In 2006, Disney signed a 7.4 billion dollar deal to acquire Pixar,
one of the most prolific and celebrated animation studios of our time. Many feared the acquisition would tarnish the quality of Pixar’s output, but thankfully, such was not the case. The magic of Pixar remained ubiquitous, and the studio continued to put out great films, some that even rivalled original prodigies such as Toy Story and Monsters, Inc.
Pixar is known for the layers of detail they cram into the fabric of their films. As a studio, they are extremely self-referential, and each film is rife with symbolism and thematically consistent visuals. Furthermore, the films are simply gorgeous to behold, and each new entry utilizes the latest in cutting-edge animation technology that the industry has to offer. Such care and detail has inspired countless theories about the world Pixar has created, and for many, the evidence behind them is nigh irrefutable.
Some theories have even been confirmed, through interviews of knowing nods from executives. The theories led audiences to engage with the films in a very personal way, make each viewing a treasure hunt, and allow for new interpretations of well-loved stories. Without further ado, here are 20 theories about the Pixar films that are true, whether from the filmmaker's point of view or your own.
20 All The Films Are Connected
This was the original conspiracy theory about Pixar films, laid out best by blogger and author John Negroni. In his thesis, John brilliantly lays out how the Pixar films are connected, how they depend chronologically on each other, and how the PCU (Pixar Cinematic Universe) is telling a grand story about the rise and fall of humanity, the development of animal intelligence, and the birth of emotional AI beings. It’s wild stuff.
Disney would go on to acknowledge this theory.
They did this by releasing a small feature that shows all the Easter eggs within the Pixar films. Taken literally, this video is confirmation that all the films exist in the same Universe, and have influenced one another in countless ways.
19 The Cars Have Human Parts
Cars is surely one of Pixar’s more curious franchises. A studio known for its creativity and originality decided to cash in on an easily marketable idea of anthropomorphic cars, and it was a move that paid off. Cars became one of Pixar’s most lucrative IPs and spawned two sequels and a spin-off in the process.
And yet, for us over analysts, Cars is beyond bizarre. Where did these beings come from? What’s really going on under that hood? Surprisingly, Jay Ward, the creative director of Cars, gave us a direct answer to the latter. When asked why the cars have doors, and why they don't open, he replied, “you’ll never see the doors open… because the brains and eyes are in there, and we don't want anything falling out of the side.” Now, there’s an image we could all do without.
18 The Pizza Planet Truck Connects Everything
One of the greatest Easter eggs in Pixar history is the Pizza Planet truck. It first made its glorious debut in Toy Story and has appeared in every Pixar film that has followed.
If you needed confirmation that the movies are all connected, look no further than the Pizza Planet Truck.
Some of its inclusions are obvious, while others subtle. The trend kicked off in A Bug’s Life. The truck can be seen outside the mobile home that houses the bug city, and coincidentally, where Randall from Monsters Inc. meets his demise. In the Cars series, the truck is giving eyes and can be seen driving about and watching races. In many films the truck appears for a split second, usually peeling past when you are distracted by other elements of the film. No matter the film, you can be sure to find it somewhere!
17 The Monsters Evolved From Primitive Man
The monsters from Monsters, Inc. and University are unique creatures. No two seem quite the same, and there have been various theories proposed as to where they came from. Many believe they are evolutionary offshoots of animals that took over the world after the events of Wall-E. The truth, however, is much more straightforward, and is revealed in the special features of the Monsters, Inc. DVD.
In the feature, it is shown that monsters and men once lived side by side, before the monsters were driven away by the men for their unsightly appearance. They fled to an enchanted island, where a magic fruit gave them the physical characteristics of the animals that ate them. Realizing how frightening they now looked, the monsters returned to their homes to scare their former adversaries, and a lifelong tradition was born.
16 Bing Bong Was A Monster
Bing Bong was one of the stand-out characters in 2015’s Inside Out. He was hilarious and bizarre and gave us one of the most heart-wrenching scenes in any Pixar film. He was described as Riley’s childhood imaginary friend, but if the Pixar Universe is truly on one continuum, his identity is far more solid then that.
Bing Bong was undoubtedly a monster from the monster world.
He came onto the scene after the ideological shift at the end of Monsters, Inc., when the priority went from fear to laughter. He was a very gifted comedian and appeared to Riley when she was much the same as age as Boo, which makes her memory somewhat hazy on the matter. All the same, Bing Bong provided Riley with countless hours of laughter and joy, and though forgotten, still lives on in the monster world.
15 Andy’s Dad Used To Own Woody
Many have wondered about the mysterious identity of Andy’s father in Toy Story. He is conspicuously absent throughout, leaving Andy’s mother to take care of him alone. But now none other than Joe Ranft, co-writer of Toy Story, has revealed the story of Andy’s father.
Andy Sr. was sickly childhood, who suffered from polio and was bedridden for much of his life. When his parents discovered his disease, they opted to burn all his belongings to keep it from spreading, but Andy Sr. saved Woody and stored him in the attic. Many years later his health improved, and he had a family, only to have the disease return, this time terminally. As Andy Sr. was fading, he gave his son the key that unlocked the chest where Woody was held and gave Andy a new best friend to remember his father by.
14 The Cars Replaced Humans
One watching Cars may wonder, and for good reason, where are all the humans? Why do the cars seem to have taken over our customs and cultures, as well as our personalities?
Well, have no fear (or perhaps do), because Jay Ward has an answer for that one too.
Essentially, the cars are the result of AI tech gone too far, Terminator style. He discusses our world, where cars are getting to the point where they can drive themselves, and wonders what would happen if the cars got too smart, and decided they didn’t need us anymore? This thought inspired Cars, a world where us unneeded humans have been disposed of. But it gets even better. According to Ward, the cars' personalities are derived from the last person who drove them. Not only did they eliminate us, by they usurped our identities as well!
13 The Films Exist In An Alternate Timeline
Many things about the Pixar films are familiar, but by the same token, many are markedly different. It is a world rife with humanity and struggle, but also one that harbors talking animals and superheroes. How does a world so similar to own end up so far from it? The answer is one that many have pondered, and now Pixar has provided an answer, one that begins the John Negroni theory.
At the beginning of 2015’s The Good Dinosaur, we witness the asteroid hurtling towards prehistoric Earth that was destined change Earth's history forever. But in this timeline, the asteroid flies over Earth, and the dinosaurs are able to continue growing and evolving. This chain of events results in the PCU.
12 Animals Evolve To Be Super Intelligent
The asteroid missing Earth was just the beginning of the changes on Pixar’s world. Since dinosaurs were allowed to flourish, they developed sophisticated languages, cultures, and survival techniques. Humans, as it turns out, were several thousand years behind them evolutionarily, as shown through the dynamic of Spot and Arlo in The Good Dinosaur.
But the millenniums passed, the world changed.
Humans do eventually catch up and overtake the dinosaurs, as they rule the world in the time of Brave. In response, prehistoric life evolved into more familiar forms. Their intelligence never leaves them, however, and humans and animals come to have meaningful relationships around the world.
11 Human Emotions Are An Energy Source
We all know the real world power that can be transferred from one human to another through their emotions. Every good film that has the ability to make us cry, rage, or fawn is a testament to the power we hold within our feelings, and Pixar has made good on this concept in many of their films.
The most obvious example is in Monsters, Inc. In their world, the monsters use literal human fear as an energy source and have multimillion-dollar enterprises dedicated to harvesting it. Once it becomes clear that human joy is an even more powerful source they make the switch. The robotic caretakers in Wall-E most certainly use human energy to fuel the Axiom, and the caricatures of emotion in Inside Out show just how powerful and important this energy source is.
10 Memories Are Equally As Powerful
In Pixar’s Universe, memories carry just as much power and energy as their emotive counterparts. Inside Out shows this most poetically, with memories that are associated with their respective emotions, and the influence of sadness on joyful memories as we age. The varied memories fuel a human’s existence, and essential core memories shape who we are.
However, the untapped power of memory in the PCU is most evident in Coco.
In this film, memories are the only things that keep a spirit attached to the world of the living. If a person is remembered, they can return on the Day Of The Dead and can stay in the paradise of the Land Of The Dead. If they are forgotten, they fade away into dust, much like forgotten memories and imaginary friends do in Inside Out.
9 Wood Has Magical Properties
The natural world exudes a sense of magic. This can be felt in everyday life, and our entertainment media always championing the designs of nature over the rigid conformity of human design. Pixar follows this trend, and imbues wood with magical properties in their films, juxtaposing it against the cold indifference of man-made forms.
This is most evident in Monsters, Inc. Only wooden doors can be used as two-way access points to the human world. When Sully and Mike are banished, the door presented to them is metal, and only offers a one-way trip. The Witch in Brave (ie. Boo) is a wood carver and utilizes the magic of wooden doors as well. Finally, the plant in Wall-E is the infant form of a tree and even then has the power to change the course of a civilization.
8 The Witch In Brave Is Boo
This is where things start to get wild, but the evidence to support this theory is quite powerful.
The Witch is Boo, and she is on a quest to reunite with Sully, her long-lost friend.
She has the ability to travel through space with wooden doors, an ability she could have learned from her experiences in the monster world. The Witch/Boo has an obsession with bears, which are one of the last things she associates with Sully, as she is seen giving him a teddy bear as a young child, and Sully closely resembles a bear himself. She has undoubtedly traveled across time in her search, as her workshop has carvings of trucks and renaissance paintings that exist beyond her time. Finally, she has a clear carving of Sully within her workshop, which confirms her connection to the lovable monster.
7 Ego’s Mother Is The Old Lady
The final moments of Ratatouille are extremely heartfelt. The grim and unmovable food critic Anton Ego arrives at the restaurant, in a flurry, Remy and his cohorts concoct a dish of ratatouille for him, a dish formally considered low-class. Despite this, the food reminds Ego of the ratatouille that his mother used to make, and he considers the meal a roaring success.
But there is more to this moment than meets the eye.
Little do moviegoers know that we have already met Ego’s mother in the film. She is none other than the old lady, whose home Remy used to live under. The evidence of this is clear during Ego’s flashback, where furniture, appliances, and kitchen supplies can be seen that are identical to those in the old ladies house.
6 Syndrome Invented AI
While reeling at the horrific realities of Cars, one may wonder where exactly the technology needed to facilitate such an uprising would come from. Surely we would see such a crisis coming, and make the necessary moves to avoid it? Perhaps not, as the human-hunting technology that allowed Cars to become a reality was crafted by Syndrome, the jaded antagonist of The Incredibles.
Provided all the films are truly connected, the theory is flooring. Syndrome created his robots to hunted supers, and his final version became so self-aware that it realized it was being taken advantage of, and turned on its creator. This is exactly what happens in Cars. Though the final robot was destroyed, the technology lived on and birthed all sorts of humanity despising robots.
5 Up Is The Beginning Of The Buy-N-Large Takeover
Buy-n-Large is the massive company that took over the planet in the events prior to Wall-E and was responsible for the expenditure of Earth’s resources. Wall-E is quite far along on the PCU timeline, and films released after it show how Buy-n-Large was already influencing the world.
Buy-n-Large must have heavily endorsed AI, for it is personified by AUTO in Wall-E, and can be seen on countless billboards in the world of Cars. Buzz Lightyear’s batteries in Toy Story 3 are of the Buy-n-Large brand, which encourages the idea that the toys may themselves be some form of AI. Most alarmingly is the BnL logo on the construction equipment that comes to tear down Carl’s house in Up. This shows the beginning of their takeover and shows that they care little for the needs of the individual.
4 The Tree In Bug's Life Appears In Toy Story 2
When you're a bug, the world is a massive place, even if your world consists of just an island and a tree. Such is the iconic setting of A Bug's Life. The tree of the bugs' island is twisting and gnarled, and utterly unique in its form. That's why when it reappeared in Toy Story 2, it was a fantastic piece of PCU world building.
The tree reappears in Jessie's flashback of her time with Emily, her original owner. The two often visited the tree to play, and the location was filled with warm memories. In the end, however, Emily chose that location to abandon her former friend, and the location took on an air of lonely nostalgia. The bug drama would take place beneath that very tree's roots, and a mighty rainstorm must have occurred to create the dry pool that came to surround it.
3 Toy Story 3 Is An Allegory
Now here’s one that certainly requires a tin foil hat, but is easy to spot all the same. The reasoning behind the theory is strong and offers a grim new way to watch a Pixar classic.
The film begins with Andy going off to college, and leaving his toys behind. This is much like the host nations abandoned the Jewish people during World War II. There is supposed sanctuary in the attic, but this plan fails. Ultimately, the toys find themselves shipped off to the repressive Sunnyside Daycare, a group of “undesirables” forced into a place they cannot leave. See where this is going? The toys even find themselves facing an untimely end by the hands of an incinerator. Thankfully they avoid this fate and are given a second chance at life. Some conspirators insist that the toys actually do perish and that the finale is them experiencing the afterlife.
2 Up Is An Afterlife Allegory
The very fabric of Up is lined with tragedy. Within the first ten minutes, we are given a profound and relatable tale of love and loss that sets the tone of the film. From there we are reintroduced to Carl at an old age, and he seems ready to let it all go.
The rest of the film is him doing just that.
Russell appears at his door and can be perceived as a guardian angel. He's sent to help Carl cross to the other side. Paradise Falls is his idea of heaven, and the house is his connection to the physical world. The story is a tale of his transition. He must learn to let go of his life and join his wife in a more spiritual plane. The film ends with him doing just that. He returns to Earth with a newfound optimism.
1 The Real Reason Behind Marlin’s Search
Pixar movies aren't known for being 100% scientifically accurate. They are children’s movies, after all, and many physical and biological impossibilities are glossed over for the sake of good storytelling. Thank goodness this was the case in Finding Nemo.
In the real world, clownfish are born genderless, which means they can grow into either gender. The gender is determined by the needs of a clownfish group, which consists of one alpha female. When an alpha female passes away, one of the males will stop producing male hormones. They become female to help the group continue to reproduce and survive. In Finding Nemo, Marlin and Nemo are the only fish left in their group… and both are male. We won't finish this train of thought because it's too much. But let's just say Pixar was right in omitting the biological realities for this one.