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Which Pixar Plot Twist is the Best? (And Worst)

pixar plot twist

Pixar movies aren’t really known for having great plot twists. But there are still a few good ones here and there that we can appreciate.

So which Pixar “plot twist” is the best? This isn’t an easy question to answer, and obviously Pixar fans will spar and disagree over the top 5, let alone the very best. That said, I’ve devised my own rating system for each of Pixar’s most relevant plot twists, and to answer this question for myself, I’m breaking down the Pixar filmography movie by movie to assign these ratings and form my own conclusion accordingly.

But first, let’s define what a plot twist really is as best we can. To keep things simple, I consider a plot twist to be a radical shift in the expected outcome of the plot. Normally, we would only consider these to be plot twists if they happen closer to the end of the story, but I think a great plot twist can be revealed as early as the second act.

(Warning, this post contains spoilers for every single Pixar movie!)

Let’s begin with Pixar’s first feature-length film: Toy Story.

Go on…Which Pixar Plot Twist is the Best? (And Worst)

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Snarcasm: Disney Ruined Pixar Because Why Not?

disney pixar

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read

Did Pixar lose its way, or did we lose our way with Pixar? There’s no real answer to the latter part of that question because it makes no sense. But the article we’re snarcasming this week actually does make a lot of sense and deserves to be approached thoughtfully. Even though it’s basically wrong for the most part.

Writing for The Atlantic, Christopher Orr titles his piece “How Pixar Lost Its Way,” because at this point, Orr is confident there’s no other conclusion to reach.

For 15 years, the animation studio was the best on the planet.

Studio Ghibli would like a word.

Then Disney bought it. 

And the Fire Nation attacked.

Orr begins his piece with a line from Ed Catmull, Pixar’s own president who at one point claimed that sequels can represent “creative bankruptcy.”

He was discussing Pixar, the legendary animation studio, and its avowed distaste for cheap spin-offs.

Good thing Pixar doesn’t make cheap spin-offs!

Hold on, we’ll get to Cars 2.

More pointedly, he argued that if Pixar were only to make sequels, it would “wither and die.”

Good thing Pixar doesn’t only make sequels!

Yet here comes Cars 3, rolling into a theater near you this month.

Ah yes, it wouldn’t be a hot take on Pixar without car-related puns.

You may recall that the original Cars, released back in 2006, was widely judged to be the studio’s worst film to date.

“Worst,” however, is a misleading phrase. It wasn’t the strongest of the Pixar films, but most critics believed the film was good mainly on the strengths of its production value and a decent story. The problem was that Cars was the first Pixar movie made mostly for children. Cars 2 was made for merchandising to said children and was the studio’s first flop, coincidentally.

if Cars 3 isn’t disheartening enough, two of the three Pixar films in line after it are also sequels: The Incredibles 2 and (say it isn’t so!) Toy Story 4.

Of course, Pixar has made great sequels as well, including two for that last movie you mention. And they just made Finding Dory, which audiences loved—

The golden era of Pixar is over.

Yeah, ok, here we go.

It was a 15-year run of unmatched commercial and creative excellence,

Filled with sequels and large gaps in between movies.

Since then, other animation studios have made consistently better films.

This is somewhat true, but not necessarily fair. The only studio that’s been making those better films is Disney, which has been creatively led by Pixar’s John Lasseter since the studio’s purchase. Orr also mentions two Laika films, but one came out the same year as Up and the other came out the same year as Finding Dory.

To Orr’s point, Disney has made Wreck-It RalphFrozenBig Hero 6Moana, and Zootopia, all of which are widely regarded as better than BraveCars 2Monsters University (arguably), The Good Dinosaur (arguably), and Finding Dory. But Pixar has also made Inside Out, which most critics consider the superior film out of every single one of those Disney and Laika films.

Now, I get Orr’s point. That’s just one Pixar movie while Disney has had an aggressive output of great films that have managed to catch up to Pixar’s level of quality. If that were Orr’s only argument here, it would be a noteworthy one, but the jump to concluding that this means Pixar has lost its way ignores plenty of other important information, including Pixar’s excellent short animated films, which are consistently better than Disney’s, and the fact that they’ve still made good movies in the last seven years.

One need only look at this year’s Oscars: Two Disney movies, Zootopia and Moana, were nominated for Best Animated Feature, and Zootopia won. Pixar’s Finding Dory was shut out altogether.

First of all, Pixar won an Oscar just a year ago. Second, Finding Dory isn’t any less of a good film simply because it didn’t win a certain award. It just wasn’t as original and compelling as Zootopia and Moana, which is fine, and the Academy has a persistent stigma against sequels, anyway. Orr’s standard of Pixar being on the right path is too restricting, apparently arguing that movies are best when they manage to best other movies, ignoring, for example, Kubo and the Two Strings, which numerous critics argue was better than both Zootopia and Moana. Even if they’re right, all three movies are pretty good.

Simply put, a film being great doesn’t make another film any less great. This is only relevant if the value you hold in a movie is tied into how it compares with the reception of its competition.

Orr goes on, however, to expand on his own standard for what makes Pixar great, citing its technical achievements (which none of the sequels have erred on) and how it has provided great cinema for kids and adults (which hasn’t changed at all since Toy Story 3).

Even as others gradually caught up with Pixar’s visual artistry, the studio continued to tell stories of unparalleled depth and sophistication.

Some Pixar movies, however, weren’t so brilliantly received by critics at the time they came out. Films like Ratatouille and Wall-E, for example, were criticized plenty for trifles that no one even considers now. Monsters Inc. wasn’t exactly critic-proof either (it didn’t even win an Oscar?!), and that goes even more for A Bug’s Life.

Two films that unquestionably cemented Pixar’s eventual reputation beyond Toy Story were The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. Several other Pixar movies have managed to match them, in my opinion, but only Inside Out has truly reached the standard Orr sets here, which isn’t one that has been consistently met by Pixar with every film they’ve put out. Good Dinosaur is a good example, in that it’s a film directly trying to be far more bizarre and experimental than what’s worked for Pixar in the past.

Orr goes on to talk about Pixar’s achievement with crossover storytelling, raising some great points about how and why their movies are so consistently well-received.

And then, after Toy Story 3, the Pixar magic began to fade.

Here we go.

The sequels that followed—Cars 2 (a spy spoof) in 2011 and Monsters University (a college farce) in 2013—lacked any thematic or emotional connection to the movies that spawned them.

I truly take issue with Orr essentially lumping these two movies together, because Monsters University in no way lacks thematic connection to Monsters Inc. If anything, it adds flourish to the Mike Wazowski character and tells a poignant story about how we deal with our limitations. It’s far from merely being a “college farce.”

Though better than either of those two, Brave, Pixar’s 2012 foray into princessdom, was a disappointment as well.

I’m not sure which movie is better—Monsters University or Brave. Orr isn’t wrong in saying that Brave was a bit of a disappointment, but it’s about as serviceable as Cars and hey! It won an Oscar.

The studio rallied with Inside Out in 2015.

If by rallied, you mean they put out one of their best films in 20 years, sure. They “rallied.”

But the inferior The Good Dinosaur (also in 2015) and last year’s mediocre Finding Dory only confirmed the overall decline,

Here’s where Orr and I differ the most. To him, Pixar has lost its way because it’s made a few movies that aren’t as good as its very best ones. For me, Pixar has been unable to top themselves year after year, same as Disney wasn’t able to do in the 90s, well before that, and in the near future. But in reality, they never really did that in the first place.

Is Pixar experiencing an overall decline? Sure, no one really disputes that. But does an overall decline mean that the studio has lost its way? Not necessarily. It might just mean we’re witnessing a studio in transition, swinging for the fences with some movies and biding time with sequels as they prepare for a new era that may be entirely different.

Even Orr points out that at the time of the merger, Pixar was already facing huge problems as a studio. And these are the shifts that have led to the Pixar we know today, which has produced occasional masterpieces like Inside Out and artful experiments like The Good Dinosaur. Orr doesn’t even mention Coco, which comes out later this year, but laments Toy Story 4 and Incredibles 2, the latter of which is a sequel to one of Pixar’s best films ever and could very well be the first Pixar sequel since Toy Story 3 to actually be better than the original.

The Disney merger seems to have brought with it new imperatives. Pixar has always been very good at making money, but historically it did so largely on its own terms.

I agree. Merging with Disney is a big reason for the sequels, but that’s likely because Pixar knew they couldn’t survive much longer without them. Pixar movies take years to make, and their standards are too high to make new worlds from scratch at a quick enough speed to pay the bills. Sequels take much less time and can make even more money when done correctly. That’s not an excuse, of course, but it is indicative of what could happen next.

Merger or no, there’s plenty reason to believe Pixar would have kept making sequels anyway in order to support their simultaneous need for great original films to also fill the pipeline. That’s not Pixar losing its way. It’s Pixar changing course in a more sustainable direction, consolidating their talent and taking steps toward a future where they may not have to rely on sequels so badly. And this has led to some good results over the years, along with some unfortunate branding ones, admittedly.

Then Orr makes his worst argument.

There are a dozen Disney theme parks scattered across the globe in need of, well, themes for their rides.

Don’t do it, Orr. Please. Think of the children.

the overlap between the Pixar movies that beget sequels and the movies that inspire rides at Disney amusement parks is all but total.

Seriously? You’re trying to argue that Pixar is basing its creative decisions around theme-parks?

Theme-park rides are premised on an awareness of the theme in question, and young parkgoers are less likely to be familiar with movies that are more than a decade old.

That explains why Disneyland is filled with movie themes from over 50 years ago.

This idea that kids are going to forget what Toy Story is without a Toy Story 4 is almost enough for me to dismiss all of Orr’s previous arguments out of spite. I won’t because clearly he’s not entirely wrong about a lot of this, but…really? Theme-park rides?

Look, there’s a point to be made about how sequels can be properly timed with theme-park attractions in order to maximize exposure. But to suggest that a legendary storyteller like Lasseter is guiding one of the best animated studios of all time (with Catmull’s approval) around what will look good on a brochure is nothing more than a brainless conspiracy theory. They’re not making Toy Story 4 because of a theme-park ride. At best, and if we take Pixar at their word, they’re making it because they truly believe in the story and it would be easier and more profitable than a new IP.

Pixar has promised that after the upcoming glut of sequels, the studio will focus on original features.

And honestly, I believe them. Pixar has built up decades of credibility with its fans, but Orr would dismiss all of it because the studio has only put out one masterpiece in seven years, assuming Coco isn’t as good as it looks, while other studios like Disney haven’t really made any masterpieces of their own in the same amount of time.

I’m not sure I dare to expect much more of what used to make Pixar Pixar: the idiosyncratic stories, the deep emotional resonance, the subtle themes that don’t easily translate into amusement-park rides.

Seriously, it’s been two years since Inside Out. Two. And the people who made it still work at Pixar, and for the last time, they’re still making good films. What makes Pixar Pixar hasn’t changed, just the frequency of its best material, and impatience (while understandable) is a poor excuse for trying to accuse an animation studio of being enslaved to theme-park rides.

Orr finishes by rounding off examples of what he loves in RatatouilleWall-E, and Up, finally stating:

Would Pixar even bother making those pictures anymore?

So the implication is that because these movies supposedly wouldn’t translate well to a theme-park ride (though they actually would, considering the Axiom is begging to be in Tomorrowland and Ratatouille has its own part in Disneyland Paris, which Orr even admits), he questions Pixar’s willingness to make great movies. You know, despite the fact that Coco comes out in November and virtually nothing about Pixar tells us that they’re disinterested in making great movies.

As I’ve pointed out numerous times here, Orr makes a lot of accurate observations, and I don’t blame anyone for believing Pixar really has lost their way. But it really depends on what you look to Pixar for. Even their worst films still contain a level of quality that far surpass the worst of the Disney movies and DreamWorks movies for that matter. It’s definitely true that they’re not putting out a slew of original breakthroughs almost every year like they once did, and yes, that is a shame.

But we also can’t discount that their competitors really have caught up to them in a lot of ways. And there are a ton of learning curves to managing a bigger studio that is no longer as unique and creatively compact as it once was. From what I can tell, Pixar has embraced this decade with a new caution, desperate to preserve its best material by investing in more conventional ways of making money. I’m not saying this is necessarily the best choice they could’ve made, and I don’t agree with all of their decisions since Toy Story 3. But all of this does mean that Pixar can still make the masterpieces we want to see from them.

In other words, I very much doubt a movie like Inside Out, heralded as one of the greatest animated movies of all time, would have been able to come out if it weren’t for Cars 2 and Monsters University. These are movies that came out instead of failed concepts like Newt, and Pixar would have been in a tailspin if not for the box office they made off of Toy Story 3. You don’t have to like it, and hopefully this isn’t a new norm for Pixar, but it is the reality of a studio that has reached maturing age. It’s a different time for Pixar, but not necessarily a bad one.


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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

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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Ranking the Pixar Movies By Box Office Success

Trying to compare the Pixar films according to quality and personal affection is a pointless task, in my opinion. Of course, I could easily tell you what my favorite films are and rank them, but how does that really help anyone?

Everyone has their favorites, but everyone also loves lists and comparisons. So for the sake of this post, I’m pointing out how successful each one was compared to the other. Prepare to be surprised.

To crunch the numbers, I added the domestic and foreign totals to provide the worldwide figures. I also adjusted everything according to inflation in 2014, so you’re really seeing which films made the most value in their day.

I did not rank these in order of profitability, as in I don’t point out how much it cost to make the film versus how much it made. Instead, I kept it simple and only pointed out how much money the film made overall.

Let’s begin!

 

#1. Finding Nemo

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: Many assume that Toy Story 3 was the first Pixar film to make over $1 billion worldwide, and they’re technically right. In 2003, Finding Nemo just barely came short of the billion mark with $936 million made worldwide. But when you adjust for inflation, the underwater animated film actually made $1.2 billion worldwide, easily surpassing the threequel.

Why? This is pretty impressive considering the fact that Finding Nemo had fewer advantages than more recent Pixar films. This was before foreign markets were becoming the brunt of Disney Pixar’s audience. In fact, I’d argue that it opened the floodgates to how well U.S. films can perform overseas.

Put simply, Finding Nemo benefitted from having extremely wide appeal. While movies about toys, superheroes, and balloon houses are fun concepts, many people of different ages found a reason to check out this film about a father finding his lost son in an endless ocean.

 

#2. Toy Story 3

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: The possibly final entry in the Toy Story franchise is also its most successful. It was the first Pixar film to make $1 billion worldwide ($1.1 billion adjusted for inflation), and unlike Finding Nemo, its gap between money made domestically and foreign is much narrower.

Why? Waiting a decade to finish the franchise was a smart decision on Pixar’s part. Strong word-of-mouth, the return of the original cast, and an emotionally wrenching premise made this a can’t-miss film for the countless people who fell in love with Toy Story over the course of 15 years.

 

#3. Up

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: It didn’t just collect Oscars. Up pulled in an impressive $731 million worldwide. Adjusted from 2009, that’s over $812 million.

Why? The film had broad international appeal thanks to its setting, and it came at a time when Pixar was hitting its stride with back-to-back hits. It also benefitted from a strong opening that had critics raving over the score and memorable characters. That, and this was also the first Pixar film to reap the benefits of 3D ticket prices.

 

#4. The Incredibles

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: Following the success of Finding Nemo was an impossible task, so leave it to the superhero film to accomplish just that. The Incredibles made a whopping $631.million worldwide in 2004, which is actually $795.8 million by today’s standards.

Why? One of the main advantages of mashing up several genres like superheroes, family drama, comedy, animation, and spies is that you can generate a ton of interest in your movie. Families and young adults came out to this film in droves, and it didn’t hurt that audiences were still enamored with the success of Finding Nemo.

 

#5. Monsters University

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: This 2013 prequel to Monsters Inc. narrowly surpassed its predecessor by raking in $743.5 million worldwide ($760 million adjusted for inflation). It’s important to note that it made the bulk of its money overseas, like many of the recent Pixar films.

Why? As a rule, sequels and even prequels tend to build upon existing audiences, no matter the downgrade in quality. Plus, the film was quite enjoyable and a step up from Pixar’s previous outings (Cars 2 and Brave).

 

#6. Monsters Inc.

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: This is the Pixar film that showed critics just what the studio was capable of, as it was the first of the films to spike in profit. The 2001 film made an impressive $562.8 million worldwide ($756.4 adjusted), with an almost even split between domestic and foreign markets.

Why? This film came out after a 1-year hiatus for Pixar, and it had been three years since the studio had released a non-sequel. Thanks to Monsters Inc., the momentum for Pixar as it entered the 21st century was set early, and high.

 

#7. Ratatouille

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: Only Pixar can make a film about a rat learning to cook in Paris a huge success with over $623 million made globally ($716.7 million adjusted).

Why? Foreign markets definitely carried this film, representing about 2/3 of the profits. Also, audiences who were displeased with Cars were happy to see a Pixar film with more traditional storytelling (even though it was anything but).

 

#8. Toy Story 2

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: That’s right, one of Disney’s first forays into a sequel (they’re notorious for not doing big screen sequels at all) was a Pixar film. And it totally paid off. Toy Story 2 ran away with $485 million worldwide. These days, that’s nearly $700 million. Keep in mind that this was in 1999; a time when the box office competition was fierce.

Why? As we now know, the film was just as good if not better than the original, and that prompted millions of people who loved the first film to go see this one. And it helped that VHS sales build a lot of hype for this film four years after the original. The lesson, of course, is that there should be a lot of time in between sequels for the sake of direction and precision. Not many people have learned this lesson, sadly.

#9. Cars 2

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: Pixar’s follow-up to the record-breaking Toy Story 3 was yet another sequel. And they suffered for it. Cars 2  brought in about $559 million worldwide, or $593 million adjusted for inflation. A little more than half of what Pixar made the previous year.

Why? Some are wondering why it made so much when it shouldn’t. Others may be wondering why it didn’t make as much. Both questions are answered by the fact that the film was both helped and hurt by its predecessor, Cars. Yes, it had plenty of interest from fans of the original, but the problem was that there weren’t that many fans anyway. But it still made good money, especially overseas. This was partly due to the various locales seen in the film and Disney’s expertise at managing foreign markets by 2011.

 

#10. WALL-E

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: This may surprise a lot of you, but WALL-E only brought in $521 million worldwide. Adjusted for this year, that’s only about $576.8 million.

Why? Oddly, this is celebrated as one of Pixar’s best films, both by audiences and critics. And yet it is one of the least successful. Sadly, this is mostly because the film came out during the onset of Great Recession, which badly hurt money made domestically. On top of that, many moviegoers were put off by the film’s lack of dialogue, especially in the early parts of the film.

 

#11. Toy Story

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: The first of the Pixar films performed pretty well for a forerunner. It made $362 million worldwide, with most of that money being domestic. Nowadays, that translates to about $566 million, which is nothing to scoff at.

Why? Unlike its successors, Toy Story didn’t have the luxury of Pixar being a household name. It earned its success solely from being a good film and shattering expectations as the first computer-animated film ever. In fact, I’m more surprised that this isn’t lower on the list considering the risk that was put into making it. Toy Story truly is a miracle of film.

 

#12. Brave

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: Still hurting from the disappointment that was Cars 2, this 2012 film also disappointed with a meager $539 million worldwide total ($559 million adjusted). That’s still pretty good, though it is certainly low compared to the rest of the Pixar family.

Why? Entire research papers could be written about the mystery surrounding Brave‘s underwhelming premise. I’m not sure I fully understand why it fell short for me, personally. Whatever the reason, Brave just didn’t click or resonate with people as deeply as previous Pixar films, which made this an animated outing for only a certain group of moviegoers (kids and their parents looking for a getaway).

 

#13. Cars

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: Released in 2006, Cars didn’t really deliver for Pixar as much as they hoped with a decent $462 million worldwide ($546 million adjusted). Of course, it was still incredibly profitable for Pixar, seeing as it only cost $120 million to make.

Why? You know a film has problems when it falls so short after two massive hits like Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. It even had the benefit of coming along after a 1-year hiatus. Still, audiences weren’t impressed with the premise, and Cars ultimately suffered. Strangely, the sequel was still green-lit and made a bit more money years later.

 

#14. A Bug’s Life

ranking  the pixar movies

How much it made: Pixar’s second film was great in its own right, even though that didn’t necessarily translate to box office sales. It made just $363 million worldwide, which is about $530.5 million adjusted for inflation. Interestingly, it made more money overseas than Toy Story did, and it was the first of the Pixar films to make most of its money in foreign markets.

Why? Put simply, the novelty of computer animation had worn off a bit. So A Bug’s Life had to rely on just being a good movie. That’s why it made as much as it did, but the basic fact is that a film about toys coming to life was more appealing than a film about bugs fighting grasshoppers.

 

Conclusions:

One of the most interesting things about this list is that even the lowest entry of Pixar’s films is a box office success that stands up to most of the films that are coming out today. That means in 14 films over the course of 19 years, Pixar hasn’t had a single flop. No other studio in history can compare to that kind of consistent success.

In the years to come, we’ll see if Pixar can maintain the status quo or make another huge leap forward. Inside Out premieres next summer, and it could prove to be the next Monsters Inc. in terms of reviving the studio’s creative fortunes. And with new sequels like Finding Dory and The Incredibles 2 on the horizon, along with some other originals like The Good Dinosaur, Pixar may be poised for its first renaissance.

ranking  the pixar movies

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Does The New Monsters University Short Disprove The Pixar Theory?

As excited as I was about the last Muppets movie, I can’t say I care much about Muppets Most Wanted, a movie with more celebrities than jokes, apparently.

One thing I am excited about, however, is the release of a Monsters University short that premiered at the 2013 D23 Expo and will be shown before Muppets Most Wanted. I’ve been told by some that it includes possible hints at the Pixar Theory (mainly with door technology), so I’m excited to see it all play out for myself.

Here is a quick preview:

It’s not much to go on, but as you can see, the door connects to points within the Monsters’ universe (the fraternity house and the party).

In the theory, I stress how the doors manipulate time, not necessarily dimensions. This is the first time in any of the Monsters Inc. properties that we’ve seen two doors linking within the same time period.

My hypothesis has been that the monsters are actually animals that have mutated and replaced humans thousands of years after the events of Wall-E. The monsters need energy – i.e. humans – to power their world, so they use the magical properties of wood and their advanced technology to travel back in time and harvest energy from past humans.

Monsters University Party CentralThe monsters don’t know they’re traveling back in time in order to preserve the delicate timeline. They’re taught that humans and their belongings are toxic, which is really a precaution against them messing with anything that would change history.

But in this short, we see that the doors are being used for spacial travel, rather than time travel.

Will this disprove the Pixar Theory? We’re going to have to wait and find out. Discuss!

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Best (and Worst) Summer 2013 Movies

summer2013Below is my list of which summer movies made a splash, for better or worse, this year.

Go on…Best (and Worst) Summer 2013 Movies

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