Congratulations on your tenth film, Up; it's a heck of achievement for a movie studio that started as something George Lucas ran as a side project and Steve Jobs didn't quite know what to do with. Up's also your first 3D film, and the technical achievements in it are really amazing, too — the people look like people, the real animals look like real animals. And, most importantly, you've still got your amazing eye for a tale well-told; I joke that the secret to Pixar's films is that they're so well written you could tell them with sock puppets and still have the audience riveted. So, congratulations, and, at the same time, I'm sorry.
I say "I'm sorry" because, frankly, guys — and yeah, Pixar's pretty much all guys, which we'll talk about later — you're sort of in that U2-Joni Mitchell-Johnny Cash zone of creative ability now, the problematic one where you've done so much right for so long that it's starting to be a little obvious where your weaknesses are even in the light of your amazing abilities. And, unless you do something to break out of the box — which is a well-made box, but a box — you've crafted for yourselves, all of the promise and progress that you've shown so far is going to be slowly defeated, tiny cracks growing to shatter the whole foundation. I'm not even talking about your formula — the way so many of your films revolve around an outsider coming to a secret community of personalities, becoming one-half of an odd-couple duo and uniting their new friends against a common foe with a big, bustling action set-piece climax to close out the film.
That formulaic feel isn't great (and it's no coincidence that your two best films, The Incredibles and Up, are the two that avoid that formula, while your worst film, Cars, is the one that apes it most blatantly), but it's something you can break out of, if you try. I'm worried about two things that seem a lot more institutional, and a lot harder to shake. The first is, bluntly, why can't you guys seem to write strong female characters? With the notable exception of The Incredibles' Mrs. Incredible (who was voiced by Holly Hunter) and Violet (Sarah Vowell), your female characters are ether dead, irrelevant, under-written or absent. And all your directors are male, too. Both those things are going to change with your upcoming The Bear and the Bow — about a young woman in a fairy-tale take on Scotland, directed by Brenda Chapman — but you've got to do more than that – up the bench strength for women on both sides of the camera, with more opportunities for characters and more opportunities for female writers and directors.
The other problem, I have to be just as blunt about, and it's inspired by the Up press conference where I watched Up's director Pete Docter express faith in the limitless possibilities of animation: "Animation's a medium, not a genre." Well, that's a nice thing to say; it would be a more interesting thing for you to really follow up on. And right now, all you at Pixar seem to be doing is churning out PG- and G-rated family-friendly adventures over and over again. Which is great — there's a need for well-made children's entertainment — but I wonder if anyone at Pixar ever dreams of pitching people in charge an amazing computer-animated Western of mythic proportions or a stunning hard-knock science-fiction action film full of things you simply couldn't do in live action, or a horror film that involves the scarier version of the kinds of creatures your animators showed they could create with the cute, cuddly Monsters, Inc. I'd love to see those movies; I don't know if your owners at Disney would like you to make them. And that's a bit of a shame, because I'd like to see you guys at Pixar make history, not just money; make movies, not just an endless series of sequels and formula films. And don't get me wrong, I'm rooting for you, to be sure; you've had an amazing run. But part of me — and, maybe, a part of you — knows you could be doing even better.
P.S. If you have to make sequels, please, get on making The Incredibles 2 before freaking Cars 2, okay? We all know which of those would be better, don't we?