"In the shadow of Pixar" could be the tagline attached to any number of animation houses whose work of the last fifteen years has been eclipsed by the stellar offerings of John Lasseter's Emeryville all-stars. They're not responsible for every great animated film of that timeframe though their successes have become the de facto yardstick for the art form and the company shows little signs of slipping even as it beds in with Disney.

For so many Pixar projects, a simple and elegant hook has been the launching pad for such cinematic brilliance. What if your toys came alive when you weren't in the room? What if mankind had to leave Earth and somebody forgot to turn off the last robot? What if a rat wanted to be a chef?

Rango isn't a Pixar film. In fact, it's being made by Nickelodeon, whose last attempt at CG animation was the unforgivably-awful Barnyard. But there's something so inherently Pixar about Rango's hook as to suggest there's something to this utterly curious new feature. What if a chameleon had an identity crisis?