Is It Just Me... Or Is DreamWorks Now On A Par With Pixar?

Brave is at the top of the box office charts, but has Pixar lost its way artistically?

Yes, at first glance this appears to be lunacy.

Pixar are the infallible artists behind an unprecedented run of hits which has defied Hollywood logic by combining big box-office with intelligence and emotional storytelling.

They make huge profits and classic movies.

DreamWorks makes Shrek. Worse than that, DreamWorks makes Antz and A Shark’s Tale, and as many Shreks as are needed in between to stop it all falling apart.

Its films are smirking shadows of its rival’s, bringing a plastic proficiency to the same insect hives and underwater worlds into which Pixar has breathed bustling, beautiful life.

Or at least, it used to be that way.

In 2006, Pixar released Cars, a film which never sat right with its earlier films. Maybe because the idea of a world populated by vehicles with giant-eyeball windscreens is unsettling on an eerily existential level.

Or maybe because the film ditched the formula of small communities having adventures in our normal world (toys coming to life when no one’s looking, monsters coming out at night) which had brought so much success.

Things were never quite the same.

Ratatouille was more familiar territory, but also beset by creative difficulties – Brad Bird replaced original director Jan Pinkava when story development floundered, and the views of Paris can only distract so long from the fact that a rat controlling a man by pulling his hair is whimsical at best, weird at worst.

Wall-E was a rallying cry for Pixar’s return to soaring artistry that delivered... for about 30 minutes, before becoming a patronising reminder for humanity not to devolve into beachballs.

It’s harder to argue against the pleasures of Up: the way Carl and Ellie’s life is condensed into montage is masterful. But many of its ideas are recycled – a comedy bird, a talking dog.

Meanwhile, the same year (2009), DreamWorks was putting away its own box of tattered ideas – talking animals, concepts Pixar had already used, Will Smith as a fish – and making How To Train Your Dragon.

If the studio’s earlier Kung Fu Panda and Monsters Vs Aliens had shown an unexpected wit and taste for fresh ideas, then Dragon was the first DreamWorks film to come up with the whole package – the dazzling looks and stays-with-you emotional smarts that are usually Pixar’s hallmark.

Co-directed by an ex-Disney man (Chris Sanders) who’d been reportedly removed from Bolt, you could even say it should’ve been a Pixar project.

Since then DreamWorks has made Megamind, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss In Boots, while Pixar has made an (admittedly timeless) second sequel in Toy Story 3 and, crucially, Cars 2, which fails John Lasseter’s self-imposed rule that Pixar sequels would only happen if they had a good enough story.

Cars 2, which celebrates stupidity and tarnishes Pixar’s record of subtlety and wit. Cars 2 which, most worryingly of all, seems more focused on repeating the first film’s trick of selling toys than telling a story.

And while Pixar trades sincerity for cynicism, DreamWorks seems to have discovered the secret to making films filled with warmth and wonder. Or is it just me?

Do you vote Team Pixar or has DreamWorks lured you over to the other side? Let us know below...


    • Heisenberg

      Sep 2nd 2012, 7:17

      This just seems to be a article to slap Pixar again for how c**p Cars 2 was. DW have up their game in the last few years but you can't say Pixar are on a par, not after TS3, which as you say is timeless, and they have shown that for heart, and wit they are still ahead of DW. Judging Pixar for one bad movie is pretty crude, yes they have high standards but the blip HAD to happen at some point. Pixars next movie, Monsters Uni will need to be a big winner though to help make up for the Cars 2 disappointment (although a $339m profit is not to be sniffed at) and it will show if when needed, Pixar can up their game again.

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    • killertapir

      Sep 2nd 2012, 9:40

      I don't think it's a case of Pixar losing anything, rather a case of Dreamworks stepping up their game a little. The recent Pixar films have been just as great as the early ones...with the exception of Cars 2. Look, I understand Cars 2. I think we all do. Pixar is a business, they need money to fund other films and that can sometimes be easier by making something that can be merchandised mercilessly. I'm okay with that. I'm okay with the idea that every now and then Pixar will release a Cars 2 to keep the kids quiet for a couple of hours and use the money to fund the next Wall-E, Up, Toy Story 3 or Brave. I can turn a blind eye to Cars 3: Mater Takes Manhattan.

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    • budgieboy95

      Sep 2nd 2012, 10:42

      I'm sorry but you really can not compare the two. While i do love Shrek (Dreamworks best movie), it can't compare to the finest of Pixar's catalog. Toy story 1-3, The incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E and in my opinion the greatest animated film Finding Nemo. I love dreamworks but the lows (Sharks Tale) are lower than the lows of pixar(Cars 2), and the highs (Shrek) can not compare with the masterpieces Pixar has produced.

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    • meyeronfire5

      Sep 2nd 2012, 12:35

      I disagree about Ratatouille and Wall-E, I thought they were just as good as the other Pixar classics.

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    • AnimaMundi

      Sep 2nd 2012, 13:28

      First off: Up, WALL-E, and Ratatouille are all classics, perhaps even more so than, say, A Bug's Life or Monsters INC. Toy Story 3 is, in my opinion, somewhat dull and too focused on toilet humor. Second: Dreamworks has always been producing great animated movies. Shrek is a modern classic that changed the way animated movies were thought of by adults. Madagascar and it's sequels are three of the most reliably funny movies I know of, and Over the Hedge was a spot on satire of our consumerist culture. That's not even including the films mentioned in your article. Or the collaborations with Aardman...

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    • deedeedragons

      Sep 3rd 2012, 1:51

      Are Dreamworks paying the bills nowadays TF? What a snow job.

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    • RaveyDaveyGravy

      Sep 3rd 2012, 13:46

      Think of this as a football match. Dreamworks v Pixar. Heres how I see the game going... DREAMWORKS - Antz, hit the bar. Shrek, goal, off the cross bar. Shrek 2, total miss. Shark Tale, well wide. Madagascar, in off the keeper. Over the Hedge, wide. Shrek the Third, went in after the whistle had blown. Bee Movie, hit the bar. Kung Fu Panda, goal. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, missed. Monsters vs. Aliens, goal. How to Train Your Dragon, goal of the season. Shrek Forever After, disallowed. Megamind, missed by a mile. Kung Fu Panda 2, goal, but in off the post. Puss in Boots, in row z. PIXAR - Toy Story, goal. A Bug's Life, goal, but in off the keeper. Toy Story 2, goal. Monsters, Inc., goal. Finding Nemo, goal. The Incredibles, goal. Cars, goal, in off the keeper. Ratatouille, goal. WALL-E, goal. Up, goal. Toy Story 3, goal. Cars 2, awful miss. Brave, goal, but stumbled over the line. - - I make that Dreamworks 5 - Pixar 12

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    • Hadouken76

      Sep 3rd 2012, 17:56

      Does that make Cars the Emile Heskey of PIXAR?

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    • McSerious

      Sep 3rd 2012, 23:49

      Rango is the best animated film since the Incredibles

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    • AlfredsDream098

      Sep 4th 2012, 10:33

      This could have been a well constructed argument but it just becomes an irritating and raging Pixar bashing piece. I may not love Wall-e and Ratatoille as much as other people but they are still fantastic. I would accept your opinion but you write this article as your opinion is the only one that matters and use it try to change ours and purposely annoy us. This article actually turns into trolling by this point. I was expecting an argument about how Dreamworks have devolped as storytellers and are reaching Pixar's excellence but it just becomes an excuse to bash something that everyone else likes to get a reaction, which is exactly what movie troll is.

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    • alanlewis

      Sep 4th 2012, 17:25

      Yes, it is just you.

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    • barryc

      Sep 4th 2012, 22:41

      No Nathan, It's most definitely not just you,, I agree completely!!! Pixar have really dropped the ball,, I saw Brave recently and I thought it was average at best,, no where near as good as How to train your dragon, not even as good as Kung Fu Panda 2. Yes, if we compare the 2 studio's overall, Pixar obviously have the better movies, but the point of the article is,, (which a lot of you seemed to miss) ,, have Dreamworks upped their game and become just as good as Pixar? and the answer is, of course they have.If you compare their more recent films Dreamworks are definitely on par, if not slightly better!! By the way, Pixars next project is a prequel to Monsters Inc, with Mike and Sully in college,,, WTF, who wants to see that?? That's just another example of how unoriginal and uninspired they've become!!!

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    • M8goo

      Sep 4th 2012, 23:47

      Im actually getting really bored of this now!....I'm a film critic and cant think of anything intelligent to write!....I know I'll slag off Cars 2 that'll make me seem really intelligent!.....I'll ignore the fact that the movie is made for 3 year olds and that the average 3 year old thinks its bloody fantastic, no I'll write about it as though writing a critique of an oscar winner!.............. Yes as an adult i thought both cars and cars 2 were garbage, but my kids (the target audience) think theyre great! Ill accept the argument that Pixar is slipping just as soon as you can name me a film studio that has never ever produced a turd!

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    • RobbieRotten76

      Sep 7th 2012, 3:55

      We get it, u didn't like Cars 2

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