Last Saturday, I went to a Cleveland Orchestra concert. The Cleveland Orchestra is widely regarded as one of the premier orchestras in the world, and their home turf, Severance Hall, is located directly on my campus. Despite the mere five-minute walk that it would take to get there, my friends and I did not attend this particular concert hall. Instead, we headed out to Cuyahoga Falls. The venue was half open-concert-hall and half lawn, and the people took advantage of the space by sitting on the grass and picnicking in the fading light of evening. The orchestra was dressed in T-shirts, black pants, and skirts, and the only person wearing a suit was the conductor. As he stepped up to announce their first song, the throngs of people quieted down. And the Pixar fanfare emanated from one of the most famous orchestras in the world.
Pixar has an interesting relationship between art and emotion. As someone who grew up with its movies, Pixar has grown and developed with me. From the very first time I watched Toy Story, when I was around the same age as Andy, to the finale of Toy Story 3 when I was going off to college, the path that Pixar has followed has always been an incredible journey. Even after seeing Toy Story 3 as many times as I have, I still tear up at the end when Buzz and Woody get left behind. Pixar knows how to emotionally engage an audience, and what’s more, they do it with (primarily) inhuman stars. Pixar is also one of the most innovative animation firms, creating films that capture beauty beyond simply their technological achievement. The team’s films are as beautiful as they are, not because of the technology that they use, but the dedication of the animators. For example, in order to make the fish in Finding Nemo look more realistic, the animators took graduate level ichthyology courses in order to study the movement patterns of different fish. The soundtracks to the movies show this blend of art and emotion as well, emphasizing theme through the very technical pieces that the films require. Listening to the soundtracks’ Oscar-winning songs played by the Cleveland Orchestra, it’s hard not to be impressed by the technical perfection and emotion within the songs.
The lasting power of Pixar rests with its universality. With so many films nowadays deriving entertainment value from sex and violence, it’s a breath of fresh air to have a simple, innocuous story now and then. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy sex and violence, but Pixar manages to blend nostalgia with interest, creating fantastic films with no agenda, and no emotional scarring. Pixar is not childish in any way, because the stories don’t apply solely to children. The films are universal, self-affirming messages that are applicable to everyone. And sometimes, it’s nice to hear that. Even for adults.