Ahead of the release of Lightyear, The Ringer is hosting Pixar Week—a celebration of the toys, rats, clown fish, and more that helped define one of the greatest studios of the 21st century. At the heart of the occasion is the Best Pixar Character Bracket, a cutthroat tournament to determine the most iconic figure of them all. What follows is a handful of Pixar personalities that unfortunately just missed the cut—here is our tribute to them:
The genius of Wall-E lies in its ability to inspire empathy with a pair of robots that can speak only a few words. It helps that Wall-E and Eve are both extremely cute, as robots go; if the trash cube robot didn’t have those giant, sad basset hound eyes, we wouldn’t have cared if he found love.
But the cutest and most laconic robot of Wall-E is the Axiom’s custodian, M-O. M-O performs a critical function by cleaning incoming objects—the fate of humanity rests with the health of the Axiom’s denizens, and M-O is all that stands between them and lethal alien pathogens. He performs this duty doggedly, chasing the filthy Wall-E all over the ship until he’s clean and ultimately saving our heroes from being blown out into space by jamming his adorable little noggin in an airlock door. Wall-E gets the girl, but it’s M-O who saves the day. —Michael Baumann
Moonwind—a.k.a. Engelbert Humphrey Ruffleshire—twirls a sign on a street corner in the real world and sails around the Astral Plane otherwise in Soul, fighting bad forces like a way more chill Batman. He wakes up spiritually dead hedge fund managers, dodges his boss, Marge, and blasts “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” As the peppy captain of a hippy-dippy cosmic ship and the leader of a realm-crossing group called Mystics Without Borders, Moonwind is excellent at finding and rehabilitating “lost souls”—in part because he used to be one. “Lost souls are not that different from those in ‘The Zone’,” he says to the movie’s main character, Joe, explaining that for many, the wonders of achieving a flow state can quickly turn into an untenable obsession that disconnects them from life. “For a time I was a lost soul myself,” he says. “Tetris.” Moonwind just gets it. Join the more Moonwind movement today! —Katie Baker
Andy, Toy Story
Is Toy Story, the most beloved Pixar franchise ever, even Toy Story without Andy? Not only is he a proxy for us, the viewers, but his undying devotion drives Woody and his pals to stick with him for 3 movies. Andy’s arc in Toy Story 3 is particularly poignant with him going to college. We see him go from a boy who spends his days with his best pals to giving his pals to Bonnie, the next generation who needs Buzz, Woody, and the gang like he did. Even in Toy Story 4, Andy’s ideals are still present in Woody, who refuses to leave any toy behind and is there for any kid, no matter what. Woody realizes his place isn’t with Bonnie and he’s needed elsewhere, much like Andy realizes Bonnie needs his toys much more than he does. Beyond the movies, Toy Story is the bedrock of Pixar. Without the success of those films, all of the other beloved Pixar flicks never see the light of day. And Toy Story isn’t Toy Story without Andy. —Arjuna Ramgopal
Ms. Davis, a.k.a. Andy’s Mom, Toy Story
I could’ve chosen any number of unrecognized characters from the Toy Story series—justice for Slinky Dog!—but why not highlight the one responsible for assembling most of the movies’ ensemble? Without Andy’s mom, there would be no toys and no story. Who gave birth to Andy, bought him Buzz Lightyear for his sixth birthday, limited Andy to one toy on his trip to Pizza Planet, and left both Buzz and Woody behind at the gas station, thereby creating the conflict of Toy Story? Who held the yard sale at which Woody was stolen, precipitating the events of Toy Story 2? Who accidentally threw away Andy’s toys when he left for college, then unwittingly delivered them to Sunnyside Daycare—and, in the process, set up Toy Story 3? Who gave away Bo Peep, indirectly engineering the emotional climax of Toy Story 4? Andy’s mom was the mover and shaker who propelled the plot of Pixar’s most successful franchise—and she did it all while raising two kids as a single mom. Even if she wasn’t secretly Emily, Jessie’s previous owner, she didn’t deserve to be robbed of a spot in our bracket—or, for that matter, of a first name. Apologies to Lightyear, but the first Toy Story–spinoff origin story should have been about how Andy’s mom became the saga’s true hero after his no-good dad ditched the Davis family forever. —Ben Lindbergh
Doc Hudson, Cars
Some prefer The Hustler. Others gravitate toward Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But me? I’ve always been a big believer that Paul Newman was truly at his best alongside Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy in the movie Cars, where he played Doc Hudson, the unlikely mentor to Lightning McQueen. Maybe that’s because I’ve never actually seen those first two movies. Maybe it’s because I have two boys under the age of 4 who have seen more Cars than the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. But either way, I am mounting a very serious, 100 percent very real argument that Paul Newman was never greater than when he voiced a dark blue 1951 Hudson Hornet in this cinematic classic.
Newman’s gravelly voice was perfect for Hudson, a three-time Piston Cup champ and later the judge of Radiator Springs (as if I have to tell you). He shows the exact type of tough love Lightning McQueen desperately needed, passing on the lessons he had to painfully learn himself. There’s not a day that goes by where I’m not reminded of his sage advice to McQueen: “If you’re going hard enough left, you’ll find yourself turning right.” Not because it was that memorable of a quote. I just give my kids way too much screen time. —Matt Dollinger
Randall, Monsters Inc.
Randall Boggs, the second cousin of the incomparable beer lover–lifelong baseball player Wade Boggs (please don’t fact check this) deserves more. Sure he’s a little misguided, but I blame that on his affiliation with Roar Omega Roar and later, bum-ass Mr. Waternoose. There’s no doubt in my mind that any character voiced by the wide-eyed icon Steve Buscemi needs to be included in any ranking. I mean the casting couldn’t be more fitting. His schemes are clever (granted, they didn’t work out), but the lizard sure is competitive. He’s a win at all ruthless and greedy costs kind of creature, who just hates being mistaken for an alligator. The dude is a misunderstood introvert and I respect it. —Keith Fujimoto
Remy may be the creative genius behind Linguini’s rapid ascension in the culinary world, but it’s Colette who gives the former garbage boy the practical know-how to maneuver the kitchen among a staff of professional chefs. Colette’s the toughest cook in the building—the precision in which she pins Linguini’s sleeve to the counter with a trio of knives is the mark of an elite chef. She’s also the only female cook in the building, yet Colette endures the masculine-dominated culture of haute cuisine due to her sheer determination and hard work. Despite her outward assertive nature, Colette firmly believes in Auguste Gusteau’s famous motto of “Anyone can cook.” Even a rat. She’s ultimately the decisive factor in helping Linguini and Remy deal with the challenge of impressing the feared food critic Anton Ego. Just remember to keep your station clear when working with Colette. She might kill you. —Aric Jenkins
Al, Toy Story 2
The chicken-suited proprietor of Al’s Toy Barn is an unsung comedic genius and the most relatable nerd in the Pixar canon. Consider some of Al’s mannerisms in Toy Story 2. He constantly thinks about toys. He falls asleep with the TV on while eating cheese balls. He collects mint-edition figurines and memorabilia and even pays to have Woody polished and his arm fixed to complete a collection. What more can Al do to endear himself to the fanboys and girls watching the film?
He also offers one of the best sight gags in the entire movie, when he starts his car and complains, “I can’t believe I have to drive all the way to work on a Saturday. All the way to work!” Then he crosses the street to his workplace, arriving 10 seconds later. —Zach Kram
Abby Park, Turning Red
Every great Pixar movie has a scene-stealing supporting character, and in Turning Red, that honor belongs to Abby. She’s that crucial, chaotic source of energy in the friend group, as loyal as she is unpredictable. Abby is one of Mei’s best friends, and despite being the smallest member of the squad, she brings the most wildly aggressive energy when they need it (and often still when they don’t, too.) She may have missed out on this character bracket due to how recently Turning Red was released, but don’t sleep on her being a constant cause of entertainment in one of the best movies Pixar has made in a long time. Just don’t ask her to point out Toledo on a map. —Daniel Chin
Jacques, Finding Nemo
Before a rat started sautéing meals in Paris, there was a French-speaking shrimp stuck in a fish tank in Sydney, Australia. Jacques the cleaner shrimp from Finding Nemo is not only memorable for his exquisite mustache made out of antennae, but also for his bold representation of neat freaks. Jacques was voiced by the late Joe Ranft, who also managed to bring Heimlich from A Bug’s Life and Wheezy the Penguin from Toy Story 2 to life. While the rest of the Tank Gang were undoubtedly given more screen time, I much prefer the crustacean who is given three lines throughout this film because of his sweet seine-inspired entrance music that rivals that of modern-day baseball players. Jacques not only activated the “Ring of Fire” to help Nemo escape, but he also fought his personal demons to not clean the fish tank after it grew in green algae. He also decontaminated Nemo when he first arrived to prevent the other fish from potentially getting sick. If only we had our own Jacques in our homes during these past two years. —Bridget Geerlings