Since the introduction of the Best Animated Feature Oscar at the 74th Academy Awards in 2002, we’ve seen a steady exponential increase in animated movies over the years. Pixar, and, by extent, Disney, has usually dominated the competition, with eight wins out of ten nominations, followed by DreamWorks and Disney’s animation studio. This year, we have a record 27 movies eligible for the award, and while the Academy can pick only five to nominate, for now it’s anyone’s game.
I have a dream job. What could be better than watching and talking about movies for a living? Nothing; the answer is nothing. But lately my job has been a lot less fun than normal, because the movies themselves have been a lot less fun. Quite frankly, this summer sucks.
It took 20 years for Roland Emmerich to deliver a sequel to Independence Day, a film that’s largely responsible for the modern summer blockbuster season. Unfortunately, it looks like most audiences didn’t think it was worth the wait. As predicted in recent weeks, Resurgence crash-landed in theaters with an underwhelming opening weekend that was no match for Pixar’s Finding Dory.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Finding Dory opened at number one at the box office this week and did enormous business, but the folks at Disney and Pixar must be breathing a sigh of relief. After all, last year’s The Good Dinosaur was the first film to come out of the venerable animation studio that could be considered a legitimate box office disappointment, especially since it came in the wake of the massively successful Inside Out. The massive opening weekend for the sequel to Finding Nemo repositions Pixar in its rightful place on the top of the animated movie food chain.
Like every other Pixar release, Finding Dory opens with a short film. This one is called “Piper”; it’s about a little bird learning to hunt for food among the scary ocean waves. It’s a terrific showcase for Pixar’s latest advancements in computer animation, which in recent years has taken on the qualities of great nature photography. The sunlight sparkles against the water, which ripples and flows with uncanny accuracy, and when the little bird kicks a pile of sand in a crab’s face you can practically count the individual grains.
With another new Pixar movie comes the promise of another new Pixar short film, and their latest effort looks as ridiculously adorable and heart-melting as you could possibly hope. It also looks way cuter than Lava — not that it would take much for Pixar to deliver something better than Lava (and good luck getting that song out of your head now). The company has debuted the first image from Piper, the new short film that will probably make your heart grow three sizes when it premieres before Finding Dory.
People love to speculate about Pixar movies. There’s even a whole “Pixar Theory” about how every movie exists in the same shared universe (one with humans and talking toys and talking ants and a gigantic menagerie of horrors when you think about it). Then there are the famous Pixar Easter eggs; in jokes and references to other Pixar movies, both past and present, that litter the backgrounds of every single Pixar movie.