To infinity and beyond…
We’re about to get the unusual bonus of two Pixar films in one calendar year as The Good Dinosaur is soon to arrive in cinemas. The film poses the question of what would have happened if the dinosaurs weren’t wiped out, and led us to realise that a world without Pixar would be a very dark one, indeed.
Happily, that’s not a world we live in and we felt it was right to champion the happiness (and the emotional trauma) that the animation giant has brought into our lives. Taken from its very beginnings to this year’s exceptional Inside Out, here is our rundown of the 50 greatest Pixar moments.
50. Perfectly matched
The moment: Buzz, Woody and RC are stuck in the road towards the end of Toy Story, their chances of catching the removal van fading fast. Then realisation: “The rocket! The match!” Saved! At least until a passing car blows out the match.
Why it’s great: Screenplay formula has rarely been subverted with such grace and glee, as Pixar’s writing staff set up an obvious get-out-clause simply to make it another joke.
Pixar say: John Lasseter on the film’s appeal – “We wanted to tell a good story, first and foremost, because we knew that’s what audiences like – a good story and characters. Technique and technology doesn’t entertain audiences, it’s just what you do with it. We just made a movie we would like to see.”
49. Dinner at Harryhausen’s
The moment: Pandemonium at Monstropolis’ best restaurant, as the assembled beasts realise there is a human interloper amongst them in Monsters, Inc.
Why it’s great: No other set-piece in Monsters, Inc. better shows off Pixar’s ability to create a host of inventive creatures; aptly, the restaurant is named after the godfather of movie monsters, Ray Harryhausen.
Pixar say: Pete Docter on Ray Harryhausen – “He was always looking to push techniques, to make the animation smoother and more lifelike. His pioneering efforts were always in support of fantasy. So when we were making a film about monsters… we thought, what a better way to make a slightly obscure tribute to this guy?”
48. Aboard the Axiom
The moment: Wall-E arrives on the Axiom, only to find that the surviving humans have become obese, indolent blobs in thrall to fast food and entertainment.
Why it’s great: Pixar’s most political statement (essentially: pull yourselves together, folks) is achieved via a bold switch in tone, genre and visual style, setting up a second half far removed from anything we’ve seen in the film so far.
Pixar say: Andrew Stanton on the future of humanity – “If you had no reason to do anything anymore, if everything had been figured out, you know, health, regenerative food, all the other needs to get up, and technology made it that easy to never have to get up – it’s kind of happening just with my remote in my living room – then I guess this would sort of set in. So I thought alright, I’ll make them big babies.”
47. Toying with success
The moment: John Lasseter’s Tin Toy sets in place many of the elements for future Pixar classics with its tale of a tin soldier reluctantly allowing himself to be played with to placate a crying baby while protecting his fellow toys.
Why it’s great: Winning Pixar’s first Oscar, Tin Toy‘s success cemented the company’s future in entertainment at a time when many employees saw it as a manufacturer of computers.
Pixar say: The late Steve Jobs on why he funded Lasseter’s early shorts – “I believed in what John was doing. It was art. He cared, and I cared. I always said yes.”
46. The tank gang
The moment: While Marlin is busy Finding Nemo, his son arrives in a dentist’s aquarium in Sydney, where he meets the tank gang – Gill, Jacques, Gurgle, Peach, Deb, Bubbles and Bloat.
Why it’s great: Pixar is justly famous for putting together great ensembles and this motley bunch takes that to the extreme by imprisoning a group with plenty of wit and character (we love the treasure-hoarding Bubbles).
Pixar say: Co-director Lee Unkrich on the film’s educational value – “Back when we were making Nemo I was at an aquarium with my wife. It was fun for me to see all the different fish I knew were in the movie, but nobody was giving them any particular attention. I remember saying to my wife, ‘Watch, in six months when this movie’s out you’re gonna see all the kids in this aquarium pushed up against that glass’ and that’s exactly what happened. It’s amazing that ten years later that’s still the case.”
45. You can’t have Joy without Sadness
The moment: After Joy and Sadness make it back to Headquarters, they stop Riley’s attempt to run away which leads to an emotional family reunion as Riley breaks down.
Why it’s great: We love a good message and Inside Out‘s central revelation that, basically, growing up is hard is a perfectly realised one. Not to mention that it gives the movie’s real star, Sadness, a chance to shine as she saves the day.
Pixar say: Co-director Pete Docter on pairing Joy with Sadness – “In early development, we tried to pair Joy with Fear instead of Sadness. But we veered off course from that in the long run. We realised that wasnt really saying what we were trying to talk about, with the laws of childhood and the pain of growing up. That was a real pivotal moment of redoing the story, pairing Joy with Sadness.”
44. You say potato
The moment: Mr Potato Head, disguised as a tortilla, is busy working on the escape plan in Toy Story 3 when he gets attacked by pigeons, his body gradually disintegrating as he is pecked to bits.
Why it’s great: Frankly, we could have filled this list with gags at the expense of Mr Potato Head. Kudos to Pixar’s writing team for still getting such surreal mileage out of him three films in.
Pixar say: Lee Unkrich on Mr Potato Head – “you look at Mr. Potato Head now and think, “Oh he’s Don Rickles; he’s a curmudgeonly old guy and acerbic,” you have to remember that prior to Toy Story he had no personality. We have just had so much fun over the years taking toys that we remember from our childhood and giving them personalities.”
43. The not-so-Magnificent Seven
The moment: In A Bug’s Life, Flik the ant finds what he thinks is a gang of warrior bugs… but we have just found out (via a glorious piece of slapstick) that they are hapless troupe of circus performers.
Why it’s great: Rival insect animation Antz had stunt casting on its side, but Pixar – as always – opted for something more timeless with its comic spin on the plot of Seven Samurai.
Pixar say: John Lasseter on the battle with Antz – “It was teeth-gnashingly annoying. Let’s leave it at that.”
42. Behind the scares
The moment: Mike and Sully, rivals at Monsters University, finally bond after Mike realises his new friend isn’t the Alpha-Monster he purports to be: “I act scary, Mike. But most of the time I’m terrified.”
Why it’s great: Monsters University might be one of Pixar’s slightest offerings, but it does provide the opportunity to flesh out one of the studio’s great double acts by adding some smart, affecting psychological depth to the characters.
Pixar say: Dan Scanlon on the film’s themes – “We liked the idea of doing a story about Mike and about dealing with failures in life, which we thought was not dealt with a lot in movies. A lot of times, people say that if you work hard and never give up, it will always work out, which is a great message. However, that’s not always the case. We really wanted to make a movie for people who were dealing with that because it’s such a universal thing. That was the genesis of the idea.”