As you may have guessed by now, we at CreativeEqual friggin’ love Pixar. How could you not? One thing that sometimes gets lost in this adoration is that Pixar is not a magical movie factory that snaps incredible animated films into existence. It’s a collection of artists and technicians that share a passion for storytelling. In the spirit of celebrating these people, I’m asking you to judge them against each other and declare five of them to be losers.
I’ve listed all six men who have directed at least two Pixar feature films, along with the films they directed and some additional, completely unbiased contextual information. You must declare which Pixar director is the Greatest Of All Time. The relative value of quantity, quality, success rate, etc. is at your discretion. Though I mention their non-Pixar films, the intent is to judge them based solely on their Pixar work.
Pixar movies: Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Cars, Cars 2
Non-Pixar movies: None
Best Animated Feature Oscars: 0 (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story 2 predate the award)
The man who started it all. Pixar’s first filmmaker and Chief Creative Officer is also its most prolific director, with five movies under his belt. Despite his towering presence in Pixar history, we are here to judge the work on its own merits. And those merits diverge wildly. Lasseter helmed arguably Pixar’s most beloved (Toy Story) and belittled (Cars 2) films, along with others scattered in the spectrum in between. Your judgment here comes down to how you value strikeouts against grand slams.
Pixar: Monster’s Inc., Up, Inside Out, (upcoming) Soul
A longtime member of Pixar’s senior brain trust, Docter is involved in every film they release. As for his directorial contributions, the Doc hasn’t missed yet. Though none of his movies are consensus first-tier Pixar classics, they were all hugely successfully and almost universally admired.
Pixar: Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Finding Dory
Non-Pixar: John Carter
Another Pixar OG, Stanton pushed Pixar to a new level of success financially and artistically when he directed Finding Nemo. His next two movies matched that success either financially (Finding Dory) or artistically (WALL-E). Sadly his lone foray into live-action directing matched neither.
Pixar: The Incredibles, Ratatouille, The Incredibles 2
Non-Pixar: The Iron Giant, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Tomorrowland
Pixar made Bird their first outside hire for a feature film after seeing his awesome animated film, The Iron Giant. He proved their wisdom by blending the excitement of superhero movies with the heart of family animation in The Incredibles. Like Stanton, he followed his initial hit with a quirky artistic triumph and a solid, if forgettable, sequel. Unlike Stanton, Bird has made one successful live-action movie (though he also made a huge bomb).
Pixar: Toy Story 3, Coco
Though it took him longer than his peers to climb the Pixar ranks to feature film director, Unkrich has proven he belongs with the best of them. The degree of difficulty is his projects is unmatched: revisiting the Toy Story series that we had placed on a glistening pedestal in our collective memories for 11 years, and an almost-musical set in the Mexican Land of the Dead. Yet both films were instant favorites that landed him Academy Awards.
Pixar: Monster’s University, Onward
Oscars: 0 (Onward will be eligible for the April 2021 awards)
Dan, my man. You seem like a sweet guy, and I really did like Onward, but you’re punching above your weight class here. Maybe you’ll get a couple protest votes. I’m rootin’ for ya, big guy.