Pixar by the Numbers – From TOY STORY to BRAVE

     June 24, 2012

cars pixar


Year: 2006
RT: 74%
Worldwide Gross: $462 million

The numbers:

  • 66 – Famous route that inspired the movie. The original working title was Route 66, but was changed to Cars to avoid any confusion with the 1960s television show.
  • 95 – Lightning McQueen’s racing number, a reference to Toy Story’s release in 1995. At one point in development, McQueen’s number was 57, a tribute to John Lasseter’s birth year.
  • 117 – Runtime in minutes. Cars is the longest Pixar movie.
  • $8 billion – Estimated merchandise sales as of February 2011. The Cars movies are on the lower end of Pixar’s filmography in terms of box office, but the franchise now brings in about $2 billion in global retail sales per year.
  • 7 – Number of Pixar movies Joe Ranft worked on. He came to Pixar in 1991 as the head of the story department, and voiced a character in each feature, including Wheezy the penguin in Toy Story 2. Cars was his last film before he died in a car crash in 2005.

The first misstep, and even that is debatable. Cars is a solid movie—good, maybe even great. But Cars is more flawed than its immediate predecessors. I think of Cars as this massive commercial property, so I was surprised to see it “only” grossed $462 million worldwide, the lowest since A Bug’s Life. But I guess $8 billion more than makes up for it.




Year: 2007
RT: 96%
Worldwide Gross: $624 million

The numbers:

  • 2001 – Year when Jan Pinkava came up with the concept for Ratatouille. Pinkava was set to direct the movie and developed the story and design for several years.
  • 2005 – Year when Brad Bird replaced Pinkava as director. The movie was not progressing to a place where Pixar or Pinkava were confident. Brad Bird stepped in to take over the production and largely rewrote the story.
  • 4500Reference photographs taken in Paris. The crew took a motorcycle tour and ate at five of the city’s top restaurants to understand the setting.
  • 0 – Toes on the humans. This was done to save time in the animation process.
  • 1,150,070 – Hairs rendered on the rat, Remy. For comparison, Colette, the female lead in the Ratatouille, was rendered with 176,030 hairs.
  • 270 – Food items created and stored in the computer. Each dish was prepared in real life, photographed for reference, then eaten. The artists also photographed 15 different kinds of produce as they rotted to create a realistic compost pile.
  • 68 – Height difference in inches between Remy (7 inches) and the central human character Linguini (6’3”). Skinner, the head chef at the restaurant, split the difference at 3’6”.

Ratatouille showed some signs of weakness with a $47 million opening weekend, the lowest since A Bug’s Life. But the release showed terrific legs. The weekend-to-weekend dropoff stayed below 40% for the first five weeks in release until Ratatouille surpassed $200 million domestically and made double that internationally. Not bad for a movie about a rat.




Year: 2008
RT: 96%
Worldwide Gross: $521 million

The numbers:

  • 125,000 – Storyboards created for the production. Story artist Derek Thompson remarked: “Typically a Pixar film will have between 50 and 75,000 storyboards generated for the entire production. WALL-E was north of 125,000 drawings. That’s a phenomenal amount of drawings for a team of about six most of the time.”
  • 2 – Weeks cinematographer Roger Deakins spent at Pixar. The 9-time Oscar-nominee hosted a talk at Pixar to advise on lighting and atmosphere and was promptly invited to stay on for another two weeks. 8-time Oscar-winning special effects artist Dennis Muren spent several months at Pixar consulting the team how to integrate computer animation into realistic settings.
  • 700 – Years that WALL-E has been “alive.” Earth was evacuated in 2105, leaving WALL-E and identical robots to clean the planet. Only our WALL-E survived to 2805 by harvesting replacement parts from his broken robot brothers.
  • 3 – Actors from the silent era who inspired the animators. Director Andrew Stanton said the story crew and animation crew “watched a [Charlie] Chaplin film and a [Buster] Keaton film and sometimes a Harold Lloyd film every day at lunch for almost a year and a half.” Also, the hopeless romanticism of WALL-E was inspired by Woody Allen.
  • 2,500 – Sounds that sound designer Ben Burtt recorded for the film. The veteran Burtt estimated that this doubled the number of sounds he recorded during any of the Star Wars movies he worked on. Burtt used generators, tanks, and household appliances to create the sounds, but voiced WALL-E himself by running his voice through a computer.
  • 6 – Oscar nominations, the most for a Pixar movie. In only won Best Animated Feature, the 4th of 6 Pixar movies to win the award.

The first half of Wall-E is my favorite thing Pixar has done. It sets the bar so high for what can be done in animation, that it’s unfairly disappointing when the movie settles into just “very good” for the second half. Now that Pixar is making Toy Story shorts, I hope we get to see more of WALL-E’s time on Earth in the near future.


up pixar


Year: 2009
RT: 98%
Worldwide Gross: $731 million

The numbers:

  • 3 – Nights the artists spent at Monte Roraima in Venezuela. They spent the day painting and sketching what they saw to inspire the South American setting, particularly the tepui and Angel Falls.
  • 20,622 – Balloons tied to the house when it takes off. An internal technical director estimated that it would actually require 20-30 million balloons to lift the house.
  • 4:21 – Length of the dialogue-free scene that depicts the entire marriage of Carl and Ellie Frederickson.
  • 100% – Percentage of people who cry when they watch that scene.
  • 500 – Children who auditioned to voice the young supporting character Russell. Writer/director Pete Docter remarked, “As soon as Jordan [Nagai’s] voice came on we started smiling, because he is appealing and innocent and cute and different from what I was initially thinking.”
  • 2 – Letters in the title. Up is the only Best Picture nominee with just two letters, though Z holds the record for fewest letters in a nominated title.
  • 3 – Dimensions. Up is the first Pixar movie to be shown in 3D. All subsequent movies through 2013’s Monsters University were made in 3D. Toy Story and Toy Story 2 were converted to 3D for theatrical re-release just before Toy Story 3; Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. were also converted to 3D for re-release over the next year.

Up shows Pixar at their most invincible. Wall-E­ was a tough sell because there is so little dialogue, but the lead character was an adorable robot. Up, however, centers on a crochety old man. How can kids relate to that? And yet, $731 million. Plus, it was the first Pixar movie and the first animated movie since Beauty and the Beast to be nominated for best picture.


toy story 3

Toy Story 3

Year: 2010
RT: 99%
Worldwide Gross: $1.1 billion

The numbers:

  • 11 – Years that passed between Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3. They even got John Morris back to reprise his role as a college-bound Andy despite the fact Morris had done no voice acting since 2001.
  • 3 – Movies Lee Unkrich co-directed (Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo) before he was credited as the sole director on Toy Story 3.
  • 0 – Models from the first two movies that the team could re-use. Unkrich explained, “When we went back to take a look at our original work, we literally couldn’t open the files.” That meant the crew had to recreate the models from scratch.
  • 21 – Different outfits that the Ken doll wears in the movie.
  • 95 – Number on the side of the train seen at the beginning of the movie, a reference to the year Toy Story was released.
  • 6 – Movies scored by Randy Newman. Toy Story 3 was the sixth Pixar movie Newman scored following Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Cars.
  • 99.67% – Average Rotten Tomatoes score of the trilogy. Only 3 of the 476 reviews are negative, resulting in a 99.37% approval rating.
  • 8 – Rank of Toy Story 3 on the all-time worldwide box office chart. Only 12 movies have ever grossed more than $1 billion theatrically.

This seemed like tempting fates. Lightning struck twice delivering two flawless Toy Story movies, and in the decade since Toy Story 2, Pixar specialized in stellar original output. Why return to the Toy Story well? The doubters were silenced when the movie came out. Not only did it make over $1 billion—it was one of the best movies of the year, a worthy sequel and fitting conclusion to the trilogy. And now the franchise will seemingly live on in shorts and TV specials.



Cars 2

Year: 2011
RT: 38%
Worldwide Gross: $560 million

The numbers:

  • 5 – Years that passed between Cars and Cars 2.
  • 3 – Members of the Cars voice cast who died before production on Cars 2. Paul Newman’s character Doc Hudson was written out of the sequel. Lloyd Sherr stepped in to voice Fillmore, previously played by George Carlin. And Joe Ranft’s character Red was seen in the film, but had no dialogue.
  • 5 – Races in the original script. Races were planned for Paris, Germany, Tokyo, London, and Porto Corsa. The Germany race was cut and the Paris race was reworked due to time constraints.
  • 4 – Movies scored by Michael Giacchino. Cars 2 was the fourth Pixar movie Giacchino scored following The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Up.
  • 0 – Oscar nominations. Cars 2 was the first Pixar movie to receive no Oscar nominations.
  • $9 million – Amount Cars 2 needed to reach $200 million domestically. The last movie to gross less than $200 million domestic was A Bug’s Life in 1998. Accounting for inflation, Cars 2 is Pixar’s least successful film in the U.S.

This is the Pixar film I haven’t seen. I probably will eventually because I am a completist. But I am not looking forward to the Mater-heavy adventure. 11 good-to-perfect films in a row was an amazing achievement and totally unsustainable, so they were bound to stumble into a dud at some point.




Year: 2012
RT: 74%
Gross: TBD

The numbers:

  • 3 – Credited directors. Brenda Chapman was the original director when the working title was The Bear and the Bow, but Mark Andrews was brought in to replace her in 2010. Steve Purcell is credited as co-director.
  • 80% – Approximate percentage of scenes that took place in the snow in the initial drafts. Chapman’s departure metaphorically melted the snow, and there is very little snow left in the final product.
  • 2 – Actors linked to the role of Merida. Reese Witherspoon was originally supposed to voice Pixar’s first female lead protagonist, but backed out due to scheduling issues. The authentically Scottish Kelly Macdonald took over the role.
  • 4 – Actors were also in the Harry Potter series: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, and Julie Walters.
  • 10 – Century when the story takes place, the first time Pixar has made a period piece.
  • 93 – Runtime in minutes, making it the shortest Pixar movie in over a decade, since Monster’s, Inc.
  • 6 – Bare butts seen in the movie. Brave is rated PG for “some scary action and rude humor.” This is the third PG Pixar film after The Incredibles and Up. The rest are rated G.
  • 13 – Times John Ratzenberger has now voiced a character in a Pixar movie. He voices a guard in Brave.
  • $210 million – Listed production budget, making this the most expensive Pixar movie yet. Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 are both listed at $200 million.

brave-movie-image-meridaI was completely hooked at the beginning of Brave, which sets up an inviting mythology that seems more than enough to sustain the brisk runtime. The depiction of the Scottish highlands is predictably gorgeous, and the character designs are lovely. Merida’s untameable bright red hair is a thing of beauty, a character unto its own. This was widely hyped as Pixar’s first movie that centers on a female protagonist, and Merida does not disappoint. As voiced by Kelly Macdonald, she is feisty and clever, and I wish I had a daughter who could look up to her.

The conflict between mother and daughter is delineated perhaps a bit too bluntly, but terrific performances by Macdonald and Emma Thompson as her mother Elinor give life to the mother/daughter relationship, even as they render the repetitive establishment of their dynamic unnecessary. A narrative twist raises the stakes, but inadvertently redirects the momentum of the storytelling so drastically that Andrews is unable to keep everything under control. The rest of the runtime is entertaining, occasionally thrilling, and often very funny (the mischievous triplets are a highlight). But the finished product fails to live up to the potential so intricately teased in the first act.

Like WALL-E, Brave immediately takes off and sets up infinite possibilities, only to settle into a more traditional plot and tone that aren’t unique to Pixar. Unfortunately, Brave never reaches the heights of WALL-E and stumbles more clumsily into the weaker second half of the movie. The result is still a good movie with flashes of greatness. However, I wished for a triumphant return to form rebounding from Cars 2—another Pixar classic. As unfair a standard as that may be, Brave will not add to the Pixar reputation so much as keep it intact.

Unless otherwise linked, all information comes from Wikipedia or IMDB

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