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Pixar Movies That Do Genre Better Than Live-Action Blockbusters

April 6, 2021 540 votes 140 voters 1.2k views14 items

List RulesVote up the Pixar movies that put live-action counterparts to shame.

Is Pixar better than live action? In most cases, the answer is a resounding yes. The studio's movies are successful because it does genres better than anyone else. It's a common misconception that animation is a genre. It's not - it's a format. Since making its feature-length debut with Toy Story in 1995, Pixar has applied that format to a series of genres. In the process, the filmmakers have proven they can tackle any genre with as much flair as their live-action counterparts, if not more.

What's really fascinating is that some Pixar movies have a very clear genre, while others adapt a well-established genre in such a way that you might not initially realize it. Incredibles 2, for example, is an obvious superhero adventure. Finding Dory, on the other hand, has all the markings of a heist movie, which doesn't become apparent until you really scrutinize the plot's events.

Is it possible that there are underrated Pixar movies? You bet. At least, they're often underrated when it comes to tackling familiar genres in fresh ways. Which of the company's productions are better than live-action? Your votes will decide.

  • Mismatched buddy comedies have been around since the dawn of cinema. From Laurel & Hardy to Abbott & Costello and beyond, pairing two people of opposing personalities is a surefire route to laughter. The formula really hit its stride in the '80s, when the success of pictures like Lethal Weapon, 48 Hrs., and Planes, Trains & Automobiles made it super-popular.

    Standing at the top of the heap is Toy Story, released in 1995. The first full-length computer-animated feature imagined the mismatched buddies as a child's playthings. Of course, Woody is a cowboy doll and Buzz Lightyear is a newfangled spaceman toy. As is a requirement of the genre, the two start off as rivals, then become friends after going through a hilarious mishap-laden adventure together.

    Toy Story again demonstrates how Pixar can elevate any genre by animating it. Most mismatched buddy comedies are solely about how people from different worlds learn to like and respect each other. This one has that same element, but also an additional one. The movie explores how a child's taste in toys changes, as well as the emotional attachment most kids feel to a special plaything. For that reason, it's become a certified classic that launched an entire franchise.

    Better than live-action?

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  • Post-apocalyptic movies tend to focus on action and little else. You might occasionally find a theme running through them, although that theme is generally "failing to be eco-friendly will lead to bad things." WALL-E takes that a step further, not only imagining a post-apocalyptic world but also taking the time to dive into how living in such a world would affect its inhabitants. What it comes up with is kind of scary.

    Earth is a wasteland in the film, covered in garbage. As such, people live in a gigantic corporate-run spacecraft in the sky. Poor WALL-E is stuck below, assigned to clean up the trash so that humans might one day return. That's where the standard theme comes in. Then WALL-E falls in love with another robot named EVE, only to grow sad when she returns to her mothership. The movie uses this idea to examine the loneliness and thirst for connection that would undoubtedly come in a ruined world.

    But that's not all. The back half of the picture takes place in the spaceship, where humanity has surrendered control to a company that only views people as a means of making a profit. On top of everything else, WALL-E delivers a parable about the dangers of abandoning oneself to consumerism. No other post-apocalyptic movie takes on as many big ideas as this one.

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  • When you think of survival movies, you probably envision something like The Martian, in which Matt Damon has to stay alive when left behind on Mars. Or maybe Cast Away, with Tom Hanks and a volleyball stranded on a desert island. You might even think of Deliverance, the '70s classic about four buddies being chased by angry, violent rednecks during a whitewater rafting experience gone awry.

    What you probably don't conjure up is Finding Nemo. It's true, though. This animated movie about a fish has all the peril and tension of those other survival tales. In his attempt to find the son from whom he's been separated, clownfish Marlin is nearly eaten by a shark, gets knocked cold by some old naval mines left in the water, endures stinging by jellyfish, and gets swallowed by a whale. 

    Survival movies, by definition, put their characters in increasing danger, so that you're never really sure whether they'll live to see the end credits. Finding Nemo does that, adding a layer of power by having Marlin face all these hazards in an effort to be reunited with his child.

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  • For decades, audiences have been going to James Bond movies in search of globetrotting action, high-tech gizmos, and thrilling tales of bold heroes defeating megalomaniacal villains. The series is still going strong, but it's also not quite as fresh as it once was. The actors playing 007 change periodically, yet the films themselves continue to adhere to a template that was created back in the 1960s - a template the producers have been reluctant to tamper with.

    The Incredibles borrowed that template, breathing new life into it not just through animation but also by making the heroes a family of superheroes rather than one solitary spy. The mad villain with plans for world domination is accounted for, as are the crime-fighting gadgets. And the action scenes? They're every bit as exciting as the ones in any Bond movie. Maybe even more so because the animated format doesn't require keeping one foot in the real world.

    Even better, The Incredibles has thematic depth you won't find in a Bond adventure, tackling issues related to marriage and family.

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