I think Finding Nemo might be the most important film in the history of animation. That doesn’t mean that it’s the best animated film ever or even my favorite, nor does it mean that it did something revolutionary or game-changing when it was released 13 years ago. Instead, its importance stems from how it subtly changed both the type of storytelling in animation and the public perception of the medium. Finding Nemo marked the start of the switch from the view of animation as “kids’ movies” or “cartoons” to a wider and more positive view of the field in general, to the point where animated films are now increasingly the most popular and successful films each year. Before Finding Nemo, most animation was aimed at kids with the hopes that it might entertain adults also, typically through innuendo or adult humor that would go over the heads of younger viewers. Even Pixar’s first outings, as brilliant as they are, followed this trend to a certain extent, breaking technological barriers more than those of storytelling and genre. But Finding Nemo was different. It told a story that never pandered to either kids or adults, but was instead something that could be appreciated by both equally, and it was filled with characters who were relatable no matter your age. It represented a maturity that was entirely new to animation, an understanding that it’s possible to genuinely create a film for everyone without having to make sacrifices to the story, and the emotional depth which can be achieved when the right all of the right ingredients, including plot, character, direction, and most importantly performance, are combined. It kicked off a new era, and it’s no coincidence that three out of the next four Pixar films were The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Wall-E.
(Note: This is a fictional creative writing exercise, inspired by hours of contemplation of which animated performances have been most worthy of attention over the years. This feature imagines that a Best Voice Performance category was added to the Oscars following Beauty and the Beast’s nomination for Best Picture at the 64th Academy Awards. Each week I’ll cover the hypothetical nominees and winner from one year of animated performances.)
After the controversy at the 75th Academy Awards, it seemed all anyone could talk about was Andy Serkis and the eligibility of his portrayal of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films. His motion capture performance wasn’t nominated either for Best Supporting Actor or Best Voice Performance, and there was considerable debate over whether the acting or the animation branch (or both) would bend and give him the nomination. What the speculators didn’t count on was the arrival of Pixar’s latest film, one which would go on to be regarded as a game-changer in the industry on account of its depth and storytelling.
With the recent release of Monsters University, many blogs and news sites have been ranking all of the pixar films, so I thought I would do the same with my favorites. There is some flexibility here, as films tend to move up and down depending on my mood, but the general trend doesn’t change. (You can also find my ranking of comic book superhero movies here.) Read on for my list and for a poll. Let me know what you think in the comments! Continue reading