Pixar Studios is a groundbreaking production studio and the benchmark for quality in children’s films. They have given kids around the world so much joy in times where it’s all too easy to be cynical and disenchanted with the state of modern cinema. From the innovative all-CG Toy Story to the more narratively innovative Up and Wall-E, Pixar has always deftly straddled the line between art and commercialism. It was natural marriage when Disney acquired Pixar back in 2006 and cemented the studio’s place in its own legendary pantheon.
With all the recent harassment claims that have been making the news recently, you might find yourself somewhat overwhelmed. All the good guys are turning out to be bad guys. Maybe you don’t even recognize some of the names. Who’s John Lassetter? Who’s Charlie Rose? You might find yourself deciding to take solace in the old comforting Pixar films from your childhood. Ah, yes. Those classic movies hark back to a simpler time, where you knew who the heroes and villains were. I’ve got some bad news.
It seems over its three-decade history, Pixar has not been without its controversy. Disney has tried to sweep a lot of those problems under the rug with the rest of Andy’s weirder toys. As we all know, Disney’s reputation in the 20th century is hardly spotless, but their reputation in the 21st century is spotty as well. Despite their progressivism, the studios have made loads of mistake they’ve tried to hide.
Here are 25 secrets Pixar wants to bury.
25 The Head Of Disney And Pixar Leaving Due To "Missteps"
One of the biggest Pixar-related news stories to break this week is the John Lasseter scandal. In case you didn’t know, John Lasseter was one of the founding members of Pixar and he is the chief creative officer of Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios and DisneyToon Studios. Well, Lasseter is the next to go in the recent harassment allegations tsunami we’re currently surfing. Details are still coming out, but the head of Disney and Pixar sent an email to the animation department announcing a six-month leave while he tries to correct “missteps.” His departure, even if only temporary, is so abrupt that employees must have been upset for a long time and were only looking for an opportunity to speak out. Lasseter’s behaviour is particularly disappointing because he’s a major force behind our childhoods and the world’s imagination.
24 Women At Pixar Warned Each Other For Two Decades
Reports are coming out that John Lasseter was at the centre of a whisper network among young female employees at Disney and Pixar. For twenty years, senior female employees warned incoming female employees about Lasseter’s penchant for inappropriate behaviour. Lasseter was known as a hugger. A hug from him was seen as a mark of approval. While hugging doesn’t sound so bad in itself, the fact that there was a whisper network for two decades suggests that the issues didn’t end with hugging. In several cases, Lasseter reportedly rubbed women’s legs under the table at business meetings or touched them inappropriately. Photos of Lasseter at red carpet events needed to be cropped because of his roaming hands. It’s terrible that women at Pixar and Disney were forced to hide in a whisper network, but fortunately, they are speaking out now.
23 It's A Boy's Club
One of the blemishes on Pixar’s otherwise progressive reputation is its history of marginalizing female directors. In Pixar’s filmography, there is only one film directed by a woman, Brenda Chapman, who co-directed Brave— until she was fired midway through the process. Disney, on the hand, has been less of an offender. Jennifer Lee co-directed 2013’s smash hit Frozen, whose place is firmly set in the canon of Disney’s new revival we’re currently enjoying. Still, despite movies like Frozen and Brave which promote important messages about female empowerment, it seems Disney doesn’t always practice what it preaches. Thankfully, they’re making a move towards correcting that problem as of this year. We’re still waiting to see about Pixar. Did they even watch Moana?
22 We Think This Is A Brave Move
Brenda Chapman, the director of Brave was fired halfway through the process of making the film. Chapman co-directed the 1998 Dreamworks film Prince of Egypt. Many film-lovers have vastly divisive opinions on Prince of Egypt. The correct answer is that it’s awesome (“DELIVER US! DEEEEEEELIVER US”). Sorry, back to deeply-ingrained institutional misogyny. Chapman has since spoken out about leaving Brave. She has said that animation is Boy’s Club” and it’s hard not to see where she’s coming from. Disney is eager to rid itself of that reputation as quick as possible, as we can see from its new mission to hire female and diverse directors like Niki Caro in the upcoming live-action adaptation of Mulan.
21 When The News Gets It Wrong
You may remember Jones as the perky nurse with the aptonym of Ann Perkins on Parks & Recreation. Jones is also musical legend Quincy Jones’s daughter. Disney drafted Jones to write Toy Story 4, which was a bold and impressive move after she had only finished producing a Netflix documentary on the adult film industry. Unfortunately, there’s where Disney stopped being impressive. Rashida Jones and her co-writer Will McCormack left the project after irreconcilable differences. Initially, reports came out that Jones left because of unwanted advances from John Lassetter, but both Jones and McCormack have since debunked those claims, saying, “The breakneck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible and, in fact, counterproductive for the people who do want to tell their stories (…) We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue.”
20 Woody Was Going To Be Much Darker
The original Toy Story was intended to be much grimmer than the finished product we all know and love. If you think Woody is kind of a meanie in the original film, wait until you hear how they envisioned his original incarnation. Woody was meant to be much more cynical and adult, and an all-around jerk. The toys all look up to him in the final version, but in the first version they had to listen to him because he had created a culture of fear and bossiness. Sounds like contemporary Hollywood. Oh my god… Hollywoody? Whereas he accidentally pushes Buzz out of the window in the movie, Woody was supposed to deliberately push him. Heavens. We can see why Pixar scrapped that original version and softened Woody’s rougher edges.
19 The Original Concept For Barbie Was Bonkers
The original Toy Story had all manner of bizarre, though imaginative visions in the preproduction stage. Being the very first CG blockbuster, the new Pixar hot shots on the block must have been frothing at the mouth with all the potential ways they could revolutionize animated storytelling. And so they did. One of the ways that didn’t work? Woody’s initial love interest. She was meant to be a Sarah Connor type of Barbie doll who wore trashy clothing. She was really more of an unfortunate stereotype. Given the industry’s bad reputation for handling female talent nowadays, it’s a good thing Pixar decided not to perpetuate negative stereotypes. Barbie still made an appearance in Toy Story 3. I think Michael Arndt’s supremely-fantastic script managed to play up Barbie’s foibles for laughs while also humanizing her.
18 Pixar Accidentally Deleted Every File Of Toy Story 2
Ever almost screw up so bad and hoped your boss would never find out? This one’s an urban legend that happens to be true. Pixar doesn’t like to go around talking about how they almost deleted all of Toy Story 2. The film had already been in the works for two years and it was halfway completed when a worker accidentally deleted all of the animation files while cleaning the servers. In a stroke of incredible luck, a technical director had a copy all the files at her home. They drove the computer back to the studio with meticulous, over-the-top care. If there hadn’t been a copy, or it had gotten destroyed on the drive back, we would never have Toy 2 or 3. Pixar might look very different today. It seems like this story should be a Disney short in itself.
17 Children Would Have Been In Tears If They Kept This Ending
Throughout the scripting process and even well into the production process, animation studios constantly rewrite their movies. Michael Arndt, the writer of Toy Story 3, famously didn’t know where to go with the film’s story months into the writing process. There are also many subplots and ideas that get left on the cutting room floor, but some are darker than others. Pixar would rather you not know about them. In the final scene of Toy Story 2, Buzz was supposed to carry back Zurg’s dead boy and mourn how he had to go bury his father. Pixar vetoed the idea as it was way too dark, but it was too late to stop the plot point from making its way into the novelization of the movie.
16 Toy Story 2 Was Almost Made By A Different Studio
Circle 7 was an animation studio founded by Michael Eisner, the former CEO of the Walt Disney Company. Rumour has it that Eisner butt heads with many of the higher-ups at Disney and Pixar. In 2004, Eisner gave Toy Story 2 over to Circle 7. The original idea was much different than the final version we have today. The initial idea for Toy Story 2 featured Buzz getting recalled to Taiwan for repairs as part of a worldwide recall. The toys would’ve then embarked on a rescue mission. At this point in their history, Disney and Pixar almost broken up over differences caused by Eisner, and I’m sure his vision for Toy Story 2, a polar opposite to theirs, was at the heart of the squabbling. After Eisner got axed and Disney bought up Pixar, the Toy Story 2 storyline was recalled for repairs of its own.
15 The First Pitch For Monsters Inc. Scared Pixar For A Different Reason
Monsters Inc. was not always the lighthearted, happy-go-lucky Pixar film it is now. According to TVTropes, the original pitch had nothing to do with little kids getting scared by monsters. Instead, the movie was about a 30-year old man who was haunted by monsters that all represented something different from his childhood. It sounds a little bit like Pixar’s Inside Out, though instead of monsters, the emotions are anthropomorphized. Okay, maybe it has nothing to do with Inside Out. Someone over at Pixar sensibly pointed out that maybe a 30-year old being terrorized by monsters wouldn’t be relatable to audiences of young kids who were still afraid of the boogeyman. Apparently, the ending was deemed too bittersweet as well.
14 Disney Is Literally Hiding Things
Amid all the controversy surrounding the Kevin Spacey harassment claims, businesses and studios have acted astonishingly quick to distance themselves from the actor. Netflix immediately canceled House of Cards and Kevin Spacey’s Master Class has been pulled. Even Ridley Scott is reshooting Kevin Spacey’s scenes in his latest film. Well, Disney themes parks have also made the safe decision to distance themselves from Spacey. Someone snapped a photo of Spacey’s character in A Bug’s Life, Hopper, has been removed from the public eye. I mean, I get businesses not wanting to be associated with such offenders. Businesses are horrified of any negative press, such as list articles detailing their manifest failings. There’s an argument that could be made that hiding a mannequin of a character he voice years ago is a little bit much.
13 The Incredibles Was Almost Not Rated PG
It’s no wonder Pixar doesn’t want this deleted plot point from The Incredibles getting out— it’s much too mature for a children’s film. According to TVTropes, in the original version of the movie, Helen Parr has a dream where her husband is flirting with beautiful women while she’s trapped in a washing machine. The symbolism, of course, is that while she’s trapped in a life of mundane housewife duties, her husband is out there taking off his spandex for any pretty face. She even outright accuses him of having an affair. That got cut for being too mature. I have to hand it to Brad Bird for challenging children’s storytelling norms. With The Incredible 2 flying our way soon, I can’t wait to see Pixar back at pushing the envelope with superhuman strength.
12 Up Nearly Traumatized Viewers At The End Too
If you think Muntz’s end in the Up was a downer (heh heh heh… because he falls…), just listen to what Pixar’s team originally concocted for the villain’s defeat. He was going to get lost in a labyrinth (in the jungle, I’m assuming) where he would wander for days until naturally dying of starvation. Um, okay. You know it’s messed up when the bad guy falling to his doom from incredible heights ISN’T the worst way he could’ve gone out. Disney, eager to keep the film’s rating PG, must not have been too thrilled about the original version. They kept it on the hush-hush and now we have the version where he meets his end in an off-screen fashion, so we can all go to bed having had our poetic justice burger without all those gritty details.
11 As If Up Couldn't Get Any Sadder
Carl’s reason for making his house float with hundreds of balloons had a much, much sadder purpose. In the first vision for the film, Carl’s plan wasn’t to visit the jungle— it was to visit his late-wife, Ellie, in heaven. Oh my gosh. I’ll give you a moment to turn away from the computer and weep quietly into your Mickey Mouse supersize-fountain cup. Everyone remembers the heart-wrenching scene from the beginning of Up. Many hail it as a prime example of emotional filmmaking; within ten minutes, we’re made to care about a relationship to the point we’re brought to tears. It was a grand achievement, but I don’t think Pixar could’ve floated an entire feature-length tear-jerker.
10 Disney Had To Clean Up Brave
If this list teaches you anything, it’s that Disney is in the fairytale laundering business. They’ve taken some historically grim folklore and repackaged them as sanitized sing-a-longs. Everyone lives happily ever after instead of the more traditional dark endings where Cinderella gets rid of her stepmother. Look it up. The original Brave was similarly dark. The bear Mor’du was going to have a more developed backstory and you can bet it was going to to be depressing as all heck. I’m guessing here, but I’m assuming Mor’du would’ve been avenging his tragically-departed family or something. The producers cut both Mor’du’s dark and depressing backstory in a move to focus more on the mother-daughter dynamic. I can’t help wonder if the other direction would have made for a better film.
9 Disney Only Empowers The Good-Looking Princesses
Brave is all about female empowerment. It’s no surprise then that the original Brave director, Brenda Chapman, wanted to include realistic depictions of women. Her initial concept designs for Merida’s mother imagined the character with actual middle-aged woman proportions, such as a bigger behind. The producers at Pixar told Chapman that the character was too large and she was forced to change it. Chapman was frustrated because the movie was all about subverting those old Disney princess stereotypes. Luckily, Frozen would come along a few years later and mark a big leap in the right direction for Disney women, but that movie still has traditionally beautiful princesses. It’s no wonder that Chapman still has some bitter feelings after getting booted off the project.
8 Disney And Pixar Had A Rocky Relationship
Did you really think Steve Jobs wasn’t going to be on this list? Here’s another little fact Pixar is eager to bury. In 2004, Pixar was in negotiations with Disney, who had been distributing their films at that point. Steve Jobs and Disney CEO Michael Eisner had a bit of a Woody/Buzz relationship going on; both of them had quite different views on how Pixar should be run. With negotiations breaking down, Steve Jobs went rogue and openly announced Pixar was looking for a new distributor and that they weren’t going to release films on Disney’s schedule anymore. While this might not seem like that big of a deal, it puts a hole in the narrative that Pixar and Disney have always been “you got a friend in me.”
7 Don't Worry, She Becomes CEO In The Disney Version
Disney has never been one to cop to their highly-prejudiced past. Walt Disney was anti-semitic and the Disney work environment was a toxic workplace for women. In 1938, a woman named Mary Ford wrote to Disney about her dreams of working as an animator. Disney replied with a letter unequivocally stating that the animation department did not hire women. I know the whole world was prejudiced against women back then, but this one hurts as Disney is touted as the place where dreams come true. Think about all the wasted talent and shattered dreams. The letter became famous when Meryl Streep mentioned it in a speech. Today, Disney would most likely tell this story as a live-action inspirational tale, where Mary Ford never gives up and achieves her dream.
6 Coco Was Accused Of Ripping Off This Writer
Pixar’s newest film Coco is not without its controversy either. Pixar would rather you don’t know about a 2014 book called The Book of Life written by Jorge Gutiérrez. The premise is oddly similar to Coco. Both the movie and Gutiérrez’s book are children’s stories that take place on the day of the dead in Mexico. Many fans of Gutiérrez have called for a boycott of Pixar’s latest movie. They were angry because the studio called Coco an original premise. If you haven’t heard about the boycott, the studio certainly doesn’t want to bring attention to that boycott. In Pixar’s defence, Coco was announced two years before the release of Gutiérrez’s book. Gutiérrez even gave Coco his blessing on twitter so there’s no more bad blood.
5 Disney Shamelessly Tried To Trademark Mexico's Festival
Pixar’s new film Coco has been beset by controversy on a few fronts. There was a question of a boycott over its premise, but Disney pulled one of its classic moves that did not go over well with Latin America. Since Coco takes place on the day of the dead, Disney did what it always does and tried to trademark the day of the dead. That’s right, they actually tried to register the trademark Día De Los Muertos as the film’s name, a Mexican tradition they had no part inventing. The artist Lalo Alcaraz was one of the harshest critics against the move. Disney eventually had to back off. Coco had more than its share of production troubles and they weren’t looking to add to the number.
4 Ever Wonder Why They're So Similar?
Have you ever noticed how Pixar and Dreamworks seem to release similar films around the same time? The examples abound. When Pixar released, A Bug’s Life, Dreamworks released Antz. The same with Disney’s The Road to El Dorado/The Emperor’s New Groove and Finding Nemo/Shark Tales. Disney and Dreamworks have always had a bit of a Coke/Pepsi dynamic. They spy on what the other one’s doing and copy their homework. To be fair, Dreamworks is the one that’s mostly at fault here. Their films are usually the ones to come afterwards. Fans of both studios have long guessed at the nature of this phenomenon. Many attribute it to Jeffrey Katzenberg, once Disney’s chairman and then left to co-found Dreamworks where he oversees most of the productions.
3 Breaking News: Steve Jobs Once Did Something Really Mean
Here’s a shocker. Steve Jobs was a jerk one time. Can you believe it? Go on, catch your breath. I’ll give you a moment. While heading Pixar, Steve Jobs once went on a firing purge without severance pay. An ex-employee named Pamela Kerwin pointed out that the law stated employees needed to be given to weeks notice. According to Factwide, Steve Jobs said, “Okay," he said, "but the notice is retroactive from two weeks ago.” Alright, now that’s funny and cold at the same time. It’s a line that would be perfectly at home in Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs biopic from a couple years ago. Maybe there would be a colorful metaphor in there too. It wouldn’t have looked too good for Pixar had these stories received national spotlight.
2 Lock Them Up
Anybody remember that one time where Steve Jobs, Pixar president Ed Catmull, and George Lucas got into bed together and struck an illegal wage-fixing deal? Yeah, not many other people remember either. That’s because they were really good at it. In the 1980s, the trio decided to fix employee wages so that none of their talent would get poached. Their back-door agreement was in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. It wasn’t until Sony Pictures came along and wanted in on the CG animation market that the deal came to light. A series of emails came out detailing how the troublesome trifecta tried to coax Sony intro joining the dark side. Thankfully, Sony didn’t give in to its hate and the emails came to light.
1 Disney Tried To Hide Its Biggest Scandal In Decades
The Anaheim story is no doubt one of the biggest scandals to come out of Disney in a long time. On September 24, The LA Times wrote a piece about Disney’s history of taking advantage of Anaheim, the city that houses its theme parks. Disney has forced Anaheim to build infrastructure, provide tax cuts, and various rebates that analysts estimate cost Anaheim one billion dollars over two decades. Disney has manipulated Anaheim’s political process, donating to campaigns that favour its presence in the city. When the story broke, some moron higher-up at Disney blacklisted The LA Times from its premieres. They thought they could railroad the newspaper into making bad press disappear. The move backfired. Stupendously. Every major newspaper came out in defense of the LA Times and boycotted reviewing Disney films for the awards season. Disney backed off immediately and only brought more attention to the Anaheim scandal.