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. Check back throughout the week to vote for your favorite characters and read a selection of stories that spotlight some of Pixar’s finest moments. To infinity … and beyond!
Yeah so the big whoop here is I’m gonna rank the dads in Pixar movies in ascending order of quality. In lieu of a convoluted intro, here’s a quick FAQ.
Whose stupid idea was this? Mine.
Are you ranking them by “Dad Energy” or “Relatability” or “Most Compelling Dramatic Arc” or what? No, this is a straight assessment of parental skill and efficacy, Worst Dad to Best Dad. The whole thing’s super judgy and mean-spirited even though they’re all cartoons.
What qualifies you to do this? The fact that it’s way too late to stop me.
What about [insert dad I forgot]? I forgot about him; I’m busy.
What about [any dads in The Good Dinosaur or A Bug’s Life, neither of which I’ve seen]? I didn’t see that one; I’m busy.
What about [various nebulous father figures, such as Doc Hudson in the Cars movies or Carl from Up]? Nope, legit dads only; this whole concept is shaky enough.
Was that you at the park this morning doing calf stretches for your Achilles tendinitis while your 1-year-old daughter tottered perilously toward the rope bridge? No.
LOL are you listening to Wilco right now? Mind your business.
How many times have your kids interrupted you in the past 15 minutes while you’ve been writing this? Four so far.
LMAO were you listening to Gang Starr while stretching at the park? That’s it, the rest of the FAQ is canceled.
All right, let’s do this. Any more outbursts and I’ll turn this car around.
11. Mr. Incredible (The Incredibles + Incredibles 2). Yeah, I said it: Mr. Incredible is the worst Pixar dad. He’s trash. Sorry. Sorry to his family, I mean. To review: Mr. Incredible gets fired. He mopes incessantly. He sneaks out at night to break the anti-superhero law. He gets himself captured, and puts his wife and kids in danger as they attempt to save him. He (briefly) chokes a lady with whom his wife (briefly) suspects he’s having an affair, both quite rare Dad Actions in Pixar movies. He whines about laws and math in Incredibles 2, which to its credit otherwise wisely sidelines him in favor of Elastigirl. (The fact that Mr. Incredible’s wife is much cooler is the most relatable thing about him.) If he does anything else of merit in the sequel, I forget now, in part because we got to the theater late and had to sit in the very front row with our necks craned up the whole time, plus the villain really freaked my kids out and we probably should’ve just left halfway through. (I never said I was a good dad.)
10. Django, Remy’s dad (Ratatouille). “Now shut up and eat your garbage,” sneers the hero’s father to the hero, shortly after almost ingesting rat poison. Way to support your kid’s dreams, jerkoff.
9. Marlin, Nemo’s dad (Finding Nemo + Finding Dory). Hey, great job losing your kid, bud. Listen, as a father, I am contractually obligated to tell you that Albert Brooks is a national treasure. (We put on Defending Your Life the other day but the kids revolted after 10 minutes, complaining, not inaccurately, that it was a movie about death.) But even with the tragic backstory, Marlin’s helicopter-clownfish routine gets awful grating, and once he loses his kid (nice), he spends the rest of his screen time yelling. The School of Fish treats him with the level of respect he deserves.
8. Bonnie’s dad (Toy Story 4). I had forgotten that Andy, initial owner of all the toys in the Toy Story franchise, is being raised by a single mom, which is clearly not the worst-case scenario in the Pixar universe. (Do not fall down any “The DARK Story Behind Andy’s Dad” YouTube rabbit holes.) As for Bonnie in Toy Story 4, her dad is mostly confined to various RV-related mishaps, one of which allegedly compels him to say fuck in front of his daughter. Seriously, there’s a video called “proof that bonnie’s dad from toy story 4 said the f word.” It’s convincing! (I swore in front of my kids multiple times this past weekend at the water park, though in my defense, giant water slides were involved.)
7. Charlie, Dory’s dad (Finding Dory). Voiced by Eugene Levy, Canadian national treasure. Excellent strategies for helping a kid cope with short-term memory loss; reunion scene is a reliable Oh No Dad’s Crying Again moment. Quit doing so many ads with your kids, though, Eugene.
6. Wilden Lightfoot, a.k.a. the Walking Pants (Onward). Of all the Pixar movies about Dad Issues, Onward is the most about Dad Issues, and it is remarkable how much personality and compassion the late father in question manages to convey despite being half-resurrected as a walking pair of pants who can only meaningfully tap on his sons’ shoes. Oof, I just watched the climactic hug again and remembered how this was the second-to-last time I took my kids to the theater pre-COVID (the last time was Sonic the Hedgehog) and now Dad Is Crying Again. Whose stupid idea was this?
5. Riley’s dad (Inside Out). Oh my God, don’t make me watch this again. This whole movie is an Oh No Dad’s Crying Again moment. Not doing it. Forget it. I’m putting Riley’s dad in the top five just for surviving being in this movie.
4. Héctor, Coco’s dad (Coco). Hey, nice job forsaking your family for stardom and getting killed by your musical partner, ace. In his defense, “Remember Me” is a monster jam and the mother of all Oh No Dad’s Crying Again moments. (With an assist from Miguel’s dad.) Great hair for a skeleton, too.
3. King Fergus, Princess Merida’s dad (Brave). Tough call here. A bow and arrow is an inappropriate gift for a 6-year-old, his table manners are atrocious, and everybody’s sick of hearing about how a bear ate his leg. OTOH, the bear ate his leg while he was defending his wife and daughter—sorry for using a texting acronym, all dads overuse those—and he handles the whole Wife Turns Into a Bear business with relative equanimity. Plus he’s voiced by Billy Connolly, who has five kids IRL and is a Scottish national treasure.
2. Jin, Mei’s dad (Turning Red). Love this guy. Without question the Best Dad Pep Talk in the Pixar universe, plus the Best Dad Footwear (white socks + Adidas slides), plus the Best Post-Credits Scene (secretly dancing to the boy band in the basement in his white socks + Adidas slides). Second-best cook, too.
1. Massimo, Giulia’s dad (Luca). Though probably not the best Late Pixar movie, Luca boasts an impressively wide spectrum of Dad Action. Luca’s dad has helicopter-sea-monster vibes but a pretty good mustache, and he spends most of the movie helping his wife knock random kids into fountains with a soccer ball. He’s all right. Luca’s friend Alberto’s dad abandoned him, which makes Alberto’s dad the second-worst overall behind Mr. Incredible. (Don’t go down the “WHO IS ALBERTO’S FATHER??” YouTube rabbit hole, either.) And then there is Massimo, father of their new friend Giulia, who has the best mustache in the Pixar canon, and is the best cook, and very quietly/poignantly represents a huge step forward in disability representation, and has inspired the only YouTube compilations you should bother with, and gets the big Dad Is Crying Again moment at the climax. (“I know who they are: They are Luca and Alberto. They are the winners.”) Massimo would never swear in front of his kids while going down a water slide. I cannot relate. But he does have the best Dad Energy, and the most compelling Dad Arc, and he is, objectively, the best. Congrats, bud. This song’s for you, and also this one.