Pixar VS Disney

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Pixar VS Disney

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
It's the question every animation fan has been asked, Pixar Vs. Disney? Both of these studios may be owned by the same company now, but their styles are distinctly different. Which of these two animation titans stands taller? MsMojo pits Pixar against Disney. Which animation studio do you prefer? Let us know in the comments!
Transcript
Which of these two animation titans stands taller? Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be pitting Pixar and Disney animation against each other to see which is superior.

Both of these studios may be owned by the same company now, but their styles are distinctly different.

Round 1: Animation Style


Pixar is renowned for their computer animated films, which they’ve specialized in almost exclusively since the studio’s founding. Pixar especially excels at creating gorgeous, realistic textures, while still allowing for fluid movement. Their character designs are also topnotch and are almost always inventive and distinct, with a great deal of variety between their franchises. While the animation of their early films is somewhat awkward by today’s standards, especially when it comes to the human characters, Pixar helped set those standards, and their first films can still be appreciated.

Disney is an absolute giant in the world of animation. The company’s work in traditional, hand-drawn animation is among the most prolific throughout the world. Disney’s style has changed over the decades, though it arguably reached its peak in quality during the 1990s, at least in terms of 2-D animation. Their work in computer animated films has been comparatively recent and while it’s taken them a while, their later efforts rival even Pixar’s quality. For all its strides in animation, though, Disney hasn’t been without its missteps and when they’ve fallen, they’ve fallen hard.

This was already a really close match up, and while it’s not a knock against Pixar, we do feel that Disney’s greater variety in media gives them a slight advantage, securing them the victory.

WINNER: Pixar 0 / Disney 1

Round 2: Characterization


Characters in Pixar films are complex creatures… sometimes literally. They’re rarely without fault and oftentimes they contend with their own choices as much as with an external foe or threat. Their fears and desires are on full display, which help make them sympathetic and give the audience greater insight into their motivations. This complexity extends to the heroes and villains alike, adding some nice shades of gray to both sides that makes the heroes not entirely good and the villains not entirely bad. That isn’t to say that Pixar is entirely without one-note characters, though, as some of their comic relief can come off as pretty flat.

Disney characters lean more towards archetypes. The protagonists are good and the antagonists are bad, and faults among the former and sympathies for the latter are few and far between. While the motivations and desires of the characters are explored, frequently through song, they’re not always relatable or emotionally driven, so they can still come off as “characters” rather than “people,” if you get our meaning. Disney has made steps to give more depth to its characters recently, though, and we’d be lying if we said that Disney didn’t have some of the most memorable animated characters ever.

Despite Disney’s many excellent characters, we have to award this round to Pixar for how multifaceted most of its characters are.

WINNER: Pixar 1 / Disney 1

Round 3: Settings


Pixar films are primarily set in some kind of variation on modern day, whether it’s a child’s bedroom, or under the sea. While there are plenty of fantastical elements, everything from superpowers to things talking that shouldn’t be able to, Pixar’s stories usually feel grounded in contemporary experiences. This lends itself well to world-building, since the real world is often used as a jumping off point, helping the settings feel expansive and lived in. Even so, this kind of intricacy can backfire sometimes, as it can invite all sorts of questions about the nature of the worlds involved.

Disney movies, on the other hand, favor more fantastic settings. Disney’s bread and butter has definitely been fairy tales, which are often set in the past or in fantastical worlds. Although the films themselves can inspire plenty of wonder, the settings don’t always engender the same feelings. The world-building can feel relatively shallow sometimes, which, in addition to being mainly in non-contemporary time periods, is also the result of a lack of locations, though the latter was probably a symptom of the limitations of traditional animation. Even so, Disney has featured some spectacular locales and their computer animated films have since taken some notes from Pixar’s strategy.

While we love Disney’s fantastic settings, fantasy isn’t always believable - and Pixar makes us believe, even if it does make us question things a bit too much sometimes.

WINNER: Pixar 2 / Disney 1

Round 4: Music


Pixar’s approach to music is one that is favored by many films – using an instrumental score to illustrate most scenes, as well as a few vocal songs as highlights. The instrumental music is primarily used to build mood and occasionally evoke emotions, while the vocal performances often inform character traits or motivations; albeit not explicitly. This approach can make the music of some of their films feel somewhat forgettable, although the songs with lyrics are almost always memorable, and occasionally worthy of winning an Academy Award.

Meanwhile, Disney’s approach to scoring their films is most often, though not always, centered around musicals. These involve around half a dozen songs sung by the characters themselves, which are usually used to establish their personalities or to move the plot forward, often with a choreographed dance or other visuals. Disney does have movies that aren’t musicals and these have some memorable soundtracks too, but they’re never quite as catchy as those that are; given that their songs can stay in our heads for decades.

Although Pixar features some truly excellent music, Disney simply has it beat in terms of quantity and catchiness. This round goes to Disney, leaving us tied.

WINNER: Pixar 2 / Disney 2

Round 5: Legacy


Pixar is one of the pioneering animation studios for computer animation, and essentially popularized the practice by demonstrating its potential through smash hits, like “Toy Story.” The majority of Pixar’s films have been popular with critics and audiences alike, and even their less beloved films have often been successes at the box office or through merchandising, at least. Pixar’s record of success and overall general quality are exceptional. Even so, given that the company was founded in 1986, it obviously hasn’t been around as long as Disney has.

Disney is also a hugely influential animation studio, popularizing animation in film as well as in general. Throughout its near century of history, Disney has strived for excellence in animation and has inspired its competitors, including Pixar, to do the same by setting the bar so high - though for many years, they were the only game in town. Granted, they’ve had some rough patches, such as their post-Renaissance slump and all those sub-par direct-to-video sequels, but any studio that’s lasted this long is bound to have some failures along the way.

This was a close call, but ultimately we had to choose Disney. Pixar may have an excellent track record and influence over computer animation, but Disney’s been around 3 times as long, and without it, we probably wouldn’t have Pixar in the first place.

WINNER: Pixar 2 / Disney 3
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