Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Wisdom of Pixar by Robert Velarde

Pixar has always been a huge part of my life. I grew up with the movies and can appreciate them as artistic films as an adult. When I was in high school, I became very fascinated with entertainment and the connections with Christian spirituality. Being a teenager and still very inexperienced in many aspects of life, I didn't quite have the vocabulary to state what I felt and saw, but I continued to have an interest and learned a lot since then. I now know I'm not the only one who sees these connections. There are books and books discussing entertainment's connection with faith as well as psychology, philosophy, history, etc. I have read quite a few of these books and want to write one of my own someday. The Wisdom of Pixar by Robert Velarde is one these awesome books and it does a great job of analyzing these films and forming connections that the viewer may not have noticed before.
If you aren't aware, I am a host on a Disney podcast called Talk Magic to Me. Disney is a big part of my life and I have always felt a strong connection with their movies. That is why I am on the podcast, to discuss my love for Disney in a community based way. Our summer theme is Pixar and I figured this was as a good a time as any to start reading this book. A big plus to being on a podcast is that I contacted author Robert Velarde himself and had a chance to interview him! How cool is that?!
I'm going to state right away that this will be a five star review. I'm telling you this early because I don't want you to think I'm giving the book kudos just because I interviewed the author. Nope, not the case. I genuinely really  loved this book. While the title of the book doesn't overtly hint at any faith based analysis, it is primarily focused on Pixar films and their connection to Christian faith and spirituality. Wisdom itself is a biblical virtue after all. I find it a bit ignorant when I see people reviewing this book with one or two stars just because of it's Christian worldview. Every book has a worldview so why start getting picky when there is a Christian one? Velarde doesn't shove the theology mindlessly down our throats. He meets us in the middle and is very straight is a movie, this biblical virtue exists within that movie, this is what we can learn and take away to apply to our own lives. Velarde makes it clear that he isn't saying Pixar intended to make their movies as biblical metaphors.  But as John Green states, "Books belong to their readers" and this saying isn't limited to books but all entertainment. What you get out of a film, TV show, painting, or video game is equally (if not more) important than the author's intent. This phrase has always been bittersweet for me because as a writer and creator I want my intentions to be known yet as a reader I have interpreted texts and art in a very specific way that has helped me grow as a person but not everyone gets.
The book is split into chapters in order of Pixar movies, starting with Toy Story and ending with Up. Each chapter has a different focus on wisdom such as love, humor, technology, justice, etc. and how the piece of wisdom ties into the movie of focus (with an occasional look at other Pixar films that also incorporate the same aspect of wisdom). The chapter will use biblical examples to make things clearer. Velarde does a great job at breaking these films down and analyzing them in a simplistic way. He reveals the depth within Pixar that many choose not to see since they label it as kids entertainment. David Beagley, a professor at La Trobe University once said in a lecture, "Children's literature is not simple. It's as complex as adults. It's the audience that is different, not the literature." The same can be said about any other medium. Of course with film this idea is hard to see since so many companies only make kids movies for money and use stupid dialogue and easy humor that suggests no adult will ever enjoy these movies at all! Luckily Pixar is not one of those companies, nor Disney...or at least most Disney movies don't adhere to that standard but there are exceptions. Ironically enough, David Beagley also stated in his lecture that he hates Disney which made me die a little inside because I really respect him and hoped some scholar would see the good in Disney but so many don't.
Pixar is the perfect example to show that not all "kids" movies are simple. They hold a lot of weight! What is cool about being a 90's kid is that I grew up in arguably the greatest era of Disney...the Disney Renaissance, good Disney channel programming, and of course the birth of Pixar. These films have really shaped me as a person. I'm not saying my entire being is all thanks to Disney/Pixar but you get my point. I was able to enjoy these as a kid and now can still enjoy them as an adult but in an academic way which is really awesome!
The book was excellent. I really enjoyed Velarde's writing style. He wrote as if you were on the journey through Pixar movies together. He has a lot of important things to say about these movies and the biblical imagery within them that should be taken more seriously by Christians and entertainment lovers alike.  It was thought provoking and written well. If you love Pixar, you will really enjoy this book. As I said, I will be giving this 5 out of 5 stars. If you want to check out our interview with Robert Velarde, visit on July 23rd which is when the interview will be released.

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