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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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12 Brazzle-Dazzle Facts About Pete's Dragon
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Forty years ago, on November 3, 1977, Pete's Dragon was released in theaters across America. Though it was a box office disappointment at the time, it has since turned into a beloved classic for the generations of audiences who grew up with Pete and Elliott. In honor of its 40th anniversary, check out these brazzle-dazzle facts about the Disney classic.

1. ELLIOTT WAS VOICED BY VETERAN ACTOR CHARLIE CALLAS.

Charlie Callas was a comedian known for his rubbery face long before Jim Carrey was around.

2. IT WAS HELEN REDDY’S FIRST LEADING ROLE IN A FILM.

You’d assume that working with an invisible dragon would be pretty challenging for anyone, let alone someone new to the film industry, but Helen Reddy enjoyed the experience. “I only had one actual scene with the dragon," she explained, "and during rehearsals I worked with a latex model of his head so that I would be familiar with the dimensions during filming.”

3. REDDY’S BALLAD IN THE MOVIE WAS NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR.

Reddy's "Candle on the Water" was nominated for Best Original Song. It lost to “You Light Up My Life.”

4. DON BLUTH SUPERVISED ELLIOTT'S ANIMATION.

The project notoriously called for a lot of overtime hours, and a couple of years after Pete's Dragon was released, animator Don Bluth left Disney. He went on to animate and direct The Secret of NIMH (1982), An American Tail (1986), The Land Before Time (1988), and All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), among others.

5. CALIFORNIA DOUBLED FOR MAINE.

The movie may look like it takes place in Maine, but neither the cast nor crew went anywhere near the Pine Tree State. The landscape scenes were courtesy of Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Canyon Country, California, while the Passamaquoddy town square and wharf area was constructed on the Disney Burbank Studio lot, partly from an old Western set. Even the harbor was constructed on-set.

6. ACTOR SEAN MARSHALL HAD NO FORMAL ACTING BACKGROUND.

Despite this, he beat hundreds of kids who auditioned to play Pete. “I think Disney always went for kind of the natural,” he said.

7. MARSHALL BECAME AN ALL-AMERICAN POLE VAULTER IN COLLEGE. 


redmorgankidd via YouTube

He partially attributes his athletic success to his role in the film, saying that the training he went through for the part, especially ballet, made him more of an athlete.

8. THE LIGHTHOUSE BEACON COULD BE SEEN FOR MILES.

Nora and Lampie’s lighthouse was equipped with a real lighthouse lens and a wickstand that could create a beacon that was visible for 18 to 24 miles. Constructed on California's Morro Bay, Disney had to obtain permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to actually light the lamp. There were plans to eventually move the lighthouse to Disneyland, but it became too deteriorated.

9. MICKEY ROONEY AND RED BUTTONS DID SOME AD-LIBBING.

The scene where Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons drunkenly walk to the cave to see Elliott turned into a massive ad-lib session, with each comedian trying to outdo the other with pratfalls and slapstick. “The director said, ‘That was fantastic, but we can’t have a 20-minute scene where you two are just walking through the cave. We’ve got to re-shoot it,’” Marshall recalled.

10. IT WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT AT THE BOX OFFICE.

The film only made $18 million in the U.S., which was a real disappointment to Disney. The studio was hoping to experience the same level of success it had had with another movie that mixed live action and animation—Mary Poppins.

11. THE SODIUM VAPOR PROCESS WAS USED TO MIX ANIMATION AND LIVE ACTION SCENES.

Invented by Ub Iwerks, the co-creator of Mickey Mouse, the process involved using a camera with a prism installed that separated the sodium vapor lights from the rest of the color. This projected a yellow light onto the screen behind the actor, which could later be subtracted out, and any background could be added in its place.

12. THERE’S A GOOFY YELL TUCKED AWAY IN THE FILM.

It’s when Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) accidentally sends himself flying via harpoon. Listen for it at 1:13 below.

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10 Far-Out Facts About Futurama
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In 1999, Matt Groening followed-up the monumental success of The Simpsons with an idea for a sci-fi comedy that he’d been tinkering around with for years. With influences ranging from groundbreaking sci-fi movies like Blade Runner to shows like The Jetsons and pulpy ‘50s comics like Weird Science, Futurama proved to be yet another winner for the cartoonist. Characters like Fry, Bender, and Leela quickly became fan favorites, rivaling Homer, Marge, and the rest of Springfield for quotability. The show was also a hit with the critics, winning plenty of Annie and Emmy Awards along the way.

Never a ratings juggernaut to a larger audience, the show only lasted four seasons on Fox before being cancelled in 2003. Neither the production staff nor the series’ loyal fan base would give up on Futurama, though, and the series was revived for an additional three seasons on Comedy Central from 2008 through 2013. Here are 10 things you might not know about Futurama

1. THE SHOW’S NAME COMES FROM AN EXHIBIT AT THE 1939 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR.

Though Matt Groening’s Futurama takes a comedic look at what the future might hold for us, the name is based on a very real-world version of the world of tomorrow. At the 1939 New York World’s Fair in Queens, GM built a mammoth attraction called Futurama, which was a scale-model city showing off the predicted wonders of 1960.

The model was the brainchild of industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes and his team of hundreds of artists and builders. It spanned an impressive 35,000 square feet, and gave audiences a glimpse at what a city might look like in the next 20 years, with the highlight being a monolithic utopia peppered with mountainous skyscrapers and a web of superhighways for futuristic GM cars to travel on. Visitors would sit in chairs that moved on a conveyer belt around the model, showing off all the wonders they could look forward to.

To pay homage to its namesake, the first thing Fry hears when he’s defrosted in the future during the pilot episode is the bellowing sound of a lab worker proclaiming “Welcome to the World of Tomorrow,” which was one of the heavily advertised themes of the fair.

2. THE THEME SONG WAS INSPIRED BY A TUNE CALLED “PSYCHE ROCK.”

Futurama’s main theme, composed by Christopher Tyng, bears a striking resemblance to the song “Psyché Rock" by French electronic artist Pierre Henry. The songs are so similar that the Futurama theme basically acts as a remix to Henry’s work. The song has also been remixed by Fatboy Slim, which is even closer to the Futurama version. 

3. GETTING THE SHOW ON THE AIR WAS A DIFFICULT PROCESS FOR MATT GROENING.

Though Matt Groening and the team over on The Simpsons have the freedom to mostly govern themselves, getting Futurama off the ground was a different story. When asked by Mother Jones in 1999 about getting the show on the air, Groening said, “It has been by far the worst experience of my grown-up life.”

He further explained that, “The second they ordered it, they completely freaked out and were afraid the show was too dark and mean-spirited, and thought they had made a huge mistake and that the only way they could address their anxieties was to try to make me as crazy as possible with their frustrations.”

Despite the battles with the network, Groening and his team didn’t cave, saying, “I resisted every step of the way. In one respect, I will take full blame for the show if it tanks, because I resisted every single bit of interference."

4. CO-CREATOR DAVID X. COHEN IS A MATH WHIZ.

When Groening was developing Futurama into a pitch, he had one key Simpsons writer in mind to collaborate with: David S. Cohen. Cohen (who is credited as David X. Cohen for Futurama) was known for some of the most popular Simpsons episodes of the mid-‘90s, including "Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie," "Lisa The Vegetarian," and "Much Apu About Nothing."

“After I assembled a few hundred pages of ideas, I got together with David Cohen, one of the writers and executive producers on The Simpsons, who is also a lover of science fiction and has a great knowledge of science and mathematics,” Groening told Mother Jones.

The emphasis on mathematics may sound odd, but it became a hallmark of the series. Dealing with sci-fi plots allowed Cohen to bring a certain authenticity to some of the more complex episodes; he was also able to sneak in all sorts of esoteric mathematical jokes for the like-minded viewers. This is similar to how math played a role on The Simpsons for years without ever becoming distracting to casual viewers. 

Cohen’s mathematical background goes far beyond the norm. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in physics, and from the University of California, Berkeley, with an M.S. in computer science. This knowledge gave way to plenty of in-jokes, including the creation of a numerical-based alien language and countless background gags that only the brainiest viewers would have a shot at deciphering.

5. ZAPP BRANNIGAN WAS GOING TO BE VOICED BY PHIL HARTMAN.

The character of Zapp Brannigan was originally written with actor Phil Hartman in mind for the voice, but he was tragically killed before he would have begun recording. The role then went to Billy West, who also voices Fry and Professor Farnsworth. In an interview with The New York Times, West says he based his Brannigan on disc jockeys from the ‘50s and ‘60s. There's also a bit of Hartman's signature, Troy McClure-esque sound in there. 

6. JOHN DIMAGGIO ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR PROFESSOR FARNSWORTH USING BENDER’S VOICE.

Figuring out what Bender would sound like wasn’t an easy task for the folks in charge of Futurama. Would it be a human voice, or something more synthesized like Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet? The crew auditioned dozens and dozens of voice actors in an attempt to find the perfect Bender, with no luck.

At the same time, voice actor John DiMaggio was auditioning for a role on the show against his agent’s wishes, who worried about both the money and contract being offered. At first he auditioned for the role of Professor Farnsworth, using a boorish, drunken voice he partially based on Slim Pickens. The voice didn’t work for the professor, but according to the DVD commentary for the show’s pilot, the producers asked him to try it out for Bender. The voice instantly clicked, leading to the creation of the show’s breakout character.

7. THE NIXON LIBRARY EVENTUALLY CAME AROUND TO HIS HEAD BEING IN A JAR.

Richard Nixon famously proclaimed that the media wouldn’t have him to “kick around anymore” back in 1962; little did he know the jabs would keep coming for decades in the real world, and centuries into the fictional future as a nightmarish version of the former president with his head preserved in a jar was proclaimed President of Earth in Futurama.

With Billy West providing the jowly voice of the former Commander-in-Chief, Nixon became a villain for a whole new generation. And the Richard Nixon Library wasn’t very happy about it at first.

“[E]arly on in the show the network got a letter from the Richard Nixon Library saying they weren’t pleased with his portrayal and would we consider not doing it,” Cohen told WIRED.

But a few years later, things changed.

“We didn’t really stop, however, because we liked it, but the strange thing is that … a few years later we got another letter from the Nixon Library saying can we provide some materials because they’re going to do an exhibit about Nixon in popular culture and they’d like to include Futurama, so they came around.”

8. WRITER KEN KEELER INVENTED A NEW THEOREM JUST FOR THE SHOW.

In addition to Cohen, Futurama is staffed by a roster of Ivy League graduates with backgrounds in science and math. But while writing one episode, the staff had created a plot so complex that the crew soon found itself stumped.

The episode was “The Prisoner of Brenda” from the sixth season, and it involved a brain-switching machine that could swap the minds of any two people that stepped into it. There was only one problem: once used, the machine couldn’t be used twice to swap the same two minds back to normal. This means numerous pairs of other characters would have to use the machine in a roundabout plan to restore everyone’s mind to their proper body.

Though the idea sounded like a winner to the writers, Cohen recalled that they soon realized they had to create a mathematical explanation that could get everyone’s mind back. It was like a nightmarish SAT problem for the staff. That is until writer Ken Keeler, who has a PhD in mathematics, created a completely unique theorem that proved this plot was possible.

“Ken comes in the next morning with a stack of paper and he said, ‘I’ve got the proof,’ and he had proven that no matter how mixed up people’s brains are, if you bring in two new people who have not had their brains switched, then everybody can always get their original brain back, including those two new people,” Cohen told WIRED. “So I was very excited about this, because you rarely get to see science, let alone math, be the hero of a comedy episode of TV.”

In the episode, the mathematical heroes that solve the problem are none other than the Harlem Globetrotters, who are among Earth’s elite intellectuals in the 31st century.

9. THE SHOW’S USE OF FORESHADOWING IS INTENSE.

Futurama touts more than just science and math cred; the show is also one of the more intricately plotted animated series of the past 20 years. The show is notorious for leaving morsels of foreshadowing in episodes that pay off weeks, months, or even years down the road.

Plot points like Fry being his own grandfather and Leela’s mutant heritage were all hinted at before they became reality, but the most obscure piece of foreshadowing came right in the pilot episode. It happens right as Fry is leaning back in the chair that would “accidentally” topple over and send him into the cryogenic chamber, leaving him thawed out in the 31st century. For a brief moment, a shadow flashed across the screen with no explanation—at the time, it likely went unnoticed by many viewers.

Fast forward to the season 4 episode “The Why of Fry,” and we learn that the shadow belonged to Nibbler, who had traveled back in time to 1999 to push Fry into the chamber because he was the key to stopping an alien invasion in the 31st century. It's just one example of the type of intricate world-building that the writers of the show poured into every episode.

10. EACH EPISODE TOOK ABOUT A YEAR TO COMPLETE.

Every episode of Futurama is a labor of love, with each joke and frame of animation put under intense scrutiny. Because of this, there is a lot of work involved in the show—about a year’s worth for each episode.

“It's usually somewhere in the vicinity of a year from the beginning of a Futurama episode to the day when you can see it on TV,” David Cohen told The Atlantic.

This starts with a story idea, which is then assigned to a writer for an outline and first draft. From there, the first draft is dissected in the writers’ room on a “word-by-word, scene-by-scene basis.”

Then it’s recorded by the actors—like an old-timey radio show, according to Cohen—and then it’s given to the animators. That process involves animatics and final animation, which can take around six months to finalize. 

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