Miyazaki vs Pixar

Ah, Miyazaki. His mama raised him right! I’m totally going to sound snobby, but I’m going to say it, “Pixar stuff is overrated” and Miyazaki stuff is underrated (in the States anyway). Uh oh. Maybe it’s the foreign factor (I suspect it’s a big factor). I was watching some youtube vids of clips/music from some Miyazaki movies not too long ago, when I felt multiple bouts of nostalgia. And then I realized, “I never feel that way towards Pixar movies.” Lion King, yes. Pixar movies, no.

They were entertaining when I watched them, but that’s it. Fin. I remember enjoying the Toy Stories, but no particular scene or concept pops out at me. The same goes for almost every other Pixar movie.  Cars? Meh. “Helloooo Porsche.” Nemo? Centrifuged cuteness  = one trick pony. I remember little from Monsters, Inc.

Visually Pixar stuff is great, but they just don’t seem to push the creativity envelope that much. To be honest, they don’t seem to go beyond the inherent, default creativity of using non-human avatars.  But that’s been done since Steamboat Willie.  Congrats, you’ve got talking toys and a rat.

Rather, they seem to go for macro-creativity. “Ok, we got a rat, now let’s make him a chef and have the whole movie revolve about that.” “We got a talking car, and he needs to discover himself and what really matters.”  Tried and true, human development stories as told through non-human entities.  Cute, but not memorable. I have re-runs of The Wonder Years for that.

On the other hand, I wasn’t a huge fan of Mononoke Hime either, and yet, particular moments from its rich tapestry still stand out. Girl wearing a murder mask with a dagger doing the dance of death. There is beauty in her savagery. Her mother is a giant wolf. Dude riding a giant deer thing. The animal alliance. The music.  Now that I think about it, Wall-e is like the visually upgraded, preachier, yet less diverse version of Mononoke Hime. And Wall-e’s already faded from my mind.

Then there’s Spirited Away, one of my favs. I found the main girl’s depicted mannerisms to be one of the most observant of any animation I’ve seen in a long time. I acutely remember how the girl is shown when she tries to go down the scary steps. It seemed so realistic. It actually stirred some feelings and memories of when I got stuck in high places as a young kid. I also remember thinking how I would probably never see something observant like that in an American movie, and that  it seemed to reinforce the stereotype that America is about brute strength, whereas Japan/everywhere else is about finesse.  American muscle cars vs nimble imports.  We can throw a bucket of cute at you, but we can’t get the little details down.

And of course, the famous Totoro. Wasn’t a big fan either. But come on, cat bus. And…giant fuzzy, scary, gray, bear thing.

I suppose it’s not fair to compare G-targetted Pixar movies with Miyazaki films that may contain more adult elements. Miyazaki can push a bit more. He has a wider palette accessible to him. Yet, his works tend to be a bit more understated. Pixar movies go for consistency for the whole family, but Quad Damage shotgun you in the face with cute. MOREEE? YOU WANT MORE?? It’s like, “Do you want a less interesting, but bountiful flat line with a consistent score of B or something a little more interesting and risque that oscillates between C and A?”  Do you want one guaranteed, pleasing musical note, or a mix-up that you may or may not find favorable?

I wish I could find it, but I read an industry article somewhere long ago where Miyazaki was pretty much hailed as the god of animated stories by international “peers”. I think even some Pixar dudes were in it saying how they aimed to do what Miyazaki does.  Not to be mean, but I don’t think they ever will, to be honest. They’ve been around for quite some time, and they’re not exactly pushing any edges or raising any bars (except for the visual side). I don’t think the investors would have it any other way anymore, because they’re a great, highly profitable, cuteness factory.  It’d be cool if they pulled an Anne Hathaway.

I mean, check out this article.

Pixar takes a risk with ”The Incredibles” — With a new director, a PG rating…

Ooooh risky!

Still, good stuff. I watched Ratatouille a second time and enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time. I just don’t find very much of it memorable or nostalgic. Oh, wait. When the critic gets his flashback. That was cool. Holy shit it’s 5am. I need a DeLorean.

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2 Responses to “Miyazaki vs Pixar”

  1. Armando says:

    I was just wondering what do you think now about Pixar a year and a few months after this article, Up and Toy Story 3 have come since then.

    You say Pixar has no memorable moments in their movies, I remember quite a lot of joyful, hilarious, and sad moments from Ratatouille, Wall-E and Up, which are IMO the best animation pictures ever produced. The sequence in UP that showcases Carl and Ellie’s life is probably the most memorable and powerful moment in the history of animation.

    I’m a huge fanboy of Miyazaki, Totari no Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Ponyo are very magical movies, Chihiro and Howl’s Moving Castle are close followers, and all other movies I have watched them and are good (although not as great). But they aren’t up there in terms of emotional creativity and humor which is why I love the last 4 Pixar movies so much.

  2. admin says:

    Toy Story 3 was awesome. Definitely the best Pixar movie in recent memory, in my opinion. But I still don’t think anything from Pixar between Toy Story 2 and 3 were very memorable. I recall almost nothing of Monster’s Inc, as I mentioned before. Nemo is Pixar’s Ponyo – very juvenile (but better). Up was good…but not great (again, always, IMO). I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again, unless someone bought the Bluray for me. TS3 on the other hand, I would see again. I guess rewatchability is one of my personal litmus tests. If I find myself wanting to see a movie again beyond apathy or boredom, then it usually means I enjoyed it quite a bit, or that it evoked emotion or deep thought.

    I guess what you found memorable, I find fairly commonplace in fiction in general (regardless of the medium), and so I don’t find it particularly notable unless it’s very good. I eventually saw Ratatouille a second time on Bluray, and it was very enjoyable. But I still don’t recall anything exceptionally emotional. Rat betrays human’s trust after feeling unappreciated. That’s practically a story archetype. Human then falls in “love” with girl super fast, seemingly out of the blue, a la fiction of the 80′s and 90′s. Wall-E had some great parts, though.

    I would agree with your assessment of Miyazaki when it comes to humor. The humor in his movies is definitely more reserved. Though, I feel his movies are more adult, at the same time. Generally speaking, I would say Pixar movies are more refined and cleaned up, like a precision tool, or a perfect spherical ball-bearing (pardon my nerd-out haha). Pixar does what they set out to do, very well. Nemo is a good example of that. Ratatouille, too. Ratatouille was overall a very heartwarming, comfort-food-for-your-soul movie (like its name, ha!). Whereas Miyazaki movies seem more raw, like a large, rough, uncut gem. They can and do fall short in some areas, but they may peak far above in other areas at the same time. For example, Mononoke and Wall-E both have environmentalist themes to it. Mononoke took a more even-handed approach about it, leaving room for reflection. But Wall-E was much more heavy-handed about it. “You screwed up the earth, you apes!”

    Anyway, those are my current thoughts on the matter. Hope that wasn’t too boring. Just for the record, I was disappointed in Ponyo and Howl’s Moving Castle, and I really didn’t think Totoro was particularly great. Even Mononoke was a bit rough.

    I think I was a little too reserved about TS3 above. I think it blows Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, and Monster’s Inc. out of the water. =)

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