Now, “original” can mean a lot of things. Technically, Pixar could call any of their movies a “Pixar original,” even if it was a sequel. What I really mean is that they’ve all been accused of ripping off a lesser-known book, movie, or TV show. And sometimes, these works aren’t even all that lesser-known. I’m not saying the folks at Pixar are hacks by any means. They’re still phenomenal animators, and usually make enhancements to the story and characters that make Pixar movies so memorable while the originals just fade away. It is a bit odd though, that every single Pixar movie has been accused of being a rip-off. So, let’s look at all the Pixar movies in order and see how these rumors hold up.
1. TOY STORY (1995) = THE CHRISTMAS TOY (1986)
Toy Story is considered by many to be not only one of the greatest animated movies of all time, but one of the greatest films, period. But many don’t know that it bears a striking resemblance to a 1986 TV movie called The Christmas Toy, which initially featured a cameo from Kermit the Frog, but it was later edited out due to legal issues. For starters, both films are about a group of toys that come to life when nobody’s around, but that wasn’t exactly a novel idea when Jim Henson did it, either. The real similarities come from the characters. For example, the main toys (Woody/Rugby) both become worried that a shiny new toy may become the center of attention. In both cases, the new toy (Buzz/Meteora) is an egotistical outer space character that doesn’t quite understand that they’re a toy. Another character in The Christmas Toy is a Barbie doll who at one point dresses up as Little Bo Peep. The fellas at Pixar initially wanted Barbie to play a major part in Toy Story, but couldn’t secure the rights, so they went with the next best thing: Little Bo Peep. Of course, they eventually got the rights after Pixar kept making all the money, and when Barbie entered the Toy Story universe, guess who was out? Little. Bo. FUCKING Peep. There’s also a character who “bears” a striking resemblance to Lotso from Toy Story 3, but we’ll get to that later. Interestingly, there was actually a Disney Channel show based on The Christmas Toy, titled The Secret Life of Toys. It only lasted thirteen episodes, but it was around just about a year before the release of a certain other story of toys. (It’s Toy Story, in case you didn’t pick up on that)
2. A BUG’S LIFE (1998) = SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) + ANTZ? (1998)
The Seven Samurai connection is an obvious and admitted one, but the whole Antz thing is complicated enough to fill an entire book. You see, we know that Jeffrey Katzenberg started DreamWorks because of his personal vendetta against Disney, and we know that Katzenberg was involved in the early planning of A Bug’s Life, and we know that by the time Antz was officially announced, A Bug’s Life was well-known in the world of animation, but Antz did come out first, and both sides of the argument are somewhat convincing. All I can say is that Antz is MUCH better than A Bug’s Life, so if DreamWorks ripped them off, they should really be ripping more people off. Plus, Disney eventually got them back with The Wild, if Antz was the rip-off.
3. TOY STORY 2 (1999) = FOLLOW THAT BIRD (1985)
Now, this might seem a little odd because Toy Story 2 has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and Follow That Bird was reviewed by the Nostalgia Critic, but it all starts to add up when you think about it. They both follow a character (Big Bird/Woody) leaving home and discovering his roots and friends who are also birds/cowboys. Things go sour when the lead is put on display against his will, but his friends eventually help him out and get him back home. Like with many of these movies, Toy Story 2 improves upon the story by removing the less entertaining (read: extremely annoying) bits and replacing them with new, less annoying ones.
4. MONSTERS, INC. (2001) = LITTLE MONSTERS (1989)
Get this: there’s a 1989 live-action movie starring Fred Savage and Howie Mandel that is essentially Monsters, Inc. Sounds too ridiculous to be true, right? Oh, I wish it were. You’ll notice from the photo that Mandel has sharp teeth, blue fur, purple spots, and horns, just like Sully. That may be enough, but Boo bears a quite frankly frightening resemblance to Fred Savage if you take a good look at it. In the movies, every kids’ bedroom contains a gateway to the monster world, which has a seemingly infinite supply of doors/staircases to take them to any child in the world and scare the Beyoncè out of them. The sharp-dressed villain kidnaps human children, while the sharp-toothed squinty purple villain does most of the work. At one point, Sully Mandel scares the kid, and has a crisis about whether or not scaring kids is a good career choice. Once again, why Pixar would rip off a film whose most glowing review called it a “passable kiddie flick” is anyone’s guess, but they did a good job of it.
5. FINDING NEMO (2003) = PIERROT LE POISSON CLOWN (1995)
Chances are, if you saw Pierrot Le Poisson Clown in stores, you’d probably think, “Damn, those Frenchmen sure are desperate.” But believe it or not, this children’s book actually came before the universally beloved classic. Despite the obvious similarities between the fish on the cover and Nemo, there are actually a few similarities in the plot, too. Pierrot is raised by a single mother, Nemo by a single father. After being separated from their parents, the two of them must go on an epic journey across the ocean and eventually be reunited with their parents because OBVIOUSLY IT’S CALLED FINDING FUCKING NEMO WHY WOULDN’T THEY FIND HIM.
6. THE INCREDIBLES (2004) = FANTASTIC FOUR (1961)
Let’s run down the list, shall we? We have the super-strong guy (Thing/Mr. Incredible), we have the stretchy one (Mr. Fantastic/Elastigirl), we have the invisible woman (The Invisible Woman/Violet), and we have the younger brother of the invisible woman who can set himself ablaze (Human Torch/Jack-Jack). Dash isn’t reminiscent of any Fantastic Four member, but he is an obvious nod to Flash. Oh, and by the way, you know Helen Parr a.k.a. Elastigirl, the one that can stretch willy-nilly? There’s actually a DC Comics character who’s very similar to that as well. Of course, she’s a member of the Doom Patrol, who have also been accused of ripping off the Fantastic Four, but the similarities are even more striking when you realize her secret identity: Rita Farr. What’s her superhero name, you ask? ELASTIGIRL. SMOOTH MOVE, PIXAR. REAL SMOOTH.
7. CARS (2006) = DOC HOLLYWOOD (1991)
This is the most blatant and infuriating of Pixar’s rip-offs, and the main reason I prefer Cars 2 over the original. But I feel it need re-emphasizing: THESE MOVIES ARE EXACTLY THE SAME. The rest of them just have some similar characters or plotlines, but not these two. The courtroom scene, for example, plays out exactly the same in both movies. It just pisses me off that they got away with this. They managed to not only make a remake of Doc Hollywood disguised as a talking car movie, but they also managed to slip it by everyone for several years. EVEN THOUGH A CHARACTER IS REPEATEDLY CALLED “HOLLYWOOD” BY A CHARACTER NAMED DOC HUDSON. I don’t intend to every watch either of these again, but it frustrates me just to think about them.
8. RATATOUILLE (2007) = MOUSEHUNT (1997) + STUART LITTLE (1999)
It could be argued that the whole “lovable mouse bonds with human over shared interest and eliminates species gap” thing was popularized by M. Night Shyamalan’s magnum opus, Stuart Little, and you’d be right. But what about that whole chef thing? Oh yeah, MouseHunt, the 1997 Nathan Lane slapstick comedy directed by… GORE VERBINSKI? Yeah, that’s right. Gore Verbinski directed this. It seems like movies about mice tend to be made by surprising people. Other than the mere fact of the rat having a passion for cooking, the two films have little in common, apart from the exterminator who is hilariously outsmarted by a rat. Of course, the health inspector in Ratatouille is played by Tony Fucile, and the health inspector in MouseHunt is played by Christopher Walken, so point MouseHunt. But if you were to combine Stuart Little and MouseHunt, you’d get something pretty close to Ratatouille.
9. WALL-E (2008) = SHORT CIRCUIT (1986) + IDIOCRACY (2006)
Once again, the Short Circuit connection should be obvious. I mean, just look at them. They’re the same bot. No question about it. If you’ve seen Idiocracy, you can probably see the connection there, but very few people have seen Idiocracy. The films both feature dystopian futures in which mankind has become obese, illiterate, TV-obsessed, and controlled behind the scenes by a superstore. Seems like a fairly specific, though accurate, depiction of our future. One more thing about WALL-E. Ever notice how the people in the flashbacks are live-action? That really baffled me at first, but if you connect the dots far enough, you realize that WALL-E actually takes place in the same universe as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which ties it into my massive ACME conspiracy theory, but more on that later.
10. UP (2009) = ABOVE THEN BEYOND (2005)
First of all, “above then beyond” is basically the definition of “up.” But that’s not all! Above Then Beyond is a French student film about an old widow who is constantly harassed by developers trying to kick her out of her tiny old-fashioned house, so she turns her house into a giant balloon and flies away. Sound like anything you’ve seen? Of course, in Up, the old man has high-flying adventures in South America and learns important lessons about friendship and heartbreak and shit but it’s also hilarious so don’t worry. In Above Then Beyond, the widow dies.
11. TOY STORY 3 (2010) = THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER (1987)
EVERYONE was talking about this for a few months. In this day and age, you really need to make sure your movie idea is original. Not sure if Pixar is trying to be original, but whatever. In these movies, a kid goes to college and through a gross misunderstanding, his beloved childhood things are taken away. The gang has to work together to find their way back home, despite immense danger along the way (deadly conveyor belt, garbage dump). This isn’t exactly stealing, since much of the story of Brave Little Toaster was conceived by none other than John Lasseter. So at least now they’re ripping off themselves instead of shitty ’80s and ’90s comedies.
12. CARS 2 (2011) = THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE (1997)
Oop, spoke too soon. Now you’re probably shocked, even offended by the notion that a timeless classic like Cars 2 would rip off such a shameless crime against filmanity as The Man Who Knew Too Little, but it’s true. For those of you who don’t know, Man Who Knew Too Little came out during a relative low point in Bill Murray’s career, after Ed Wood but before Rushmore. In it, Bill Murray is mistaken for an American spy and must go on a grand adventure around the world with British spies. For most of it, he’s not even aware it’s a spy thing. I’m sure you see the connection. It’s not as direct a rip-off as Cars, but it’s still there.
13. BRAVE (2012) = BROTHER BEAR (2003)
If you have seen Brave, this might seem obvious to you. If you haven’t, you’re probably sitting there going “What the fuck?” You see, unlike the trailers indicate, Brave is actually mainly about Merida’s mother being turned into a bear. Apart from that, and the fact that both cases were caused by spooky magic and old lady wizards, the films really don’t have that much in common. Sure, there’s the smaller, more annoying bear(s) who plays way too big a part. And there’s the fish scene. But the reason this needs to be stated is because if you take out all that, Brave is really just a typical rebellious princess story, like Aladdin or Spaceballs.
14. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (2013) = REVENGE OF THE NERDS (1984)
This one could very well be intentional. But it’s still there. Both films center around two… freshmen? Wait, is Sully a freshman? Whatever. So, the two freshmen are just getting to college and already, they’re not having the best of times, what with the bullies and the parties and suchlike. After the jocks take things too far, the nerds decide to start their own fraternity and begin using out-of-the-box techniques to get back at the jocks. Neither is fantastic, but both are pretty good. This is the only Pixar rip-off that’s about on par with the original in terms of quality.
So, it looks like Pixar hasn’t made an original movie. Yet. Maybe someday in the future, Pixar will make a movie with an original plot and characters. But for now, I’m fine with what we have. Maybe The Good Dinosaur will be original. Or Finding Dory. Hey, what about Inside Out? Yeah, Inside Out, the one that features the personifications of the emotions of a little girl whose every decision comes from the adventures of said emotions. Yeah, that should be pretty original.
Unless you’ve seen Herman’s Head. Herman’s Head is a Fox sitcom produced by Disney. It follows a middle-aged man and the personifications of his emotions. The man’s every decision is caused by the adventures of said emotions. Yep. HH stars two Simpsons stars, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Leslie Nielsen as God in a hilarious bit where one of the emotions says, “You’re not God! You’re Leslie Nielsen!” To which he replies, “You, Herman, chose to portray me as Leslie Nielsen.” Of course, a middle-aged man isn’t exactly the same thing as a little girl, right? Surely this plot would be totally different with a prepubescent girl.
Wait, The Simpsons already did that. In an obvious reference to Herman’s Head, we see the struggle between Lisa’s emotions after becoming jealous of Marge publishing a novel. It almost seems too good to be true, to point at a Pixar movie and say, “Simpsons already did that,” but there you go. Goddammit, Pixar.
I’ll have a Dawn of the Planet of the Apes review up later today. Then other stuff I’m not telling you about shhhhhhhhh.