Towards Infinity And Beyond Branding, Reputation, and the Critical Reception of Pixar Animation Studios

Mcculloch, Richard (2013) Towards Infinity And Beyond Branding, Reputation, and the Critical Reception of Pixar Animation Studios. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

American author and journalist Jonah Lehrer declared in 2012 that Pixar
Animation Studios was ‘the one exception’ to the oft-cited maxim that, in
Hollywood, ‘nobody knows anything.’ Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times
spoke in similar terms in 2008, writing that, ‘critics and audiences are in agreement
on one key thing: Nobody makes better movies than Pixar.’ Thirteen consecutive
global box office successes and scores of industry awards would seem to suggest
that Lehrer and Goldstein are correct. Yet it is important to recognise that such
statements invariably refer to something intangible, something beyond a particular
Pixar film or selection of films. There exists, in other words, a widely held set of
meanings and associations about what the studio represents, and to whom.
This thesis argues that this set of meanings and associations – Pixar’s brand
identity – is far from the fixed and unambiguous entity it is often seen to be. If the
studio has come to be seen as guarantee of quality family entertainment, when did
this notion become widespread? Have the parameters for ‘quality’ and ‘success’
remained constant throughout its history? I demonstrate for instance that Pixar
benefited considerably from Disney’s wavering reputation from the late-1990s
onwards. I approach branding as a discursive process, and one that brand producers
sometimes have little control over, contrary to the implicit claims of most marketing
literature.
Broadly chronological in structure, the thesis traces the development of the
studio’s reputation by drawing on Barbara Klinger’s approach to historical reception
studies. Individual chapters focus on how Pixar was discussed by critics and
journalists at specific moments or in specific contexts, as it evolved from a
computer graphics company to become the most celebrated film studio of all time.
Ultimately, this is a case study of the cultural work involved in the making of a
brand or an auteur, and how these meanings can shift over time.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Film,Television and Media
Depositing User: Mia Reeves
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2014 10:35
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2014 10:35
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/48149
DOI:

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