Pixar seem to be in a bit of a lull at the moment. Whichever way you look at it, Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University represent a dip compared to the run that gave us films like Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, Wall-E and Ratatouille.
With more sequels on the way (Finding Dory, continued rumours of more Toy Stories) the creativity and peerless story-telling that were Pixar’s stock in trade seem to have (at least moderately) forsaken them and although many an animation studio would give their right arm to have been responsible for such accomplished films as Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University it is neither unfair nor unreasonable to judge Pixar by its own, almost uniquely high standards.
With Monsters University now on our screens (and a very fine film it is too), this is as good a time as any to revisit some of Pixar’s greatest creations – those characters that feel like flesh and blood despite being 1’s and 0’s on a hard drive – from supporting characters to leading men and women, Pixar have given us some of the most iconic characters in film and here is a celebration of ten of their best. In no particular order…….
10. Randall Boggs
Monsters University has undoubtedly helped push Randall up the list of Pixar’s most memorable characters. An excellent antagonist to Mike and Sulley in Monsters Inc, Randall benefits as much as any character in Monstropolis from having more of his back story shaded in, as we see in MU how he went from being a kind, slightly nerdy, desperate to be in with the cool guys, scarer, to the arch-nemesis of Sulley that we see in Monsters Inc.
Too often, villains can be painted in stark, simplistic colours. They are bad because they just are. Baddies are bad. It is especially tempting to swerve towards the simple when it comes to animation, but Pixar have mercifully eschewed such tendencies. Lotso from TS3, Otto in Wall-E, Sid in TS1, Al in TS2, Bruce in Nemo – they all get the much needed shades of grey treatment and the films are all the stronger for it.
It is one of the chief pleasures of Monsters University (and one reason to not dismiss it as a cash-in prequel) to see how Randall went bad. It is an intelligently written, convincingly delivered arc and although it is a bit of a cheat that Pixar gave themselves two films to set that arc out, nonetheless Randall deserves to be here. Desperate to break the all-time scare record, constantly looking to get one up on Mike and Sulley, sneaky and manipulative and ultimately prepared to risk contamination in order to harvest screams more efficiently, Randall gets his comeuppance at the hands of a redneck trailer and a shovel, but he provides great laughs on the way through, as well as a genuine threat to our protagonists and one of the most consistently inventive chase sequences in recent memory.
Steve Buscemi gives good voice, but Pixar created Randall Boggs.