Entertainment & Media

REVIEW: John P. McCarthy takes a break from editing the Sports Section to watch (and rank) Disney Movies

By John McCarthy

Volume 1 Issue 5

February 12, 2021

REVIEW: John P. McCarthy takes a break from editing the Sports Section to watch (and rank) Disney Movies

Image provided by Disney

On January 4, 2021, I purchased a subscription to Disney Plus and have since ventured into all kinds of Disney movies. If you have Disney Plus, the original, Safety, is a must-see, but I digress as this piece is all about PIXAR. For my own amusement, I decided to rank all the movies I have watched in the past month. I decided to share my thoughts and give explanations on my top ten movies and why I believe they set themselves above the rest. However, I enjoyed every single movie and it was very tough placing movies low on the list. My full list of all 23 PIXAR films is at the end. Watch out for SPOILERS!


10. Soul

The latest PIXAR installment sets up a funny, ironic story of the circle of life with 22. Her journey with Joe Gardner shows the importance of life and selflessness to give others a chance at living their dream. Gardner learns that his love for jazz is his dream, and he got so close to playing with one of the greats, Dorothea Williams. As Gardner and 22 move through life in ways they never have, each of them learn that life is a gift itself. 22 finally gets her first shot at her own life, after Gardner is able to get 22 to earn her elusive Earth badge, and Gardner, by the grace of Terry, despite Jerry, gets another shot at life on Earth. Soul depicts a nice narrative based on learning the true privilege it is to live.


9. Cars 2

As the only sequel in my top 10, Cars 2 provides new energy and twists to the Cars universe. Lightning McQueen is invited to one of the biggest races worldwide, sponsored by Miles Axlerod and Alinol - the new alternative fuel source he plans to showcase. A major theme of Cars 2 is loyalty to your truest friends. McQueen, confronted by polar opposites in the pre-event and Mater chooses to lash out at Mater telling him he needs to act differently to fit in. Subsequently, Mater makes a fool out of both cars from Radiator Springs. Next, dramatic irony takes the forefront as Mater entangles himself in espionage, where spy cars are convinced he is their American contact. Throughout the first two races in the spectacle, cars burn up because of old oil-dependent “lemons'' that exploit the properties of Alinol. All in all Mater fights to save his best friend and turns out to become a great spy. It turns out Miles Axlerod was behind it all, plotting this catastrophe to banish the thought of alternative oil forever. With great irony, action, and surprises, Cars 2 lands a spot on my top 10.


8. Onward

In following the trek of two brother elves, Ian and Barley, to help bring back their father for one day, PIXAR teaches us to respect and love the people who have disappointed us, and see inside their heart. Ian, at first, does not believe in the magic that Barley is so invested in. Somehow the initial magic spell only brings back the legs of their father. They now have to journey to find another phoenix gem that can finish the spell. On this quest, the fantastical Barley and practical Ian clash on how to continue their adventure. Only when they learn to trust each other can they bring back their father...all of him. All his life Ian has wanted a chance to meet his father, but when their father was sick, Barley forewent his opportunity to say goodbye out of fright, the opposite of how his character was portrayed in the present. Another switch in personality comes at the climax when Ian braves the dragon, forgoes his only chance to meet his dad and lets Barley finally say farewell.


7. Up

Carl Fredricksen, a retired balloon salesman and his wife Ellie’s dream was to explore the world and place their house on Paradise Falls. However, Ellie does not make the trip Carl had planned. She died shortly before, in the scene widely accepted as the most sad and emotional in any Disney movie. Junior Wilderness Explorer Russell, initially unbeknownst to Carl, accompanies Fredricksen on his escape to Paradise Falls. They reached the area the falls were located, but Carl needed the balloon-powered house to be closer. On this trek they meet Kevin, the mystical Snipe, that Carl’s idol, Charles Muntz, so desperately wanted to capture. When Russell befriends Kevin with chocolate, the two protagonists find themselves on the bad side of Muntz and his many dogs…except Dug. Carl, wanting to get rid of Kevin when they first encountered each other, has a change of heart, knowing Russell could not leave letting Muntz capture Kevin, and Fredricksen knew it was the right thing to do. In an epic old man battle, Carl, Dug, and Russell are able to save Kevin, a fitting ending to a movie all about the freedom of choice and exploration.


6. Cars

Lightning McQueen is speed. As a rookie, he is taking the racing world by storm. After the race that would decide the Piston Cup Champion ends in a three way tie, McQueen, Chick Hicks, and the King must meet in California to decide it once and for all. Of course, a film must have more conflict than just racing, so McQueen gets off track and ends up in a small town, Radiator Springs. Initially, McQueen is infuriated that he has to do community service for a small, no good town he wrecked. With time, however, he realizes the beauty of a small town and its nice, friendly people and even falls in love with a beautiful Porsche, Sally Carrera. Also, he meets a racing legend Doc Hudson, who teaches him to “turn right to go left”. There are many metaphorical parallels that can be drawn there. In the ultimate race for the Piston Cup, McQueen is the clear winner by using Doc’s maneuver, but after the King has a devastating crash McQueen stops right before the finish line, lets unsympathetic Chick Hicks win, then turns back to help the King finish his final race before retirement, a chance Doc Hudson never got. This movie is slightly above average in action and humor, factors I hold in high regard for a good movie, but the feel good, friendly vibe Cars emanates makes it a household PIXAR film.


5. The Incredibles

Superheroes are living among us, but they are not in action; their assignment is to act like normal humans. Although Elastigirl might be alright with this, her husband Mr. Incredible desperately wants to get back on the scene. Like a dream come true, he receives a call from someone saying his services are needed. Staging as he is on a business trip, he goes on his mission, only to find out he’s been played by his ol’ pal Syndrome. As revenge for being pushed aside by Mr. Incredible, Syndrome has carried out an elaborate operation killing major supers, now luring Mr. Incredible to his death. For leverage, the movie has the whole Parr family journey to save their father, spewing drama for the whole family. Violet and Dash provide comic relief in the ways of traditional sibling conflict. The Incredibles has some of the best action for a PIXAR film that gets the heart pumping. Syndrome seems to have comebacks after every minor victory for the Incredibles, which gives the movie more suspense and casts more doubt. I was amazed at how well The Incredibles stood the test of time when I rewatched it.


4. WALL-E

The beginning of WALL-E might be the longest humorous sequence in any PIXAR movie. The quirks and hobbies of WALL-E and his attitude toward them are hilarious. WALL-E then meets Eve and he falls in love at first sight. Although she tries to kill him several times at first, he still shows her his collections and stays with her when her directive of finding life on Earth puts her to sleep. The connection between these characters happens early for two new companions compared to other Disney movies. WALL-E takes on a new direction of preserving this connection, and of course saving the day. Autopilot has taken advantage of the humans and wants to prevent going back to Earth by whatever means possible. The captain finally realizes that life can no longer be played on easy mode in order to create the best world possible and save Earth. WALL-E can be thought of as a satire, warning us about the potential future of our planet, especially our people who can barely walk in the movie. WALL-E gives a strong message in the midst of a funny, emotional, and action-packed story.


3. Inside Out

This movie is full of emotions, and stars five of them: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. Riley’s family just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco and instead of managing her emotions, her emotions manage her. A minor inconvenience is that Joy and Sadness are lost outside the headquarters, so consequently Riley cannot be happy. The emotions trying to settle the situation and comfort Riley is ironically funny because they try to bring happiness in their own way. Joy and Sadness meet Riley’s former imaginary friend Bing Bong, and together they try to get the two emotions back to headquarters, and get Riley to remember Bing Bong. After taking some wrong turns and falling in the memory dump. Joy and Bing Bong are essentially forgotten. Using Bing Bong’s rocket, he propels Joy out of the chasm, giving her hope that she can save Riley. However, Bing Bong is then forgotten forever. Then, Joy realizes when looking back at one of Riley’s memories, that Sadness is important in becoming happy, showing that sadness is sometimes comforting and needed to turn dark times around.


2. Finding Nemo

Marlin, a widowed clownfish loses his son to divers, taking Nemo to P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. Marlin, always being overprotective of Nemo is now living his worst nightmare. Through an epic journey under the sea to reunite a father and his son, Finding Nemo has great visuals and cameos from different sea life. From the shark gig that parallels something of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to the sweet ride on the EAC with Crush and his turtle dudes, Marlin and his new forgetful friend, Dory, provide comedic tension and thrilling escapes. I find it ironic that Marlin, a clownfish, when called on to make a joke totally drops the ball, but throughout the movie is so ironically funny that the clownfish nature actually does fit his personality. Nemo encounters new friends in Philip Sherman’s office’s fish tank where Nemo shows newfound determination and his unwavering courage. Nemo and his friends escape the office just before Darla’s wrath would ensue. The shifts between Nemo’s perspective and Marlin’s perspective emphasizes the unknown challenges the other has overcome to ultimately meet again. Marlin now has more confidence in Nemo, violently shaking him to get up for school when they are home and safe.


1. Coco

Miguel longs to be a musician, but his family forbids it. Music has destroyed their family and Miguel’s abuelita is strict to allow no trace of rhythm in the Rivera household. Instead their family has the very exciting tradition of shoemaking. On the day of the dead, family members come back to the land of the living and see their living relatives. However, you can only cross over if your family has put your photo on the ofrenda, an offering table for the dead. Miguel idolizes Ernesto De La Cruz and gets so caught up in playing the guitar in the plaza, that Miguel joins him in the land of the dead. Hector, on the verge of being forgotten, helps Miguel find De La Cruz as Miguel may be his only shot at going back to the land of the living. Upon finding De La Cruz, Miguel believes he is his great grandfather because his guitar was in their ofrenda, peeled behind the photo of his great grandmother. Shockingly, it wasn’t De La Cruz’s guitar, but Hector’s. Hector wanted to return home to his family and leave the music world, but De La Cruz could not thrive without his songs. So, Ernesto poisoned his best friend. Miguel was able to return home and destroy De La Cruz’s reputation. In an emotional scene, Miguel uses the forbidden music to help Mama Coco remember her father, Hector. She kept a picture of him hidden in her drawer, so Hector would not be forgotten just yet. The twist with the identity of Miguel’s great grandfather, the amazing music, and the final emotional scene with Coco makes Coco my favorite PIXAR movie.


Here is the full list 1 - 23:

  1. Coco

  2. Finding Nemo

  3. Inside Out

  4. WALL-E

  5. The Incredibles

  6. Cars

  7. Up*

  8. Onward

  9. Cars 2

  10. Soul

  11. The Incredibles 2

  12. Monsters Inc.

  13. Toy Story 4

  14. Cars 3

  15. Monsters University

  16. Toy Story 3

  17. Ratatouille

  18. Toy Story

  19. Finding Dory

  20. The Good Dinosaur

  21. A Bug’s Life

  22. Toy Story 2

  23. Brave