In 1995 Toy Story put Pixar on the map and for a decade and a half Pixar dominated the market it had created, computer animated films. Since the end of the Toy Story trilogy in 2010, however, Pixar has run into trouble.
For the first time a Pixar film, Newt, was cancelled due to similarities to 20th Century Fox’s Rio. Worse still, the Pixar films released since Toy Story 3 have failed to live up to Pixar’s high standards. Brave, released this year, was decent but hardly delivered what audiences and critics have come to expect from the company. In 2011 Pixar released its first legitimately bad film, Cars 2, which upon release received worse reviews than Transformers 3.
DreamWorks Animation, which has played second fiddle to Pixar since its inception, has finally begun to make up ground. Kung Fu Panda, Megamind, and Monsters vs. Aliens were all well received by critics, with How To Train Your Dragon even receiving a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. The company recently announced a slate of 12 movies they’ll be releasing over the next 4 years, including sequels to Dragon and Kung Fu Panda, which will provide even more competition in the animation arena.
DreamWorks isn’t the only company that has been nipping at Pixar’s heels; stellar films like; Tintin, Rango, Arthur Christmas, Happy Feet, and Despicable Me have arrived from studios not traditionally known for producing quality animation. Even Pixar’s parent company, Disney, outdid them with their last CG film, Tangled, and may do it again with the highly anticipated Wreck It Ralph.
Coming up in the not too distant future Pixar has the Monsters Inc. prequel Monsters University which has an uphill challenge if it wants to be better than the original. The one movie that could give Pixar it’s crown back is it’s next original film The Good Dinosaur, which takes place in a world in which dinosaurs never became extinct. Pixar + dinosaurs has to result in something special, but we won’t find out until May 2014.
Pixar may no longer be a big fish in a small pond, but that really isn’t such a bad thing. With so many companies now competing with Pixar the amount of impressive CG films is on the rise. It looks like we may be entering a golden age of computer animated movies.