Earlier Friday at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, ahead of a screening of its new feature “Elemental,” Pixar unveiled an episode of “Win or Lose,” the legendary animation studio’s first long-form streaming series. Which is set to debut on Disney+. this December. And the episode did little to quell fears that Pixar had somehow lost its touch; It’s easily one of the most artistic, exciting and emotionally impactful things the studio has ever done. Waiting for more episodes has become downright excruciating.
“Win or Lose,” originally announced during Disney’s Investor Day presentation in December 2020, hinges around a simple, incredibly recognizable concept — a middle school softball team headed to the championship and every 20 minutes Episodes are told from point of view. One of the players, their parents, or an adult playing with them, such as an umpire or coach (voiced by Will Forte). It’s less “Rashoman” and more like “Legends of the Dark Knight,” a beloved episode of “The New Batman Adventures,” where the many encounters with Batman are told through emotive perspectives and shifting animation styles. Has gone.
Creators Cary Hobson and Michael Yates were inspired to create the show by their time on “Toy Story 4” and their different interpretations of the meetings the two shared.
Before the episode began, Hobson and Yates, appearing with producer David Lally, explained that it would not be the first episode – it would be somewhere in the middle. Instead of searching for one of the children, it will be from the perspective of the player, Rochelle’s mother Vanessa (voiced by Rosa Salazar of “Alita: Battle Angel” fame). Vanessa is handling a lot – she’s a single mom with a young child and a stressful job. But he is very proud of young Rochelle and the team (Pickles).
More recently, under the creative leadership of Pete Docter, Pixar movies have transformed their narrative (with a focus on several super personal, specific stories) and their aesthetic (borrowing from the anime-influenced “Turning Red,” stop-motion movies). Both take risks in context (the ’80s action movie hardware of “Luca” and “Lightair”) and for “Win or Lose” pushes it beyond almost anything we’ve ever seen from the studio. It goes beyond genre, absorbing many different touchstones but ultimately synthesizing those influences in a way that feels singularly new and very fresh.
For example, Vanessa is addicted to social media and her likes are shown in the form of little hearts that pop up around her, to help her move or get going. She hitchhikes around town when she loses her job at a local grocery store and is offered ride shares in exchange; When she is upset she flies into the air, lightning runs around her. And that’s all well and good and well, but the show also has an extremely strong emotional core, the ending of which is like a lump in your throat (pretty special considering we hadn’t seen any of the other episodes) and now only the characters were meeting).
The dismal box office of “Lightyear” and the so-called tracking on “Elemental” have left some to question whether Pixar’s restless creative spirit still lives in the sprawling halls of its Emeryville, campus. And “Win or Lose” feels like a direct response to those doubting the studio’s commitment to creativity and experimentation. Not only is it as good as anything Pixar has produced (and, remember, they brought us “WALL•E” and “Ratatouille”), but it’s also a bold move and hopefully a sign of where things are headed. I am going to the company.
“Win or Lose” sounds like a home run.