Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pixar's Posters

Toy Story: Pixar's first feature had a lot of characters to introduce to the world. Choosing to include the ensemble cast in the poster was a smart move. If your kid doesn't love astronauts and cowboys, maybe a dinosaur will suit his/her fancy. Little Bo Peep is prevalent, as is the recognizable Mr. Potato Head. Toss in a Piggy Bank, a Troll doll, Slinky Dog, and even a hard-to-spot Army Man and you've covered your bases.

I love the action of this poster. Buzz takes flight in front of sky-themed wallpaper. Woody's face is split between fear and disapproval, his two most-defining character traits. The title is secondary to the action, pushed over to one side to make room for the heroic spaceman's gallant pose. Maybe it's nostalgia but I'm in love with the title logo. The colors, the outlining around "Toy" and its unique shape. I only wish they would have brought the "Story" out a little, made it less flat.

Poster Grade: A-

A Bug's Life: Besides Wall-E, this is Pixar's most beautiful posters. Separate the illustrations from the movie and you've got a poster any kid would want on their wall. We've been shrunk down even smaller than the tiny bugs, giving us a great POV from below. I love that we're introduced to the characters through a leaf that's been partially eaten. It creates a sense of a "secret world" and that the bugs are as interested in us as we are in them.

The color of the leaf is the most appealing and pleasing color in existence. It's relaxing. Telemarketers should put pictures of this leaf in their cubicles as means of mental escapism. And look at Flik's shadow. Satisfying. A Bug's Life is not in my Top 3 Pixar movies but this is my Top 3 Pixar posters. Oh! The logo, I almost didn't mention the logo. Tell me that doesn't make you want to take a kid to the zoo.
Poster Grade: A

Toy Story 2: Foregoing with the ensemble cast, the designers decided to keep it simple by just featuring the two stars. One thing I forgot to mention about the first Toy Story poster is its lack of actor names. They got Tom Hanks to voice their star but you wouldn't know it from the poster. That takes balls. This time out, they tacked on their names in an ugly grey color that really should have been cropped off. The poster's clean but cramped, not too exciting, and overall, it's pretty lackluster. Although, adding the "2" to the logo resulted in a cohesiveness that the original logo was lacking.

Poster Grade: C-

Monsters, Inc.: Now that's a clean poster. The white background mirrors the Toy Story 2 poster but with full-length shots of new characters, it's utilized much better. If you're going to go with a blank, white background space, this is an effective way to use it. That being said, when your subjects are MONSTERS, why waste your poster space on a boring picture like this? When's the last time your kid had a nightmare about a well-lit monster just standing out in the open in an Awkward Family Photos pose? They had a lot to work with here but just delivered a lazy poster. Also, Sulley's face is annoying. And the title looks like bad 90s clipart.

Poster Grade: C+

Finding Nemo: AHHHHHHHHHHHH! Those fish are shitting themselves and they don't even know what's behind them! Not even those calming, soothing blues can slow their heart rates. They're pretty much going to die. This is what I want from a poster. Give me the drama, the conflict, the danger! Don't give me some bullshit sketch of your characters posing like good buddies in a yearbook club page. I want the life and death situation. That's what this poster does. And not only that, they done a stylish job with it.

Poster Grade: A+

The Incredibles: And now for something completely different. The bright reds and oranges are a sharp contrast to the deep blues Pixar usually uses. Compared to every poster before it, the action captured here is about 100x more intense. And it's definitely the only poster with a giant explosion. But even with the fireballs, flying villains, and UFOs, the Incredibles poster is pretty underwhelming. I stared and stared at this poster, trying to figure out why it didn't work for me. Finally, it hit me. It's their faces. Explosions aren't threatening to audiences when they aren't threatening to the characters. All of their facial expressions seem to be saying "Not too shabby, eh?" "We're not scared. You shouldn't be either." And I'm not. I'm bored. Do you know when I wasn't bored? When those fish were shitting themselves on the Nemo poster.

Poster Grade: B-

Cars: Honestly, there's not much I like about this poster. For some reason, car romance is hard to for me to buy...even when it's played against long, curvy mountain roads and out-of-place waterfalls. This poster is just as boring as every car commercial on TV right now. I'm just waiting for the APR financing figures. 0% Down? Wow, what a great deal. But even as boring and cliche the poster art is, the title logo is definitely Pixar's most polished so far and looks to have received the most thought behind it.

Poster Grade: C+

Ratatouille: I love posters, especially for animated films, that take a snapshot during the action. This is the complete opposite of the Monsters Inc. poster. Why just prop your characters up against a white space when you can pin them to a white door with giant knifes and forks? He's holding onto cheese, a classic rat image, but the tagline should serve as an example for all tagline writers. It compliments the imagery, makes sense, and sums up the entire conflict in a short, coheisive package. It's great. The title logo is clean, cute, and doesn't distract from the main imagery. Great poster.

Poster Grade: A

WALL-E: Again, Pixar delivers an aestetically pleasing poster that utilizes its color scheme perfectly. It's not the most interesting poster, in fact, it's not even the most interesting Wall-E poster, which can be found here. But since I usually grade the most recognizable posters, this is the one under review. My biggest problem with Wall-E's poster is the forced coheisiveness. It's too sectioned-off. Foreground: robot and rough terrain. Background Right: Rounded Spaceship. Background Center: Moon and Title. Background Right: Moon and Eve. Look at the Ratatouille poster. Everything's positioned together extremely well and when the eye relaxes ont he poster, it's led in one direction. When the eye relaxes on this poster, it doesn't know where to focus. They tried to include too much and ended up voiding out the emotion found on most of Wall-E's other posters. But overall, it's still satisfying and beautiful.

Poster Grade: B+

Up: No tagline. Just the word "Up" written in large, could-white text--slanted at an awkward angle Pixar was so proud of they used it again on the Toy Story 3 poster. The Up poster has a great sense of action, uses depth well, and gives you a pretty good idea what the movie's about. One of Pixar's greatest strengths has always been their ability to animate emotions. Dreamworks, on the other hand, specializes in this. The dog's happy. The old man's concerned about his present situation. And that fat kid's having the goddamn time of his life. I wouldn't put this on my wall but it's a strong entry into Pixar's poster collection.

Poster Grade: B+

Toy Story 3: We're back to the ensemble cast and this time there's Barbie. The happy-go-lucky crew of children's playthings look pretty worried. They haven't reached Finding Nemo levels of fear but there's definitely something worrisome this side of the camera. In a lot of cases, stacking characters like this will make the poster look forced, overstuffed, and unappealing. One of the perks of using digital designers is that you can pretty much get any layout result you want if you're willing to put in the time. The designers also abandoned the blank, white background of the second poster and adopted this satisfying tan. Great poster.

Poster Grade: A+


whitney said...

I think I like the Toy Story 2 poster a little more than you do, but only for the rabbit ears. 2! Get it! Toystory 2! OMG. Brilliant.

Also, that WALL-E poster doesn't get across how cute he is. That's a problem.

Rachel said...

I have yet to come across another movie blogger who analyzes movie posters as in-depth as you do. Love your posters posts!

Daniel said...

I would agree about Toy Story 2 and Monsters, but you're too kind on Finding Nemo, which to me is just too sharky. It even brings to mind A Shark's Tale, which I'm sure is the last thing Pixar intended.

Meanwhile, I love the Ratatouille poster but upon closer inspection I take issue with the fact that his right foot is not balancing on anything. This means that the hand holding the cheese is either trapped beyond recovery in the fork, or that Ratatouille's core strength is out of this world and he is able to keep himself upright by pushing sideways on the knife with his left leg. All they needed to to do was add another knife or change his right foot position and it would have been OK.

In other words, I see your in-depth poster analysis and raise you an anal retentive observation.

elgringo said...

Whitney - I wrote about the bunny ears in my first draft but ended up taking. And you're right about Wall-E. It doesn't even reference the potential romance with Eve. I felt stupid writing that.

Rachel - Thanks so much!!!

Daniel - I thought about Finding Nemo's poster not focusing enough on the main characters but if you look at the Sharks Tale poster, it's arguably more fish-focused than shark focuses and that doesn't work either. Nemo's has the drama I crave in a poster.

As far as Ratatouille...thanks a lot. Now, every time I look at this poster that all I'm going to see. I hate/love you, you inglourious basterd.

Fletch said...

Great job as usual.

First, Daniel - I love anal retentive observation. HOWEVER, it sure does appear to me as though some of the weight is being supported by his left armpit. Have another look.

I like Nemo, but don't think that that particular poster says a damn thing about the story, so for that reason, I knock it a point or two. Still, a strong image.

I think my favorite one is for Up. Has the key characters, is one of if not the most visually interesting, tells you enough about the story to pique your interest to while not giving anything away, and I still love love love the title treatment.

Daniel said...

Nope, I thought so at first Fletch, but if you look REALLY closely you'll see that his body is actually not making any contact with the knife under his left armpit!