar’s success, its
culture, and its management
style are greatly envied
as a result; for
which the studio rightly
prides itself. Its past
achievements and being
one of the few
studios where creative decision-making
is heavily vested in
its artists also make it stand out among the crowd.

The traits of
Pixar’s success have served
them very well down
through the years, but
in recent times, the studio
found themselves being caught
unawares. Their decision
to start producing sequels
was greeted with a
mixture of joy and
disgust among fans. Secondly,
a resurgent DreamWorks proved
with How to Train Your Dragon that they
were more than capable
of producing a film
with as much heart,
humor and commercial appeal
as any Pixar film.

Despite continued success,
the slew of sequels
that were produced in
quick succession was a
sign that, creatively at
least, the studio had
either run out of
steam, or were beholden
to powers-that-be
who only saw dollar
signs in the illustrious
library of films.

The year 2014
saw no Pixar film
released as schedules were
moved around and directors
were unceremoniously removed
from their own films.
Pixar’s last release at
the time of writing
remains the sequel Monsters
University. Although successful,
this writer perceived it
to be even more
creatively bankrupt than
Cars 2 and nowhere
near the studio’s best.

Inside Out therefore
represents a real
test for Pixar. With
a reputation as a
sequel factory, and some
unfortunate legal sideshows  over the
past few years, many
hope that this film
will signal a return
to greatness. Will it
herald a new golden
age or be merely
a flash in the
pan?

The latter is
certainly plausible given
that yet more sequels
are to follow after
The Good Dinosaur later
this year. Finding Dory,
Toy Story 4, The
Incredibles 2,
and
Cars 3 are all
slated to be in
either the production or
planning phases. Additional films
have been slated for
release but no details
have been announced. The
possibility that they
are also sequels cannot
be ruled out.

The studio’s upcoming
slate is also full
of familiar names in
the key creative positions.
They have all served
the studio commendably down
through the years, and
are all supremely talented
individuals. Yet one
can’t help but wonder
whether the lack of
creative turnover at the
studio isn’t something to
be concerned about. Disney’s
nine old men were
(in)famous for the
length of time they
remained at the studio,
but the malaise that
emerged towards the end of their careers can
be partly attributed to
the same entrenched people
being in charge or production.

If Inside Out
is a success, it
is proof that Pixar
may have found its
mojo again, but if
it fails to meet
expectations, there will
be a lot questions
being asked in Emeryville.
In such an outcome,
a real change in
direction will be
needed, and this is
never going to be painless in
an organization as large
as Pixar.

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