If you haven’t seen “Inside Out,” the newest delight from the great minds at Pixar, please do yourself a favor and go see it immediately. While it may not be an insta-classic in the vein of “Toy Story” or “Finding Nemo” – although, let’s be honest, that’s a high bar to clear – their new picture really does deliver on all fronts. On one hand, it’s a nearly-pitch perfect family film, replete with eye-popping, sometimes even psychedelic visuals and rolling along at a rollicking, quick clip. And it would be great, if that were all there was to it. But it is the film’s bold willingness to confront and address the viewer’s most latent fears and anxieties that takes it from being just another well-crafted Pixar flick to being one of 2015’s best (so far).
Anyone who’s been keeping track throughout the years can hardly be surprised. With a few omissions — “Cars 2” wasn’t that great at all, and “Monsters University,” while serviceable, mainly brought on memories of the superior first film — Pixar has a near-perfect track record. And while they may currently dominate the family-friendly movie market, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always that way. Not by a long shot. Pixar – the brainchild of former Disney animator and Cal Arts student John Lasseter, along with Lucasfilm disciple Ed Catmull (Alvy Ray Smith, Catmull’s onetime partner, is not mentioned here) – was plagued by financial woes pretty much from the jump. A new mini-doc, “Pixar: The Story Behind the Studio,” elaborates and expands on these points, all while giving us a great deal of insight into the genesis of this monumental company.
For Pixar-heads and for the unconvinced, (although I can’t imagine there’s very many of you) there’s lots to dig into. I, for instance, was aware that Steve Jobs was one of Pixar’s earliest benefactors and investors, but I did not know that he apparently purchased the company from George Lucas for roughly $5 million. “Story Behind the Studio” starts, as it must, from Pixar’s rough-and-tumble beginnings. At one point, the company was scraping by doing Trident commercials and the like, until “Tin Toy” – about an infant who must outrun his psychotic toys – became a runaway hit and planted the seeds for what would eventually become “Toy Story.” The video also sheds some light on the revolutionary design of Pixar’s Emeryville-based H.Q. and also the company’s contentious relationship with Disney, particularly with their former CEO, Michael Eisner. Considering how ubiquitous the studio’s work is now, it’s odd to consider that Pixar was once the underdog, but there you are. All we can hope for, I suppose, is that the studio continues to produce caliber work on par with work like “Inside Out.” We, as a cinema-going community, would be all the better for it. Watch the whole twelve-minute video below.