The five best movies from Pixar

It’s like clockwork. Pixar releases one movie every summer. From years and years of success, audiences have come to rely on the tour de force of animation to provide at least one very good (or great) film each year. With the release of “Cars 2,” the sequel to one of Pixar’s more mediocre efforts, there comes an overwhelming sense of pressure. Will it live up to expectations? Exceed them, perhaps? Or will fans tout it as a new low for the animation studio?

We’ll find out this weekend.

“Cars 2” aside, it seems as though every year Pixar’s latest release sparks a debate among film fans. What are some of Pixar’s best movies, and which ones are, well, just pretty good? Let’s take a look at my five favorite Pixar movies.

The five best from Pixar:

5.“Finding Nemo”: More than a children’s movie, “Finding Nemo” is an unexpected (and brilliant) study on father-son relationships. Having lost his entire family in a barracuda attack, Marlon, a clown fish, finds one remaining egg – Nemo. When Nemo is abducted by scuba divers, both Nemo and Marlon begin a journey to reconnect with each other, and, in the process, the two experience an adventure full of self-discovery. It’s in the exploration of characters where we begin to see Pixar develop into the studio it has become today. Oh, and the underwater setting lends itself to some of the most beautiful CG animation of all-time.

4. “Toy Story 2”: A perfect supplemental piece to the original “Toy Story,” the sequel makes a few welcome additions without losing the magic of the original. There are some new characters, more developed scenes of action, and a back-story for Woody. But the best thing to come from “Toy Story 2” is a sense of doubt in the characters. It’s something that the original only touched upon briefly. Where exactly do these toys belong? What are their roles in life (umm … toy life, that is)? Yeah, it might seem a bit ridiculous, but the way Pixar presents it is incredibly moving. It gives the sequel layers that most follow-ups don’t have, and sets the series up for a heart-wrenching finale in 2010′s “Toy Story 3.”

3. “WALL-E”: Andrew Stanton’s (“Finding Nemo”) ambitious experiment tested the boundaries for Pixar and for audiences. It paid off. “WALL-E” tells the story of the last survivor on Earth in 2085, a cubing robot named WALL-E. He ventures into space (hitching a ride on a spaceship in one of the movie’s funnier moments) for the love of a more advanced robot named EVE. The first 40 minutes, which contains no dialogue among humans, is some of the best and most daring filmmaking to come out of Pixar. Tough for kids to sit through, but something many film fans have really come to admire. The rest of the movie’s pretty good, surprising viewers with an in-your-face message that will hopefully reach a younger generation. That is, if they have the patience to get past the first 40 minutes.

2. “The Incredibles”: As everyone knows by now, Brad Bird is a genius, and “The Incredibles” might just be his career-defining masterpiece. The story of a superhero family who aren’t legally allowed to be “heroes” anymore, is a simple concept that Bird brings a lot of depth to. The parents are shells of their former selves, looking back on those glory. The kids have personal troubles stemming from their latent powers. And together, the family is dysfunctional and disorderly, trying to fit into a “normal” role they weren’t destined for. It’s a lot of fun watching this family gel as they rediscover what it means to be superheroes and a family. The movie also has some of the best action scenes ever featured in an animated movie, with quirky animation that gives each character a unique shape and personality. “The Incredibles” seems to have gotten lost somewhere between “Finding Nemo” and the commercial Goliath “Cars.” That’s a shame.

1. “Toy Story”: Pixar’s first feature-length film, and it remains the studio’s best. “Toy Story” is arguably the perfect animated movie. It begins with its strong sense of adventure, and ends with building one of the greatest friendships in film history (Woody and Buzz, like peanut butter and jelly). It’s funny without sinking to “Shrek”-like levels of humor, and the movie created an iconic cast of characters that have stuck with a generation of fans – and found some new ones along the way. Above all that, “Toy Story” is an innovation to behold (for 1995, that is), bringing computer-generated movies to the forefront of the industry. “Toy Story” redefined people’s perception of animated movies, and Pixar has continued that pursuit ever since.

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