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What If Pixar Made A Horror Movie?

Let’s get spooky, Pixar detectives. I went live on Super News last week to craft the ultimate Pixar horror movie (with audience help, of course). We also did a giveaway for the person with the best suggestion, so make sure you check out the show LIVE every week (Wednesdays at 7pm Pacific) so you can get in on the action. We’ll be announcing a new giveaway tonight…

You guys had some excellent suggestions I never had a chance to read aloud (too many comments to keep track of!) So here are some of my favorites:

  • (Tim) Why not one about a reverse world of horror , like something cute is scary cause of the kids in town would have grown up by really scary stuff like ghosts
  • (Johnathan) A Haunted Hotel like Hotel Transylvania Mashed up With American Horror Story And Nightmare before Christmas. Different scary worlds in the hotel rooms. (LA,CA)
  • (Roscoe) A family of terrifying blood-thirsty werewolves, however the young son is a vegetarian and doesn’t like meat. I’ll take a cheque.
  • (Julian) Little girl walks around with a clown doll who only she can see as a real clown ( kinda like wilfred tv show) and the clown traps people into their own version of sowened dolls?
  • (Kashanna) Pixar version of the books “Scary stories to tell in the dark.” For each story use different Pixar character.

There are tons more, and they’re all splendid. Be sure to check them out here.

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Everything You Need To Know About Pixar’s New Short, ‘Lou’

 

The Pixar Detective is my weekly Facebook Live show, where I share the secrets of the Pixar universe and beyond in real-time. Tune in Wednesdays at 7pm (pacific) to comment live, ask questions, answer my questions, and help settle Pixar debates with my cohosts.

This week’s highlights:

  • Pixar has a new short coming out called Lou. Let’s talk about it!
  • Do you think The Good Dinosaur is a flop or masterpiece?
  • Guys, we’re taking Pixar for granted.
  • Why Incredibles 2 probably won’t suck.
  • Here’s why WALL-E need a sequel, but maybe something else…

Go on…Everything You Need To Know About Pixar’s New Short, ‘Lou’

Snarcasm: Pixar Is So Average, You Didn’t Even Notice

pixar

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

Most people aren’t movie aficionados, and most of those people aren’t even sure what the word “aficionado” means. But they do know a good flick when they see it, and more often than not, Pixar churns out some great pieces of entertainment.

Since I’m the most biased person alive to comment on this particular “think”piece about Pixar movies from Indiewire, take everything you read here with no salt at all, because that’s bad for your sodium intake in the first place.

Charles Kenny gets in some choice hits with his write up, “Pixar’s Films Are Average and You Know It.”

Why so salty, Charles? None of us are trying to pull a fast one on you, pal.

Lauded, showered with praise and awards, raking in billions at the box office, and beloved by audiences everywhere.

That’s right, and what better way to cut Pixar down than to start by building them up…with obvious observations and facts?

Seriously, you’ve already proven that Pixar movies are anything but average on every merit above. But I have a feeling you’re about to “explain” why none of those things that matter actually matter, even though they clearly matter.

by digging just a little bit beneath the surface, it’s regrettably obvious that Pixar’s films are far from cutting edge: they’re rather average.

If this article had a mascot, it would be Mr. Peanut with a New Yorker on his lap.

The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, but everyone believes he’s wearing the
finest robes.

“I bet my third grade analogy makes you feel far from cutting edge, hm?”

Seriously, I can never get enough of these contrarian regurgitations that insist their argument is good because most people will disagree with them. It’s like watching a guy eat asphalt because surely no one believes that’s good because I’m the first to think of it.

This may be hard to accept

Ya, and for good reason.

The argument is based purely on artistic merit and creativity

Believe me, no one is questioning how creative you’re being for making a lot of this nonsense up.

 Box office grosses are no indicator

Box office isn’t everything, but it is something. There’s a reason Pixar movies make more and more money, and it’s because they’re a trusted brand. Your argument is that they’re average movies, so why dismiss cultural relevance for the sake of making your argument seem a hair less crazy than it truly is?

Awards are not an impartial form of measurement

No one expects them to be, but we have basic rules of statistics to measure true consensus. We’re talking about people watching hundreds of movies a year consistently praising movies from one particular studio. To dismiss that because awards in and of themselves are a subjective matter should get the award for lamest duck.

Taste is personal and just because you think Pixar’s films are the best doesn’t mean they actually are the best

Who decides, then? You? I really hope not.

The studio does not make bad films

Cars 2 would like to have a word with you.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Secret of Kells, and My Neighbor Totoro all lie much closer to generally accepted animated excellence

A few things. First, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a masterpiece and in my opinion, the greatest animated film, period. Secret of Kells is great, and Neighbor Totoro is an eventual classic, but it’s the latter half of this sentiment that raises annoyingly loud alarm bells.

Generally accepted animated excellence? How are these films any more “generally accepted” than Pixar’s high points like Toy StoryIncrediblesFinding NemoRatatouilleWALL-E, Up, and Inside Out? It’s confusing because you can’t seem to decide on what imaginary audience is determining what’s “good” or “bad” when it comes to animated movies. You’ve said it has nothing to do with awards, box office, or personal taste, which leaves us with virtually nothing else.

In contrast to these films, Pixar’s are remarkably safe.

Unlike my intelligence after reading this drivel.

So yeah, we have to believe (now) that when Pixar made a movie about a rat using a human to cook food in Paris, or when they did a whole thing about robots falling in love within the backdrop of an environmental message, or when they made Fantastic Four actually look good, and so on, they were avoiding risk.

On the bright side, people who’ve never actually watched a Pixar movie might agree with you.

They convey a narrowly defined range of themes,

OK, assuming that’s true, you’re evaluating Pixar’s catalogue, not any one movie. By that logic, we can then say Snow White is lesser because Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella also have princesses in them. Welcome to Charles’s world, gang.

they are content to reuse a ‘house style’,

Charles doesn’t elaborate on this (probably because he’s too busy trying on those emperor clothes he was talking about earlier), but my guess is that he’s slapping every Pixar movie with a demerit because their consistently good movies do the same consistently good things. The horror.

and sequels aside (another demerit),

I think Charles invented his grading system after watching Idiocracy.

So yes, Pixar movies are “average” because some Pixar movies are sequels. We won’t even talk about how the Toy Story sequels are highly praised and celebrated because oops! That’s subjective! Didn’t you hear that only Charles’s subjectivity holds any value?

their stories are far from unique to filmmaking as a whole.

We’ll just leave out all of the technological innovations made possible because of Pixar since the late 80s. They get credit for nothing, despite routinely delivering some of the most beautiful visuals and stories of the 21st Century—oops! I’m being darn subjective again!

As a result. no Pixar film has pushed the artistic envelope

I want to meet the person who reads that sentence and actually agrees with it. Pixar has never pushed the artistic envelope? Right, and the Pope is an atheist.

they have appeared to without actually doing so.

The Pope prays, but does that really mean he thinks God is like a real thing? Nahhhhh.

They have not revolutionized animated filmmaking outside of their technology.

“They have not revolutionized animated filmmaking outside of the technology they use to revolutionize animated filmmaking. Trust me.”

What Pixar’s films haven’t done, is inspire others to make a creative leap.

Yeah! Not even Walt Disney Animation Studios….oh wait. Or DreamWorks…oh wait. Or Blue Sky…oh wait.

I love how Charles’s rubric for being “average” has everything to do with him assuming no creative person has ever been inspired by Pixar. And as you can imagine, he says nothing to back this up. Not even an anecdote.

The other problem I’m seeing here is Charles’s narrow criteria for what qualifies as artistic merit. It’s not enough to him that something is competently made and original. Apparently, it also needs to be flamboyant and provocative, but that’s just not what Pixar movies set out to do. But because he’s limiting literally ever other piece of criteria for what makes a film above average, he’s constructing a false narrative that just about anyone can see through.

The Looney Tunes and MGM shorts of the day developed as rapidly as they did because the teams behind them were determined to outdo each other creatively. Today, animated films (and especially CGI ones) do not compete creatively, but rather financially.

Charles, if you really think MGM and Looney Tunes weren’t interesting in getting paid for their work, then there’s literally nothing I can do for you. The idea of relevance and popularity tying into financial success is such a basic concept, I’m at a loss for words. Do you really think that Pixar and DreamWorks aren’t competing creatively? Because even when DreamWorks produces an unimaginative dud like Home, guess what happens? They don’t make money.

But what am I supposed to expect from a guy who thinks Pixar movies are “safe.”

any artistic developments as a result are rather coincidental.

Let’s apply this to any other scenario. I walk into a deli and tell the sandwich guy: “Oh, well you’re only using that brand of salami because it’s 9 cents cheaper than the other brand. And the fact that it tastes so good is just a coincidence.”

He’s either going to roll his eyes at you (like most everyone would) or write an overlong Snarcasm about it (like me). Either way, none of us win.

After all, no studio was inspired to create a CGI film because of Pixar’s artistic genius, they saw a concept that was profitable and wanted a piece of the pie for themselves!

Guys, I think I figured it out. Charles meant to write this as a satire essay for his eight grade history class, but oops! Indiewire got their independent wires crossed and published it by mistake. Happens all the time.

But yeah, the real nonsense here is that Charles makes a sweeping assumption that no studio has ever mimicked Pixar because they genuinely saw something creative that they want to replicate themselves. Either Charles is the NSA incarnate, able to monitor all animated filmmakers instantaneously, or he really needs to get those clicks, guys.

To get to the crunch of the issue,

Uh…no comment, I guess.

you have to consider how Pixar’s films are viewed by the general population.

Except you already said we can’t do that because we isn’t smart enough like you.

Their films appeal to all, and in turn are remarkably popular. This is possible primarily because the films are average.

I bet watching Charles do math in his head is adorable.

OK, so the idea is that if people really like something, it might mean the movie is average, so in your head, that means they’re average. Are we done with this yet?

They do not appeal to anyone in particular,

What? Are we on some sort of contradiction carousel?

Look, I get his point (despite him not explaining it well). He’s trying to say that Pixar movies appeal to everyone on a surface level, but they don’t actually make people think or feel. That’s dead wrong to the point of absurdity, of course, and mostly because he doesn’t use any examples to refute the most basic opinion people have about Pixar movies to the point where there are memes about how the movies are emotional: that they appeal to them in unique, deep ways.

For Charles to downplay all of that because he hasn’t had those experiences is more sad on his part than anything else. It also makes me wonder if he watches these movies while texting the entire time.

Next, Charles uses a quote from Simon Cowell that has nothing to do with Pixar to explain how “average tastes” work. I know I was joking before, but that eighth grade book report theory is just getting more and more plausible. At one point he says that Star Wars is artistically average which is…eh, what’s the point.

Imagine if Pixar released a film with casual abandon of all financial goals.

I love how you seem to know everything about the creative process of some of the world’s most creative people. See, Charles has the gall to claim that these guys are hacks who are only in it for the money. Can we all agree that he can keep that moronic opinion to himself?

At the end of the day, it’s fine to look to Pixar as a model for certain things such as its CGI technology,

CGI technology? I mean I figured out a long time ago that you have no idea what you’re talking about, but this is almost too on the nose.

to look to them as a creative leader and innovator is wrong.

Well, if being “right” is agreeing with a bunch self-righteous, unfounded assertions that waste everyone’s time, then you get an A+, sir.

They do not reside on the cutting edge of feature animation, and to accept such a belief is to drink some very strong Kool-Aid.

Said the guy who probably has no idea what Jonestown is.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with this quote from Charles on a different Indiewire post:

The other Pixar film from last year, Inside Out, blew everyone away with its sheer originality and emotional themes and quickly became a favorite. It is currently sweeping all awards before it and is well on it’s way to the status of a classic film.

Hmmm, well methinks Charles has some explaining to do.


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


The Pixar Theory Debate, Featuring SuperCarlinBros

pixar theory supercarlinbros

How does Finding Dory fit into the Pixar Theory? This week on the podcast, I’m joined by Jonathan and Ben Carlin (of the YouTube channel, Supercarlinbros) to answer just that question. But we’re not in total agreement, so it’s a battle of the theorists.

To get the most out of this debate, I highly recommend that you first check out Jon and Ben’s video about Finding Dory and the Pixar Theory, as well as my own write up, The Pixar Theory: Part 4, Finding Dory.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: If you could suggest the next Pixar movie, reaching from your own emotional life stories, what would you pitch to them?

Go on…The Pixar Theory Debate, Featuring SuperCarlinBros

The Pixar Theory: How ‘Finding Dory’ Fits In The Pixar Universe

finding dory pixar theory

Don’t cry mommy…don’t cry.

Here’s the deal. A few years ago, I proposed a theory that makes the case for how and why every Pixar movie from Toy Story to WALL-E exists in a shared universe with a single, overarching narrative. The case I make is fueled by easter eggs, cameos, story themes, and other clues that make up what I call The Pixar Theory (link above).

Since I wrote the original theory and turned it into a book, I’ve also added “chapters” that talk about Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur, just last year. And now we’ve come to the 2016 release, Finding Dory.

I’ll give you the normal rundown below, but first a tease. Would you believe me if I told you that the Toy Story movies have an incredibly strong connection with this movie? Well, we’ll get to that.

THE SET UP

finding dory pixar theory

It took Pixar 13 years, but they finally made a sequel to one of their most beloved films, Finding Nemo. In that movie, a clown fish named Marlin crosses the ocean in search of his son, and he’s aided by the quirky and forgetful blue tang, Dory.

The sequel kicks off a year later, when Dory suddenly remembers a clue related to her family, whom she lost as a very young child—er—fish. So Marlin and Nemo help Dory cross the ocean once again to find them, only this time, they have to brave the horrors outside of the ocean, in a marine institute that rehabilitates fish and has its own aquarium exhibits.

First, let’s talk briefly about how Finding Nemo fits into the theory, because for obvious reasons, that will inform a lot of what we can uncover with the sequel.

FINDING FINDING NEMO

This was actually one of the shortest chapters of the book, mostly because the connections in Finding Nemo are very speculative and work to enhance other animal-centric films like Ratatouille. Interestingly, I do speak in length about Dory in that chapter, because she is a character who represents the mysterious intelligence animals in Pixar movies seem to possess, leading all the way to movies like Monsters Inc., which imagines a world where animals run the world as monsters.

Dory has very unique abilities that other fish like her simply don’t possess. She can read, for one thing, and “speak whale.” We’ll get to why that really is, later, because Finding Dory sheds plenty of light on where this all comes from.

finding dory pixar theory

I also speak on how Finding Nemo goes out of its way to create animosity between the fish of the ocean and the humans, paving the way for an increasingly connected community of animals who will do whatever it takes to get away from wherever the humans are. Humans steal Nemo and threaten his life, keep the Tank Gang imprisoned in the dentist’s office, and then capture Dory in a fishing net. It’s proven in the movie that humans are actually the biggest threat to creatures of the ocean.

But in the end, the fish rally against humans once and for all, thanks in no small part to Nemo’s leadership when he convinces a horde of them to break the human’s fishing net so they can escape.

WHAT ABOUT FINDING DORY?

Warning: spoilers for Finding Dory from here on out. Be sure to watch the movie before going any further unless you want to be spoiled.

Humans are still terrible in the story of Finding Dory, but not always directly. True, they capture Dory almost as soon as she reaches the kelp forest next to the marine institute. But Dory herself doesn’t seem to fear or hate them. She, just like most other characters, is pretty indifferent to the humans.

finding dory pixar theory

Hank the octopus, on the other hand, is very antagonistic toward the marine institute workers, always escaping and finding ways to avoid them at all costs. This is made even clearer when his worst nightmare is realized at the “touch pool,” where children descend their fingers upon the fish to the tune of a horror movie.

Imagine the scene from Toy Story 3 when the toys first encounter the caterpillar room. All of the savvy toys are hiding because they know children are coming to make their lives a living riptide. Well, that’s basically what happens here, and this fear of humans isn’t just comic relief. It’s kind of terrifying, and it’s even a little entertaining considering a Toy Story connection coming later…

It’s no wonder that by the end of the movie, all of the fish from the institute hark to the words of Sigourney Weaver and “release” themselves into the ocean. To them, freeing themselves of humans is their version of a happy ending.

THE DEAL WITH DORY…AGAIN

So what makes Dory so “special,” and just what in the ocean does that have to do with the Pixar Theory? Well, don’t forget that the growing intelligence of animals in movies like RatatouilleUpA Bug’s Life, and even The Good Dinosaur all lead up to the inevitable reality where oversized animals who look like monsters solely inhabit the future world devoid of humans (only for them to go back in time to harvest the energy-filled screams of children in order to sustain their world further because, and you guessed it, humans are batteries).

finding dory pixar theory

Like in Inside Out, Pixar hits us over the head with the idea that humans give off an energy that sparks life into everyday objects like toys, cars, and even our own emotions. So how did Dory become the way she is?

It’s revealed in Finding Dory that she was born in captivity. So she grew up constantly surrounded by humans and signs from the exhibits that she’s able to remember throughout the film, explaining how she was able to learn to read. Peach the starfish from Finding Nemo is another fish who has the rare ability to read, and even she explains that she was brought to the tank from eBay.

The idea is that when animals become entrenched in human fixtures and attention, they are able to expand their personalities and capabilities. Though Dory suffers from a very serious disability with short-term memory loss, she’s able to cope by forming connections in a very human way. This explains why fish are so quick to help her with whatever problem she’s facing, no questions asked.

We see the same sort of thing with Remy from Ratatouille, who becomes the greatest chef in France only after his experiences in the human world. Simply put, humans and animals have a lot to gain and learn from each other.

IS THAT IT?

finding dory pixar theory

Nope. There’s also a subtle but unforgettable moment in the movie that hints a connection with Toy Story. Here it goes.

About halfway through the movie, Marlin and Nemo find themselves in a fish tank outside of a gift shop, and there’s a single, plastic fish toy moving around them. It prods Marlin over and over again, and then eventually when they’re trying to figure a way out, they notice that the fish is tapping the glass all of a sudden pointing directly at the exact path they need to take in order to escape (a stream of geysers that will carry them over to the tide pool).

The idea is that the toy fish is, you guessed it, alive, and it’s trying to help Nemo and Marlin without revealing itself because it has to play dead with so many people around watching them. This is a great connection to the relationship we see in Toy Story 2 between Woody and Buster, who form a bond and friendship together. Here, the toy just seems anxious to show Marlin and Nemo exactly what they need to do so they can find their friend.

In other words, Pixar is amazing.

ANYTHING ELSE?

finding dory pixar theory

As always, there are ample easter eggs and references to other movies to find throughout, including the A113 callout that shows up toward the end of the movie on a license plate (again, just like Toy Story).

Also, Sigourney Weaver’s voice is heard throughout the marine park announcing the exhibits. This will be familiar to fans of Andrew Stanton’s other Pixar movie, WALL-E, which also features Weaver’s voice as the sound of a computer on the Axiom. Makes sense that in the Pixar universe, Sigourney Weaver’s voice is the most trusted when it comes to soothing, computer-controlled announcements.

Remember Darla from Finding Nemo? You can see the same photo of her holding the dead fish in the marine institute that her uncle has all the way in Australia. This means the marine institute has a clear connection to the P. Sherman, who also loves to work by the sea. It could even mean that in the one year since losing all of his fish in the tank, he decided to devote his life to studying aquatic life in California, a dream somewhat preluded in the fact that he scuba dived far into the ocean just to take photos, eventually leading to him taking Nemo.

finding dory pixar theory

And here’s a spookier reference that hints the rise of BnL, the corporation that will eventually burn all the trash into toxic air. In the picture below (bottom right), you can spot a WALL-E calendar, referencing the robots that will one day (try) to clean the Earth.

It’s telling that in a movie where there is a ton of garbage piling up in the water just outside the marine institute, robots as advanced as WALL-E are already being prototyped.

finding dory pixar theory

The Luxo Ball and Pizza Planet truck make their scheduled appearances, as well. You can see the Luxo Ball in the clutter of toys in the Kid Zone, and the Pizza Planet truck is one of the underwater vehicles found during the squid scene.

Be sure to add what you find in your own viewings via the comments.

Another quick thing, though, is that for whatever reason, Pixar seems to really hate birds unless they’re in a short like with Piper, or they’re named Nigel. Like the seagulls from Finding Nemo and the instinctual predator bird from A Bug’s Life, there are half-brained birds all over the place in Finding Dory, including one named Becky who will still find a way to capture your heart, I guess.

WHAT’S NEXT?

pixar theory

Sadly, it will be a year before we get any new Pixar movies, with Cars 3 set to release June 16, 2017. Though a lot of people may not be very excited about yet another Cars sequel, they can still take solace in knowing that the studio is releasing Coco, an original non-sequel coming out that same year in November, based on the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos.

The film has already begun animation as of April, and the premise follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel who tries to uncover a “generations-old” mystery. The current synopsis is:

“Coco is the celebration of a lifetime, where the discovery of a generations-old mystery leads to a most extraordinary and surprising family reunion.”

Also, we have Toy Story 4 and Incredibles 2 to look forward to in the next few years, including a rumored slate of about four non-sequels Pixar is working on that are due to come out over the next decade.

All of these movies are months and years away, so until they release, I’ll be here conspiring.

Want even more?

  • First, be sure to check out the book, The Pixar Theory, available on paperback and ebook via Kindle, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, or just a PDF. This will cover the entire theory and every movie in the Pixar universe, updated from the 2013 blog post.
  • Parts 2 and 3 of the The Pixar Theory cover the latest movies that have come out since the book was published. So you can check out Part 2, Inside Out, as well as Part 3, The Good Dinosaur via the links.
  • Want to talk about all of this stuff with tons of other Pixar Detectives? You can start all of the conversations you want in the comments for this post, or join the ongoing discussions in the original blog post, here.
  • Last but hopefully not least, you can read my free Pixar Theory serial novel, The Pixar Detective, which was completed last spring. It tells a new story that shows off the grand narrative of all the Pixar movies with original characters, familiar faces, and a mystery that ties them all together.

Thanks for reading this. To get updates on my theories, books, and giveaways, join my mailing list.

Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

 

‘The Secret Life of Pets’ Is Weirdly Identical to ‘Toy Story’

secret life of pets toy story

You’ve probably seen a teaser or two for Illumination Entertainment’s upcoming franchise starter, The Secret Life of Pets. The movie is essentially about what dogs, cats, and other pets are up to when their owners aren’t around.

Sound familiar?

Look, I didn’t dare make this comparison last summer when the first teaser releasedThat version of the movie was intriguing, as it featured a variety of animals getting caught up in humorous situations in different environments somewhat connected by an apartment building.

Then the trailer dropped, revealing the actual plot of Pets. And to be honest, it doesn’t look nearly as interesting thanks to its incessant borrowing from Pixar’s first feature film, Toy Story.

What do pets do when their owners aren’t around? This is a generic premise that movies have been using for decades, not just Toy Story. That said, a handful of movies have already tackled the pets aspect of that story (the live-action Cats vs. Dogs immediately comes to mind), but I’m not opposed to a different studio trying something new with the concept. After all, Toy Story can easily be compared to The Brave Little Toaster, and who hasn’t compared The Walking Dead to Toy Story?

But then…well, here’s the trailer:

Like Toy Story, we have a pre-established society where pets call the shots. On top of that, we have a main character named Max who is used to getting all of the attention from his owner, exactly like Woody and Andy’s relationship in Toy Story.

The inciting incident appears to be the adoption of a new pet who steals the attention away from the favorite, who is Max in this case. Then the two of them get “lost” and have to find their way home, resolving their differences along the way. I won’t be surprised if getting neutered will be spun as the new “YOU ARE A TOY!” line.

The plot also borrows a key structure from Toy Story 2, in that the remaining pets go on a mission to the city in order to find their lost friend. Gidget’s speech sounds remarkably reminiscent of Buzz’s rallying of the toys to find Woody.

Sure, there are some inventive gags in this trailer, including the poodle’s System of a Down obsession. But then you have the tired jokes where dogs get easily distracted by animals, circa Dug in Up.

And I haven’t even mentioned the visual similarities. Take Max for example. His colors are nearly identical to Woody, from the brown and white to the black, red, and gold.

toy story secret life of pets

The design of the “new” dog and Buzz Lightyear are different, but the scope is still there. This new dog is a lot bigger than Max, which is a visual representation of how Max feels around him. The same emotion was captured by Buzz’s space-cool features.

And these aren’t the only characters who are weirdly similar. Gidget, a side character who seems to be the close friend/love interest, shares a similar voice and style as Bo Peep.

toy story secret life of pets

In fact, all of the side characters have a reasonable counterpart when it comes to tone and basic visuals.

toy story secret life of pets

toy story secret life of pets

toy story secret life of pets

toy story secret life of pets

And that’s still not the end of it. Not only does the plot share a lot of basic similarities, even some of the scenes are ripped straight out of Toy Story:

toy story secret life of pets

secret life of pets toy story

There’s the bunny, Snowball, who is voiced by Kevin Hart. And from what I can tell, he feels like a fresh(er) character inspired from the Penguins of Madagascar. But his character arc looks a lot like Sid’s in Toy Story. He frees Max and Duke from a cage, then tells them that they belong to him. He’s also maniacal and appears to be sadistic.

Actually, the bunny could more easily be compared to Lotso from Toy Story 3. Both characters are cute on the outside, yet are slowly revealed to be monstrous villains. They both bail out the main characters when they’re in trouble (Lotso provides a new way of life for the toys, and Snowball rescues Max and Duke from Animal Control), only to thrust the heroes into an even worse scenario.

Of course, thoughtful borrowing can lead to great movies. That said, when your work is this derivative in so many ways, it calls the quality of the entire film into question.

I have no doubt that Pets will have some clever jokes and memorable characters. Despite my public disdain for the Despicable Me franchise, I have high hopes for directors Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, who are returning to cement Illumination Entertainment as one of the top animation companies (Eh, who am I kidding? Minions is a billion dollar franchise. They’re already at that point).

But while the movie will cater to the same people who still think the Minions are adorable, I am losing hope in Illumination’s ability to deliver a remarkable story, or anything that will last the test of time for a reason beyond genius marketing ploys.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

The Pixar Theory: How The Good Dinosaur Fits In Pixar’s Universe

the good dinosaur pixar theory

The Storm provides.

In 2013, I wrote the first draft of The Pixar Theory, an essay that makes the case for how and why every Pixar movie takes place within a shared universe.

Just this past year, I published a book that finalized this draft into a more convincing and fleshed out read that you can check out here, but you can get a decent idea of what we’re talking about by reading the original article. Just keep in mind that much of what I wrote in that first blog post has been changed and improved on over the years.

Also this year, I posted how Inside Out (Pixar’s other 2015 movie) fits into the Pixar Theory, which you can check out here for even more context.

Yeah, I know it’s a lot of reading. As we talk about The Good Dinosaur below, I’ll do my best to add refreshers from past articles, so you don’t have to keep clicking around.

Needless to say, this post contains a lot of spoilers for The Good Dinosaur, so if you haven’t watched it yet and don’t want it spoiled for you, then check back later after you’ve had a chance to see the movie. You’ve been warned. 

That said, it’s time to address a question I’ve been getting for over two years now…

THE BIG QUESTION

Does The Good Dinosaur take place in the same universe as ever other Pixar movie? Including Toy StoryFinding Nemo, and even Cars?

the good dinosaur pixar theory

We’re going to address that question and then some. But first, let’s talk about something possibly more important. Let’s talk about what The Good Dinosaur contributes to the shared Pixar universe, beyond how it potentially “fits in.”

In other words, we’re going to talk about how The Good Dinosaur makes the Pixar Universe Theory better.

For one thing, it actually answers some major questions I’ve been asking since day one of putting this theory together. And I know plenty of people have wondered this too:

WHERE DOES “MAGIC” COME FROM?

If you’re at all familiar with this theory, then you’re plenty aware of how magic plays a mysterious role in the shared universe of Pixar. But one thing I’ve never fully understood is where it’s supposed to come from in a world where animals can cook and toys can talk.

I’ve claimed in the past that the wisps of Brave are where this magic originated, or at least point to magic tying in with nature somehow. I’ve also posited that wood is a source of magic, which is certainly evident given how doors have dimension-defying capabilities in multiple Pixar movies, including Monsters Inc, and Brave.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

Humans can use magic from what we’ve seen, or at least some type of it. In my book, I argue that the supers from The Incredibles received their powers through government experiments in order to be spies (at first), which would explain why they seem to have military experience and backgrounds in espionage.

But it’s unclear how technology could make a person fly. It’s unclear how Boo from Monsters Inc., could harness the magic of a door and travel through time. It’s unclear how humans of the distant future could find a magic tree with fruit that could transform them into animalistic monsters (a tidbit from the Monsters Inc., DVD).

But with The Good Dinosaur, we finally have a suitable theory for where this magic comes from, as well as a proper starting point for the Pixar Universe.

THE SET UP

The film opens 65 millions years in the past, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. The opening scene clearly shows us a world like the real one you and I live in, where animals eat from the ground and have primitive senses.

In reality, it’s believed by many that an extinction-level event is what caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs as we know them today. A predominant theory is that an asteroid wiped all of these creatures out, long before mammals like humans ever came to be.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

Pixar accepts this premise and turns it on its head by proposing a world where there is no extinction of the dinosaurs because the asteroid misses Earth entirely. Millions of years later, dinosaurs are still the dominant species on a very different-looking planet, while humans are just now arriving on the scene.

One thing I love about The Good Dinosaur, by the way, is how the film doesn’t rely on any exposition to illustrate what’s taken place since the asteroid missed Earth. We just see an apatosaurus family tending to their farm. Right off the bat, we learn that dinosaurs have become the most intelligent creatures in this world, able to provide shelter, fences, and resources for themselves and other creatures.

They’re smart. They use their appendages in unique ways to ensure their survival. It’s a simple reimagining, but it’s effective. And it parallels nicely with what we’ve come to expect from future animals in the Pixar Universe, notably Remy from Ratatouille, an animal who manages to become a better chef than any other human (in Paris, at least).

So right away, The Good Dinosaur hammers the point that when left to their own devices, animals can become just as intelligent as humans, as we also see in A Bug’s Life with Flik’s inventions and ingenuity ensuring the survival of his entire community.

In the same way, the apatosaurus family of The Good Dinosaur relies on the harvesting of food to get them through a harsh winter. Arlo, the main character, is the youngest of three siblings to the apatosaurus parents who run the farm. To “earn his mark,” Arlo is given the responsibility of catching a feral critter who keeps stealing their food.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

We eventually learn that this critter is what we know as a human. He’s a small, wolf-like boy who doesn’t appear to have his own language beyond grunts, and Arlo adopts him has his pet after the two get washed away by the river, far from home.

From there, the movie shows us their long journey home, and a lot happens over the course of these few weeks. We learn quickly that this part of the world suffers from frequent storms, some of them looking like typhoons. Later, it’s evident that very few dinosaurs are around, despite the fact that they’re the most intelligent species around.

We see a few dinosaurs along the way, but only in small groups, rather than herds. Towns and settlements are apparently scarce, but still alluded to. And every dino is obsessed with survival.

Forrest, the Styracosaurs, chooses to live in the wilderness under the protection of the creatures he carries around with him. This is played off as a joke, mostly, but it shows just how harsh life is in this world for reasons that are left to the imagination.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

It’s also telling that Forrest is just as fearful as Arlo, and with good reason. There’s not much food around, and though these dinosaurs are smart, some are being born with an innate (possibly learned) sense of fear.

We certainly get a feel for how scarce resources are by the time we meet the hybrid Nyctosaurus gang, led by Thunderclap. I say hybrid because like the other dinosaurs in this film, they have many traits that have evolved from the fossils we have on these creatures. In fact, every creature in Thunderclap’s gang is a different species.

These flying creatures are a “search and rescue” team who scavenge the helpless creatures traumatized by the frequent storms. “The ‘Storm’ provides” is not just a weird catchphrase for these beasts—it’s their religion. They worship the storm for giving them much-needed food.

Isn’t it strange that Arlo got sick from eating plants that weren’t fruits like berries and corn? Millions of years earlier, we saw dinosaurs eating grass just fine, so what changed?

the good dinosaur pixar theory

Before we get to that, it’s important to point out how the T-Rex family manages to survive. They have to raise and take care of a bison herd by themselves in order to have enough food, often fighting off vicious raptors desperate for their food. And the T-Rexes are constantly on the move, which probably has something to do with how the environment is too volatile for them to settle down anywhere, as well as the fact that they have to find enough food to feed their food.

WHY?

If dinosaurs have been evolving for millions of years, then why are they having such a hard time, now? In the opening scene, there are many dinosaurs all eating together without a care in the world, so something big had to happen between those good times and the bleak world we’re introduced to countless years later.

Well, I think it’s pretty simple. These dinosaurs are living in a “post-apocalypse” of their own civilization. At one point, they probably had plentiful resources to sustain a massive population, much like you’d expect. But what we see is a shifted environment. The lush jungles filled with edible plants that we know existed millions of years ago have vanished by the time we meet Arlo, just as they would have if the asteroid had hit Earth.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

 

Simply put, the world slowly became less optimal for the dinosaurs to roam, which the movie goes out of its way to illustrate. Arlo’s family is on the brink of running out of food because rival creatures like the mammals (AKA humans) are stealing their food and thriving in this new environment. These storms are a product of this change, as the world gradually corrects the imbalance of reptiles and mammals caused by the lack of an extinction-level event.

And many years later, the same “correction” will happen between man and another new species: machine.

In other words, Pixar loves cycles. And the Pixar Universe is as cyclical as they come. It’s actually pretty amazing how a simple movie like The Good Dinosaur offers such a close parallel to stories they’ve already told, Pixar Theory or no.

WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER PIXAR MOVIES?

If The Good Dinosaur exists in the same timeline as movies like The Incredibles and Finding Nemo, then where’s the evidence of those movies being a result of this alternate universe where dinosaurs ruled the Earth much longer than planned?

What about fossils? Certainly, the Pixar movies would exist in a world where the fossil record is drastically different. What about these strange creatures in The Good Dinosaur that don’t look like any animals we’re aware of, like the dreaded cluckers?

Well, that’s where Up comes in.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

Early on in Up, we see that the famous explorer Charles Muntz has found a place in South America filled with plants and animals “undiscovered by science.” That place is Paradise Falls (or, “The Lost World” as the narrator puts it).

And what is the prize creature that Muntz discovers? It’s no dinosaur. It’s a bird (Kevin). And this is a bird that bears resemblance to the bizarre makeup of the “prehistoric” birds and raptor-hybrids we see in The Good Dinosaur, who have originated from this alternate universe where evolution was never halted.

And that’s not where the weirdness ends. Cut from Up is the explanation for why Charles Muntz is still spry and healthy, despite being much older than 80-year-old Carl Fredericksen. According to Pixar, Muntz found Kevin’s eggs, which somehow have the ability to slow down the aging process (my book covers this in more detail, but that’s the gist).

So Kevin’s existence, as well as this rare, superhuman ability, finally has an explanation. Somehow, the longer evolution of these strange creatures brought about magic  or at least something that resembles magic — that can eventually be harnessed by humans in various ways. After all, what is it really that makes those dogs in Up talk? And is it any surprise that Muntz comes across Kevin’s existence in the 1930s, not long before the sudden rise of supers with strange abilities?

the good dinosaur pixar theory

Remember: The Incredibles takes place in an alternate version of the 1950s and 60s. Mr. Incredible was very young or even born around the same time Charles Muntz was uncovering what could be “magic” properties. This could even serve as an explanation for why academia suddenly turned on Muntz, shaming him for what we know weren’t fraudulent discoveries. Perhaps this was a ploy to keep his research hidden from the world, explaining why only Americans are shown to have powers in The Incredibles.

Sometimes I get goosebumps when these things fit together a little too nicely.

OK, what about the strange animals mentioned earlier? Well, when we explore the dirigible in Up, Muntz shows off his collection of these strange creatures that are so rare, Muntz doesn’t expect Carl to know what they are.

They range from giant turtles and other aquatic life to hybrid mammal/dinosaurs that are reminiscent of Forrest from The Good Dinosaur. And we can now deduce that in the Pixar Universe, many of these creatures existed closer together in time, explaining why they’re displayed as a group.

Side note: One of the reasons I’ve waited to add all of this to the Pixar Theory is because I’m still researching how these creatures connect to other movies, including the angler fish that looks just like the one we see in Finding Nemo.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

So the exotic creatures from The Good Dinosaur apparently exist across multiple Pixar movies, and the absence of an extinction-level event seemingly provides an explanation for why animals have become so intelligent by the time we get to movies like Ratatouille.  And the movie even provides some hints as to why magic exists in the Pixar Universe, and we now know why said universe is alternate to our own.

Is that it?

Ha, no.

FOSSILS AND FUELS.

Oil. It’s something that Axelrod from Cars 2 addresses as the very thing we get from fossils, which he specifically defines as “dead dinosaurs.” But for whatever reason, the world runs out of oil in the Pixar Universe much sooner than we would by today’s standards.

Drilling the way we are today, there’s probably 50-100 years of oil left, which obviously excludes methods that dig much deeper. So really, we’re just running low on cheap oil.

In Cars 2, the sentient cars are running out of oil, entirely. And this makes sense for two major reasons:

  1. Mankind has a 200 billion population by 2105 (according to WALL-E)
  2. There’s less oil on Earth because (whoops!) dinosaurs died out more gradually.

Fossil fuels bring life to us from dead organisms, and we get a lot of it from extinction-events that compact them for easier extraction through drilling (for the record, my knowledge on this topic goes about as far as Armageddon).

Without the asteroid, fossil fuels are a bust.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

In The Incredibles, technology has progressed more rapidly by the 1950s, likely because scientists are seeking solutions to this energy crisis. Syndrome finds a way to harness zero-point energy, and “human” energy will be extracted by toys and eventually monsters indefinitely. The absence of other energy options like fossil fuels might provide an explanation for why human energy is so important in the Pixar Universe.

Yet in WALL-E, mankind lives in a loop for hundreds of years aboard starliners like the Axiom. They harness solar energy with advanced technology that allows them to avoid the laws of entropy (and you can argue that the machines are also kept alive by the humans themselves).

All this points to a world that figured out (much faster) that it needs an alternative to fossil fuels, which is why humanity is still around hundreds of years after the cars die out.

THE LEGACY OF DINOCO.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

So in the Pixar Universe, dinosaurs eventually die out because the world changes without them. But they’re remembered, nonetheless, mostly because humans have passed down their memories of the once predominant species.

By the time we get to “modern Pixar,” there are companies like Dinoco that use these forerunners as their logo. Toys like Rex and Trixie get played with, just as they would in our world. There are even statues in Inside Out that look like dinosaurs we see in the movie.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

The major difference is that in The Good Dinosaur, there’s a specific “passing of the torch” moment between Arlo and Spot. The symbolism is actually tragic in a way, as we see Arlo giving Spot over to a human family willing to adopt him. Unlike Spot, these humans wear furs instead of leaves and alternate between walking on all fours and standing upright, even teaching Spot how to do it by guiding him. This moment crystalizes the rise of mankind in contrast to the dinosaurs, who are quite literally on their last legs.

After all, Arlo will return to his farm and eke out a pretty humble existence as a herbivore. His family will barely survive, as his mother tells him bluntly early in the movie. Meanwhile, humans are already hunting and living off of the newer resources tailor-made for mammals. Pixar could have easily left these implications out, but instead they shine a light on the important role mankind will take up as the world continues to change.

That said, I suspect there are more mysteries to solve here. We have millions of years of history between The Good Dinosaur and Brave, so you can expect brand new narratives to rise out of those films as the studio continues to deliver excellent movies more than worthy of our time.

WRAPPING UP.

the good dinosaur pixar theory

That’s the long version of how The Good Dinosaur fits within the narrative of The Pixar TheoryBut I hope you’ve also gotten some insight into why it’s so important to the theory, in a way that not even Inside Out was able to accomplish, though it also was quite enlightening.

With The Good Dinosaur, we have firm answers for some of the biggest questions many have come across when digging into this theory. It gives us a reason why everything in Pixar movies is so different and set apart from reality. It alludes to the mysteries of magic with a little help from Up, further providing connections I didn’t think we’d ever get.

And we even got Dreamcrusher.

I hope you enjoyed the movie itself as much as I did. My full review is also available in case you’re not already tired of reading, which you can check out here. You’ve probably noticed by now that I’m absolutely in love with The Good Dinosaur, and the review expands more on all of that.

As for the easter eggs, this movie has proven to be quite the challenge when it comes to finding the elusive Pizza Planet Truck and A113. Peter Sohn (director of the movie) confirmed they’re in there somewhere, albeit in clever ways similar to how Brave managed it. I haven’t caught them yet, but I’ve heard the truck shows up as either a rock formation or an optical illusion from the positioning of several rocks and debris. Be sure to share your findings.

Let me know your thoughts, ideas, and rebuttals in the comments, and I’ll do my best to clear anything up!

Ready for more?

The conspiring doesn’t end here. Check out my other Pixar Theory posts from infinity to beyond:

  • The Pixar Theory – the full book available on paperback and ebook via Kindle, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, or just a PDF. This will cover the entire theory and every movie in the Pixar universe, updated from what you just read.

Thanks for reading this. To get updates on my theories, books, and giveaways, join my mailing list.

Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

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