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Pixar and Relationships

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This past Friday, the wife and I went to see Brave. I was apparently able to glean more from the trailer than most people, and actually had a pretty good idea of what the plot twist was going to be. SPOILER I knew that someone, at the very least the three brothers, was going to be turned into a bear /SPOILER. But I respect Pixar enough to know that they would give me something special.

I should say now, that I have been disappointed by them before. Namely both Cars and “Ratatouille.” Now, that’s to say disappointed by their standards. Should these films have been produced by any other animation studio we could all agree that it was a valiant effort.

Brave, however, did not disappoint. Because it was about what every great story is about. Relationships. Brave focused on the relationship between a daughter and mother. Not the fact that the daughter didn’t want to get married.

Let’s look at their films:

Toy Story (1,2,3): are each about the bonds of friendship and the feeling of loss.

Monsters, Inc.: friendship and even dabbles in fatherly love.

Finding Nemo: all about the relationship between a father and son.

The Incredibles: the relationship of an entire family

WALL-E: robot love!

Up: the love between a married couple that lived forever and finding a relationship with an unlikely friend.

You’ll noticed I skipped a few. Because I think the ones I skipped are their least succesful films. Why?

Bug’s Life: fun, but lacked the depth.

Cars: is about learning not to be a jerk, but had a chance for a great father/son dynamic.

Cars 2: didn’t even bother seeing it.

Ratatouille: the relationship with… food?

Now, I’m not saying that the four movies that weren’t about relationships didn’t have their own message. Yes, “Cars” had a good message. It’s a good thing to not be a jerk and treat others well. Kids should learn that you should work as a team. But it doesn’t have the staying power like “The Incredibles.”

That’s what I strive for in my own work. Exploring relationships and testing them. Brave puts a heavy strain on the mother/daughter dynamic. And it works beautifully. I can’t even think of a movie that I’ve seen in recent years that has explored it.

So I encourage all my fellow writers to find ways to inject good, solid relationships into your story. It’s how the readers can connect and become invested in your characters. With them, the reader can identify with your characters. You magic system may be amazing. The villain may be dark and the embodiment of evil. But, it is my opinion, that the story won’t reach its potential without solid relationships.



  1. Sandy says:

    Jeff, if you had read Steve Jobs’s biography, you would have known that all the Pixar movies he was involved in were awesome and the ones that were hijacked from him were crap. (now, no shooting of the messenger, I’m just reporting what I read)

    • Not sure why I would shoot you 🙂

      Interesting to think about his involvement with the projects. Makes me wonder how their next batch of movies will turn out. I know that “Cars” was John Lasseter’s baby. So I’m also afraid when he is heavily involved in a project.

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