22 Facts About Your Favorite Pixar Movies

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For more than 20 years, the brilliant filmmakers at Pixar have been winning over audiences (of all ages) with their lineup of clever animated films that truly are fun for the whole family. From Toy Story to The Good Dinosaur, here are 22 things you might not have known about your favorite Pixar movies.

1. TOY STORY’S WOODY WASN’T ORIGINALLY A COWBOY.

In Toy Story, the original Woody was a ventriloquist’s dummy. Executives at Disney, which co-produced the film, requested that he be changed to something else, as ventriloquist’s dummies were usually associated with horror movies, and they didn’t want their cute family movie to be terrifying. (Good call.)

2. IT TOOK JUST ONE WORD TO GET THE GREEN LIGHT FOR FINDING NEMO

“You had me at ‘fish.’” That is precisely what John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer, told writer-director Andrew Stanton following his exhaustive pitch for his passion project.

3. WALL·E AND R2-D2 ARE PLAYED BY THE SAME ACTOR.

The “voice” of WALL·E is legendary sound designer Ben Burtt. Burtt is best known for his work on Star Wars (you can go ahead and thank him for R2-D2’s distinctive chatter), though he’s worked on little-known films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and the Indiana Jones series as well.

4. THE ORIGINAL PITCH FOR MONSTERS, INC. WAS TO HAVE A GROWN MAN BE HAUNTED BY THE MONSTERS HE DREW AS A KID.

On Jeff Goldsmith’s Creative Writing podcast, Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter recounted his original pitch: “My idea was that what it was about was a 30-year-old man who is like an accountant or something, he hates his job, and one day he gets a book with some drawings in it that he did when he was a kid from his mom. He doesn’t think anything of it and he puts it on the shelf and that night, monsters show up. And nobody else can see them. He thinks he’s starting to go crazy, they follow him to his job, and on his dates ... and it turns out these monsters are fears that he never dealt with as a kid ... And each one of them represents a different kind of fear. As he conquers those fears, the guys who he slowly becomes kind of friends with, they disappear ... It’s this bittersweet kind of ending where they go away, and so not much of that stayed.” 

5. RATATOUILLE SPARKED A RUN ON PET RATS.

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Convincing the public that rats make trendy pets is no easy task, but Pixar was able to do so with 2007's Ratatouille. According to the British pet chain Pets at Home, their rat sales shot up by 50 percent following the film’s release. Hopefully the pet owners knew better than to let their rats near the cooking supplies.

6. THE INCREDIBLES WAS THE FIRST PIXAR MOVIE COMPRISED ONLY OF CG HUMAN BEINGS.

Copies of the medical school text Gray’s Anatomy were given to the digital sculptors to help them figure out how the human body moves. Live action footage of Pixar animators walking was also used.

7. THE STATION AGENT INSPIRED UP.

Who would’ve thought a Peter Dinklage-led indie movie would’ve inspired one of Pixar’s most celebrated films? “We looked at how other people have dealt with the subject matter,” Docter told Movie Retriever. "We looked at The Station Agent, a great, simple, character-based story of a guy who’s much like Carl, who comes out of his shell. Casablanca is a similar kind of story ... Movies that had a beautiful simplicity to them and a focus on character.”

8. A MISTAKE ALMOST DELETED TOY STORY 2.

As we’ve written about previously, Toy Story 2 faced a pretty major hurdle when a stray computer command entered by an anonymous mischief-maker deleted 90 percent of the work done on the film a year before it was set to come out. Luckily, the film’s supervising technical director, Galyn Susman, had a copy of the film that she’d been working on from home, and disaster was averted.

9. THE CO-WRITER/DIRECTOR OF CARS DIED DURING THE FILM'S PRODUCTION.

Cars is dedicated to Joe Ranft, a longtime collaborator of John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer, and his co-writer and co-director on the film. Ranft died in a car accident on August 16, 2005, while Cars was still in production. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005), which Ranft executive produced, is also dedicated to him.

10. MAKING RILEY'S EMOTIONS SHINE IN INSIDE OUT WAS A BUDGET-BUSTING ENDEAVOR.

In discussing the best way to animate Joy in Inside Out, production designer Ralph Eggleston came up with an idea … but it wasn’t cheap. “We worked on the idea of [Joy] being effervescent or sparkly for champagne bubbles, for about eight months,” Eggleston said. “And it got to the point where we couldn’t afford to do it. There was just no way … None of the other characters had it, because we just couldn’t afford it. When John saw it on Joy he said, 'That’s great. Put it on all the characters.' You could hear the core technical staff just hitting the ground, the budget falling through the roof. But it was all good. They found a way to make it work.”

11. PIXAR HAD A HARD TIME GETTING REAL TOYS ON SHELVES.

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Hasbro and Mattel both turned down the toy license for the Toy Story franchise, believing that they wouldn’t have enough time to put a toy line together in the 11 months they had before the film came out. Small, Canada-based company Thinkway Toys got the license instead and created Woody and Buzz toys; Pixar tried to get them to manufacture Sid’s nightmare-inducing “Mutant Toys“ (a.k.a. a baby doll head with Erector set spider legs), but for some reason they passed on the idea.

12. THE INCREDIBLES USED FOUR TIMES AS MANY LOCATIONS AS ANY OTHER PIXAR MOVIE.

It also featured 781 visual effects shots and, at 121 minutes, The Incredibles is the longest Pixar movie to date.

13. CARS WAS PAUL NEWMAN’S FINAL FILM. AND HIS HIGHEST-GROSSING.

Cars marks the final film of Paul Newman, who in addition to being an actor/entrepreneur/philanthropist also became a racing enthusiast after starring in the 1969 racing drama Winning. Cars is also the highest-grossing film of Newman’s career (not adjusted for inflation).

14. BEN BURTT CREATED A RECORD NUMBER OF SOUNDS FOR WALL·E.

Ben Burtt created a library of 2400 sounds for WALL·E, the largest number of all of his films by far. Among the raw sounds Burtt used in WALL·E are: An electric toothbrush, shopping carts banging together, a Nikon camera shutter (for WALL·E’s eyebrow movements), Burtt sneezing while a vacuum cleaner was running (WALL·E sneezing), and a hand-cranked generator of the sort used in the John Wayne film Island in the Sky.

15. TOY STORY 3’S “LOTS-O’-HUGGIN’” BEAR GOT DISNEY SUED.

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In 2014, Disney was sued by New Jersey company Diece-Lisa Industries (DLI) over Toy Story 3’s evil bear antagonist, named “Lots-O’-Huggin’” a.k.a. “Lotso.” DLI, which had been selling their own “Lots of Hugs” toy bears since 1995, argued that their ability to market their own product was substantially affected by Toy Story 3’s use of such a similar toy. Further, DLI alleged that Disney knew about their “Lots of Hugs” toys before Toy Story 3, as they previously licensed their “hugging technology" to a Disney affiliate company.

16. INSIDE OUT'S RILEY REFUSED TO EAT DIFFERENT VEGETABLES IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES.

In order to reach the widest audience possible, Pixar regularly makes tweaks to its films when introducing them to international audiences. In the case of Inside Out, they made a lot of them—28 graphic changes to 45 shots, to be precise. “We learned that some of our content wouldn’t make sense in other countries," director Pete Docter explained. One notable example is the veggies Riley finds distasteful: If you watch the movie in Japan, instead of turning her nose up at broccoli, Riley refuses to eat green bell peppers. Another change is the sport being played in Riley's dad's head; Not all countries are familiar with hockey, so it's changed to soccer in some versions.

17. RANDY NEWMAN WON HIS FIRST-EVER OSCAR FOR THE MONSTERS, INC. SONG, "IF I DIDN’T HAVE YOU."

It was Randy Newman's first Oscar win out of 16 nominations. In 2011, he won his second Oscar for "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3. To date, Newman has earned 20 Academy Award nominations.

18. FINDING NEMO’S POPULARITY LED TO POPULATION STRESS FOR CLOWNFISH.

Children were so taken with the adorable Nemo following the release of the film that the demand for clownfish as pets instantly skyrocketed. Excessive capture and sale of the ocean dwellers led to a steep decline in the organic population of the species; some natural habitats, such as the waters surrounding Vanuatu, saw a 75 percent drop in clownfish numbers

19. TOY STORY 2 WAS ORIGINALLY A DIRECT-TO-VIDEO SEQUEL.

Seeing dollar signs after their 1994 Aladdin sequel, The Return of Jafar, pulled an estimated $100 million profit, Disney originally wanted Toy Story 2 to bypass a theatrical release and go directly to DVD. However, during production it became clear that Toy Story 2 was good enough—and, importantly, expensive enough (direct-to-video movies are typically done on the cheap to maximize profits, and “cheap” isn’t something Pixar does)—that a full theatrical release was the better option. With less than a year to go before release, the Toy Story 2 team had to retool their story to add an extra 12 minutes of footage.

20. CARS BROUGHT A NEW STANDARD OF REALISM TO ANIMATED FILMS.

Cars was the first Pixar feature to utilize a technique known as “ray tracing,” which properly renders the way light passes through and collides with surfaces. More simply, it enables artists to accurately depict reflections without having to go through and “paint” them individually. Ray tracing takes up a massive amount of computer power; as a result, each frame (or about 1/24th of a second) of Cars took an average of 17 hours to render. Some frames took up to a week.

21. THE FINAL BALLOON COUNT IN UP WAS 10,297.

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You can stop counting now: the film’s effects artists, Jon Reisch and Eric Froemling, have done the work for you. “The entire canopy is filled with balloons,” Reisch recalled to Tech Radar. “We didn’t just simulate the outer shell.” Yep, beneath the outer layer of balloons you see tugging the house are several more layers, each as carefully animated as the first.

22. DELAYS WITH THE GOOD DINOSAUR MEANT THERE WAS NO PIXAR MOVIE IN 2014.

Since the release of Cars in 2006, Pixar has been diligent about releasing one movie per year. The one notable exception was in 2014, when delays with The Good Dinosaur forced the studio to push back the film’s release date to 2015. Originally, it was Bob Peterson at the helm of The Good Dinosaur, but in 2013, the studio replaced him. “All directors get really deep in their films," Pixar president Ed Catmull said. "Sometimes you just need a different perspective to get the idea out. Sometimes directors ... are so deeply embedded in their ideas it actually takes someone else to finish it up. I would go so far as to argue that a lot of live-action films would be better off with that same process."

It wasn't the first time Pixar made a director switch in the midst of a production; Peterson’s removal was the fourth time it had happened at Pixar. But the change in director led to a delay in the schedule, forcing Pixar to release zero movies in 2014 and two of them in 2015. (The Good Dinosaur was released five months after Inside Out.)

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March 20, 2016 - 10:00am
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