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22 Facts About Your Favorite Pixar Movies

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©2015 Disney * Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

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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15 Super Facts About Megamind

In 2010, the superhero craze was on the rise in the wake of such hits as Spider-Man, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man. which made it the perfect time to launch a silly sendup of the genre. And so came Megamind, an animated action-comedy about a clumsy villain whose world turns upside down once he actually defeats his superhero nemesis.

1. THE PREMISE WAS INSPIRED BY SUPERMAN.

Essentially, the pitch boiled down to "What if Lex Luthor defeated Superman?" Except instead of Luthor being a wealthy, vicious human, the film offers Megamind (Will Ferrell), a cowardly, odd-looking (but still bald!) misfit from another planet. Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt) is more the Superman type, an alien from another planet who is strong, handsome, and can fly. It's easy for the people of Metro City to love Metro Man, whereas the oddball with the big blue head is instantly regarded as "other" and "bad." It's up to Megamind to prove himself, and find his true path.

2. IT WAS INTENDED AS A VEHICLE FOR BEN STILLER.

The original script by Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons was pitched to Ben Stiller's production company, Red Hour Films, with hopes he'd star as its titular baddie. "[It] was written as a live-action movie," Stiller explained in the spring of 2008. "But we thought it would work as an animated movie so we brought it to Jeffrey Katzenberg [CEO of DreamWorks Animation], and now we're in pre-production."

3. STILLER TURNED DOWN THE LEAD, BUT STILL PLAYED AN IMPORTANT PART IN MEGAMIND.

Instead of voicing Megamind, Stiller opted to executive produce the movie—but he does pop by for a quirky audio cameo as the curmudgeonly curator Bernard, who works at the Metro Man Museum.

4. PRODUCERS WANTED ROBERT DOWNEY JR. FOR THE LEAD.

Riding high off the career revitalization of his live-action superhero hit Iron Man, Downey was game to bring his sarcastic charms to Metro City's menace. But scheduling conflicts ultimately killed the deal. So producers turned to beloved funnyman Will Ferrell, who brought a zany charisma to Megamind, and some crucial gags.

5. THE FILM CYCLED THROUGH VARIOUS TITLES BEFORE MEGAMIND STUCK. 

In the fall of 2008, Stiller was teasing the movie as Master Mind. In that version, Megamind's longtime foe was named Uberman (a more overt spoof of Superman), but by spring of 2009, the title had changed to Oobermind, while Uberman had become Metro Man.

6. SEVERAL DIRECTORS TOOK A CRACK AT MEGAMIND

"There were two or three sets of directors on the movie, each of which started making a different version of the movie before it went to someone else," illustrator/author Jason Porath, who helped with the film as an employee at DreamWorks Animation, told Mental Floss.

The project was kicked off by Gary Trousdale, who had co-helmed a string of Disney animated movies including Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Next, Kyle Jefferson and Cameron Hood, who'd directed the DWA short "First Flight," were brought on. But the final version of Megamind is credited to Tom McGrath, who had co-directed Madagascar and Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa with Eric Darnell, and would go on to helm Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (also with Darnell) and Boss Baby. For their earlier efforts, Trousdale, Jefferson, and Hood ultimately received a special thanks credit on Megamind.

7. IT'S PRETTY COMMON FOR AN ANIMATED MOVIE TO CHANGE DIRECTORS. 

In the case of DreamWorks's How To Train Your Dragon, credited directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders were brought on about one year before the film's release. Then, the beloved movie about a boy and his pet dragon would have been unrecognizable to its fans. "At that point, I think Hiccup was like 9 or 10 years old, all the dragons could talk, and Toothless as we know him didn't exist," Porath tells us. "Those little bug-eyed tiny green dragons he fights for fish in the first movie, one of those was supposed to be his companion dragon. It was a lot closer to the book source material."

This practice extends far beyond DreamWorks: At Pixar, The Good Dinosaur went from Bob Peterson to Peter Sohn. Mark Andrews replaced Brenda Chapman on Brave, and Brad Bird took over directing duties from Jan Pinkava on Ratatouille. At Sony Pictures Animation, Hotel Transylvania cycled through six directors before committing to Genndy Tartakovsky.

8. OTHER VILLAINS VANISHED THROUGH PRODUCTION. 

DreamWorks Animation

One version of Megamind had its eponymous fiend as part of a supervillain league known as the Doom Syndicate. To concoct this crooked but colorful crew of criminals, DreamWorks had an open call, encouraging its artists to pitch villain ideas. Story artist Ryan Savas has publicly shared his sketches for such quirky baddies as White Zombie, The Barista, The Ectopus, the Liberace-inspired Rhinestone, and Alec Baldwin, who can "hypnotize his victims with awesome acting skills." But as the script became streamlined (and the budget got tighter) the Doom Syndicate was cut from Megamind, meaning characters like Destruction Worker, a smoking skeleton, and "geriatric flame-wielder" Hot Flash never made it to the big screen—but they didn't disappear completely.

Three years after the film's release, DreamWorks unleashed the video game Megamind: Ultimate Showdown for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Some of the Doom Syndicate characters reappeared here, including Hot Flash. But Porath told us the fiery old broad made her mark at the animation's offices as well. "Every year, DreamWorks Animation has a big Halloween costume contest," he shared. "And the winner one year was one of the producers who dressed up as Hot Flash."

9. SOME CHARACTERS WENT THROUGH RADICAL PHYSICAL CHANGES. 

Concept art reveals that love interest/journalist Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey) had a variety of longer haircuts before the filmmakers settled on her perky pixie cut. During his Uber Man days, Metro Man's Elvis-inspired look toyed with some more outlandish iterations, which involved fur collars, sunglasses, and plenty of glitter. Some test sketches even showed Megamind with spiky hair. But the biggest transformation came to the cunning character's devoted sidekick.

Though fans of the film have come to know Minion as a fanged, talking piranha who gets around in a robo-ape mechasuit, his origins were once far less fantastical. Early concept art shows a version of the character imagined as a chubby man with a tiny jetpack.

10. STILLER WANTED TO SATIRIZE THE SUPERHERO GENRE.

This is an image of Ben Stiller.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

"This genre's been done so many times, that it's always interesting to try to find a postmodern version of it," Stiller told MTV. So he spearheaded a story about how people are not always what they seem.

Notably, this wasn't Stiller's first tme parodying superheroes and villains. In 1999, Stiller starred in the comedy Mystery Men, which followed a batch of wannabe superheroes as they face off with a nefarious foe who was way out of their league. Their powers included farting, bowling, being furious, and shoveling "well."

11. MEGAMIND UNDERWENT A GAG PASS TO MAKE IT EVEN FUNNIER. 

In an informative blog post, Porath explains that a "gag pass" is essentially the part toward the end of production where filmmakers find opportunities to work in more jokes. In this case, the writers and storyboard artists crafted humorous dialogue and visual gags. Meanwhile, Ferrell was encouraged to improvise to bring some more of his unique brand of comedy to the mix.

12. THE FILM'S MARKETING CAMPAIGN ACHIEVED A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD.

To promote the film, Ferrell invited all wannabe superheroes to suit up and join him for a party on October 4, 2010, just a month before the film's opening. But the event also set a Guinness World Record for Largest Gathering of Superheroes. With 1580 costumed attendees, Ferrell and his friends made hero history, breaking the old record by 79 superheroes.

13. THERE'S AN ANCHORMAN EASTER EGG

Toward the end of the movie, Megamind is channel surfing and crosses a news report about a water-skiing squirrel. A very similar story is covered in Ferrell's 2004 comedy, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

14. MEGAMIND WAS HURT BY DESPICABLE ME

Cruel timing meant that Megamind opened four months after audiences went wild for Universal's Despicable Me, an animated movie about a villain who goes good. While Megamind pulled in a decent $321 million worldwide, Despicable Me boasted $543 million, spawning sequels and a spinoff for its cuddlier Minions.

The closeness of their premises and release dates hurt Megamind with critics, too. Roger Ebert wrote, "This setup is bright and amusing, even if it does feel recycled from bits and pieces of such recent animated landmarks as The Incredibles with its superpowers and Despicable Me with its villain." USA Today's Claudia Puig was even more cutting, concluding, "Do we really need Megamind when Despicable Me is around?"

15. MEGAMIND FOUND REDEMPTION AS HOME ENTERTAINMENT. 

Released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 25, 2011, Megamind pulled in another $74 million in domestic sales. Readily available in this fashion, its popularity grew. Today, Megamind is warmly remembered and rewatched by fans happy to mispronounce "Metro City," "school," and "spider" like the lovable villain at its center. And despite its bumpy ride through production, it's fondly remembered by the fleets of artists who brought it to life.

You can see their enthusiasm in the blogs linked above, where they've proudly shared concept art and sketches. But perhaps Porath puts it best, declaring, "To put in perspective: almost every movie goes through radical shifts like this. Megamind had a bit longer journey than others, but not by much. I would by no means consider it an outlier. There were a phenomenal number of talented, funny people working to make it great, and it was a fun time at the studio. DreamWorks treated us all really well; I will never work for somewhere that took better care of me."

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Courtesy Fathom Events // GKIDS
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Hayao Miyazaki's Greatest Hits Are Coming Back to Theaters This Fall
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STUDIO GHIBLI FEST: Castle in the Sky
Courtesy Fathom Events // GKIDS

Get ready, anime fans. As part of an upcoming film festival, some of Japanese animation icon Hayao Miyazaki’s best-loved films will be coming back to U.S. movie theaters this fall.

Fathom Events and the North American animation distributor GKIDS are running a film festival devoted to Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki's Tokyo-based animation studio. As part of a series of monthly events that began in June, the festival will be showing Castle in the Sky, Nausicaä, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle. Earlier this summer, the festival showed My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Due to the festival’s popularity, Studio Ghibli Fest is adding an extra day of showings, beginning with the August re-release of Castle in the Sky. Instead of two days of movies, there will be three screenings on three different days.

The films will be shown on the last Sunday of the month, with subsequent screenings the following Monday and Wednesday. The Sunday and Wednesday films will be dubbed in English, while the Monday showings will have subtitles. The festival runs until November 29.

Since it’s through Fathom Events, the films will be shown at hundreds of theaters around the country. You can check where screenings are available near you by entering your ZIP code here.

Miyazaki is technically retired, but he hasn't been able to resist the call of Studio Ghibli. He's scheduled to release Boro the Caterpillar, a film he's calling his last (several years after saying the same about 2013's The Wind Also Rises) in 2019. So maybe we can expect an extended Studio Ghibli Fest in a few years.

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