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The Kids Will Always Have Dreamworks

Contemplating Pixar's Up over at The American Scene, Peter Suderman asks a question that has frequently crossed my mind (and, no doubt, countless others):

[W]hat I wonder... is whether or not Pixar will ever chuck the kiddie elements altogether and make a movie that specifically targets adults. Yes, yes, part of their genius is their cross-generational appeal, which they really do pull off better than any other filmmakers. But these days, I also think the folks at Pixar are making better mainstream entertainment than nearly any other creators in any other medium, and given the paucity of satisfying adult drama in theaters these days, I’d love to see them work on a project that didn’t have to entertain the six year olds in the audience, that didn’t have to merely hint, however compellingly, at the sadness and joys of adult life.

With both Wall-E and Up, the studio has seemed on the verge of transcending its "family film" format altogether, only to pull back at the last to offer robot chases and aerial (literal) dogfights. As Suderman's American Scene colleague, Alan Jacobs, notes:

Pixar’s movies continue to evidence a great deal of reflection on the visual storytelling styles of silent film. The first half-hour of WALL-E will probably always be the definitive example of this, but the two most moving scenes of Up, by a long shot, are silent: a montage-like passage through the whole married life of a couple, from youth to old age, and then, near the end of the film, the husband paging through his wife’s scrapbook and discovering for the first time her deepest understanding of their life together. Both scenes are filmmaking at something close to its very best.

Now, I cede ground to no one when it comes to praise for Pixar's oeuvre generally, and for Wall-E and Up in particular. But I think it's near-indisputable that both films, after touching deeper chords, ultimately retreat into animated convention, however expertly executed. Here's hoping that one day the studio pursues its quiet, tender explorations of the human (or cybernetic or bestial) heart all the way to the end credits.

--Christopher Orr