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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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Were There Self-Aware Toys in ‘Monsters Inc,’ All Along?

toy story monsters inc theory

Since the release of my new book, The Pixar Theory, I honestly haven’t given much thought to expanding these Pixar-related connections because…vacation.

So, I’m back and here’s something potentially interesting for you to seek your teeth into. A few weeks ago, a regular visitor to the site (cheers, @ThomastheBrainEngine), brought me some interesting evidence of toys being “self-aware” in Monsters Inc, a la Toy Story.

In Toy Story, we learn that toys are sentient. They move around on their own when we’re not watching, and their entire lives revolve around the children who love them.

One of the main tenets of my theory, which tries to unite the Pixar movies, is that toys are alive because in the Pixar universe, human imagination is like a battery, and it gives life to ordinary things (maybe even cars).

toy story monsters inc theory

I argue that this is the same concept as monsters powering their society with the energy of children in Monsters Inc. But despite a few cameos (like Jessie and the Luxo ball), there’s nothing tangible linking Toy Story and Monsters Inc, especially if you consider Jessie’s appearance in Monsters Inc., to only be an easter egg, not a hint to something more.

But ThomastheBrainEngine presented a fascinating thought that I had not yet considered: what if we do see evidence that the world of Monsters Inc. has sentient toys? 

So I looked into this, and the evidence is solid, believe it or not. And it all hinges on the movie’s first scene.

Mr. Bile, can you tell me what you did wrong?

toy story monsters inc theory

This opening sequence introduces us to the basic mechanics of how monsters scare children. The monster, Mr. Bile (Phlegm), sneaks into a child’s room and attempts to scare him, but the kid wakes up and sees him. We see that Mr. Bile is actually more scared of the child than vice versa, and he trips and falls for comedic effect.

This, of course, is a simulation. A demonstration of how not to scare a child, so that the movie can cut to Sulley, our main character, who is the best scarer at Monsters Incorporated. The simulation we just watched was at the factory, and it’s our set up for everything that happens next in the movie (notably, that the worst thing you can do is let in a child by leaving the door open).

toy story monsters inc theory

Something that has bugged a lot of people, including myself, is a major goof (or series of goofs) that transpires during the simulation. When Mr. Bile walks in, we get a clear shot of the room’s layout and where everything is located. The soccer ball is under the bed, the toy train and its tracks are at the foot of the bed, and one of the books near the window hangs over the edge.

But as the scene changes, everything moves around. The soccer ball inexplicably moves to the side of the bed. It’s in a totally different location, and it eventually shows up again at the foot of the bed, where the train tracks have disappeared. Instead, there’s a bunch of jax in its place. Mr. Bile steps back on the soccer ball and falls on the jax (see above) like we’re watching a better version of Home Alone 3. We even see that the books on the toy box have moved a little bit, but they return to their original spot toward the end of the scene.

toy story monsters inc theory
The soccer ball is now under the bed again.

It’s nitpicking, but I’ve always been annoyed by how overtly obvious these goofs are. I’ve sat through a dailies session at Pixar, where the director and a group of animators will scrutinize every single aspect of what’s on the screen. Even for a movie that was made in Pixar’s early days, it’s strange to think that they could make so many continuity errors in just a couple of minutes, and the movie’s first few minutes at that.

Granted, these goofs happen all the time, and some are caught too late in the game to be considered worth the effort of fixing them. But they’re usually separated and scarce, not gathered in a cluster.

So, what if this entire scene wasn’t a goof at all? What if we were meant to see them? They’re certainly hard to miss, after all.

monsters inc toy story theory

The idea is that the toys moved on their own because the rules of Toy Story bleed into Monsters Inc. Part of any good simulation would be to make sure monsters are prepared for anything that could happen. If toys are able to come alive and possibly protect their sleeping owner from an invader, then it makes perfect sense for these simulations to include these variables.

Without those toys interfering, Mr. Bile probably would have been able to successfully leave the room and escape before the child could get up and go through that door. So part of the simulation could be to move the toys around, like they would in a real situation, in a way that conspires against the monster pulling off a scare. In this case, that meant moving the ball to where he would fall on a bunch of conveniently placed jacks that weren’t there in the first place.

It’s definitely possible, at least. The monsters controlling the simulation are creating atmospheric effects (the curtain moving like wind is blowing it, the child moving around in reaction to realtime events). If toys could move, too, then the monsters could simulate that experience.

monsters inc toy story theory

Would toys really do this, though?

I don’t think it’s a stretch based on what we’ve seen in Toy Story. Woody breaks the rules and unites Sid’s toys against him just to get back to Andy. He goes to incredible lengths to make Andy happy, so I’m pretty sure he’d also go pretty far to protect Andy from a terrifying monster.

It might not happen every time with every kid who has toys, but it could happen enough to warrant a response from Monsters Inc. When you watch Monsters University, you see that the higher ups are teaching the monsters tons of useful tips and facts about this profession, ranging from how the doors work to how monsters can adapt to any given situation.

monsters inc toy story theory

They have to prepare the monsters to be so stealthy, not even the toys know they’re there (which is possible, since we see that the toys do sleep when Woody has that nightmare in the first movie).

This also solves another major inconsistency that was brought on by Monsters University. If monsters have to go to college to get jobs as professional scarers, then why is Mr. Bile having such a hard time? And why is he doing this, anyway, if he has experience and a college education?

Well, if you watch Monsters University again, you probably won’t notice any of these instances of toys getting in the way. And that’s probably because introducing them as a variable is when you get into the expert mode of scaring. This would make scaring so hard for monsters that it wouldn’t be a critical point of the simulator until you actually got the job, explaining why Mr. Bile is sort of talented, but he ends up falling on his face, despite the rigorous standards of professional scaring established by Dean Hardscrabble in MU.

monsters inc toy story theory
Weirdly, Phlegm was good enough to hide this with a sweater.

To sum up, I think this evidence is pretty strong, mostly because those goofs I pointed out just seem overwhelmingly obvious. It is possible that the monsters controlling the simulation could be moving the toys around from the control room just to make things harder for Mr. Bile, not because toys are expected to come alive. But that just seems sort of harsh.

Mr. Bile walked into that room and surveyed everything as he was trained. Mixing things up for no good reason in a scenario that wouldn’t possible happen just to make things harder undermines how the monsters are trained in Monsters University. It’s like testing high school students on a different subject with information you never taught them—OK, wait, that happens all the time.

Let me know if you’re convinced or unconvinced and we can hash it out in the comments. If you’re interested in the Pixar Theory (that is, how all the movies may be connected and why) enough to read an entire book about it with all of the clues and arguments I’ve collected over the past few years, don’t forget to check out my book, which is available now in print and as an e-book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

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 Detective: Chapter 29

chapter 29 pixar

(Not caught up yet to this chapter? Check out our Table of Contents to get up to speed!)

We’re almost there, awesome readers! With Chapter 29 landing today, The Pixar Detective is just one more chapter away from wrapping up. Can you believe it?

Apologies for the unexpected hiatus last week. Without going too much into detail, the issue was simply that we were too busy to wrap up the artwork, and I had a few creative changes to make as we move toward Chapter 10. Looking back, this is the first time we’ve ever missed a week, so I’d call that a success.

Go on…The Pixar Detective: Chapter 29

The Pixar Theory: How ‘Inside Out’ Fits In The Pixar Universe

inside out disappointing

Take her to the moon for me. Okay? 

The Pixar Theory, or “Grand Unifying Theory of Pixar movies” if you want to be more intense, is a fan theory I wrote in 2013 about how every single feature film made by Pixar Animation Studios is intentionally set in the same universe. Or unintentionally, if you believe in miracles.

pixar theory inside out
Dan O’Brien

I was inspired by an episode of the Web Series, “After Hours,” on Cracked.com. In the episode written by Dan O’Brien, the After Hours crew discusses, at length, how a few of the Pixar movies may secretly be about the apocalypse. They address Toy StoryWALL-E, and Cars before giving up because they can’t find a way to connect the films any further.

So I took that as a challenge.

Over the following year, I developed my own theory on how all the movies connect, and the results have been surprisingly epic. People from all over the world have read the theory, and many of you have been having ongoing discussions in the comments that go way beyond anything I first imagined (trust me, I read all of them).

Now, two years later, it’s time to see where we’re at as we welcome a new Pixar movie to the world: Inside Out.

pixar theory part 2

First, it’s important to point out that the theory itself has changed dramatically over the years. A lot of people have called out flaws and underdeveloped points of the theory that make it fall apart for them. I’ve read the feedback and spent the last two years writing a book that fully fleshes out my original theory. It addresses pretty much every major complaint and issue that “debunkers” have thrown at it. And it does this in about ten chapters.

Every chapter follows a specific movie (some are lumped in together, like the Cars franchise). I talk about the context of the movie as it relates to this theory, where it fits in the grand timeline, and how each movie contributes to the idea that these movies exist in the same narrative. And yes, I go way beyond the easter eggs.

My book is available now on paperback and all e-book stores. Hope you guys like it!

pixar theory book

But let’s get back to the main task at hand. Let’s talk about how Inside Out masterfully fits within the idea that all of these Pixar films are connected. What you’re about to read is set up like how I wrote the chapters for my book, so if you like what you read, then that may be a sign that the book is for you. Consider this your sample chapter, if you will.

Obviously, many spoilers are ahead, so read at your own risk. I highly recommend that you watch the movie at least once before reading this, especially since it’s pretty fantastic. You’ve been warned.

THE SET UP.

pixar theory part 2

Inside Out is the story of a young girl struggling to grow up, seen through the eyes of her emotions as literal beings. Yes, Pixar made a movie where feelings have feelings.

The movie opens with the birth of Riley Andersen. The first thing you may notice is that she shares the same last name as Bonnie Anderson from Toy Story 3 and the subsequent shorts based on that movie. That may tempt you into believing that Riley and Bonnie are connected somehow, but that’s definitely not the case since their names aren’t spelled the same way.

For context, Pixar named Bonnie after two people: Bonnie Hunt (a frequent voice actor for the Pixar films) and Darla K. Anderson, the producer of Toy Story 3. Darla actually has easter eggs for her name dating all the way back to A Bug’s Life, where you can catch her first name on a box in “Bug City.”

Anyway, we learn early on that Riley grew up in Minnesota, but her family moves to San Francisco when she’s 11 years old. Now it’s true that Bonnie lives in Tri County, around the corner from Andy, and Tri-County does take place in the Bay Area of California. But that’s really just a coincidence. Riley’s family never mentions that they have relatives around, and they only moved to San Francisco for her dad’s job. For that reason, all signs point to this being a coincidence.

WHEN DOES THE MOVIE TAKE PLACE?

pixar theory part 2

Moving on, we get to know Riley through a montage of her early life. When we get to the point where she’s 11, it appears to be modern day. Much of the technology we see throughout the movie — like a Skype surrogate that closely resembles the one used by Trixie in Toy Story 3 and the presence of smartphones — point to this being a film set in 2015.

That means Riley was born in either 2003 or 2004, depending on her exact birthday. Interestingly, that would mean the movie opens during the same year as Finding Nemo. 

We also know that this has to be some time after 2007, which is when Ratatouille takes place. In fact, Inside Out actually confirms that Ratatouille takes place in 2007 instead of 2004, which is a conundrum I ran into while writing the book. It’s all based on the blurry date seen on Gusteau’s will and…eh, don’t worry, it’s not important.

pixar theory part 2

Anyway, the reason we know that this is some time after Ratatouille is because you can see Colette Tatou on the cover of a magazine in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it easter egg. Judging by the prestige of this magazine, Colette has done well for herself during her years learning from Remy and working at La Ratatouille, the bistro she started with him and Linguini.

After all, why would she be on the cover a magazine before her adventures in Ratatouille? Before she met Linguini, she was just a hardworking chef trying to build a career at a failing restaurant. I find it much more plausible that she’s created a name for herself under the tutelage of the best chef in France.

(DONALD GLOVER VOICE) MY EMOTIONS!

pixar theory part 2

So as we get to know Riley in the film’s early montage, we meet her emotions. The film immediately takes us inside her head, where we watch Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger team up to influence Riley’s actions. They work in “Headquarters” (get it?) and use a mysterious console to control Riley’s decisions.

When an emotion manages to elicit a meaningful experience in real life, a memory is generated and sent to Riley’s long term memory. If it’s a specifically powerful experience, then it will create a core memory that will stay in Headquarters.

It’s somewhat confusing, but Pixar does a great job of explaining this better than I can. They use subtle techniques and cleverness to make the inside of Riley’s head immediately unique, while also incredibly believable.

pixar theory part 2

For example, the memories are shaped like “marbles” because without them, Riley would lose her marbles.

This is a fun movie.

The plot of Inside Out focuses on Riley being uprooted to a new home in San Fransisco and how this negatively affects her emotions. She misses her friends, never sees her dad anymore because of his new job, and feels pressured to just “be happy” all the time. This causes her to repress her sadness, which eventually causes even more problems.

CONNECTIONS AND MISFIRES…

pixar theory part 2

There’s another fun cameo during this part of the movie. We see a rat that looks a lot like Remy, which is just a fun reminder that Pixar animation transcends the multiple stories they tell. And we also see memories that feature other Pixar characters. You can see Carl and Ellie’s wedding from Up for example.

A good reason for that could be that Riley saw a tape of this wedding at some point, though that would have to be a very old home movie. It could be a picture, since we see a camera in the first frame of that scene in Up. In that case, Riley could have seen that picture and imagined the wedding herself. This has led a lot of people to think that Riley could somehow be related to Carl and Ellie, which would be quite a stretch.

That’s because Carl and Ellie sadly never had kids, so Riley would have to be a distant relative. If she knows about the wedding, then she’s probably met some of this family, but we know in those early scenes of Inside Out that Riley is visiting California for the first time. She thought the Golden Gate bridge was actually golden, after all.

pixar theory part 2

You could argue that people from this family went to Minnesota to visit her, but I’m not really convinced. Personally, I don’t think we’re able to know just yet, though one theory I have is that she had a teacher or friend’s parent who is somehow connected to Carl and Ellie. A future Pixar movie may shed light on this.

Some people even want to believe that Riley is Boo from Monsters Inc.,or Andy’s mom. Seriously. Look, Riley is Riley. She’s not anyone else, and trying to force these connections is missing the point. For example, the primary reason people think Riley is Boo is because when she’s shown as a toddler, she’s wearing the same hair tie/scrunchy thing that Boo wears in Monsters Inc. 

riley boo

They both even have pig tails. If you’re fixated on them being one in the same, then you miss the cooler reveal, which is that Riley was growing up around the same time as Boo (Monsters Inc., takes place in the early 2000s), so of course that style and those hair ties were popular.

As for Riley being Andy’s mom…I mean that’s way too much of a stretch, even for a limo.

riley andy's mom
Besides the eyes, nose, time period, and basic facial structure, they’re exactly alike! Sigh.

HUMANS ARE BATTERIES…

A main theme of the Pixar Theory is the idea that humans emit this strange energy that we see all throughout the films. In Monsters Inc., we learn that the laughter of a child can be harvested as energy for a society of creatures that mysteriously know how to use it. In The Incredibles, this energy is seen tangibly through the exploits of super-powered humans who can do amazing things.

Part of my Pixar Theory (the updated version) is that humans power the toys in Toy Story because they’re built to collect energy by the machines from The Incredibles. The book goes more into detail, but the basic idea is that the machines know how to use human energy as a battery, which carries on as a strategy all the way to the future, when monsters have to go back in time through doors to access this energy because no humans are left thanks to WALL-E. 

But all this time, I’ve wondered why Pixar seems so infatuated with this idea of imagination being a raw power. And Inside Out addresses this pretty head on. The whole premise of the movie is that our emotions (as seen in Monsters Inc.,) are what truly power our actions. And the most powerful emotion for a child is Joy, as seen by Joy being the de facto leader of Riley’s emotions. Most of Riley’s memories are positive, and this is because Joy is inherently a strong emotion for many children.

pixar theory part 2

The monsters of Monsters Inc, use fear, which can be another strong emotion for some kids, to power their society, but they eventually learn that laughter from joy is far more effective. And why is that? Well, Inside Out explains that joy is one of the first emotions we experience. Joy, the character, is a literal light source. She’s fast, tough, and clever. And she’ll do anything to make Riley happy. The other emotions in comparison are much more passive.

A lingering question in Monsters Inc., is why adults are so difficult to scare. Inside Out sort of answers that by showing how the inside of adults’ minds work. They’re more emotionally balanced, for example, so you don’t see one emotion overpowering the others. When we see inside the heads of Riley’s parents, the emotions don’t bicker like they do in Riley’s head. Instead, they all work together to accomplish the same goal.

But that’s not all. No, no, no. There’s something even better hiding in the dark of this movie that serves as the biggest “Aha!” moment I’ve had since I carefully re-watched Brave and Monsters Inc., back to back.

And it has to do with this guy, Bing Bong.

BING BONG! BING BONG!

pixar theory part 2

Bing Bong is Riley’s imaginary friend. Joy and Sadness meet him halfway through the movie, and he helps them navigate Riley’s mind as they try to return to Headquarters. When Riley was three, Bing Bong was her best friend. He’s part cat, part elephant, and part dolphin. He’s made of cotton candy and, naturally, cries candy. He even has a wagon that can fly when powered by songs…

(humans=batteries).

So what’s the big deal? Why is he important?

Simple. Bing Bong is an imaginary friend, yes. But he’s based on a monster. Riley’s monster from when she was three.

At the end of Monsters Inc., Sulley and Mike decide to make kids laugh instead of scream because it generates more energy and is less messed up. We even see Mike go through a door and perform standup comedy for a child.

pixar theory part 2

But wouldn’t this leave a kid feeling traumatized? Imagine a monster coming through your door, making you laugh, and then disappearing forever. This would make no sense unless…children perceive these new monsters as their imaginary friends.

Bing Bong was a monster who went through Riley’s door and made her laugh when she was three. We know that monsters have animal characteristics, explaining his part-cat/part-elephant appearance. And of course Riley thinks he’s made of cotton candy. Why else would he be pink? I’d even argue that he makes dolphin noises to make Riley laugh, causing her to think he’s part dolphin, too.

pixar theory part 2

This all makes perfect sense if we’re to believe that well-adjusted kids in Pixar movies grew up meeting monsters in their rooms late at night. And it’s further helped by the fact that in Riley’s subconscious, she’s afraid of clowns, not monsters.

And think of it this way. Isn’t it pretty easy to picture Bing Bong living in Monstropolis?

I have plenty more to say about all of this, but those are the major points. If you want to keep digging, you can read another exploration I did of this movie that goes somewhat more into detail. The gist of it is that Bing Bong is life.

There are more easter eggs for the movie listed at the bottom, but that’s the basic rundown of how Inside Out fits into the Pixar Theory. If you think of something interesting to add or have a compelling question to ask, fire away! Just please…don’t ask if Big Hero 6, a Disney movie, should be in the Pixar Theory…

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.

EASTER EGG ISLAND!

  • There’s a globe in Riley’s classroom that has been shown in every single Toy Story film.
  • Some of the cars in San Francisco have bumper stickers from the Pixar movie, Cars.
  • Bing Bong disturbs a cloud person in Imaginationland, and he looks a lot like the cloud from the Pixar short, “Partly Cloudy.”

  • Also in Imaginationland, you can see a board game with a picture of Nemo that says “Find Me.”
  • One of Riley’s classmates wears a camo shirt with Toy Story characters on it. Well, their silhouettes, at least. It even looks like Arlo from The Good Dinosaur is on there as well. There’s even a popular girl at the school with a skull t-shirt in the same fashion as Sid’s from Toy Story, just in a different color. The 90s are making a comeback!

  • A banner in Riley’s hockey rink showcases a team from Tri-County, which is the setting for Toy Story. I explain this easter egg further in a different article.
  • Blink and you’ll miss a “For the Birds” cameo during Riley’s road trip to San Francisco in the beginning of the movie. It’s just like their appearance in Cars.
  • As always, the animators included ample A113 references. I’ve heard there’s more than one, but the only one I saw personally was A113 as the number of Riley’s classroom.
  • If you look closely at Riley’s Chinese takeout box, you’ll notice it has the same design as the one from A Bug’s Life (pictured below). Those familiar with the theory know that this could be because the same restaurant exists in both movies, so naturally there’d still be remnants of these takeout boxes hundreds of years later during Flik and the gang’s adventures.

inside out pixar theory


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The Pixar Detective: Chapter 26

pixar detective chapter 26

Hey faithful readers! We are seriously winding down on this series, aren’t we? We’re already four chapters away from the epic conclusion of The Pixar Detective, but for some reason, I still feel like we just started this thing.

At any rate, we have an awesome chapter to show you guys this week! It’s loaded with a lot of heavy surprises, which I know has sort of been the theme for the last few chapters. I hope it lives up to your expectations (but hey, at least the artwork is awesome).

So let’s get this going!

Go on…The Pixar Detective: Chapter 26

Did Andy From ‘Toy Story’ Have His Own Monster?

Every once in a while, someone manages to create a pretty convincing fan theory about the Pixar movies. Most of the time, these theories are pretty lackluster, but Jonathan Carlin of “SuperCarlinBrothers” has recently come up with a great theory you might believe in.

Now, if you enjoy my theories and speculations on this site, then I have little doubt you’ll enjoy Carlin’s work on YouTube. We’ve shared multiple theories from each other on our own platforms over the years, and he’s certainly one of the most entertaining vloggers out there when it comes to fan theories.

And so is the case with his latest argument for why Andy from Toy Story has a monster we know from Monsters Inc. I’ll outline and evaluate his theory below, but you can also watch his video on the subject if you prefer (it’s only about 6 minutes long).

 

OK, so let’s go over SCB’s theory in detail, starting with the overall premise that Toy Story and Monsters Inc. share the same universe.

Of course, longtime readers already know I’m sold on this. The litany of easter eggs shared between the movies (from Jessie’s appearance in Boo’s room to Randall’s imitation of Andy’s wallpaper) share a lot of credence to the idea that these films are connected. And if you believe in my unifying Pixar Theory, then that’s that.

SCB himself points out that in Toy Story 3, we see a young girl who looks like she could be “Boo” (real name is Mary) because they look alike, though it’s not 100% certain. He also makes a connection between a poster we see in Monsters Inc. inside a child’s room and the same poster being on Sid’s wall in Toy Story.

toy-story-pixar-theory-who-is-andy-s-monster-404836

As you can see, though, the posters aren’t situated the same way, and the monster we’re seeing has just been scared by a young girl, not a sadistic kid like Sid. For that reason, I think this is just an easter egg and NOT an indication that this was Sid’s monster.

Next, SCB points out that the movies sort of collide in a comic book series called Monsters Inc: Laugh Factory. Published in 2009, this 4-part series is about what happened after the events of Monsters Inc. Interestingly, a kid who looks like Sid Phillips (minus the skull t-shirt) shows up.

andy monster toy story

You can actually see several easter eggs in Boo’s room, here. And that’s kind of the point. Laugh Factory is filled with tons of references to other Pixar movies, as this was written by Paul Benjamin, a comic book writer for Marvel (not Pixar).

Keep in mind that Disney bought Marvel in 2009, likely explaining why this comic book series came about. For that reason and several others (including blatant continuity errors), I don’t actually consider these stories canon. They’re very over-the-top and portray situations and overt nods to other Pixar movies that don’t fit the framework of what Pixar has made themselves. Still, it’s a very interesting comic book series you can check out here.

Now on to the crux of SCB’s proposed theory. Could Andy have a monster of his own? Monsters Inc. takes place in 2001, which is 6 years after the events of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 (which takes place the summer following the first movie’s ending Christmas scene).

toy story andy monsters

Monsters have been scaring kids for centuries, as we know from Monsters University revealing that the school was founded in 1313. So if the movies are connected, then it’s reasonable to assume that Andy could be one of the children assigned a monster.

In Monsters Inc., I always found it weird that there are commercials and advertisements for what is essentially a power plant. Why would Waternoose be so concerned about awareness?

Monsters Inc. doesn’t sell anything. 

Well, it would seem that Waternoose is concerned with recruiting new scarers. The university trains these monsters to make them the best, but as we saw in Monsters University, Sulley was able to climb the ranks without an education, possibly explaining why Waternoose is interested in hiring recruits anywhere he can find them.

toy story andy monsters

This all leads me to believe that there are lots of children, but not enough scarers. The problem they have is getting enough energy from the kids they scare (because kids are harder to scare these days), but another solution is to hire more scarers to scare even more kids. Scary.

That also explains why kidnapping children was such an appealing solution to Waternoose. If he can’t keep up with demand, then stealing the kids outright can give him enough energy to last years.

Though Roz tells Mike and Sulley that they’ve been onto the kidnappings for quite some time, it’s doubtful that Andy as a kid in 1996 was ever stolen. There’s just no evidence or reason to believe that.

Back to SCB’s theory. He argues that Andy’s closet door looks remarkably similar to a door seen in Monsters University (though he couldn’t find the same door in Monsters Inc.) Specifically, this door from a promo reel on the Monsters University website matches Andy’s door.

andy toy story monsters andy toy story monsters

The doorknobs even match up because on this side of the closet, the doorknob should be on the right because the one on Andy’s closet door is on the left.

SCB argues that this evidence — in tandem with Randall practicing his camouflage with wallpaper from Andy’s room — proves that Randall is Andy’s monster.

Unfortunately, I don’t agree.

The issue is that Monsters University takes place years before Randall becomes a full-time scarer (he’s just a freshman at the start of the movie). If this is Andy’s door, then that just means Andy had some other monster while Randall was still in school.

toy story andy monsters

That also gives a more logical explanation for the wallpaper thing. Sure, Randall has it as practice, but that doesn’t mean he’s scared a kid with that same wallpaper. It probably just belongs to Monsters Inc. in the same way they have the practice rooms for scaring. Why and how would Randall have this for his own personal use unless he got it from the company?

I think it makes way more sense for the wallpaper to be passed down because it belonged to a kid who moved, giving them an opportunity to collect it and use it for practice. That may even be why the university has this door in the first place. It’s not being used anymore.

Of course, who else would need wallpaper to camouflage themselves against? It’s not like everyone can be stealthy like Randall. Well, I’d say the simple explanation is that Monsters Inc. builds its practice rooms from real rooms, and Randall and his assistant are using wallpaper from these rooms for their specialized training.

Here’s a question that’s bothered me for a while: How much time passes between Monsters University and Monsters Inc.?

This is a question of age, to be sure. In the original movie, Mike and Sulley appear to be grown, well-established adults. From their voice actors, you’d assume they’re in their late 30s or early 40s.

toy story andy monsters

After watching Monsters University, however, you can tell that their voices are basically the same. Mike is in a relationship with Celia not long after he and Sulley get their dream jobs, and neither of them seem settled down romantically. I’d honestly argue they’re really in their mid-20s, which supports the idea that Monsters University occurs during or after Andy’s move in 1995.

SCB also brings up the “Newt Crossing” sticker on Andy’s door in Toy Story 3 as evidence that Andy remembers Randall coming through his closet. But I don’t find that very convincing because why would Andy plaster something that scared him on his closet? I’m more inclined to believe that it really is just a reference to the Newt movie that never came about.

I really enjoy this theory, but I don’t think it’s complete. SCB is certainly on to something, and I definitely want to believe a monster we’ve seen has an old scare card for Andy somewhere. But for now, we can only guess.

toy story andy monsters

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The Pixar Detective, Chapter 10: The Peculiar Professor

Hey everyone! Welcome to The Pixar Detective, a serial novel I put together based on the Pixar Theory. The following is a fictional story that explains the theory that all of the Pixar movies are connected and exist within the same universe, using original characters and artwork. The story answers a lot of questions you may have about this theory, but through its own ongoing narrative.

The story originally launched in April, and we’ve recently completed Part 1!

It is available as an iBook on iTunes, which you can check out here. If you can’t use iBooks, you can also download the PDF version. 

Once you’re finished, check back to our Table of Contents, where we’ll be continuing the story through Part 2. A new chapter is released every two weeks on Tuesdays. And please be sure to leave your feedback in the comments for us to read through. Enjoy!

chapter 10 pixar detective

 

PREVIOUSLY, ON ‘THE PIXAR DETECTIVE.’

pixar detective chapter 4

Stevin Parker, Wallaby Jones, and Alec Azam (the Peculiar Professor) have teamed up with a small, purple monster named Mr. Sumner in their pursuit of their missing friend, Mary. They’ve traveled in time to 1935 and have found themselves inside a government facility called “the Hexagon,” which is run by a maniac named “the Maestro.”

pixar detective chapter 8

After splitting up, Stevin and Mr. Sumner were captured by the Maestro, who revealed his pet project to them: a girl named Sadie who has incredible powers and is known as the first “super.” Her power, which the Maestro calls “Dominion,” allows her to transform parts of her body and senses into animals, giving her incredible strength and speed.

sadiebird

Meanwhile, Wallaby made his way to Level 9, a research lab filled with strange cages and experiments. He was discovered by Willem and Flo, two of the Hexagon’s deadliest agents who are also a part of “Project Superlative,” which involves Sadie. Though they captured him, Alec showed up just in time to distract the agents and give Wallaby time to flee through a metal door that may contain more answers than even Wallaby realizes.

Use the prompt on the sidebar to subscribe for updates, or you can just follow me and Kayla on Twitter to stay connected – @JonNegroni – @KaylaTheSavage

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