A couple weeks ago I saw Horton Hears a Who. Considering that I hated Ice Age and Ice Age 2, I didn’t have much faith in Blue Skies Studios until I saw this. Gentlemen (and I do use the term lightly), this is a quality example of a NON-PIXAR film.
I’ve said this many times, but I’ve never published this on my blog, so bear with me.
Back in the day (1930s), every Hollywood and New York Studio was trying to imitate the Disney style. It wasn’t until the late 1930s and really with World War 2 that the other studios finally said “Screw it. We’re never going to beat them at their own game” (i.e. beautiful multiplane camera sequences, lifelike animation… there was a real art to the Disney style).
So you had the likes of Tashlin and Clampett and Avery that started pushing away from the realistic style and more towards the cartoony style. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that their cartoons were much, much better than when they were trying to imitate Disney.
So the EXACT same thing is happening with Pixar and the other studios today. Pixar has 7 (is it 7?) movies, each one a hit (except maybe Cars… but I still loved it). How many other 3D animations can you say produced films that were critically acclaimed, wildly popular, and financially successful? Shrek (only the first one, imo), Happy Feet, and Surf’s Up are the only ones that come to mind. And why is that?
THEY BREAK AWAY FROM THE PIXAR RECEPIE
Those other cartoons didn’t TRY to match Pixar. Shrek was an unorthodox fairy tale. Happy Feet was an animated musical. Surf’s Up was a faux documentary. I’ve yet to see Pixar make an animated musical or any sort of faux documentary, and Pixar movies always FEEL like a Disney movie (This isn’t bad, but the genre starts to reek when everyone else tries it and fails).
Horton is going to be added onto my list as another great example of non-Pixar animation… for the most part. The weakest parts of that film were, not to beat it to death, the times where the story tried to push that sense of morality or of the happy ending. If I (and I mean my mother) hadn’t forked out all that money to pay for the movie tickets, I would’ve left the theater. The ending is just so weak compared to the rest of the film.
I absolutely LOVED the parts that pulled off things I’ve never seen in a 3D cartoon before. There’s an amazing amount of squash and stretch in the film; Horton inflates his whole body, and his ears have the ability to become different hats depending on the mood. Morton zips around in blurs, faster than any mouse possibly could. And Horton leaps and prances around, completely ignoring physics, yet still maintaining the believability that he’s still Horton and not some elephant that’s been inflated with helium. The fly through sequences showing the absolute bedlam of Whoville are also very well done (they all seem as spontaneous and randomly wonderfully spastic, just like the books).
I just wished they pushed this style of pacing, animation, and storytelling more. The movie was definitely bogged down by the weaker “Hey people love Pixar let’s imiate them” parts. I’m almost willing to bet the decision to make the ending more serious (and weaker) was more of a financial decision than anything else (”hey what if they don’t like the spastic stuff? We should stick some of the more serious stuff in there JUUUST in case… it works for Pixar, doesn’t it?”). I can see why they didn’t push the envelope from the financial perspective, but I just wish that they took the risk and made the entire movie crazy.
Also, I don’t mean to belittle Pixar. In fact, I look up to Pixar as the best. Like I said, no one is ever going to match them, in terms of storytelling, technical achievement, etc. The area I fault Pixar in is that other studios want to produce films of similar quality, but don’t pay nearly enough attention to detail and animation as Pixar does, which results in a really shoddy film and another reason why people hate the Disney feel good stuff.