STEVE JOBS remembered

October 6, 2011

 When writing about movies, I will sometimes use the words “genius” and “brilliant” to note a particularly standout acting performance, script writer or director.  The use of those same two words to describe Steve Jobs seems almost comical.  He truly was a GENIUS and a BRILLIANT man.  He was transcendent for our time.  He has been labeled a modern-day Thomas Edison, and such a claim doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. 

Mr. Jobs’ legacy at Apple is well documented and widely known.  The iPhone is a staple of everyday life and Mac users go way beyond brand-loyal.  But what of his impact on movies?  Are you aware?  In typical fashion, Jobs never really discussed his impact on Pixar.  The studio began as a division of LucasFilm, the production arm of George Lucas’ movie world.  In 1986 Jobs acquired Pixar and quietly began changing the way movies get made.  His time away from Apple allowed him to assemble an amazingly talented team and work diligently to push the envelope on technological capability.

 In 1995, after much success with experimental short films, Pixar released its first full length feature.  Perhaps you have heard of it … Toy Story.  The story of Woody and Buzz was a hit with kids and adults and went on to gross $360 million.  And that was just the beginning.  Pixar continued to produce top quality, highly creative, and incredibly entertaining films that were a visual feast.  In 2001, a new Academy Awards category was created … Best Animated Feature.  Since then, Pixar has taken home the Oscar in this category SIX times and their 12 features have taken in over $7 billion worldwide!

In 2006 Jobs sold Pixar to Disney for $7.4 billion and he became the largest single shareholder for Disney.  As he re-immersed himself in Apple, his influence on Pixar was lessened, but his impact was clear and lasting.  John Lasseter, the famous Pixar producer, writer and director stated that the single most impactful directive that Jobs left at Pixar was “Make it Great”.  Whether phones, portable music, computers or movies … Steve Jobs strove for greatness and showed us the true meaning of Genius and Brilliant.

TOY STORY 3 (2010)

June 21, 2010

  Greetings again from the darkness. Has there ever been a bad Pixar movie? Nope. And as many really good movies they have created, there are now two truly great ones: Toy Story and Toy Story 3. The first one (released 15 years ago) transformed the way animation is made and set the standard for kids’ movies that parents can also enjoy. This third installment takes animated story telling to the next level.

Of course all the great voices are back: Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles, Estelle Harris), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger) and Sarge (R Lee Ermey). Imagine assembling that cast and then adding two fabulous new characters: Lotsa Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty), Ken (Michael Keaton); expanding Jodi Benson’s Barbi to a key role, and re-vamping Slinky-dog with Blake Clark taking over for his deceased friend, the fabulous Jim Varney. This is major star power and an over-abundance of talent!

Then again, we have all seen stellar casts fall flat without a worthy script. Fear not as Pixar legend John Lasseter (Exec Producer here) has passed the reins again to director Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc.). This story is brilliant and engaging. I challenge anyone from age 5 to 95 to avoid being drawn in to the themes of separation, friendship, loyalty, and power.

There are some laugh outloud moments along with the usual wise cracks from Buzz and Potato head. This time we are also treated to some darker moments with Lotsa, a power-hungry stuffed bear, and his band of misfits that include a giant baby doll and Chuckles, the creepiest clown this side of Poltergeist, and especially the frightening/funny monkey working security.

Some Pixar touches include the voice of Andy is provided by the grown up voice actor who did Andy in the first, a couple of glimpses of the evil kid Sid (first Toy Story) who has grown up to be a garbage man (same shirt) and the re-use of Randy Newman’s classic song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”. Too many other “little” moments to mention, but this is pure film genius and should not be missed.