Pixar universe theory
The Pixar universe or Pixar Theory is a theoretical "shared universe" in which every film that is created by Pixar takes place, sharing characteristics and an internal logic. Media discussion about a "Pixar Universe" has existed since at least 2003, and has been referred to in disparate sources such as SlashFilm, Washington Times, Reno Gazette-Journal, and MTV News.
In To Infinity and Beyond!: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios, the companion book to documentary The Pixar Story, Karen Paik states that there are many internal references between various films in The Pixar Universe. In 2009, CityNews Toronto made comparisons between nine "Pixar Universe" films.
In his 2013 thesis entitled "The Pixar Theory", Jon Negroni wrote that all fourteen Pixar movies released at the time took place in a single fictional universe. He acknowledges that the concepts behind his thesis were derived from an episode of the Cracked.com video series After Hours, written by Daniel O'Brien. In his post, Negroni discusses all of the films and how they relate in a timeline of events. The character of Boo in Monsters, Inc. is said to create a time loop, and consequently is the same character as the Witch in Brave. As Pixar released new movies, Negroni wrote new posts to fit each new plotline in the whole theory: in June 2015, he published an article on moviepilot.com and another one on his website explaining how Inside Out also fits into his theory; on December 3, 2015, he wrote another post expanding his theory to The Good Dinosaur and on June 17, 2016 another article explaining how the timeline encompasses Finding Dory as well. Negroni had also fit the Cars spin-off series, Planes, into the theory, even though it was not made by Pixar. The blog io9 described Negroni's work as "a crazy read, one that Negroni has been annotating as readers point to corrections or flaws in his theory. But even as a tinfoil hat theory, it makes some clever connections—and, of course, contains plenty of Pizza Planet trucks."
Speaking in an informal 2013 interview, Cars "franchise guardian" Jay Ward rejected the idea that the films take place in the same universe, saying: "It's almost like the 9/11 conspiracy theories... it's like, really? No, the movies were sort of made in a different order by different directors in different times, in different places. It's cool that it all worked out that way, but it probably was not intentional." At the 2015 D23 Expo, during the "Pixar Secrets Revealed" panel, director Mark Andrews also rejected the theory, and Inside Out co-director Ronnie del Carmen said: "Do you know what kinds of meetings we'd have to have to make sure all our movies line up?!"
- 1 Negroni's fictional theorized plot
- 1.1 Theory Timeline
- 1.1.1 The Good Dinosaur (prehistory)
- 1.1.2 Brave (10th century)
- 1.1.3 The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 (1950s and 1960s)
- 1.1.4 Toy Story and Toy Story 2 (1995–1996)
- 1.1.5 Finding Nemo and Finding Dory (2003–2004)
- 1.1.6 Coco (2006)
- 1.1.7 Toy Story 3 (2007)
- 1.1.8 Up (2007)
- 1.1.9 Ratatouille (2007)
- 1.1.10 Inside Out (2004 or 2015)
- 1.1.11 Cars, Cars 2, and Cars 3 (2110–2804)
- 1.1.12 WALL-E (2805)
- 1.1.13 A Bug's Life (2898)
- 1.1.14 Monsters University and Monsters, Inc. (3100-5201)
- 1.1 Theory Timeline
- 2 Criticism
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Negroni's fictional theorized plot
Jon Negroni proposes in his timeline that the Pixar universe is an alternative version of our universe where magic made animals intelligent and later rebellious against humans, while some humans were also born with superpowers. This prompts conflicts between these two groups, and later human-made intelligent objects, like machines and toys. Machines and humans later unite and defeat the animals. However, due to manipulation by machines, the Earth gradually becomes more and more polluted to the point of human uninhabitability. Humans begin to live in space where they are controlled by machines for centuries. Humans eventually return to Earth, but are wiped out due to the pollution. The animals survive and, because of the effects of radioactive pollution, they evolve into mutated creatures known as monsters. Monsters form a far advanced society capable of time-travelling, but their technology depends on energy obtained from the emotions of humans from the past.
The Good Dinosaur (prehistory)
According to Negroni, the much longer time the dinosaurs had to evolve allowed them to develop their own intelligence: in the film, they have a language and practice farming and animal husbandry. At the time the film takes place, millions of years after their non-occurring extinction, the dominant dinosaurs are obsessed with survival due to scarce food and hostile environments, while mammals (including humans) are beginning to thrive.
Even though dinosaurs still die out, this longstanding evolution causes many weird-looking creatures to emerge, like the dreaded cluckers, those seen in Thunderclap's gang, the anglerfish in Finding Nemo, and those from Paradise Falls in Up. Magic, a result of this alternative evolution, would be discovered and secretly handled by some humans in the future. This includes the witch in Brave, Charles Muntz in Up (who uses it in his inventions to live an exceedingly long and healthy life and make dogs talk), and the government experimentations to create supers in The Incredibles. Magic would also make animals gradually intelligent.
The scarcity of fossil fuels, another effect of dinosaurs existing for more time, prompts humanity to look for alternative fuels much before they would in our timeline. This is alluded to in the Cars franchise, in which an oil crisis related to "dead dinosaurs" is mentioned, and Dinoco's logo is a living dinosaur. As a result of this earlier concern about an oil crisis, humanity develops technology faster, and this would explain the advanced technology seen in The Incredibles, which takes place in the 1950-60s, and the survival of humans much after Cars. The zero-point energy discovered by Syndrome would be the "human energy" so important in this universe.
Early in the Middle Ages, objects and animals are seen behaving like humans due to magic handled by a witch apparently related to mysterious blue lights known as will-o'-the-wisps, which appear in the woods. The witch experimented on various animals, which acquired intelligence and personality and interbred, eventually expanding their population. The witch is in fact Boo from Monsters, Inc., who had used magic to time travel to this time.
The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 (1950s and 1960s)
Brad Bird, the director of The Incredibles, confirmed that it takes place in an alternate version of the early 1960s, thus placing the film's prologue at the late 1940s. Both the superpowers and the zero-point energy mastered by Syndrome are results of the same magic seen in Brave. Toys would eventually absorb the zero-point energy, which can travel through wavelengths, and acquire the potential they offer. Negroni also states that one of the signs of the machine rebellion against humans in this chronology is seen when the Omnidroid v.10, a highly improved AI machine, turns back on Syndrome, its own creator, and starts attacking random people. He also suggests that the superheroes' deaths because of their capes stuck on inanimate objects, such as Stratogale who died because her cape got stuck on an airplane turbine, were not accidental. Also, we see a restaurant called Luxo's deli, probably a chain. This restaurant grows into more businesses, as seen in other movies. Mr. Incredible reads a newspaper in one scene called the Metroville Tribune, and on one side, it says it was published on Monday, May 16, 1962, which means that the prologue took place in 1947. In Incredibles 2, it's revealed that Tripledent Gum existed in the 1960s. Also in Incredibles 2, the villain of the story, Evelyn Deavor has a message she wants to send. If you pay attention when the Screen Slaver is giving the monologue over the screens, she is saying that people are obsessed with technology. Evelyn has also said to Helen Parr that she believes humans will always prefer ease over quality. Because Evelyn is caught, people continue to be obsessed with technology, so technology advances and - with a little help from Syndrome's learning A.I. - would learn to make things easier for humans, which leads to the way BnL technology treats humans in Wall-E.
Toy Story and Toy Story 2 (1995–1996)
An inanimate-object organized society is first shown, with toys living under their own code of rules, in secrecy of humans. They later find out that human love can be a source of energy, and learn that being abandoned by humans is dangerous, thus questioning their purpose of life. For example, Jessie feels resentful towards the fact that her former owner, Emily, abandoned her.
Finding Nemo and Finding Dory (2003–2004)
The first known intelligent animals are seen. Fish form a fairly advanced society, with schools and network systems, and birds are also shown to be intelligent. This would be a result of experimentation with the same mysterious energy handled by the witch, and that gave supers their powers. Dory's short-term memory loss would mean that fish are evolving very fast, with the intelligence failing to fully or properly develop in some of them. Even though they do not communicate with humans yet, fish show resentment towards humans because they pollute the environment and cage them. The dentist's aquarium fish devise elaborate plans which eventually allow them to flee their captivity. In Finding Dory, Hank is the first to show a clear despise or fear about human treatment of sea creatures, and a toy fish (an inanimate object) apparently helps Marlin and Nemo to escape a small aquarium.
In Coco, we learn that Lightning McQueen had a human driver, named Bobby, at that time due to an easter egg of Lightning McQueen shoes worn by Bobby. Also, the town from Coco is seen briefly on a computer screen in Cars 3. In Coco, we see that if someone is forgotten they fade. Just like Bing Bong's death in Inside Out because there were no memory orbs left of him. The deaths of the characters even looked similar.
Toy Story 3 (2007)
A postcard of Carl and Ellie in Andy's room, an easter egg in the movie, puts it chronologically before Up. Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear shows a strong animosity towards humans after his owner Daisy replaced him. Moved by hatred, he starts to lead a toy population and believes that every toy will be sooner or later discarded by the humans who own them. This provides another reason for why human-made objects are motivated to take over. In this film, we briefly see that Buzz Lightyear's batteries are produced by the mega corporation Buy n Large (BnL), which shows great importance in later films.
After a judicial decision, Carl has to give up his old house to a corporation that is expanding in the city, while in WALL-E, Buy n Large is the cause for polluting the Earth and wiping out life in the distant future, as a result of technology overreach. Negroni proposes that the two movies refer to the same corporation. Charles Muntz invents collars which allow dogs to express verbally. This would be another use of the old magic. Furthermore, Negroni concludes that Up may take place after Toy Story 3, because an easter egg in the latter shows a postcard from Ellie and Carl. Luxo, Inc. is seen once again near the beginning. Carl's pills come from "Luxo Drugs".
Communication between humans and animals is first seen, with Remy mimicking to Linguini and controlling his movements, and later his entire rat colony working in Gusteau's kitchen. Remy has outstanding abilities in cooking, better than any human seen, perhaps even Gusteau; he also walks on two paws, cleans his hands and reads. It is shown that his colony, especially his father, sees humans as enemies, prompting a negative sentiment in animals towards humans. Negroni suggests that after the events of the movie, the main villain, Chef Skinner, spread the rumour that animals, or at least some of them, were intelligent and capable of even outperforming humans.
Inside Out (2004 or 2015)
Inside Out is said to take place in the same year as it was released, due to Riley owning a Skype laptop and the presence of smartphones throughout the film. It is shown that a child's joy is much more powerful and active than the other emotions, while in an adult, joy, sadness, fear, anger and disgust seem to co-operate with relatively the same level of importance. Negroni sees this as a connection to Monsters, Inc. in which laughter (joy) is said to contain much more energy than screaming (fear), thus being more effective to sustain the monster society. Also, Riley's imaginary friend in the film, Bing Bong, is described as her perception of a monster from the future, who occasionally visited her and tried to make her laugh in order to obtain her energy. It is also thought that the emotions are what keeps AI like WALL-E functional, and that is why he is the only one of all the other WALL-Es still alive, due to his fascination of all things to do with humans. In Cars 2, there is an energy crisis, which is because of the long-term absence of humans. But Riley and her classmates were seen in Finding Dory, which means that either Finding Nemo took place in 2014, or Inside Out took place around 2004
In WALL-E, BnL had to send the remaining humans into space in starships in the early 22nd century. Negroni suggests that the Cars franchise takes place after these events (and before the events of WALL-E, which is set about eight centuries after the ships departed), when Earth was dominated by the machines (cars). While the Cars franchise is clearly set on Earth, no humans or animals are seen, suggesting it may take place in a different time period, possibly after they were wiped out. We can also see that there are still some animals on Earth, because some birds are seen on a telephone wire during the "Life is a Highway" montage.
In Cars 2, an oil crisis is mentioned. A corporation named Allinol pretends to sell biofuels, while its plans actually consist of preventing cars from using alternative energy sources. Allinol may have been run by BnL (or be just another name of BnL itself), which ended up inundating the entire Earth with oil. The world then becomes uninhabitable by humans, leading to the events of WALL-E. This movie is also the last known appearance of Luxo, with a "Luxo Airlines" ticket in the credits. Luxo was probably taken over by BnL.
In Cars 3, a BnL raceway appeared in one of Jackson Storm's victories.
Centuries thereafter, the world is highly polluted, with the only seen inhabitants being WALL-E and a cockroach he befriends, suggesting a survival of insects in the midst of this apocalyptical environment. Humans are extremely dependent on machines, which made them ignorant about their past and purpose. The Axiom's autopilot is an example of authoritarian machines fighting to maintain the current order where humans are dumb and decadent. The tree that grows at the end of the movie is described as the same tree near the ant colony in A Bug's Life. The year 2775 is referenced as the start of Captain B. McCrea's rule.
A Bug's Life (2898)
Insects, especially ants, form the most complex non-human society so far, with cities, cloth-wearing and even their own machines. This would be a result of an advanced evolution. Humans are not seen and barely mentioned, meaning they are either absent or uncommon. The same trailer from Monsters Inc. is seen, but the vegetation around is dead and in much smaller amount, suggesting the more polluted environment around. The ants are surviving descendants of today's insects, and have evolved to only have four limbs.
Monsters University and Monsters, Inc. (3100-5201)
The animals who lived on Earth gradually mutate due to the radioactive pollution. They evolve into the monsters seen in the Monsters, Inc. franchise. The monsters eventually become the most advanced society in the timeline, with human-like cities, companies and universities. But they are even more advanced than humans, since the "dimension" to where monsters travel to obtain the energy required to power up is actually the past, where humans existed, and the doors are time machines built for this purpose. By the end of Monsters, Inc., the last movie in the chronology so far, monsters find out that laughter contains far more energy than fear, thus changing their main fuel.
Negroni proposes that Boo is the same character as the witch seen in Brave. After the events of Monsters, Inc., Boo becomes upset about never seeing Sulley again. Through her life, she tries to find a way to return to the monster world and find Sulley. Remembering that wardrobe doors could lead to him, she eventually learns about their time travel properties and begins to use them. However, unable to determine to what time period she would travel, she visits several ones. Wood carvings of Sulley and the Pizza Planet truck (the latter being a recurring easter egg in the Pixar films) are seen in the witch's cottage in Brave. Those carvings would mean that the witch is connected to Sulley and knows about future technologies (cars), thus identifying her as Boo.
Critics of the theory have pointed out some of the flaws that it contains and use the Pixar movies themselves to pick holes in the theory. YouTuber Bobsheaux, in his June 2015 video “The Pixar Theory Debunked”, signals among other things that:
- The theory says that animal sentience and human-like behavior comes from Merida's mother turning into a bear in Brave, yet we see the mother be turned back into human at the end of the movie and having no interaction with other animals, nor is never established that magic exists in Ratatouille or Finding Nemo universes. Mark Russell on his article Deconstructing the Pixar Theory points out something similar and also mentions that the witch in Brave seems to be immortal as she also turned Prince Mordu into a bear, and that both Mordu and Queen Elinor were acting more like animals as time passes instead of the other way around. Russell also mentions that no animosity between humans and animals is shown in Up, Finding Nemo or Ratatouille and that, in fact, the dogs in Up end as pets of Carl and Russell after they defeat Charles Muntz.
- The placement of Inside Out on the theory timeline is very sloppy. Riley and her San Francisco classmates are seen in the background of Finding Dory (which was confirmed by Disney), so Inside Out has to have happened before Finding Dory. This does not match up with the theory timeline. Also, we see memories of Carl and Ellie's wedding and Carl's floating house in Riley's memories, which would put Inside Out after Up. So Inside Out has extremely sloppy placement in this theory.
- The existence of intelligent rats cooking in Paris made public by Chef Skinner was what inspires Charles Muntz from Up to create the collar to understand dogs, but Muntz is lost in the South American jungle since the thirties and the events of Ratatouille happen in modern Paris, so therefore he wouldn’t be there in that timeline (even when he’s busy trying to capture Kevin in the jungle).
- The magic use by the witch in Brave is the one that causes machines to become intelligent and compete with humans, including the giant robot used by Syndrome in The Incredibles, yet Syndrome used science and not magic to create it, and the robot is not sentient, it’s following its programming design by Syndrome. The robot did not “rebel”, it was Syndrome's mistake in the programing what makes it act as it acts. Same in the case of the robots from WALL-E who are also following their programming and not, as some theorists say, revenging on humanity by keeping them inactive.
- The idea that machines naturally hate humans postulated by Negroni is contradicted by the fact that the toys (included as “machines” in the theory) naturally love humans.
- The theory states that after the great war, humans were sent to the Axiom while machines were left behind to populate and run things. But it is mentioned multiple times in WALL-E that the humans were only supposed to be on the Axiom for five years. Also, a magazine is seen that says an evacuation is ordered due to pollution. If the humans were only supposed to be gone for five years, then why did the machines make their own civilization on Earth?
- Albeit it is said in the theory that the events in Cars are the period during which machines rule Earth and the remaining humans are in space seen in WALL-E, the world of Cars looks clean with blue skies and green fields, not having all the garbage seen in WALL-E, aside from the semi-organic nature of the Cars that have things like tongues.
- The plant that EVE recovered in WALL-E is the tree seen in A Bug's Life, but the landscape is different. And if WALL-E happens in the far future and thus A Bug's Life must happen even further, A Bug's Life has lots of contemporary references and human presence (in a time where humans are supposed to be extinct) including a poster of The Lion King musical that couldn't be still playing in the far future and a homeless bug holds the sign “Kid tore off my wings”. Also another aspect he points out is that there are toys based on the characters of A Bug's Life in Toy Story, thus proving that A Bug's Life is a movie in the Toy Story universe, unless the toy based on Flik was made by someone who somehow can see the future.
- The theory postulates that the monsters in Monsters, Inc. are actually mutated animals or human-animal hybrids in the far future using the doors to travel back in time, yet they use a map to measure the time zone on Earth starting by the Eastern Seaboard, to know when is nighttime in the human world, something unnecessary if they were traveling in time. Russel mentions the same hole in the theory. Both Russell and Bobsheaux mention that, if time travel were involved, the monsters won't need to worry for the kids to get desensitized as it's shown in the movie that they destroy the doors of kids that no longer feel scared, if they are time traveling they will be able to scare the same kid over and over just traveling to the same moment in time.
- According to the theory, Boo is so obsessed with re-encountering Sully that she became a witch and starts traveling in time with the use of magic, yet at the end of Monsters, Inc., it is established that Wazowski rebuilds Boo’s door and Sully kept visiting her. Also as mentioned by Russel, Boo only allegedly travels as back as Medieval Scotland yet, the dinosaurs in The Good Dinosaur are also sentient prompting the theory to update this. In addition, Boo is said to have planted a lot of easter eggs in the movies. But if she planted the easter eggs in Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University, why didn't she reunite with Sulley then?
A critical article in the game-based website Wizard Dojo points out:
When exactly did we get to the point that movies can’t just have these fun little details like cameos and references to a studio or filmmaker’s other works? At what point did these things become literal in people’s eyes? The Pizza Planet truck is a running gag. That's it. It’s there for people to point out and say “Oh look, it’s the Pizza Planet truck.” Nothing more.
The Pixar Theory is so full of holes, logic gaps, and baseless assumptions that the theory’s original author felt the need to justify his stance with paragraph after paragraph of excuses in between just about every thought (maybe he should just admit defeat?). The excuses aren’t any more grounded than the theory itself.
Similar to the above, Mark Russell mentions that the thought that all the Pixar movies are based around a violent apocalypse is very sad because it implies, among other things, that several human characters like the Incredibles, Carl, Russell, Andy and Linguini are all killed at some point. But Russell also acknowledges the virtues of the theory.
No doubt the Pixar Theory will be expanded as more films are released. It is a very adventurous theory, imaginative and thought out, but there are just one too many plotholes. The whole war/tension between humans, animals, and machines never really makes much sense until we reach WALL-E, and Boo being a time travelling witch from the 21st Century, really, really seems a bit of a stretch. Nevertheless, I will be keeping an eye on the Pixar Theory and seeing what ideas are presented to this fascinating theory in the future.
Jon Negroni, however, has confirmed in one of his website’s comments that he is aware of these contradictions, he also said that his final decision was "easter eggs are just easter eggs and don’t match up to the theory".
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- The Pixar Theory
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