Sunnyside Daycare

Toy Story 3 returned to the toy box after 11 whole years. Creating the most universally acclaimed trilogy of all time. Toy Story 3 won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. And it’s the third (and final) animated film after Up to be nominated for Best Picture. Proving Disney to be the only studio capable of that feat. I was a newborn when Toy Story came out and a 4 year old when Toy Story 2 came out. The toy stories were my favorite animated films growing up. They were just as special and sentimental as the toys they featured. I never thought I’d get to see a Toy Story 3 or that I’d have to wait till I was 15 to see it. The reason behind the delay was the rights issue between Disney & Pixar.

After the obvious success of Toy Story 2, Disney withheld all rights to Pixar sequels. To the point a Disney studio called Circle 7 was created just to make Toy Story 3 and other sequels. I remember first reading about the idea. Which would have featured Woody and the gang rescuing Buzz after he’s been recalled. Disney eventually purchased Pixar and the short lived studio was shut down before it began. Longtime editor Lee Unkrich took on directing duties from John Lasseter and Randy Newman returned to compose. Toy Story 3 asks questions about toys that are deeper than they’ve ever been before. The 2010 threequel was such a big deal that I went to see it with my entire family…

22. Toy Story 3

The toys meet Lotso

Toy Story 3 was seen with a unique 2D and 3D animated short called Day & Night. A fun concept where a traditionally animated representation of day & night cross paths against a computer animated background. Toy Story 3 wasn’t the only thing to come out of the franchise before its release. Pixar’s only traditionally animated direct-to-video movie Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins and its animated series filled the void in the meantime. I actually found the decade of entirely original Pixar movies to be quite refreshing. The Pixar formula connected them, but they were all free to have their own voice. Still, it was only a matter of time before Pixar revisited their flagship franchise. Rather than pick up after Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 instead plays out in real time. Since toys will stay the same no matter how old they get. The title has a cowboy aesthetic, because Toy Story 2 had a space ranger aesthetic.

Since nostalgia is such a big theme, Toy Story 3 opens with an amalgamation of Andy’s previous play sessions. Which are shown in fantasy form. Woody, Jesse, and Bullseye fight Mr. Potato Head as One-Eyed Bart, Mrs. Potato Head as One-Eyed Betty, and their Little Green accomplices. Buzz Lightyear flies in to rescue the Troll children and help out. Bart brings his attack dog with a built in force field, but Woody brought his dinosaur who eats forcefield dogs. Then Hamm arrives as Evil Doctor Pork Chop to initiate death by monkeys. Andy’s mom videotapes his playing session and we enjoy simpler times set to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” All that fades away when Andy turns 17. RC, Wheezy, Bo Peep, and almost all of his toys are gone. Only the toys that are physically capable to manage the movie’s adventure stuck around. Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bullseye, Slinky, Hamm, Rex, and Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head are left in Andy’s toy chest.

A lot can change in a decade, but luckily the entire cast of respectable stars returned to their beloved roles. Toy Story 3 is Pixar’s best ensemble film. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, and Estelle Harris sound older, but it’s appropriate for the theme of growing up. R. Lee Ermey even voice cameos for the final time as Sarge. As his army men leave as well. Jim Varney sadly passed away, but his friend Blake Clark perfectly replicates his southern drawl. Computer animation had advanced a lot in 15 years. Making Toy Story 3 another visual masterpiece. Yet character designs of the past needed to be replicated. The toys were fortunate to have always been stylized, but humans were a different story. So Pixar compromised by removing minor imperfections. We see more of the older Andy, Molly, and their mom because of it. Along with an elderly Buster.

It turns out Laurie Metcalf was always the voice of Andy’s mom. With Andy off to college, the toys accept they’ll have to stay in the Attic since Molly grew up too fast. Lee Unkrich was determined to get the original voice of Andy and was pleased to hear John Morris’ voice was friendly enough to return to the role. Erik von Detten also returned for Sid. Who seems to have become a well-adjusted garbageman. Things get complicated when Andy decides to take Woody to college and his mom mistakes the other toys for garbage. Woody attempts a rescue, but instead finds them in a box being sent to Sunnyside Daycare. Molly’s aerobic Barbie doll joins them. Easily the best depiction of the famous doll. Since Jodi Benson is able to portray her intelligence. In fact, nearly every kind of classic toy is seen in Toy Story 3. From LEGO to a Fisher-Price Chatter Phone. From a toy’s perspective, a daycare is like a utopia where childhood attention never runs out. Except this daycare is hiding a dark underbelly.

Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear is a purple teddy bear who smells like strawberries and appears friendly at first. Promising the toys a place among them, but turning out to be the most evil Pixar villain ever created. Thanks to Ned Beatty’s performance. The rest of Lotso’s loyal toy followers include his previous owner’s baby doll Big Baby, rubber octopus Stretch, bug action figure Twitch, expressive rock monster Chunk, robot Sparks, a literal toy Bookworm, a terrifying psychotic monkey with cymbals, and Ken himself. Michael Keaton perfectly voices the effeminate girl’s toy. Making for plenty of fun moments between Barbie & Ken. As for the gang, Woody is most concerned with getting back to Andy. When he escapes, an imaginative girl named Bonnie takes him in.

It’s at her house that we meet even more new toys. There’s theatrical porcupine Mr. Pricklepants, stuffed gruff unicorn Buttercup, tech savvy Triceratops Trixie, and ragdoll Dolly. Voiced by Timothy Dalton, Jeff Garlin, Kristen Schaal, and Bonnie Hunt respectively. There’s also the child-like Peas-in-a-Pod and stuffed Totoro toy (meant as a tribute to Miyazaki). Woody has fun playing again, but he still plans to head back to Andy. Until he hears Chuckles the clown’s sad tale of how Lotso lost it. Showing how their owner Daisy lost them and Lotso being too selfish to let Big Baby & Chuckles return. They ride on the back of a Pizza Planet truck and wind up at Sunnyside. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang have their own problems. Specifically the rough younger kids they’re forced to endure. Buzz is still a toy of action, but he also becomes the leader in Woody’s absence. Delusional space ranger Buzz returns once more, because the jokes write themselves. Lotso’s followers reset him to follow their orders. Locking the toys in a basket prison.

Woody returns in time to plan an epic prison escape. Resulting in the toys accidentally switching Buzz to spanish mode. A hilarious outcome filled by Buzz’s spanish voice actor. Jessie is the most outspoken about leaving since she’s already dealt with abandonment. It may have started as a joke, but Buzz & Jessie’s budding relationship is one of my personal favorite Pixar romances. Rex is desperate to get played with, Hamm is still very hammy, and Slinky & Bullseye are still very loyal. Mr. Potato Head gets the best jokes, especially when he swaps bodies with a tortilla and cucumber. Mrs. Potato Head serves as a link between them and Andy. Since her missing eye is back at the house. The toys escape, but Lotso corners them. Woody reminds him of Daisy and everyone starts to see Lotso’s true colors. It was satisfying seeing Big Baby throw him away, but the fun’s just beginning.

The whole junkyard sequence is fraught with danger. The aliens are scooped up and the toys are thrown into a conveyer belt. They unwisely rescue Lotso, but he coldly refuses to save them. In what is easily the darkest moment in Pixar history, the toys face their destruction in an incinerator. Rather than escape, they hold hands, and accept their inevitable death. However did they manage a G rating? I cry everytime, which becomes tears of joy when the aliens use the claw to rescue them. It’s not harsh enough, but Lotso is defeated when attached to a garbage truck. The toys hitch a ride back and Woody is faced with a decision. He sends the toys to Bonnie’s where Andy decides to give the toys away. The individual introductions are touching, but I fall apart everytime Andy gives away Woody. Easily the most tear worthy Pixar moment for me. The trilogy ends flawlessly when the toys say goodbye to Andy and they pan up to the clouds.

Followed by a fun series of vignettes showing the toy’s new life and a flourishing Sunnyside. Set to Randy Newman’s second Oscar winning song “We Belong Together” and a hot latin version of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” Toy Story 3 uses toys to explore ideas some live-action movies wouldn’t even tackle. Making it more than Best Picture worthy. Which made it the only third installment nominated without its other films being nominated. Toy Story 3 was so nostalgic that it became the first animated movie to cross the billion dollar mark. Setting a new standard in Pixar’s winning streak. Toy Story 3 proves it’s important to grow up, but also that remembering childhood things is just as important.

23. Toy Story 3

The toys face the inevitable

Preceded by: Toy Story 2 & Followed by: Toy Story 4

Adventure is Out There!

Up finally puts Pixar adventure in the forefront. Winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and becoming the second animated film ever nominated for Best Picture. Something that only happened once before with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Up was the first computer animated film nominated for the Oscar. As well as one of the first 3D movies nominated from 2009 (the other being Avatar). Needless to say, Pixar’s track record was due for Best Picture attention. The 2010 ceremony increased its number to 10, just to include more neglected genres like animation. Up asks the question, what if an old man went on an adventure without having to leave his house?

The reason behind the adventure makes Up one of the most realistic Pixar movies ever, but the method behind the adventure makes it one of the most unrealistic at the same time. Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter really knows how to drive a story with emotion. The idea came from a fantasy of his about escaping life. It was intended to be a space adventure similar to WALL·E, but all that changed when a grumpy old man became the lead. At 13 years old, I honestly didn’t know how to react to a house taking off because of balloons. I also wasn’t sure how any of it fit the Pixar formula, but Up is really about the concept of adventure more than anything else…

20. Up

Carl takes flight

Up was shown with the Pixar short Partly Cloudy. A remarkably similar short where a cloud creates dangerous animals for an unlucky stork. Up may not be a non-human characters with emotions story like Pixar’s other work, but the choice of a senior citizen as the lead in a kid’s film was very unique. Yet it made a lot of sense considering children had their grandparents to compare him to. I was too young to really remember my grandparents, but I’ve been around enough elderly folks to relate. Up takes things all the way back to Carl Fredriksen’s days as a youngster. Carl sees a newsreel about his hero Charles F. Muntz. A famous explorer with the motto “Adventure is out there!” Muntz pilots a blimp built for his canine companions and explores the far reaches of Paradise Falls, South America. Muntz is disgraced when a rare bird skeleton he’s discovered is called into question. So he vows to stay in Paradise Falls until he captures the bird alive.

It’s enough to inspire Carl to be adventurous, but what he wasn’t expecting was a friend who loved adventure as much as he does. I was taken almost completely off guard by Ellie, because the trailer gave no indication of her presence. Carl is shy at first, but Ellie pushes him to be brave and retrieve his balloon. Ellie is a precocious aspiring adventurer with dreams of taking her house to Paradise Falls. Something Carl promises after crossing his heart. One of the most beautiful sequences in Pixar history comes when Carl & Ellie grow old together. There’s an unmistakable realism to their touching love story. From getting married, fixing up their abandoned clubhouse, picnicking under the clouds, wanting to have kids, but sadly not being able to have kids, trying to save up for an adventure, and ultimately growing old together.

All set to an amazing old fashioned score by the now three time Pixar composer Michael Giacchino. Becoming the first Pixar score to win Best Original Score. One of the most tear worthy Pixar moments ever, is Carl sadly losing his wife. Not since Finding Nemo has a Pixar movie made everyone cry at the very beginning. In the present, Carl Fredricksen has become a grumpy 77 year old man. Unlike most of the movies before it, Pete Docter intended for highly stylized characters. Carl has a very cartoony square head and small body. His white hair and glasses were meant to resemble Spencer Tracy in his later years. However, Ed Asner looks an awful lot like Fredricksen too. Asner’s spry elderly voice is a perfect match for Carl. The main animation challenge was properly rendering an old person. So Carl has wrinkles, a hearing aid, and a walking cane. Along with subtle movements and mannerisms that really go the extra mile. The cloth used on outfits just looks more and more realistic.

Like most senior citizens, Carl balances being lovable with being cranky. His current problem is a construction site that threatens to tear down his home. To cope with his wife’s death, Carl preserves her memory by preserving the positions in their house. A complex message that Pixar is more than prepared for. Since Up has a very small cast, John Ratzenberger pops up as a friendly construction worker. Then Carl is greeted by Russell. A young wilderness explorer who needs to get an “Assisting the elderly” badge. Russell is the first Asian lead (voiced by Asian child actor Jordan Nagai) in a Pixar film. Something I never gave a second thought because he’s just a normal kid. Carl gets rid of Russell by sending him on a wild Snipe chase, but things get worse for him when he unintentionally assaults someone with his cane. The blood and strong sense of peril are why Up was only the second PG rated Pixar movie. Carl is supposed to be taken to a retirement home, but he can’t forget the unfulfilled promise he made to Ellie.

It’s a truly magical moment when Carl’s house takes off after he’s attached hundreds of balloons to it. It’s best not to think about the science of it. Just appreciate the many colors and wonder of a house flying through the city and into the clouds. The only place you can find easter eggs like a luxo ball, Pizza Planet Truck, and a certain teddy bear. The instantly iconic house with balloons uses bed sheets as sails and is steered using a weather vane. Up is a brilliant 2 letter title since all the action is up in the air. Up truly perfected Disney Digital 3-D in a way that complements the computer animation without having to throw things at the audience. I didn’t see Up in 3D, but the colorful adventure was still a sight to see in theaters nonetheless. Things get complicated when Carl hears a knock on his front door. It turns out Russell somehow stayed on the house and becomes his unwilling travel companion. Russell & Mr. Fredriksen are an unlikely Pixar duo if I’ve ever seen one.

Russell is curious, talkative, and very much into the wilderness. After a dangerous thunderstorm, Russell uses his GPS to steer them to South America. Paradise Falls is a breathtaking sight based on the real tepui mountains of the area. If the flying house was unrealistic, than an old man and child weighing the house down is a serious suspension of disbelief. Russell plans to get his badge by helping Carl walk his house to the other side of the falls, but an even greater adventure awaits them. They encounter a unique large colorful bird who likes chocolate that Russell names Kevin (great name). Then they’re met with the unlikely sight of a dog. Dug is a Golden Retriever who can talk through the aid of a special collar. All the loyal thoughts of a loving canine are summed up by- “SQUIRREL!”

Dug is on a special mission that you can learn more about in the short Dug’s Special Mission. He’s the misfit of a pack of dogs tasked with finding the bird. Alpha is the intimidating Doberman pack leader with a hilariously high pitched voice. Together with Beta and Gamma, they manage to track down the travelers. But not before finding out Kevin is a mother needing to return to her babies in a labyrinth. An elderly Charles F. Muntz who must be over 100 by now, greets Carl & Russell as guests. Carl is in awe of his hero, but quickly learns that decades of hunting for the bird have driven him mad. Christopher Plummer rounds out the small but respectable cast as the surprisingly evil villain. Leading to a perilous chase that leaves Kevin injured. Carl selfishly chooses to save his house over Kevin, but he changes his tune when he revisits Ellie’s adventure book. Where it turns out ordinary married life was the real adventure afterall. A touching moment that shows we should appreciate the smaller things in life.

Russell flies off to save Kevin and Carl finally realizes the memory of his wife is more important than his meager possessions. The climax on the dirigible is a danger filled chase that turns Carl into an elderly action hero. Using his cane, hearing aid, and denchers as a weapon against Muntz in a funny senior fight. Meanwhile, Russell avoids literal dog fighting planes and Dug places Alpha in the cone of shame. Muntz makes one last attempt on the bird, but is outwitted and sent hurtling down. In the end, Carl becomes the adventurer he always wanted to be. But most importantly, Russell receives a grandfather figure who’s there for him. Up goes to show that if you want adventure, look no further than your own backyard.

21. Up

Carl and Russell meet Dug

Down to Earth

WALL·E is easily the best environmental movie to come out of the late 2000’s. A trend that needed the sincere touch of computer animation. After all the non-human characters that Pixar gave emotions, it was only a matter of time before they tackled robots. The idea was pitched at a pivotal lunch near the production end of Toy Story. It was at this lunch that A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo were pitched. The teaser trailer made a point of noting that the last idea would turn out to be WALL·E. WALL·E asks the question, what if the last robot left on Earth developed a personality? Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton thought up the idea, and thought space would be a natural progression after perfecting water.

WALL·E was in low power mode for a decade while the story was struggling to grow. After Ratatouille, 2008 couldn’t have been a better time for the robot love story. I was 13 years old and beginning to develop a greater appreciation for complex themes. My love of science fiction got me in the theater, but I knew Pixar had something deeper to say. Consumerism, corporate domination, reliance on technology, pollution, sedentarism, WALL·E covers it all with very little dialogue. Winning Disney & Pixar’s 4th Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and critics deservedly calling it the best film of 2008…

18. WALL·E

WALL·E dances with EVE

WALL·E is matched up with the Pixar short Presto. A wacky misadventure where a magician’s rabbit uses his master’s hat against him. WALL·E is practically a silent film for most of its first act. A brave decision that was different from anything else Pixar had done up to that point. Pixar has the Best Original Screenplay nominations to prove how great their dialogue is for animation. WALL·E speaks volumes by showing rather than telling. Something most animated films should strive for. The computer animation is so polished and expressive that I’d almost mistake it for live-action. WALL·E takes a bleak dystopian future and gives it infectious optimism. Something that an upbeat song from the 60’s musical Hello, Dolly! perfectly showcases in the opening.

Several centuries in the future, humanity has left Earth behind. Leaving building sized piles of garbage that are eerily plausible. A monopolistic megacorporation known as Buy-N-Large has sent humanity away on a spaceship cruise while Earth is being cleaned up. It’s still a bit jarring to see, but all humans from the past are seen in live-action. Fred Willard physically portrays the friendly face of BnL. A CEO who proposed the 5 year expedition. Obviously something went wrong, because that was 700 years ago. Leaving WALL·E as the last remaining robot cleaning up. All this is shown without forced exposition. Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth·Class (affectionately abbreviated WALL·E) is a trash compacting robot with the directive to clean up the garbage on Earth. WALL·E develops a personality over the years that’s coveyed with limited speech, physical actions, and innocent curiosity.

Like R2-D2 before him, WALL·E says so much with so little. Famed Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt provides the much needed robotic sounds and voice of the titular robot. WALL·E is the most adorable robot you’ll ever see. With binocular eyes and tire treads reminiscent of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit. Along with a small yellow compactor body, shovel hands, a laser, tape recorder, and solar panels to recharge his system. The design became instantly iconic. WALL·E has managed to survive thanks to spare parts from powered down WALL·E robots. He passes the time by collecting seemingly useless objects (apart from a plant that catches his attention) and watching a copy of Hello, Dolly! on an iPod in his refueling station home. His only friend is a cockroach, because you know the joke. Yet WALL·E still longs for companionship. Something he gets when a rocket lands on Earth. Leaving behind a sleek egg shaped probe. Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator (affectionately abbreviated EVE) is a robot whose directive is to find sustainable life on Earth.

WALL·E immediately falls in love with Eve, sparking an adorable robot romance. WALL·E & EVE are an unlikely Pixar duo thanks to the former being a rusty old robot and the latter being a state of the art robot. Elissa Knight provides the limited speech for EVE. Creating another robot capable of emotion. EVE has expressive LED eyes, anti-gravity flight, and a plasma cannon for an arm. Their meet-cute nearly gets WALL·E blown up, but he tries his best in getting her attention. EVE grows frustrated when she doesn’t find a plant to scan (even checking a run down Pizza Planet truck). WALL·E sees this as an opportunity to comfort her, and the two robots make their introductions. Calling her Eva, WALL·E gets EVE to shelter when a dust storm goes off. He shows her his trinkets in many cute ways, but she goes in standby when presented with the plant. WALL·E protects her anyway he can, until the rocket returns for EVE. He follows her across the breathtaking majesty of outer space and ends up on the Axiom. The ship that holds the Earth’s population.

Robot workers are just as expressive without complete sentences. Micro-Obliterator (affectionately abbreviated M-O) meets WALL·E and can’t help but clean all his foreign contaminant. Other robots tend to every human need. The most shocking thing about WALL·E is the very plausible outcome of people in the future. Humans are so reliant on technology that they’ve become fat, lazy, and blind to the world around them. BnL trains children to essentially worship their corporate overlords at a young age. So everyone gets around in reclinable hoverchairs and only eat out of cups. As WALL·E looks after EVE, his friendliness rubs off on the humans and robots. He inadvertently disconnects John and Mary, who open their eyes for the first time in their lives. As one of the only speaking characters in the movie, John Ratzenberger had to voice John. While Kathy Najimy voices Mary.

The most significant speaking role is Jeff Garlin as the ship’s Captain. A man willing to accept change, but is kept in line by his co-pilot steering wheel AUTO. A villainous A.I. so soulless, a robot literally voices him. The MacinTalk speech synthesizer voices AUTO as a direct reference to HAL 9000. AUTO follows directive A113. The most prominent use of the Pixar number states: life is uninhabitable on Earth. So AUTO and his free moving security robot GO-4, plan to dispose of the plant. The only thing that can return them to Earth. EVE is thought to be defective when the plant is taken. WALL·E stays with her, but makes things worse when they’re put in a ward for malfunctioning robots. So EVE plans to send WALL·E home, until they discover AUTO’s plot. WALL·E recovers the plant out in space and EVE is so grateful, she gives him a kiss. Which is represented by a spark.

The most beautiful moment comes when WALL·E uses a fire extinguisher to dance with EVE in space. Sigourney Weaver essentially voices the ship’s “Mother” computer. Something the Captain uses to learn more about the wonders of Earth. After passing the Basic Utility Repair Nano Engineer (see more in the short BURN·E), the plant is returned to the Captain. The only problem is AUTO mercilessly short circuiting WALL·E and powering EVE down. M-O returns to prevent them from being sucked out an airlock and EVE comes to realize WALL·E is her new directive. They just need to complete her original directive first. The Captain outsmarts AUTO, but he goes so far as to crush a heroic WALL·E who sacrifices himself to keep the Holo-Detector open. Only then does the Captain learn to walk again and deactivate the evil robot for good. The Axiom returns to Earth in an instant, but EVE is only concerned with fixing WALL·E.

In a particularly tear worthy moment, WALL·E has no memory of who he is. It’s heartbreaking, but it gets better when EVE finally holds WALL·E’s hand. In the end, WALL·E & EVE are together and humanity can look forward to a bright future where growth is possible once more. As shown in a retro futuristic new history where robots and humans live side by side. The Oscar nominated Peter Gabriel song “Down to Earth,” really makes the montage. WALL·E is far more complex than most kids movies. Putting heavy themes through the child-like lense of a robot. Leaving plenty of room for analysis that can be seen as either a Christian allegory or a warning about the modern world. Either way, WALL·E uses an innocent robot to help us appreciate our planet the way we should.

19. WALL·E

WALL·E sees the stars

Anyone Can Cook

Ratatouille is the most delicious animated movie I’ve ever seen. It’s impossible to watch Ratatouille without getting hungry. After the slight disappointment of Cars, Pixar returned to form with this unlikely treat. Winning the Academy for Best Animated Feature once more. Ratatouille was also the first Pixar movie officially owned by Disney. The story idea came from someone else, but directing reigns were given to The Incredibles director Brad Bird. Ratatouille asks the question, what if a rat was able to cook? A simple, yet ingenious concept that I’ll admit I was grossed out by. I wasn’t even sure how to pronounce the French title, but a phonetic pronunciation helped with that (rat·a·too·ee).

Like most critics, I judged the movie before even seeing it. And was pleasantly surprised when I was proven wrong. Ratatouille came out when I was 12 years old. Making it the first Pixar movie my brother and I went to see by ourselves. I gained a whole new appreciation for French gourmet cuisine and my brother was so inspired that he took up cooking. Much like The Incredibles, Ratatouille has a predominantly human cast. Unlike all other Pixar movies, there’s no specific perspective given to a unique group of characters. It’s not so much about rats as it is about food. So I would more so call food the star of Ratatouille

16. Ratatouille

Remy cooks in front of Linguini

Ratatouille follows the Pixar short Lifted. A hilarious sci-fi slapstick short about a young alien failing to pass an abduction test. Ratatouille represents both a French dish and the common rodent. Although it’s not necessarily about rats, animators still worked hard to accurately portray the pesky creatures. Studying their movements and not being too anthropomorphic. You can learn more in the tie-in short Your Friend the Rat. Rats are still cartoony looking, but Remy is the most different with his unique blue fur. Remy is different from all the other rats in his colony. Unlike his single minded father or simple minded brother Emile, Remy has a heightened sense of smell and a refined taste palette. His father simply makes him a poison checker, but Remy dreams of so much more.

Patton Oswalt apparently got the role for a food based comedy routine and he turned out to be perfect for the rat. Even though he doesn’t talk throughout the entire movie. Instead most of his dialogue is from narration. Remy is closer to a human in how he walks upright, reads, and watches TV. He also doesn’t want to be a thief, but I still think it’s strange that they call a rat scavenging for food stealing. Remy’s idol is a famous French gourmet chef named Auguste Gusteau. Owner of the 5 star restaurant Gusteau’s voiced by Pixar mainstay Brad Garrett. Gusteau believes that “Anyone can cook” and it’s the perfect lesson for Remy to know. Since rats are the last thing you’d want to find in a kitchen. It turns out Gusteau died after losing a star to a harsh food critic and the restaurant hasn’t recovered since.

After an old lady comically shoots at Remy & Emile, the entire rat colony take makeshift boats to safety. Except Remy ends up down the wrong sewer pipe and separated from his family. A Gusteau figment of Remy’s imagination appears to him and gives him encouragement anytime he needs it. Remy flees his predicament only to find he’s been living under Paris. The French landscape is beautiful, but the computer animation really looks best on the food. Creating mouthwatering dishes that give off realistic stem and textures. Most humans are seen in the kitchen at Gusteau’s restaurant. The stylized designs continue to get better with every Pixar film. Remy doesn’t just know how to cook, he’s also well versed in the set up of a gourmet kitchen. Something I can relate to more after working in a restaurant.

Lou Romano is the tastefully named Alfredo Linguini. A hapless clumsy new garbage boy who’s hired at the request of his deceased mother who knew Gusteau. Apart from Linguini, most of the respectable cast puts on relatively convincing French accents. Even John Ratzenberger is near unrecognizable as the waiter. Ian Holm voices the furious diminutive head Chef Skinner. A central villain who just wants to hold onto the restaurant, but uses its brand to hock cheap frozen foods. On his first day, Linguini knocks over a pan of soup and makes it worse by trying to fix it. Somehow nobody notices, resulting in Remy having to step up. In a tasty sequence that manages to make the soup even better. Impressing a food critic and promoting Linguini in the process.

Remy is obviously discovered, but Linguini doesn’t have it in his heart to kill him. It turns out Remy can understand Linguini and it leads to a seriously unlikely Pixar buddy duo. Remy agrees to cook the meals and Linguini agrees to appear human. Calling him “Little Chef.” The agreement doesn’t work well at first, but they both discover something so ridiculous it’s brilliant. That Remy can control Linguini’s movements by pulling his hair. Leading to some of the funniest physical comedy Pixar has ever done. By hiding under his toque, Remy makes Linguini the best chef in Gusteau’s. Winning customers over with the soup, but keeping them after preparing a special order. The kitchen staff is colorful, but they don’t have too much time to stand out. Apart from the sous-chef voiced by Will Arnett who may or may not have killed a man with his thumb.

Really it’s the Janeane Garofalo voiced Colette who makes the biggest impression in the staff. She’s a roast chef who has to be the toughest in the kitchen thanks to being the only female chef. She’s hard on Linguini at first, but they get closer after she teaches him the ropes. Skinner grows increasingly suspicious after nearly catching Remy multiple times. He fails to get answers after getting him drunk, but he also hides the fact that Linguini is Gusteau’s son. Making him the rightful owner. Remy reunites with his brother, but his father is still against his lifestyle. Things get really dark when he reminds Remy that they’re vermen by showing him dead rats in a display case. Remy chooses to see things differently and continues his present path. After hilariously controlling a sleeping Linguini, Colette comes close to learning the truth. But a true French romance forms between them. Remy even manages to get Skinner fired by getting the documents to Colette & Linguini. A Pizza Planet truck can be seen in the background.

Linguini begins to neglect an increasingly jealous Remy and he retaliates by letting his rat friends steal food. Resulting in a maybe tear worthy rift between them. Skinner traps Remy in hopes of using his cooking abilities, but his family comes to the rescue. All the while the egotistical Anton Ego, who gave Gusteau’s a negative review, plans to dine in. From a cooking perspective, a food critic would be a major threat. Peter O’Toole brings a level of class to the exaggerated Ego. Remy returns to help, but reality sets in when every member of the kitchen quits. Leaving the entire rat colony to step in and cook. They just have to take care of the health inspector first. Colette leaves at first, but returns when she realizes the words that speak to her, can truly speak to anyone. Linguini takes on the roll of waiter and Remy has a special dish in mind for Ego (and Skinner). That’s when the specially prepared dish of ratatouille comes in. Something I’ve been wanting to try ever since the movie came out.

It’s truly touching to see the meal take Ego back to his childhood and remind him of the ratatouille his mother used to make. Skinner’s tied up along with the inspector, but Ego is so grateful that he requests to thank the chef. He doesn’t react much upon discovering Remy is the cook, until his review comes out. Changing his entire perception of Gusteau’s motto that “Anyone can cook” and declaring Remy the greatest chef in Paris. Reality sets in again when the restaurant is shut down, but everyone finds happiness by running their own bistro appropriately named La Ratatouille. If a rat can cook, than anyone should aspire to live their dreams no matter how different they are. Food doesn’t have emotion, but a tasteful presentation and musical symbolism gives it a language all its own. Of course the romantic French music helps out as well. If you love food, then you should give Ratatouille a taste.

17. Ratatouille

Remy controls Linguini

Speed, I am Speed

Cars may be low on gas, but it deserves more credit than its reputation may suggest. Pixar was on a major winning streak with its first 6 movies. All that changed when Cars came driving in. It was nominated for Best Animated Feature, but it lost to the dancing penguin movie. Cars asks the question, what if there was a world of living vehicles? Even at 11 years old I had to question how childish the idea sounded. I liked cars as much as the next kid, but I mostly went to see it out of obligation to Pixar. The concept wasn’t entirely new. Since there had been anthropomorphic animated cars in the past. The biggest difference was putting their eyes on the windshield instead of the headlights.

Not to mention how suspiciously similar its story was to the 80’s film Doc Hollywood. Despite how the idea sounded, Pixar head John Lasseter was passionate about the project. Since he was a car enthusiast who was inspired by the famous highway Route 66. After putting so much work into human characters for The Incredibles, Cars featured no humans whatsoever. It may seem like a downgrade, but people forget how beautiful the computer animation in Cars is. Just like they forget that the story is still teaching a sincere lesson. Cars may be a lesser effort from Disney & Pixar, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining or nostalgic…

14. Cars

Mater chats with Lightning McQueen

Cars is shown ahead of the short One Man Band. A spirited musical competition between French street performers competing for a girl’s gold coin. After giving toys, bugs, monsters, fish, and superheroes emotions, Pixar was tasked with bringing life to emotionless hunks of metal. I know people can be sentimental about cars, but it’s not exactly the same as Toy Story. Cars is about… cars that have faces and live in a world that’s not too dissimilar from our own. Except that everything is built like a car stop where garages are houses, gas stations are diners, and NASCAR is a major sporting event. Clouds have tire treads and bugs are cars for some reason. The thought of an all car world opens up a lot of questions. Like how anything can be picked up with tires? Especially when you factor in trucks, planes, trains, boats, and other vehicles that are shown to be alive. It’s better not to think about it too hard.

The animation may only be for cars, but that doesn’t make the metallic sheen, reflections, and weight any less impressive. Not to mention the landscapes that are seen on the road. I’m still not much of a sports guy and I’ve never got into NASCAR, but the idea of following an athletic race car is a clever one. Lightning McQueen is a self absorbed rookie race car who loves attention and working alone. His red paint job is eye catching and his catchphrases are memorable. From “Speed, I am speed” to “Kachow!” Owen Wilson’s distinct voice is well suited for a race car. Lightning’s biggest competition is longtime racer Strip “The King” Weathers voiced by real life driver Richard Petty. In fact, several figures from the racing world make voice cameos alongside the mostly respectable cast. Even Jay Leno shows up as Jay Limo and not Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen as a Humvee. Get used to the car puns, because there’s a lot of those. Along with some surprisingly risque jokes.

Lightning’s other competition is Chick Hicks. The obnoxious main villain willing to cheat in order to win the race. A fitting race car for Michael Keaton. When the first race is too close to call, Lighting loses his entire pit crew except for his loyal semi-truck driver Mack. Another more prominent character for John Ratzenberger to voice. A living Pizza Planet truck can be seen in a crowd shot. Lightning wants nothing more than to be famous and be sponsored by the Dinoco gas company from Toy Story. McQueen’s arrogance gets him lost on the highway after four pimpmobiles mess with Mack. Lightning follows the wrong truck and inadvertently wrecks the hidden little community of Radiator Springs. The rundown town itself doesn’t exist, but it is based on places that exist on Route 66.

Radiator Springs is filled with all kinds of colorful car characters of all makes and models. Mater is the most tolerable Pixar sidekick. Even if Larry the Cable Guy is basically doing his hillbilly standup routine, Mater still get some of the best jokes. Mater is a rusty tow truck who forms another of Pixar’s core unlikely buddy duos. Since Lightning is a sleek race car who wants to get away from his Rust-eze sponsors. Their friendship isn’t exactly deep, but they do have some nice bonding moments. Like tipping tractor cows, avoiding a bull combine, and learning to drive backwards. Mater also mentions a ghostlight, but more of that can be seen in the tie-in short Mater and the Ghostlight.

The town’s old fashioned judge Doc Hudson orders Lightning out, but his mind is changed and he instead has him fix the road he destroyed. Paul Newman very appropriately voices Doc. Secretly a famous race car winner of 3 Piston Cups who’s left his old life behind after a fateful crash. He comes around later on and even teaches Lightning how to turn on dirt after challenging him to a race. Lightning’s main love interest is town attorney who runs a Cozy Cone motel Sally Carrera. A Porsche who teaches Lightning how to slow down and enjoy life. Sally is Bonnie Hunt’s biggest Pixar role to date and the main source of heart in the movie. The closest thing to a tear worthy moment is Sally reminiscing on what the town used to look like before the Interstate came along. Lightning comes to love the town himself and it makes him a better car because of it.

Other Radiator Springs residents include old fashioned police car Sheriff. 50’s Motorama Flo voiced by Jenifer Lewis, who runs a 50’s gas diner. Her lowrider detailer boyfriend Ramone who could only be voiced by the hispanic Cheech Marin. Hippie VW Bus Filmore and military surplus Jeep Sarge with the voices of George Carlin and Paul Dooley respectively. Tony Shalhoub as Italian Fiat 500 tire shop owner and Ferrari enthusiast Luigi. Who’s partnered with his aspiring pitstop forklift Guido. There’s also delusional curio owner 20’s Ford Model T. Lizzie and kind hearted old fashioned fire truck Red. Voiced by the late animator Joe Ranft. Who sadly passed away in a car accident before Cars was completed. After helping to restore the town, reality sets in when the press discovers where Lightning is.

McQueen’s life changing journey begins to affect his performance, but Doc & company show up in California to act as his pit crew. The final race is a high octane climax that gives Lightning a chance to show off what Radiator Springs has taught him. The race ends tragically for Strip when Chick cheats, but Lightning stops short of the finish line. Choosing instead to push Strip across the finish line. I’m not crazy about sports movies that end in loss, but I get what they’re trying to say here. Chick wins the cup and is promptly booed off stage. In the end, Lightning turns down Dinoco’s generous offer, but honors his agreement to let Mater fly in a fancy helicopter.

An extended credits sequence then shows Radiator Springs thriving again. With multiple comical afterthoughts centered around the town. Including a funny meta joke about all the characters John Ratzenberger has voiced for Pixar up to that point. As shown in car themed movie parodies of Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and A Bug’s Life. Followed by an after-credits scene about the increasingly lost couple Minny and Van. Randy Newman returns to score Cars, but it’s really songs like “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” and “Life is a Highway” that stand out the most. Cars became an immediate financial giant for Pixar. Toy commercials were everywhere and I don’t blame them for seeing the potential in the car universe. Cars fits Pixar’s formula and comes close enough to the finish line to succeed.

15. Cars

Lightning races

Followed by: Cars 2

It’s a Whole Family of Supers!

The Incredibles is the most incredible original superhero movie ever made. Winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Sound Editing, and being nominated for Original Screenplay and Sound Mixing. Becoming a major Box Office success for Disney before Marvel came along. The Incredibles is a top tier Pixar film that tested all the limits of computer animation. Something that Brad Bird, the criminally overlooked director of The Iron Giant, pushed above anything else. The Incredibles asks the question, how does a family of superheroes adjust to normal life? Making it the first Pixar movie to star humans. Since the studio always focused on either toys, bugs, monsters, or fish in the past.

The Incredibles was also the first Pixar movie with a PG rating. Since the film can get surprisingly adult even compared to more “grown up” superhero flicks. Since I’d been a fan of Marvel and DC at a very young age, The Incredibles was a big source of anticipation. Since it brought two of my favorite genres together (animation and superhero). It was Bird’s intention to pay homage to comic books and spy movies from the 60’s. While also drawing inspiration from his own family. It was a fun idea that grew into some of the best writing Pixar had ever seen. I was 9 years old when The Incredibles hit theaters and I caught every homage made to the greater superhero pantheon…

12. The Incredibles

The Incredibles prepare for battle

The Incredibles came with Pixar’s first ever talkie short Boundin’. A musical tale featuring a jackalope teaching a sheep the joys of bounding. The Incredibles was the biggest technical achievement the studio had done at the time. Humans were always either side characters or non-existent. Making an entire human movie proved very challenging. To the point animators thought live-action made more sense. The computer animation used for skin, clothing, and especially hair was all groundbreaking. Not to mention the impressive water, explosions, and superpowers that were all rendered perfectly. The best decision by Brad Bird was making all the characters stylized. Since all other films stuck to realism. Giving computer animation a chance to get creative. Although it seemed like Pixar was deviating from their winning formula, superheroes (or supers) were still distinct characters to focus on.

In The Incredibles, a Golden Age of supers from the 50’s protect the world from danger. Beginning with a series of interviews that shed light on supers. Craig T. Nelson has the right vocal strength for a hero like Mr. Incredible. A super with super strength and a snappy blue costume. He saves the day in his incredible transforming Incredicar, but he carelessly brushes off an adoring fan attempting to be his sidekick IncrediBoy. On a particularly crime filled night, Mr. Incredible also finds time to flirt with his fiancé Elastigirl. Holly Hunter’s voice is well suited for animation, so she makes a perfect Elastigirl. A super with an uncanny stretching ability that’s also better suited for animation. Although her name was exactly the same as the Doom Patrol character. So she had to go by Mrs. Incredible in promotional material.

If a criminal shootout with the police wasn’t enough, then Mr. Incredible saving a suicide jumper is enough to establish the grown up tone. Mr. Incredible is greeted by the supervillain Bomb Voyage, who slips a bomb onto IncrediBoy when he flies in on rocket boots that he invented himself. The explosion takes out a train track and Mr. Incredible stops the train in a manner that had to have been referencing Spider-Man 2. Then he arrives late to his wedding which is attended by other colorful costumed supers. Of course the respectable cast would be incomplete without Samuel L. Jackson. Voicing the first black Pixar character. Frozone is a cool as ice super and Mr. Incredibles’ best friend who creates ice from moisture in the air. The Incredibles has many similarities to the graphic novel Watchmen. Mr. Incredible and other heroes are sued for damages and maintain their secret identities thanks to a superhero relocation program. Luckey himself voices Rick Dicker, a government agent who handles the coverups.

15 years and 15 pounds later, Bob Parr tries to live a normal mundane life with his wife Helen, daughter Violet, and sons Dash & Jack-Jack. The entire family is dealing with problems that really flesh them out. Showing a family of superheroes to be more than just a gimmick. Bob deals with a corrupt insurance agency ran by an angry boss. Bob tries to stay strong for his family, but his tiny car and constant need to save people is draining the life out of him. Helen is a proud mother and homemaker who stretches herself in multiple directions for her family. Not only is she one of the best animated moms, she has the curves that make her one of the hottest as well. Dash is a highly energetic 10 year old whose main concern is finding an outlet for his superspeed. Spencer Fox had just the right enthusiasm in terms of Pixar kids. Violet is your average insecure teenager who just wants to disappear and put up barriers. So she can turn invisible and create force fields. Noticing a clever pattern here?

Sarah Vowell isn’t exactly an actress, but her voice was perfect for the closed off Violet. Her long black hair that covers her face was the biggest animation difficulty. The family is obviously modeled after the Fantastic Four. With each member fitting their specific powers. Apart from Dash, who’s more like the Flash. Baby Jack-Jack seems to be normal, but an explanation can be found in the hilarious tie-in short Jack-Jack Attack. Bob deservedly throws his boss through the wall and he receives an assignment that will allow him to be a hero again. The top secret organization found him after he and Lucius secretly saved civilians from a burning building. The sexy ambiguously brown silver haired Mirage tasks Mr. Incredible with taking down an Omnidroid in the jungle. A spherical tentacle robot that adapts to survive. Although rusty and overweight at first, Bob outwits the robot.

Beginning a midlife crisis that gives his wife and family more attention. He also works out at a trainyard. Since his old suit was ripped he goes to visit Edna Mode. An eccentric professional super suit designer modeled after Edith Head. She was voiced by Bird himself who made her the most quotable character in the movie. Thanks to her fun observation of supers who wear capes. The matching red costumes are iconic in their own right. Bob’s constantly leaving to go on “business trips,” starts to look like an affair between him and Mirage, but they never go that far. While on an assignment, Mr. Incredible finally meets the main villain at his island lair. Syndrome is both the best Pixar villain and a great supervillain overall. Jason Lee brings a fanboy energy to Buddy, the boy who lost faith in his idol. Becoming a weapons inventor who aspires to rid the world of supers by becoming one himself. It’s an evil plan that resulted in the mass genocide of supers before Mr. Incredible.

Syndrome is a goofy, but genuinely threatening foe who flies in more advanced rocket boots and uses zero point energy. Mr. Incredible sneaks into his lair after he’s presumed dead and is only discovered when Helen attempts to contact him. She receives unwanted super suits from Edna that the kids discover. Leading them to tagalong on her plane. Things get dark when a captured Mr. Incredible thinks they were killed in an explosion. Instead, Helen, Dash, and Violet make it to the island were they cope with Syndrome’s ruthless henchman. Who are more than willing to kill them. Elastigirl stealthily makes it through the lair where she finds her husband. Dash goes so fast that he runs on water and Violet gains self-confidence by creating a perfect forcefield. The real money shot is all the Incredibles fighting side by side together. Syndrome captures them all, but his plan to stop the Omnidroid fails.

The family escapes on a makeshift RV attached to a rocket on route to the robot that’s destroying the city. Frozone joins the fight as well after hilariously asking his wife for his super suit. The climax is an incredible blend of powers that results in the robots demise, but Syndrome has one last plan to kidnap Jack-Jack. The entire theater erupted when Jack-Jack’s many powers were revealed. Resulting in Syndrome’s horrific death by cape. In the end, Dash gets to join the track team, Violet gets a date with her crush, and the Underminer gives the Incredibles a chance to be super again. There may not be a Pizza Planet truck, but John Ratzenberger always needs a Pixar role. The Incredibles is only supported by a super orchestral soundtrack that became iconic for the new superhero team. Video games, tie-in comics, merchandise, The Incredibles was something Pixar hadn’t seen before. Inciting deeper discussions and admiration that weren’t common for animated kids movies. Let alone action-packed superhero flicks. The Incredibles deepens what it means to be a superhero, to incredible results.

13. The Incredibles

Syndrome captures Mr. Incredible

Followed by: Incredibles 2

Just Keep Swimming

Finding Nemo swam into all of our hearts. Becoming the first (but far from the last) Disney & Pixar animated film to win Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. Understandable, since I’d go so far as to call Finding Nemo the best Pixar movie without Toy Story in its title. After giving monsters a heart with Monsters, Inc., the next non-human creatures to receive human emotions were fish. Finding Nemo asks the question, what if fish searched the entire ocean to find one little fish? The fish themed adventure became the directorial debut of Andrew Stanton. Another Pixar animator who was due for his own project.

All ideas for Finding Nemo came from Stanton’s own personal experiences. There was a fish tank in his childhood dentist office, visiting an aquarium was eye catching for computer animation, and being overprotective to his own son supplied the heart. Finally, it was the image of two clownfish in an anemone on National Geographic that sealed the deal. Despite the lack of fish in the title, Nemo is at least a reference to the famous nautical Captain Nemo. I was 7 going on 8 when Finding Nemo came out in 2003. My dad appropriately took my brother and I to see the movie in a packed theater. Finding Nemo was an emotional journey that parents and their children could relate to…

10. Finding Nemo

Marlin and Dory hold on tight

Finding Nemo was paired up with the 1989 Pixar short Knick Knack. A wacky comedy of errors where a snowglobe snowman desperately tries to get to a girl. Finding Nemo has some of the most gorgeous computer animation you’ll ever see in an early 2000’s film. Fish and the ocean had been done before in animation, but never to this scale. Pixar really went the extra mile this time. Animators became scuba divers in order to study the coral reef closely. Then they took classes in fish biology, oceanography, marine life, and anything else that would make Finding Nemo as scientifically accurate as possible. Which is why the movie is filled aquatic facts. Along with the terrific tagline “There are 3.7 trillion fish in the ocean. They’re looking for one.” Finding Nemo has an enormous respectable cast of real life sea creatures. Although minor inaccuracies pop up here and there.

Finding Nemo became the first Pixar movie to make you cry right at the beginning. Making it clear that Pixar knows how to draw emotion from the most unlikely places. Marlin and his wife Coral are orange & white striped clownfish. They have over 400 eggs, but Coral and the eggs disappear in an instant after a devastating barracuda attack. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Marlin holds onto the remaining egg. Naming him Nemo to honor his wife’s wish. Fortunately things get more upbeat when Nemo grows up. Albert Brooks was the perfect fit for Marlin. A normally hilarious comedian voicing a clownfish who isn’t funny. Marlin is one of cinemas greatest fathers, but he starts out very overprotective.

Nemo is his eager son ready to explore the ocean. Another reason for his overprotection is Nemo’s smaller lucky fin. They live in an anemone like real clownfish, but they have to leave for Nemo’s first day of school. The underwater animation has aged beautifully. Managing to capture the swimming, translucent lighting, and even the bacteria in the ecosystem. There’s a character for just about every sea creature. Marlin & Nemo first meet butterfly fish Tad, flapjack octopus Pearl, seahorse Sheldon, and their fathers. Mr. Ray the spotted eagle ray is their spirited musical teacher who increases Marlin’s paranoia when he takes them near open water. Nemo and his new friends try to get him near a butt (boat), but Marlin makes things worse by sheltering him too much. When Nemo acts out by touching the boat, he’s taken by scuba divers.

Starting the adventure of Marlin literally finding Nemo anywhere he can in the massive ocean. Joining him on his endeavor is Dory. A royal blue tang with short-term memory loss. Right before putting all her energy into her talk show, Ellen DeGeneres was a surprisingly inspired choice to play the forgetful Dory. Giving her a fun optimism that makes her the best comedic foil for the cynical Marlin. Making Marlin & Dory the first male/female unlikely Pixar duo. The first obstacle they encounter is a great white shark with the clever name Bruce. Although he seems like a threat at first, Bruce is actually a shark trying to give up eating fish. Since “Fish are friends, not food.” Marlin & Dory attend their meeting along with hammerhead shark and mako shark Anchor & Chum. Both of whom have Australian accents since Finding Nemo technically takes place in Australia. When Marlin finds the diver’s mask, it nicks Dory, and the resulting blood drives Bruce crazy.

Although it retains the G rating of previous Pixar films, this is the first time I thought a PG was warranted. Bruce’s attack both reveals Dory’s ability to read and sets off a field of mines. After a lesson in how to “Just keep swimming,” Marlin & Dory follow the mask in the dark depths of the sea. Encountering a deadly angler fish in the process, but giving Dory a chance to read “P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sidney.” They discover the location by speaking to a school of fish of course voiced by John Ratzenberger. They assemble the way to get there, but warn against going over a trench. Marlin ignores the warning and they end up in a dangerous field of jellyfish. Dory begins to loosen Marlin up by bouncing on the jellyfish until their stingers get in the way. Marlin’s bravery gains the help of the sea turtles who take them on the East Australian Current. Crush is a totally righteous surfer type voiced by Stanton himself. His carefree attitude towards his son Squirt helps to open Marlin’s eyes even more.

Word of his journey gets around until it makes its way to Nemo himself. Nemo has his own personal journey stuck in a dentist’s aquarium tank. Full of colorful characters like the bubble obsessed yellow tang Bubbles, short-fused blowfish Bloat, germaphobe royal gramma Gurgle, delusional striped damselfish Deb (and her “sister” Flo), French cleaner shrimp Jacque, and clingy caring starfish Peach. I only recently discovered Allison Janney voiced the latter. Willem Dafoe acts as a mentor for Nemo as hardened moorish idol Gill. He helps Nemo become more independent and the tank gang initiates him into their tiki habitat. Gill hatches a crazy plan to get them out of the tank by using Nemo’s size to jam the cleaning mechanism, but the first attempt puts him in too much danger.

Until the real danger and only true villain enters the picture. The ocean is really more of an obstacle to overcome, while Darla is a genuine threat from a fish’s perspective. She’s the bracefaced niece of the dentist who doesn’t know how to take care of her fish. The animation on the humans is gradually getting more stylized. Geoffrey Rush voices the friendly pelican Nigel who manages to get Marlin’s story to Nemo. Meanwhile, Dory begins speaking to a whale. Marlin projects his fear for Nemo’s wellbeing onto Dory, but he lets his guard down long enough to trust her. The whale takes them to Sydney where Nigel comes to protect them from a flock of seagulls. The funniest joke is gulls being so dumb that they can only say “Mine.” Nigel takes them to the dentist, but another tear worthy moment comes when Nemo plays dead in order to go down the drain. Marlin is devastated and Dory sadly begins to forget without him. Gill manages to rescue Nemo by sending him down the drain.

They’re still separated, but Nemo runs into Dory. Who’s lost her memory again, but gets it back in time to force a crab to reveal Marlin’s location. The father/son reunion is just as satisfying as you’d hope it would be. Then everything they’ve learned comes together in the climax when a fishing net catches Dory. Marlin trusts his son, Nemo believes in himself, and all the fish take Dory’s advice to just keep swimming. In the end, Marlin & Nemo have grown into better fish and Dory becomes part of the reef. Followed by the tank gang not knowing what to do after escaping. As well as a scuba cameo from Mike. Randy Newman doesn’t score the movie. Instead “Beyond the Sea” is the signature song. Finding Nemo uses undersea fish to explore a genuine lesson on parenting. I embraced the movie so much that we even bought the tie-in video game. The fish theme became so popular that it inspired many animated copycats and far too many neglectful pet owners. Finding Nemo teaches us the lesson that life is best lived when we just keep swimming.

11. Finding Nemo

Nemo hangs with the tank gang

Followed by: Finding Dory

We Scare Because We Care

Monsters, Inc. is so good it’s scary. Becoming the first Disney & Pixar animated film to be nominated for Best Animated Feature. Since 2001 was the first year the Academy Awards created the much needed category. Which it sadly lost to the competition, but that doesn’t make it any less of an achievement for computer animation. Monsters, Inc. asks the question, what happens to a monster when it returns to a child’s closet? After exploring toys and bugs, monsters were something entirely new. Since monsters don’t exist (or so we think), the animation studio had to get creative. Considering John Lasseter was busy with Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. became animator Pete Docter’s directorial debut.

The monster theme stayed the same, but the story changed many times. Until it was decided that it would focus on a monster company called Monsters, Inc. A human child was added as well, but the buddy monster dynamic wasn’t included until later on. My 6 year old memory of seeing Monsters, Inc. in theaters is clearer than the previous Pixar movies. Mostly because I remember being an emotional wreck afterwards. Although I’d call it a comedy above anything else, Monster, Inc. is the first Pixar film to be driven by emotion. It may not have won the top prize, but Randy Newman finally got his first Oscar for Best Original Song…

8. Monsters, Inc.

Mike and Sully escape with Boo

Monsters, Inc. is preceded by the Oscar winning original Pixar short For the Birds. A quick humorous short where bird’s lament a large bird joining them on a powerline. Monsters, Inc. had the difficult task of not only creating monsters from scratch, but giving them emotions as well. The monster world of Monstropolis was also original, but it’s not too dissimilar from our own world. Save for a few monstrous tweaks. Monster names are so ordinary that it’s kinda hilarious. Monstropolis is a city run by screams. As the screams of children are used to power canisters that create a clean energy source. The corporate angle is just another example of Pixar’s grown up writing. Although Monsters, Inc. is a buddy comedy, James P. Sullivan (affectionately nicknamed Sulley) is the main focus. Sulley is a large bear-like monster with horns, blue fur, and purple spots.

The computer animation in Monsters, Inc. advanced to the point of rendering realistic fur and clothing. It was early, but the effects still hold up today. Sulley’s co-worker, roommate, and best friend since grade school is Mike Wazowski. A green one-eyed monster ball. The respectable cast fits their respective monsters perfectly. John Goodman is just like the gentle giant Sulley. A role that was consistently compared to a seasoned football player. After foolishly turning down the part of Buzz Lightyear, Billy Crystal proved to be the perfect fit for the neurotic Mike. Mike & Sulley are another great unlikely buddy duo. Filled with great chemistry and Crystal’s usual comedic stylings. Most gags are based around the many unique monsters found in the city.

They both work at Monsters, Inc. Which is experiencing an energy crisis thanks to children being harder to scare thanks to short attention spans. One of James Coburn’s last roles was as CEO Henry J. Waternoose III. A five-eyed monster with crab legs who will do anything for the future of his company. Sulley is the golden monster who works as the top scarer at Monsters, Inc. Mike is his coach who assists him on the job. Scaring is achieved through an interesting system of doors that lead to the human world. I can’t say I ever genuinely thought there were monsters in my closet, but it is a fun concept to tackle. Doors are placed on a scare floor and the tough monsters compete to scare the most children. Randall Boggs is a particularly slimy Pixar villain who taunts Mike and is jealous of Sulley’s scare record. Randall is a bug-eyed lizard monster with creepy camouflage that only Steve Buscemi could voice.

Since children are believed to be toxic, a 2319 is called when a sock is discovered. Leading to the funniest running gag where the hazmat suited CDA keeps tackling monsters, specifically the unfortunate George. Apart from dealing with his raspy slug administrator Roz, Mike is happily dating his girlfriend Celia. Another one-eyed monster with Medusa hair and the sultry voice of Jennifer Tilly. They have reservations at Harryhausen’s (great reference), but Sulley has to file Mike’s paperwork after hours. Where he discovers a vacant white door with flowers on it. The first human with significant screen time in a Pixar movie is Boo! An adorable 2-3 year old who isn’t afraid of Sulley. It’s really the increasingly shifty Randall who she fears. Boo mostly communicates with baby talk which makes sense for the bonding between her and Sulley.

He’s at first afraid like every other monster, but he grows to realize scaring children may not be his purpose after all. Boo makes a scene at the restaurant, putting all of Monstropolis on high alert. Mike & Sulley frantically try hiding Boo, but realize a disguise is the best option. Except Monsters, Inc. is crawling with CDA. Mike fails to get Boo’s door and she runs off. After a hilarious misunderstanding, Randall makes a deal that gets Mike kidnapped. Revealing his sick plan to kidnap children and harvest their screams. Sulley swaps out Mike for Randall’s assistant Fungus and the three flee to tell Waternoose. Only it leads to the heartbreaking moment where Sulley scares Boo. What shatters his perception even more is Waternoose turning out to be another villain in Randall’s scheme.

Mike & Sulley are banished to the Himalayas where it turns out monsters like Bigfoot, the Lochness Monster, and the Abominable Snowman ended up. John Ratzenberger voices the latter as a kind hearted lover of snow cones. A rift forms in their friendship and Sulley sets out to return on his own. Of course Mike followed him there since nothing is more important than their friendship. The thrilling climax takes Mike, Sulley, and Boo to an entirely original room where they keep all the doors. The sequence plays out like a high energy roller coaster where they ride the doors with Randall in hot pursuit. When reaching Boo’s door fails they begin door hopping. Randall eventually catches up, but nothing beats Boo finally standing up to him.

Randall’s defeat takes him to the same trailer from A Bug’s Life next to the Pizza Planet truck. Where hillbillies beat him with a shovel. With the door out of power, Sulley instead exposes Waternoose’s corrupt plan on tape to the CDA. Which turns out to be lead by Roz. She orders the door to be shredded and Sulley’s tear worthy goodbye gets me everytime. Although Boo’s room does feature many Pixar easter eggs. From a luxo ball and Jessie doll to a certain lost fish. Waternoose is arrested, but the company bounces back when Sulley realizes Boo’s laughter was ten times more powerful than screams. Giving Mike plenty of opportunity for standup.

His final gesture of friendship is rebuilding Boo’s door and reuniting the two before the credits roll. A beautiful moment that always makes me cry. Followed by the last great mock blooper reel. There’s Roz making surprise appearances, Rex making a cameo, and even an entire musical production based on Mike’s “Put that Thing Back Where it Came From” lie. The material was so good that it lead to the first Pixar spin-off short. Mike’s New Car is a funny short centered on Mike’s prized monster of a car. The Oscar winning “If I Didn’t Have You” may just be a discount “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” but the jazzy ballad shows the true meaning of friendship. Monsters, Inc. is enough to end a child’s fear of monsters.

9. Monsters, Inc.

Randall taunts Mike and Sully

Preceded by: Monsters University

Woody’s Roundup

Toy Story 2 is a rare sequel that either matches or outdoes an already perfect movie. Maintaining the highest 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes for a really long time. During production of A Bug’s Life, director John Lasseter knew children needed more Toy Story. So the third Pixar film also became the very first computer animated sequel. As flawless as Toy Story 2 turned out, the production might be the worst for any Pixar movie. Disney foolishly wanted it to be like their other cheap direct-to-video films. Something they’d still exploit with a Buzz Lightyear spin-off. Luckily they realized the potential of Toy Story 2 and made it clear that anything from Pixar deserved a theatrical release.

Toy Story 2 asks questions about toys that give more depth to their world. Like what does it mean for a toy to be abandoned, collected, or even outgrown? Despite coming 4 years after the first movie, Pixar only had 9 months to finish Toy Story 2. The story had to be changed midway through, the 1999 release couldn’t be changed, and all the footage was nearly lost when someone accidentally deleted the file. It’s a miracle Toy Story 2 came out at all. At 4 years old, the sequel became an instant favorite of mine. My mom took my brother and I to see it and we were apparently 5 feet from the screen. Yet I somehow don’t remember the experience. I only knew that Toy Story 2 set the standard for Pixar movies to come…

6. Toy Story 2

The toys celebrate

Toy Story 2 was accompanied by the early Pixar short Luxo Jr. Which centers on the lamp mascot and features the famous luxo ball. Toy Story 2 is a perfect sequel because it builds on what came before. Deepening the emotion, expanding on characters, and increasing the scope of the toy’s story. While still maintaining the computer animation style that came before. Some humans look better, but Andy, his mom, and Molly are about the same. Really it’s the impressive environments, lighting, and varied locations that Pixar continued to excel at. Along with the returning respectable cast joined by more respectable stars. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, Jim Varney, and John Ratzenberger are all given a chance to shine the second time around.

Toy Story 2 begins in space with an awesome extended sequence of Buzz Lightyear on a mission. Fighting robots and entering the lair of his archenemy Evil Emperor Zurg. Who was mentioned by Buzz in the first movie. Turns out he’s like a purple Darth Vader with a large booster gun. It also turns out the entire mission was a video game played by Rex. Rex is actually given a whole subplot where he wants to learn to defeat Zurg. Woody frantically searches for his hat in preparation for Andy’s trip to cowboy camp. Buzz is now like a co-leader who’s grown from his past experiences and takes action every chance he gets. Hamm is his same old hammy self and Slinky is just as loyal as ever. The only difference for Mr. Potato Head is the wife he got at the end of the first movie. Estelle Harris was also born to play the sassy Mrs. Potato Head. Annie Potts’ Bo Peep performance is brief, but the love she has for Woody is clear.

Another change is the family dog Buster. Who’s a far more lovable and better rendered dog compared to Scud. Andy has another toy playing session with Woody & Buzz fighting Hamm as Evil Doctor Porkchop. Resulting in Woody’s arm being torn. Which opens up the possibility of Woody being forgotten. Leading to a particularly disturbing nightmare that causes him to discover Wheezy. An existential penguin toy with a broken squeaker forgotten on a shelf. Another toy problem is a yard sale. Something Woody rescues Wheezy from before being discovered by Al. From a toy’s point of view, a toy collector would be a villain. Wayne Knight is a great sleazy businessman who steals Woody and turns out to be the same Al from Al’s Toy Barn. The toy store mentioned in the Buzz commercial from the first movie.

It turns out Woody is a rare collectable with a line of vintage merchandise, cheesy 50’s marionette TV show, and a whole posse he never knew about. Jessie the yodeling cowgirl, Bullseye he’s Woody’s horse, and Stinky Pete the Prospector. Joan Cusack can’t yodel, but she is the best new addition to the cast as the excitable cowgirl. Fun fact, when I dressed up as Woody for Halloween, my classmate (also named Jessie) dressed up as Jessie. Although she seems like just a female version of Woody on the surface, Jessie is far more complex on the inside. She’s a toy who was sadly abandoned by her owner Emily and has a fear of being packed away forever.

Randy Newman still writes the songs, but Riders in the Sky sing the folksy “Woody’s Roundup” theme, Robert Goulet sings a swingin’ version of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” and Sarah McLachlan sings the Oscar nominated “When She Loved Me.” The whole sequence of Jessie slowly being outgrown by her kid is the first genuinely tear worthy Pixar moment. Bullseye doesn’t speak, but he is loyal to Woody. Kelsey Grammer turns out to be a twist toy villain. As Stinky Pete has grown resentful after spending his whole life in a box. After Al has Geri from Geri’s Game fix up Woody in a very satisfying sequence, Woody is swayed into believing his place is as a collectible with his new friends.

Meanwhile, Buzz leads a team of Mr. Potato Head, Hamm, Rex, and Slinky to rescue Woody. Their banter is hilarious and the increasingly over-the-top nature of their mission is genius. First by causing traffic damage after crossing the street under cones. Then by wrecking the toy store. Which is where Buzz comically switches places with a delusional Buzz in a utility belt. Since the material from space ranger Buzz is too good not to do again. The toys also run into Tour Guide Barbie. After Mattel realized their mistake in not including her in the first movie. I’ve always loved Barbie’s bubbly innocence and Jodi Benson is the best voice for her. The toys make it to the apartment after more humorous misunderstandings from imposter Buzz. The real Buzz catches up and even though Hanks & Allen have less time together, they still give Woody & Buzz more heartfelt chemistry.

Woody snaps out of it when he realizes he’d rather be outgrown then miss out on Andy’s childhood. Unfortunately, Pete blocks the way out and Al rushes the collection to Japan. The toys give chase on the elevator, but not before facing off with a delusional Zurg toy that followed Buzz there. The face off is among the best affectionate Star Wars parodies. Since the other Buzz actually embraces his father Zurg. The toys continue to cause chaos when they hijack a Pizza Planet truck containing three little green men. Who become part of the group after Mr. Potato Head saves their lives and they are eternally grateful. The airport climax is massive compared to the moving truck from the first movie. Same with the enormous baggage handling room. Buzz finds Woody’s case and Pete is defeated when he’s placed in a little girl’s Barbie backpack. The action really picks up when Jessie is trapped and Woody & Buzz take Bullseye to save her. They’re trapped on the plane, but Woody uses his pull-string to swing to safety.

Ending with Jessie and Bullseye being accepted into Andy’s toy collection. Buzz also develops feelings for Jessie, Woody’s arm is repaired again, and Wheezy gets a new squeaker. The following mock blooper reel features a nod to Toy Story 3, a running gag from Mrs. Potato Head, funny pranks on Buzz, and even a cameo by Flick & Heimlich from A Bug’s Life. Toy Story 2 is an adventure filled follow up that improves on Toy Story in every way. The original still holds a special place in my heart, but there’s no denying this is what sequels should be. Sadly, no Academy Awards were won. Instead Toy Story 2 became the last animated winner of Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. As the years go by, Toy Story 2 will never lose what makes it special.

7. Toy Story 2

Buzz Lightyear vs. Evil Emperor Zurg

Preceded by: Toy Story & Followed by: Toy Story 3

Pretend it’s a Seed

A Bug’s Life is easily the most underrated Pixar movie ever made. Despite being only the second computer animated feature made by the studio. A Bug’s Life asks the question, what does the world look like from an insects perspective? After successfully exploring toys with Toy Story, Pixar chose to literally follow a bug’s life with A Bug’s Life. Most of the production staff remained the same with John Lasseter continuing to direct and Randy Newman continuing to score. Unlike most of Pixar’s work, A Bug’s Life is a lot closer to most Disney productions. It’s loosely inspired by the aesop fable The Ant and the Grasshopper, features a princess, and has a large cast of characters.

A Bug’s Life was another of my most beloved animated movies growing up. At 3 years old, it was the first Pixar movie I saw in theaters and many times on VHS. I even had A Bug’s Life pajamas. Although it was another well received success, there’s no ignoring the obvious controversy surrounding it. A Bug’s Life was released in 1998 along with another ant movie about a misfit in love with a princess who fights for his colony. It’s a complicated story, but basically disgruntled Disney chairmen Jeffrey Katzenberg might have stolen the idea. Regardless, A Bug’s Life is different enough to stand on its own…

4. A Bug's Life

The warrior bugs

A Bug’s Life is the first Pixar movie to begin the tradition of having a short film before the movie. Geri’s Game is a fun little story about an old man playing chess by himself. Whereas, A Bug’s Life had the difficult task of taking creepy insects and giving them emotions. Toys were easy, but bugs needed a more approachable kid friendly redesign. My brother and I were obsessed with ants and other bugs at a young age. So it was fun to see regardless of their reputation. All ants have unnatural blue & purple exoskeletons with anthropomorphic bodies, no mandibles, four legs, and only females possess wings. Disney prides themselves on accuracy, but liberties like these were necessary. Instead Pixar put most of their effort into the bug’s eye view of the ant’s island colony.

No humans are featured, so the computer animation is thoroughly impressive years later. The simple design of the insects meant the use of more characters than you’d expect from an early Pixar production. Hundreds of ants are rendered since all they need is a face change. A Bug’s Life centers on a colony of literal drones who are unable to think for themselves. Allowing them to be oppressed by a small gang of grasshoppers. It’s a deep message that likely went over many kids heads. Grasshoppers also look more cartoony, but they maintain a threatening appearance. A large multi-generational cast of mostly TV stars helps make A Bug’s Life another respectable cast for Pixar. Comedian Dave Foley is the eccentric accident prone inventor Flick. An ant whose individualist ideas make him the black sheep of the colony. Despite his bug sized inventions being cool.

After Seinfeld ended, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ first role was as Princess Atta. The sadly forgotten nervous wreck Pixar princess in training to become queen. Phyllis Diller is the lighthearted Queen and a very young Hayden Panettiere is the kid Princess Dot. She’s the only one who believes in Flick, but his latest screw up gets the entire colony in trouble. Hopper will always be my personal favorite Pixar villain. Kevin Spacey brings the right domineering tone to the oppressive grasshopper who rules by exploiting the ants fear. Which he cleverly compares to a tiny grain that only becomes a problem if it grows. Hopper is funny enough on his own, but his loud mouthed brother Molt plays off him well. Rather than stay and recollect food, Flick hatches an idea to find warrior bugs to defend the colony. Which the colony gladly accepts. Flick flies away on a dandelion and ends up in a tiny city under a trailer (next to a Pizza Planet truck).

Most of the humorous bug puns mixed with sneaky adult humor can be found in the bug city. The circus bugs are a hilariously diverse troop of insects & arachnids of all shapes & sizes. There’s self conscious stick bug Slim, hot headed male ladybug Francis, praying mantis magician Manny, his lovely moth wife Gypsy, gentle giant rhinoceros beetle Dim, kind hearted black widow spider Rosie, bickering pillbugs Tuck & Roll, and my personal favorite hungry caterpillar Heimlich. All with the retroactively impressive voice talents of David Hyde Pierce, Denis Leary, Jonathan Harris, Madeline Kahn, Brad Garrett, Bonnie Hunt, Mike McShane, and late animator Joe Ranft. John Ratzenberger continues his voicing tradition by playing money hungry circus owner P.T. Flea. When an accidental performance gets them fired, Flick discovers the troop fighting off flies.

Leading to a comical misunderstanding where the circus bugs must pretend they’re warrior bugs. Something they only agree to after rescuing Dot from a bird. Which is very threatening from a bug’s perspective. So Flick thinks outside the box by building a bird out of sticks & leaves with the help of the entire colony and circus bugs. Which also sparks an adorable romance between Flick and Atta. Unfortunately the lie is revealed when P.T. returns and Flick’s exile is the closest thing to a tear worthy moment. Dot learns to fly and sets out to find Flick when the grasshoppers take over. With the circus bugs as a distraction, the bird plan works at first, but a fire ruins everything. You can’t beat the powerful moment when Flick at last stands up to Hopper and inspires the entire colony to realize they can fight back. The only snag is the rain that’s a lot more devastating from a bug’s perspective.

A chase ensues where Hopper attempts to squash Flick before his friends come to his rescue. Hopper’s defeat is pretty gruesome as he’s pecked by a bird and fed to her trio of hungry chicks. In the end, the circus bugs regain their purpose, Atta is made queen, and Flick discovers his place by her side. Another fun Pixar tradition that I wish they’d bring back is the mock blooper reel. Which is hilarious, self-referential, and even features Woody from Toy Story. Newman’s music became a staple of the studio, although his only song contribution is the dreamer song “The Time of Your Life.” A Bug’s Life has all the wit, heart, and edge that makes the rest of Pixar so brilliant. It may have been labeled the “kid friendly” ant movie, but it’s societal themes are complex enough to appeal to adults. A Bug’s Life is like a seed, in that it only gets better the more it has time to grow.

5. A Bug's Life

Flick confronts Hopper