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A special "Where's WALL-E" edition of Why For?

A special "Where's WALL-E" edition of Why For?

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Bernie W. writes in to say:

Jim --

Can you please help me win a bet at work? A co-worker of mine says that WALL-E makes a brief cameo appearance in "Ratatouille." More importantly, this guy has bet me $100 that I'll never ever be able to find that robot in this movie.


 Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

I've watch my kid's "Ratatouille" DVD three times now and haven't seen hide nor hair of WALL-E yet. So if I offer you a percentage of my winnings, will you please tell me where I can find this robot in the movie?

Thanks in advance for your help,

Bernie W.

Dear Bernie --

I have to admit that the guys up in Emeryville do delight in doing stuff like that. As in: Bringing characters from different Pixar projects together. Take -- for example -- what happens to the logo for this animation studio in the opening portion of "WALL-E" 's international trailer. Where first the light in the Luxo Jr. lamp blows out and then WALL-E rolls on-screen with a replacement bulb.


Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Or -- for that matter -- making reference to earlier and/or upcoming productions in the most recent Pixar release. How many of you recall that the title of this animation studio's very first short (i.e. "The Adventures of André and Wally B") ...


Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

... actually wound up being printed on the spine of one of those storybooks that you saw behind Woody in "Toy Story"?


 Copyright 1995 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Or how the lamp from "Luxo Jr." (You know? That 1980s-era lighting fixture that's featured so prominently in the Pixar logo?) ...


 Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

... also makes an appearance in that John Lasseter movie. Albeit with a bright red paint job.


 Copyright 1995 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Even the yellow ball from "Luxo Jr." (With its distinctive red star and blue stripe) ...


 Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

... turns up in "Toy Story." It's the ball that Buzz Lightyear bounces off of as he's trying to prove to all the other toys in Andy's room that he really can fly.


Copyright 1995 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

"So when did Pixar get started with making all of these in-jokes and/or self references to its own movies?," you ask. My understanding is that this practice actually dates back to 1987. Where -- as staffers at this animation studio were rushing to complete "Red's Dream," the short that they planned on placing in competition at that year's SIGGRAPH -- they realized that the circus center ring that plays such a prominent role in this film's dream sequence was a bit on the bland side.

Sooo ... Hoping to inject a little more color into "Red's Dream," Lasseter & Co. lifted the color, textures and designs featured on the rubber ball in "Luxo Jr." and then made that the floor of their circus's center ring.


Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

As the story goes, a few folks at SIGGRAPH 1987 told John that they thought that it was really clever that "Red's Dream" had referenced Pixar's first SIGGRAPH submission, "Luxo Jr." Which suggested that there was some sort of connective tissue between these two animated shorts.

Which -- let's be honest here, folks -- was NOT what John Lasseter & his team of animators were trying to do when they were working on "Red's Dream." Truth be told, these guys were just looking for a quick-and-dirty way to add some additional color to that film's dream sequence. But given they seemed to get extra points with the people at SIGGRAPH for trying to be clever ... Well, in-jokes and self references then became a way of life at Pixar Animation Studios.

Which is why the gas station that Andy's Mom pulls into in "Toy Story" ...


Copyright 1995 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

... then became the racing sponsor that Lightning McQueen was lusting after in Pixar's "Cars."


 Copyright 2006 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Or how the crazy old man who's playing chess with himself in "Geri's Game" ...


 Copyright 1997 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

... could wind up being the toy repair expert that Al calls in when Woody gets his arm torn off in "Toy Story 2."


 Copyright 1999 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, some of these in-jokes go literally by in the blink of an eye. Take -- for example -- those itty-bitty bitchy birds that get their comeuppance in "For the Birds."


 Copyright 2000 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Did you catch their blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in "Cars" ?


 Copyright 2006 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

If not ... Well, I can't say as I'm surprised. These birds-on-a-wiretap go by in a 10th of a second in that John Lasseter film. You can catch a brief glimpse of them as Mac rolls through the countryside in that movie's "Life is a Highway" musical montage sequence.


Copyright 2006 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, the people at Pixar can be pretty picky about where and when they make these references. By that I mean: Witness how the ball from "Luxo Jr." can be seen in the Parrs' living room during "Jack-Jack Attack" ...


Copyright 2005 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

And yet this children's plaything is nowhere to be seen in yet another Pixar project that prominently features a baby, "Tin Toy."


 Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

As for Tinny himself, he actually make a quick cameo in Pixar's most recent short, "Lifted." This tender-hearted wind-up toy is located under the bed during the attempted abduction sequence.


 Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Speaking of bedrooms ... Perhaps the most famous set of self references to ever appear in a Pixar picture occurred in "Monsters, Inc." Where -- as Sulley finally returns Boo to the human world -- among the toys that we see scattered around this toddler's bedroom are the ball from "Luxo Jr." (You can see it in the photo below next to the easel) as well as a Jessie doll from "Toy Story 2" (On the white table to the left).


Copyright 2001 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Which Boo now brings to Sulley. And then -- as the icing on the cake -- this cute little girl hands her favorite squeaky toy over to that blue-haired beast. Which (not-so-co-incidentally) is shaped just like that cute little clown fish who'll play the title characters in Pixar's Summer 2003 release, "Finding Nemo."


Copyright 2001 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

This particular in-joke launched a brand-new trend at that animation studio. Where the animators would then fold in a somewhat discreet reference to an upcoming Pixar production. Take -- for example -- that "Incredibles" manga that the little boy is reading at the dentist's office in "Finding Nemo."


 Copyright 2003 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Or -- better yet -- how about that cameo appearance that Stanley made in "Boundin'" ?


Copyright 2003 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

"And who exactly is Stanley?," you ask. Well, Stanley is the Stanley Steamer who founded Radiator Springs. It's his statue that Lightning McQueen winds up pulling off its pedestal when that race car accidentally winds up trashing that sleepy Southwestern town on his way to the Piston Cup.


 Copyright 2006 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

I know, I know. Not everyone is going to pick up on these somewhat tenuous connections between the various Pixar productions. And that's okay with that studio's animators. Sometimes they actually prefer it when their in-jokes stay in-jokes.

Take -- for example -- how Linguini ...


 Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

... is also the unfortunate human who gets brutally bashed about while he's being abducted in Gary Rydstrom's "Lifted."


 Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

But then again, there are those pieces of connective tissue that the people at Pixar really hope that animation fans do notice. Like that remote trailer with the deadly bug light in "A Bug's Life" ...

 
Copyright 1998 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

... is also where Randall winds up after he gets banished to the human world in "Monsters, Inc." ?


 Copyright 2001 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Or -- for that matter -- did you notice the Pizza Planet truck that was parked beside this trailer?


 Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Believe it or not, this particular vehicle (which is modeled after the Toyota HiLux) has appeared in every single feature film that Pixar Animation Studios has produced to date. It's the truck that Woody & Buzz stow away in when they're trying to hitch a ride to Pizza Planet in the original "Toy Story."


Copyright 1995 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

This is also the vehicle that Buzz "borrows" in "Toy Story 2," when that space ranger is trying to prevent Buzz, Jessie and Bullseye from being sent to that toy museum in Japan.


Copyright 1999 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

You can also catch a quick glimpse of the Pizza Planet truck as Gill is explaining his latest escape plan to the Tank Gang.


 Copyright 2003 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

The Pizza Planet truck also makes an appearance in the Piston Cup sequence of "Cars." You'll find him to the far left in the photo below, next to the RV that looks like Elvis Presley.


 Copyright 2006 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Which brings us to "The Incredibles." Brad Bird's very first feature for Pixar Animation Studios. Given that Brad was something of an outsider when he first arrived in Emeryville, he didn't automatically buy into all of Pixar's oddball traditions. Which is why -- when it came time to insert that obligatory Pizza Planet truck cameo into his picture -- Bird made it part of the Parrs' high speed return to the city aboard that badly battered RV ...

 
Copyright 2004 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

... Which is why all you really get to see of the Pizza Planet truck in "The Incredibles" is a pale blur.


 Copyright 2004 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

However, by the time "Ratatouille" came out, Brad was finally a true believer in the Pixar way of doing things. Which is why he happily included the Pizza Planet truck among all of the other cars that were motoring around Paris.


 Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, Bird still didn't make it all that easy for animation fans to spy this vehicle. Given that he had the Pizza Planet truck drive across a bridge that was 'way off in the background while Skinner was chasing Remy through the foreground while riding on that scooter.


 Close-up of truck on bridge here -- Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Speaking of strange things that you can spy in "Ratatouille" ... Did you see where Brad had Bomb Voyage (You know? The explosives-crazed criminal that Mr. Incredible discovers robbing a bank in the opening sequence of "The Incredibles" ?) ...


 Copyright 2004 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

... also makes an appearance as a mime who's working in the streets of Paris in "Ratatouille" ?


Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

And then there are the just-plain-silly in-jokes. Like that moment in the "A Bug's Life" out-takes where it's revealed that Woody is working the clapboard on that particular Pixar production.


Copyright 1998 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Or when Flik deliberately blows his own lines, using Buzz Lightyear's "To Infinity and Beyond" catchphrase rather than saying "For the Colony and oppressed bugs everywhere!"


 Copyright 1998 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Or how about that moment in the "Toy Story 2" out-takes, when Flik first tells Heimlich how happy he is to be working on "A Bug's Life 2" ...


Copyright 1999 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

... only to then discover -- just as Buzz Lightyear's machete comes crashing down on the branch that this ant & the caterpillar are standing on -- that the Pixar sequel that they're actually appearing in is "Toy Story 2."


 Copyright 1999 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

But for every Pixar in-joke or self reference that are like this (i.e. Really obvious. In your face), there are the really subtle, throwaway ones. Like how the ball from "Luxo Jr." rolls periodically rolls through the background of the menus on the "Toy Story 2" DVD.


 Copyright 2000 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Which brings us (finally!) to the answer of Bernie W.'s question. As in: Where exactly in "Ratatouille" can you find WALL-E?


 Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

To be honest, Bernie's co-worker seems to deliberately be trying to trick his friend. Given that the title character of this upcoming Andrew Stanton film doesn't actually appear in the "Ratatouille" film. But -- rather -- that cute little robot can be found on the new Pixar short that's included as an extra features on the "Ratatouille" DVD, "Your Friend the Rat."


 Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

"And where is WALL-E?," you ask. Well ... Toward the end of the short, Remy & Emile sing a song called "Plan B." And -- at one point in this musical fantasy sequence -- humans & rats are happily seated inside of this futuristic spacecraft, which is zooming along that planet's surface toward a launching pad.


Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

If you take a close look at the driver of that craft, you'll see that it's a very stylized version of the star of Pixar's big release of the Summer of 2008, "WALL-E."


 Copyright 2007 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

As for cutting me in for a share of your winnings, Bernie W ... Tell you what. Why don't you hold onto that cash for a few days? For sometime late next week, I'll actually be talking about a very worthy cause that I'd like JHM readers to consider donating to.

Tis the season, folks. And if you'd like to show your appreciation for all the great stories that you regularly read here on this website, then why not start out your next Amazon shopping spree by clicking on the banner above? That way, JHM gets a teeny tiny chunk of whatever you spend.

Happy Holidays!

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  • Its easy, sometimes necessary for 3D animation productions to reuse models.  It makes it much easier than modeling and rigging completely new characters.  Thats probably the real reason why we see Bomb Voyage in Ratatouille and Linguini in Lifted.

    I can see how fitting in these characters/props from different films can be fun and become a tradtition in its own right, though.

  • Great stuff, Jim! I had read about a couple of those already, but dang, that was interesting!

  • The Dude is right. Its a common practice to recycle 3D models. My sister told me that before and she has done 3D animation before.

    Interesting article though. For a moment, I really thought there was a WALL-E reference in RATATOUILLE. I did catch WALL-E in the short film though. Some of the other references mentioned in the article I did not know about!

  • As for Brad Bird inserting little things into his films, upon a recent viewing of Iron Giant with my little niece I was surprised to see he has the 2 old men who commented on the Incredibles'  heroics as "old school" near the end of that movie as the train engineers who run into the Iron Giant near the beginning of his non-Pixar traditionally animated film.

  • I believe they're Frank and Ollie, Harosa.

    It's not simply a matter of recycling. Certain stylistic approaches and/or hardware will produce characters with similiar appearances. It's why Lewis from Meet the Robinsons could easily pass as Syndrome and Mirage's kid, even if that's not the case.:P

  • Nice list of Pixar easter-eggs....

  • Jim Hill Media has a really interesting overview of Pixar characters that appear in Pixar films. For example, did you know that the Pizza Planet truck from Toy Story has appeared in every Pixar film to date? I was surprised...

  • Pixar hace múltiples referencias a sus personajes en cada nueva película. Esta es una detallada lista de esos guiños. En inglés

  • Hey Jim,

    Just another to add to your list today. Actually, it's impossible to see clearly, but if you look closely at Andre's red fez (from "The Adventures of Andre & Wally B.), you will notice yellow some yellow stitching. That is actually the names of all the Pixar employees (at the time).

    I heard about this one on a Disney Channel special back in the mid 80's.

  • There's also a scene in Monsters Inc. where Randall is prepping to go out on the scare floor, and his assistant is pulling down different backgrounds behind him.  He pulls one down and Randall changes into the blue wallpaper with clouds from Andy's room in Toy Story.

  • Hey Jim, great article today! Maybe an article on how Disney has done this over the years would be fun. Maybe reading where Disney has re-traced previous animated sequences...though Disney did it to save money.

  • Where's the Pizza Planet truck in Bug's Life?

  • I found an article that explains many of the inside jokes appearing in Pixar movies. Watching the movies repeatedly with my kids helped me notice most of these, but there were several I’d missed. In my opinion, part of what...

  • Excellent roundup of many of the Pixar inside references! I put together a post with three interesting Brad Bird references from Pixar and his previous work:

    http://makkintosshu.dyndns.org/journal/brad-birds-inside-jokes

    He was trained by classic animators at Disney, so many of his references are a bit more old-school.

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