Why Disney & Pixar Animated Movies are becoming Formulaic ?

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Some Animated Movies

Animated movies have adapted a routine that needs to be changed. Having finished Luca, I started wondering how straightforward the plot progression in these big budget Hollywood ventures has really become. It introduces a new world, new characters, but the story and the major character arcs somehow feel more or less the same.

Whether it’s Luca or whether it’s Onward or even Raya and The Last Dragon, what these movies do so well in terms of their worldbuilding and emotional attachment, they back down in the uniqueness of the story. And this is not me saying that I don’t enjoy watching them.

In fact I love them to the core, they make me feel good about the world and almost every time, leave me with a wide, hearty smile on my face. But when you see a lot of movies following the same plot pattern, it just makes you think, have animated movies really gotten used to that same old story? Do they purposely go that route in order to leave you teary eyed in the end?

Anyways, these are some of the things that could enhance the spectrum and scope of Animated movies by a mile.

In a still from Raya and the Last Dragon

An Effective Story Which Prioritizes the Setting and Characters Over Their Emotional Impact

Disney and Pixar movies have time and time again made us cry. It started off with some timeless stories like The Jungle Book and The Lion King, and gradually progressed towards Up, Coco and Toy Story 3 which are phenomenal. But as we moved further, the movies started to give off a vibe which seemed as if they were trying too hard to invoke that sentimental feeling by the end.

This won’t bother me that much, but the way the screenplay brings these emotional moments to the front has started relying on that same old concept of a Friendship – Good Times – Low Point – Reconciliation – Tear Jerker Final Act.

In Raya and The Last Dragon it was the one with Raya and Namaari, in Zootopia between Nick & Judy, Ian & Barley in Onward and Luca & Alberto in Luca. And while Raya and The Last Dragon and Zootopia had tremendous world building backing them, this wasn’t so much the case in Onward and Luca.

Onward had a lot of things which ultimately felt Cliche and Luca didn’t really need world building in the first place. These movies begin and the first sign I see a friendship blooming, I immediately suspect they are going to temporarily break up and join hands again by the end.

And more often than not, I am right, which makes me feel a bit stuffed. How about focusing writing around the setting and the passion rather than prioritizing invoking tears through an overused concept of friendship.

Coco is one of the most recent animated movies that I can recall, which did all of this with such perfection and not one bit of it felt stale or uninspired. From humongous world building, to a flaming passion for music and an exciting revelation by the end, there wasn’t one thing that I can pinpoint in the movie and go like, “Meh, I have seen that in 10 other films”.

In a still from Up

High Stakes, Maybe?

This is an issue which is sort of prominent in a lot of other movies, regardless of whether they are animated or not, and that is the stakes not being high enough. There’s always that one person which you know is going to die or maybe get in a sticky situation by the end and the protagonist is going to win hearts by saving him.

You can switch roles and that is very prevalent too. But animated movies aren’t that common to begin with. There are maybe 3-4 Disney or Pixar animated movies to release in a year and even with that the ending just never catches you by surprise.

I am aware that there is an audience that these films need to cater to, but I can’t shake the feeling of seeing lasting, impactful consequences in both Marvel and Animated movies. The best example I can think of would be Up, and even though this is not the climax of the film, it easily becomes one of the most iconic moments of the movie. Yes, I am talking about Ellie’s death.

The whole sequence plays off with such a warm and gleeful tone and soon it becomes excruciatingly sad when we learn about the disease of Ellie. It shatters you the most because you are never able to predict it. As Ryan Higa once said, “She can’t die, Pixar is known to be Happy”. And that sort of summarizes the entire point that I am trying to make. 

In a still from Animated Movies

Deeper, Richer Settings Which Have a Lasting Impact on the Story

Remember back when Pixar made The Incredibles, and it soon became one of the best animated movies of the decade. That movie was phenomenal with its humor, characters and obviously, superpowers. But the best thing that brought that entire premise together, was the world building.

A government of superheroes which have become more or less extinct, and the ones who survive live in shadows. It played into themes like bureaucracy, marriage problems and raising a family while simultaneously building a story about a guy who got so upset over a remark, he made an entire deadly island to finish the superheroes off.

What made The Incredibles so “Incredibly” iconic were the sheer number of scenes which use the environment around them so well. Whether it’s the rocket in the cave scene, or the jumping off of a plane and transforming into a parachute scene. Then came Wall-E and then came Coco, and all these movies have phenomenal worldbuilding in common which I just really want to see implemented in its full glory again. 

The Movie Culture Synopsis

I feel I need to mention this line in the end so that I don’t enrage any of the viewers, my main problem is with the predictability of these stories.

They make me laugh and cry and scream gleefully, but that sense of fascination and immersiveness has become increasingly rare in recent times. My one desire is for Animation to make me feel things I haven’t ever felt before, is that too much to ask?