Pixar and an Unconventional Love Story
I have an odd relationship with Pixar. Some of their movies I love (Wall*E, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) and some I have problems with (Up, Brave, Cars 2). Regardless of my feelings, Pixar has undoubtedly unseated Disney as the reigning king of animated films. Not only are their films fun with great characters, but they introduce themes that resonate with all ages. So perhaps it’s not too surprising to find that many Pixar films show non-conventional types and examples of love. In 2011, I found a blog entitled The Love Stories of Toy Story which, as the titles suggests, is an exploration of the different types of love found within the Toy Story trilogy. It got me thinking… are there similar lessons to be found in other Pixar films?
One of the most common stories there is is the age old story of a boy trying to win a girl. Pixar does have a few of these, although they do tend to take a back seat to the larger problem of the movie. However, a few Pixar films break conventions and show the main character(s) already in a committed relationship. Mike of Monsters, Inc. is in a relationship with Celia and we’re led to believe that they’ve been dating for a while (a fact that is confirmed in Monster’s University). Because the relationship is already there, the filmmakers don’t have to waste time telling a story that everybody knows. Even better, Celia is an actual character. She doesn’t just let her boyfriend brush her off. She knows that he is keeping something from her and tries to get answers (even if it is by physically restraining him). Interestingly enough, Sulley, the Jock type that you would expect to have a romantic relationship, doesn’t. Instead, the filmmakers make him a surrogate parent. One of my favorite scenes of the movie is when he thinks Boo has gone through the trash compacter. While it’s funny, you realize he cares a lot about this little kid.
Inevitably, writers tend to want to give main characters a romantic interest (and if there isn’t someone available onscreen to ship, the fan community will certainly supply one). We’re never given any indication that Marlin and Dory will ever be more than friends, although this statement is subject to change based on the plot of Finding Dory (2016). Even though Marlin is a widower with a young son, the filmmakers don’t write a romantic subplot into the film for him. Again, they focus on parental love rather than the romantic.
It may seem an odd choice for this post considering there’s no romance in it, but that’s exactly why I’m calling it out. The whole movie’s premise is about fighting against your predetermined role and Merida’s refusal to be betrothed to any suitor. And in a surprise film trope twist, Merida stays unmarried. She doesn’t fall in love with one of her suitors or a best friend or a mystery guy. I think the filmmakers could have made this statement stronger had they not made her suitors all look stupid. But it is a start.
This film is similar to Monster’s, Inc in that the main characters are already in a relationship. There are some romantic moments between the characters (most important of which is the fact that the movie begins with a wedding) but the story focuses on what comes next, after the “Happily Ever After”. The movie is about working together as a family, not necessarily to defeat an evil villain, but to communicate and be confident and less afraid. Like Celia, Helen goes after her partner as well and ends up saving him from imprisonment and perhaps certain death by being at his side. It’s also interesting to note that, at the end of the film, the boy that Violet had a crush on asks her out because she’s become more confident in herself.
This film is interesting as it’s not the main character that gets a love interest, but a side character. Alfredo Linguini and Colette actually go through a conventional love story, but it’s uniquely presented to the audience because we see it through the eyes of Remy.
Ah, the movie that made everyone depressed within the first five minutes (which is totally different from making everyone cry like babies during Toy Story 3). My issues with this movie mostly stem from the fact that I believe it stole the 2009 Oscar for Best Animated Film from Coraline, but I recognize that it’s a truly distinctive film. We usually end with “And they lived happily ever after” and never see beyond that. But in Up, we see the “And they lived happily ever after” within the first five minutes of the film and we see their lives after. That in it of itself is unusual, but what’s even more uncommon is that none of this what the story is about. What do you do when the love of your life has passed away? That’s the theme of the story.
I may be a bit biased because this is one of my favorite films of all time, but Wall-E is truly one of a kind. Hardly any of the main/side characters really speak. They have personalities, but are limited in their ability to communicate. Wall-E and Eve only speak two words to one another throughout the entire story and yet they’re able to fall in love. Perhaps this is more of a testament to Pixar’s storytelling power than anything else, but I still think it’s a pretty unique love story.
Pixar films aren’t romances and thus can’t be held to the same standard, but perhaps that’s why these films have such flexibility in their romantic plot lines. All I know is that as Pixar goes on, their films get better (I don’t care what you say. Toy Story 3 is one of the best films ever made) and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Did I miss anything? Want to argue something? Leave a comment with your thoughts.