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Top 10 Things Pixar Does That Disney Would Never Do

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher

It may be a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, but Pixar’s films are distinctly different. For this list, we’re looking at all the ways Pixar differs from Disney in how it crafts its stories and creates its films. Our list includes creative choices seen in the movies "The Incredibles", "Finding Nemo", "Up", "WALL-E", "Toy Story", and more! Join WatchMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Things Pixar Does That Disney Would Never Do.

Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/10+Things+Pixar+Does+That+Disney+Would+NEVER+Do. Special thanks to our user liam_schell for suggesting this idea!


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Script written by Savannah Sher

Top 10 Things Pixar Does That Disney Would Never Do

It may be a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, but Pixar’s films are distinctly different. Welcome to and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Things Pixar Does That Disney Would NEVER Do.

For this list, we’re looking at all the ways Pixar differs from Disney in how they craft their stories and create their films.

#10: They Don’t Let Their Characters Sing

While music plays an important role in many Pixar films, not a single feature they’ve created is considered a musical. Movies like “Toy Story” and 2017’s “Coco” use lyrical music in the background to convey characters’ feelings, but the characters themselves don’t always do the singing. While they haven’t done a musical yet, the concept isn’t totally off the table. Animator James Murphy has said that Pixar would consider doing a musical “if an individual [came] up with an idea that deserved or warranted” one because it would have come from “a very genuine place.”

#9: They Stick to Animation

You’ve probably noticed that in the 2010s, Disney has started a practice of rebooting some of their classic films using a combination of live-action and CGI. They’ve already released “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Jungle Book,” with “Dumbo” and “The Lion King” following in their footsteps. Pixar’s movies are already computer animated, and we’d be surprised if they ever decided to make a live-action version of something like “Toy Story” or “Inside Out” because it wouldn’t feel all that different from the original.

#8: They Set Their Stories in Expansive Worlds

While Disney movies do take place in fantastical lands, the settings are often concentrated and the characters are often rooted to the same place. Pixar often offers up much more exploration, with characters traversing long distances over a world that is richly developed. Think of Marlin and Nemo swimming through the ocean, or WALL-E travelling through space, or Carl going on an epic adventure in “Up.” Pixar characters develop through these journeys and viewers get to experience a fully realized world that seems practically endless.

#7: They Focus on Adults

Some would argue that Pixar caters their movies more to older audiences, with jokes that have double meanings that only grown-up viewers would understand. This may be true, but more importantly, the folks at Pixar focus on adult problems that are more relatable for older viewers. Many of Disney’s protagonists are young or youthful - think of the teenaged princesses or Simba, Dumbo, and Peter Pan. In Pixar movies however, we get to see Mr. and Mrs. Parr figuring things out in middle age or Marlin searching for his son. The themes of Disney films are much more youthful and optimistic while those in Pixar films are more rooted in reality.

#6: They Create More Subtle Antagonists

In every Disney movie, there’s a bad guy. Think of Cruella de Vil, Scar, Captain Hook, or Dr. Facilier. These are all cut and dry villains who move the plot of the film along with their evil deeds. In Pixar movies, however, characters are often dealing with internal rather than external struggles. Though there are definitely antagonists in Pixar films, they’re often more auxiliary figures who make things more difficult for our heroes, but don’t necessarily drive all the action. It’s a subtle distinction, but one that makes Pixar movies all the more complex.

#5: They Show What Happens After “Happily Ever After”

The romance in Disney movies focuses largely on the courting phase, the will-they-won’t-they anticipation that ends with a first kiss. This makes sense for a younger target audience, but in Pixar films we get to take a look at couples and families after the honeymoon phase has ended. The most notable example is, of course, “The Incredibles,” but we also see examples of this in “Up,” “Inside Out,” and “Finding Nemo.” Pixar shows how a “happy ending” doesn’t have a sense of finality and how there are always more struggles to be faced after that fade to black.

#4: They Skip Dialogue

Two of Pixar’s most successful films feature scenes or segments with no dialogue that still manage to pack a big emotional punch. Even without hearing characters speak, the writers were able to convey a wide range of emotions in the opening sequence of “Up” and the first act of “WALL-E.” It takes some pretty expert storytelling skills to make viewers feel for characters without using any words, but Pixar pulls it off in a way that is beautiful and impactful. It’s hard to imagine Disney ever doing anything like this.

#3: They Set Their Stories in the Real World

Disney has built their brand on fairy tales. Since the company’s inception, it has been taking time-honored classics and putting them on the big screen for a wider audience. They have operated in a world of make-believe and fantasy lands and that’s what people love about them. Even more recent films follow this same criteria. Over at Pixar, however, they still tell somewhat fantastical stories, but almost every single one is rooted in reality. Pixar makes you look at the world we live in through a different lens, shining a light on things like toys, bugs, fish and rats that you may not have thought to pay attention to.

#2: They Ask “What If?”

The distinction that many people are aware of between Disney and Pixar is that Disney bases all their films on the concept of “Once Upon a Time” while Pixar’s movies are all rooted in a question of “What If?”. What if our toys came to life when we weren’t looking? What if a rat wanted to be a chef? What if the monsters in our closets were real? What if we could see what goes on in a young girl’s brain? Pixar movies may not offer up the same escapism that Disney movies do, but they are still filled with a sense of wonder and curiosity that makes us look at reality with fresh eyes.

#1: They Create Morally Ambiguous Characters

We’ve already talked about how the antagonists are a little different in Pixar movies, but the heroes are much more complex as well. There is far less black and white morality in Pixar films, and characters don’t fit neatly into “good” or “bad” categories. Pixar’s protagonists aren’t always the most sympathetic figures, and they often struggle to make the right choices. Disney’s heroes are typically unflagging in their moral uprightness and would never make a selfish decision. Pixar’s characters may be a little harder to love, but when you stick with them it’s definitely worth it.

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