Pixar Animation Studios is one of the most famous computer animation film studios in the world. They started out in 1979 as the Graphics Group – which was a part of the Lucasfilm computer division. They eventually broke off from the Star Wars studio and formed their own corporation. In fact, Pixar was funded by Apple’s Steve Jobs, who also became the majority shareholder in the corporation.
Steve Jobs remained the majority shareholder until 2006, when Disney purchased Pixar for $7.4 billion. This was an incredible value for the company that started out as a group of four guys who had an interest in computers. Plus, Pixar has created some of the highest-grossing and most popular computer-animated films in the history of cinema.
Pixar has released nineteen feature films. Toy Story, which came out in 1995, was the first computer-animated feature film. It was highly-successful, and planted the seed for many more films of this nature in the future. Pixar also found themselves in competition with other studios, including DreamWorks Animation. However, in every category the original computer animation film studio comes out on top.
The films produced by Pixar have earned many awards (including sixteen Oscars, seven Golden Globes, and eleven Grammys). This is not only a testament to the superior skill of their animation team, but to the excellent character- and plot-building skills of their writers. Pixar films have featured some of the most memorable and widely-recognized CGI characters of all time. Read on to find out a little more about these Pixar creations, in our list of the Top Twenty Pixar Characters of All Time.
This guy is characterized by his green color, little horns, and giant eye. Voiced by Billy Crystal, he is the best friend of Sulley in Monsters, Inc. In the first film, he has more of a deuteragonist role, supporting his friend in his trials and feud with Randall Boggs. Mike also plays in two Pixar shorts, as well as the prequel to Monsters, Inc., Monsters University. He gets his place on our top twenty list because he is one of the funniest characters in the franchise. He’s always fun to watch interact with his girlfriend, Celia Mae. Not to mention the receptionist at the corporation, Roz. She is, after all, always watching Mike Wazowski. Always.
Merida is the headstrong, athletic, and determined protagonist of the 2012 film Brave. This film follows the defiant teen on her quest to restore her kingdom to peace. Merida was voiced by Kelly Macdonald – a fitting choice for this character. Merida is also a talented archer and unbeatable adventurer. Brave broke a few barriers in the animation industry. Merida gets her place on our list because she is the first female protagonist in a Pixar film. This is a big step forward (and one that has been mirrored by other animated films, such as Moana). It is important for young girls to see that women can be powerful central characters just as well as men.
This old man, the main character of Up, led a pretty interesting (if sad) life before he decided to take off with his balloon-powered house. The film starts off in 1939, showing a young Carl Fredricksen – a huge Charles F. Muntz fan – meeting his future wife Ellie. The two eventually married, restoring and living in the abandoned house they used as a clubhouse. They saved up for a trip that they never took as Ellie died before they could. And all of this takes place in the first five minutes of the film. Carl Fredricksen, voiced by Ed Asner, is the protagonist of possibly the most moving love story ever animated. Plus, the movie that followed was a hugely successful and well-written adventure with a poignant edge. Up’s Carl Fredricksen is a complex character, and thus deserves a spot on our list.
Dory might be even more famous than the titular fish in Finding Nemo. A blue-tag fish who suffers from short-term memory loss, she goes with Marlin on his quest to find his son in the first film in the franchise. She also stars in her own movie, where she gets lost due to her illness but eventually learns a lot about the world and herself. Dory is voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. She is one of the most optimistic, friendly, and sociable characters in the Finding Nemo franchise. Despite her illness, she always “just keeps swimming”, putting one fin in front of the other to overcome the impossible. Her drive and determination make her one of the best Pixar characters ever.
Spanish Buzz Lightyear
Buzz Lightyear himself is a pretty awesome Pixar character. However, in Toy Story 3 in 2010, the gang of toys is attempting to reset him when they accidentally set him to Spanish mode. This version of Buzz is much more charismatic and romantic than the normal Buzz, and it comes out in his interactions with Jessie. Spanish Buzz is great comedic relief for a somewhat-dark Toy Story film. He is voiced by Javier Fernandez-Peña. This version of Buzz, for many fans, is the better one due to his actions and overall demeanor. Thus, he gets a spot on this list that the normal Buzz Lightyear does not.
Sherriff Woody Pride
Andy’s favorite toy, Sherriff Woody is another Toy Story alumnus. He has always been a member of the Toy Story cast, and is based on a character from a fictional show-within-the-movie, Woody’s Roundup. In every film, he and the other toys leave Andy’s room for one reason or another, ending up on a wild adventure through the world. Woody is voiced by Tom Hanks, and appears in each of the three Toy Story films, as well as several shorts. He will also presumably return in Toy Story 4 (set to release in 2019). Woody is a loyal, brave character who would do anything for his friends. He’s one of the first Pixar characters – and one of the best.
The 2015 film Inside Out was an interesting take on how children develop psychologically and how they respond to their surroundings. Each emotion (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust) is personified, and they try to help the main character, Riley Andersen, make it through life. Joy is voiced by Amy Poehler, and she is definitely the best character in the film. Her voice actor has described her as the “engine” of the film. She keeps the other characters moving – including Riley herself. Joy’s pure optimism is a great trait for a Pixar character. Plus, her unwillingness to change makes her very human. Luckily for Riley, Joy plays a central role in the film – and is definitely a good addition to this list.
This Radiator Springs resident is one of the funniest characters in the Cars franchise. He is the best friend of race car Lightning McQueen, and he is always a central character in every Cars film. He even got his own short series Car Toons: Mater’s Tall Tales. Mater is voiced by famous comedian Larry the Cable Guy – and his character in the films is a lot like Larry’s character in real life. Mater may not be the cleanest car, or the most slick. However, he has got a huge heart, and a drive to succeed unmatched by the other cars in the series. Mater is also a talented tow truck, running the Tow Mater Towing & Salvage yard (as well as the impound lot) of Radiator Springs completely on his own. Mater’s great characteristics make his spot on our list well-earned.
This little rat is the main character of the film Ratatouille. Initially he is living with a rat colony inside of an old lady’s ceiling. Eventually they are forced to flee, and Remy gets separated from his group. He winds up in Paris – where he can put his strong sense of smell and taste to use in a restaurant setting. He idolizes Auguste Gusteau (a fictional chef who used to run a famous Parisian restaurant). He eventually meets Linguini, and finds out that he can control him by pulling on his hair. The two work together to create the best meals in Paris, and even impress food critic Anton Ego. Remy is voiced by Patton Oswalt, and is a great character by Pixar. He get his spot on this list because of his motivation to succeed, even when he is a part of a species that is normally feared or even killed by humans.
A Bug’s Life is a great film about the struggle of a weak group (ants) against one that is more powerful (grasshoppers). Flik is an inventive, somewhat-nerdy ant that is always trying to improve the lives of his fellow ants. He also has a huge crush on Princess Atta of the colony. However, he tends to mess things up unintentionally. Flik was voiced by Dave Foley, and is a perfect example of a character who finally proves himself to those who always doubted him. At the end of the film, he eventually defeats the leader of the grasshoppers by outwitting him. Flik is a good character to include on this list, as he is proof that smarts outweigh brawn – and you shouldn’t dismiss someone who is trying to help. They just might be right.
The Abominable Snowman
The Yeti, otherwise called the Abominable Snowman, is actually a pretty nice guy. He got banished from the company in the film Monsters, Inc. However, he is very welcoming and amiable to Sulley and Mike when they end up banished as well. He even offers them lemon snow cones. John Ratzenberger voices this character, who serves as some prime comic relief during a low point in the film. He was in Monsters, Inc. but also appeared in Monsters University briefly. His optimism and friendliness, especially juxtaposed with the sadness in his part of the first film, are perfect qualities to give him a spot on our list.
Despite being modeled after the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Rex is really not that scary or ferocious at all. In fact, he is rather meek in the beginning of the Toy Story series. However, as the series goes on he becomes more and more self-confident. By the time Toy Story 3 rolls around, he even stages a distraction along with Hamm – something he might not have done in the first movie. Wallace Shawn is the voice of this character. Though he started off scared of pretty much anything, he is one of the characters who has shown the most growth throughout the Toy Story series. His loyalty to his friends and self-determination score him this spot on our top twenty list.
The very last robot on a planet that has been consumed by trash, the titular character of the 2008 film has been working on cleaning up Earth for 700 years at the beginning. Over this time, he developed a personality – and he was lonely. After catching sight of EVE (a probe sent to scan earth for any life), WALL-E fell in love and followed her to the adventure of a lifetime. WALL-E never had any dialogue, only communicating in beeps and other electronic noises. Despite this, he shows a lot of emotions, and has an engaging character arc. WALL-E is a determined little guy, and he was solely responsible for the return of humanity to Earth. He is definitely one of the best Pixar characters ever created.
James P. Sullivan
James “Sulley” Sullivan is the main character of Monsters, Inc., and serves as the deuteragonist of Monsters University. He was a legendary scarer for the screams-to-power company. In fact, his boss even mentioned him as the best role model for any prospective employee. Eventually, Sulley encounters Boo. He at first is a bit hesitant to care for her, but soon takes on a protective and fatherly role for the little girl. It is Sulley who discovers that a child’s laughter provides a far better source of energy than screams, and changes his world forever. Voiced by John Goodman, this character is a brave and awesome character, and one of Pixar’s best.
Famous race car Lightning McQueen is the protagonist of the first Cars film, and plays a big role in the rest of the franchise. He is initially cold to the residents of Radiator Springs, but eventually he learns a lot about how to treat other cars decently. McQueen may have been initially a bit stuck-up, but as the franchise goes on we see another, more caring side to this car. Lightning McQueen is voiced by Owen Wilson, and his character in the films is very similar to the types of characters that Wilson plays in live-action films. His character development throughout the Cars franchise is remarkable, and makes him one of the best characters that Pixar has ever created.
This short woman is a supersuit designer from The Incredibles. She designed suits for the entire Parr superfamily, and she always pays careful attention to detail on each suit that she designs. For example, she made Helen Parr’s suit able to stretch as far as her body (Helen is also known as Elastigirl). Edna was voiced by Brad Bird, and often provides excellent comedic value to the film. Hopefully, we will see this designer return in the new Incredibles movie that is due to come out in June. If she reprises her role, she will be even further up on the next iteration of this list.
Bruce has the appearance of a ferocious, fish-eating shark in Finding Nemo. However, he is actually the leader of an Alcoholics Anonymous-style group for sharks that want to give up eating fish altogether. He is a funny character, and one of the classics from the Finding Nemo franchise. Though he and his fellow Fish-Friendly Sharks underwent an explosion in the film, they were revealed to have survived later. Bruce is really a nice guy, but when he smells blood his instincts kick in. His self-denial of what makes him a shark is respectable, almost monk-like. He was voiced by Barry Humphries, and is definitely a top Pixar character.
This character from The Incredibles, known as Lucius Best in his home life, is the best friend of Mr. Incredible. He has a legendary scene in which he is about to leave his house, and then gets into a minor (and hilarious) argument with his wife because she took his supersuit. He is capable of freezing molecules in the air as long as he is well-hydrated, and uses this ability to help out the Parr family a few times in The Incredibles. He is due to appear in The Incredibles 2 this June. Hopefully we will see more funny scenes from this character, who is voiced by the legendary Samuel L. Jackson.
Though this food critic is harsh on the surface, and in outspoken opposition to Chef Gusteau’s idea that “anyone can cook”, he isn’t without his depth. Normally, the critic gives very harsh reviews to the restaurants that he visits – and this can make or break an establishment’s reputation. When he is served ratatouille (a peasant’s dish), he is at first hesitant. As soon as he takes a bite, however, he is transported to a memory of himself as a child. This shows that Anton isn’t just a harsh, food reviewing robot – but rather quite human. He later becomes a patron of the La Ratatouille (Linguini’s own restaurant that employs rats), finally understanding Gusteau’s message. Anton Ego is voiced by Peter O’Toole, and will go down in history as one of the more memorable Pixar characters.
Dug is a golden retriever who once belonged to explorer Charles Muntz. He can speak through a special collar that translates his thoughts into speech. He is a typical dog – and the vocalization of a dog’s thoughts can be comedy gold. This character was voiced by Bob Peterson, and is one of the funniest characters in Pixar history. He appears in Up, George & A.J., and even his own short, Dug’s Special Mission. His loyalty and love for people are what make him one of Pixar’s best – plus, who doesn’t like a dog that can speak English?
Pixar Animation Studios will forever be one of the best CGI studios in the world. With the creation of so many memorable, comedic, and awesome characters, they have already made cinematic history. As time passes, even more films will come out of the studio. Pixar films are touching, and worthy of the awards they have been given. With The Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4 coming out within the next couple of years, we know that they will continue to deliver an awesome cinematic experience.