There have been 11 feature films released by Pixar, starting with 1995's "Toy Story" and running all the way through 2010's "Toy Story 3". And, believe it or not, all 11 of them have been accused of ripping off the plot of another movie.
This list isn't necessarily intended to say that Pixar ripped off any of them. No one will ever really know -- and we can all recognize that there are some tried and true storytelling and plot basics that recur in plenty of movies, Pixar and non-Pixar alike.
But this is 11 Points, Pixar is 11-for-11 on rip-off accusations, and that's too many 11s for me to pass up. So here are the 11 feature films made by Disney/Pixar... and the 11 other movies they're accused of ripping off.
The tiger is Woody.
"Toy Story" (1995) accused of ripping off "The Christmas Toy" (1986) - Jim Henson made a straight-to-TV movie called "The Christmas Toy" that features toys that come to life when people aren't around... an old favorite toy who feels threatened by a flashy new toy... and a toy from space that doesn't realize it's a toy.
It aired in December of 1986 on ABC... which was later acquired by Disney. There's a fine line between plagiarism and synergy. I think if the Henson Company wanted to go after anyone for ripping them off, they're better off targeting the environmental types who say it's easy being green or the people making gonzo pornography. (Or Rob Schneider's "The Animal".)
"A Bug's Life" (1998) accused of ripping off "Antz" (1998) - I covered this a lot in my old list of 11 Damn Near Identical Movies That Were Released at the Same Time. Of course, since animated movies take years to make and these came out around the same time, any ripping off had to have occurred during the development process. Were Disney and Dreamworks embedding spies inside of each other's headquarters? And did Disney realize they were ripping something off that had California Adventure written all over it?
"Toy Story 2" (1999) accused of ripping off "Follow That Bird" (1985) - In "Follow That Bird", Big Bird leaves Sesame Street, ends up with other birds more like him, gets kidnapped and thrown in the circus, is eventually rescued by his motley band of diverse misfit friends, and comes back to the home where he belongs. In "Toy Story 2", Woody leaves the house when he's stolen by a toy collector, ends up with other cowboy characters more like him, is displayed for sale, is eventually rescued by his motley band of diverse misfit friends, and comes back to the home where he belongs.
I sure hope the ghost of Jim Henson is haunting the Pixar studios.
On the left, the monster drawn by Mouse.
"Monsters, Inc." (2001) accused of ripping off "Little Monsters" (1989) - I remember when the Fred Savage movie "Little Monsters" came out. Between my love of "Wonder Years", "Princess Bride", "The Wizard" and "Little Monsters" I'm more of a Fred Savage disciple than I ever realized. (And he directs episodes of "It's Always Sunny" these days. I feel like he and I were supposed to be best friends. Although, if the Wonder Years timeline is right, he's grown up to be Daniel Stern by now.)
Anyway, in "Little Monsters", Fred Savage's character finds there's a big blue monster who lives under his bed and can take him down into an underworld of monsters... an underworld connected to every child's bed in the world.
In "Monsters, Inc." a little girl follows a big blue monster into her closet, which takes them down to an underworld of monsters... an underworld connected to every child's closet in the world.
That's decent, if not damning. But wait... there's more. An author named Lori Madrid sued Disney and Pixar for ripping off her story "There's a Boy in My Closet". The suit was eventually thrown out but, ya know, it existed.
Hey, how about one more, for good measure. An artist named Stanley Mouse (the guy who once drew the Grateful Dead's skeleton-and-roses poster) also filed a $100 million lawsuit filed against Disney and Pixar. He claimed that the "Monsters, Inc." characters Mike and Sully were ripped off of cartoons he drew. (I couldn't find any info about what became of the lawsuit.)
Nemo's less-popular French brother?
"Finding Nemo" (2003) accused of ripping off "Pierrot Le Poisson Clown" (1995) - "Pierrot Le Poisson Clown" is a French children's book. (That translates to "Pierrot the Clown Fish"... or, because we'd never call anyone "Pierrot" over here, let us further Americanize it down to "Frenchy Pete the Clown Fish".)
In "Pierrot", a clown fish loses his father when an evil predator eats him and he's separated from his mother. The fish goes on an epic journey, unites with a surgeon fish and a shrimp, and is eventually reunited with his mother. And the cover of the book looks a HELL of a lot like "Finding Nemo". The author, Franck Le Calvez, ended up losing his lawsuit.
"The Incredibles" (2004) accused of ripping off "Fantastic Four" - The four members of the Incredibles family have the following powers: Super strength, invisibility, super speed, ability to stretch and flex like rubber. The Fantastic Four have the following powers: Super strength, invisibility, ability to generate flames and fly, ability to stretch and flex like rubber.
The best thing I found during my research on this? There are tons -- seriously, tons -- of websites, blogs and message boards that debate who would win in a fight between the Incredibles and the Fantastic Four. Pretty much everyone seems to side with the Fantastic Four. I thought about getting into a debate, but I still can't get a straight answer from Lyle Lanley about whether Superman can outrun the Flash.
"Cars" (2006) accused of ripping off "Doc Hollywood" (1991) - On the way to Los Angeles, a hotshot crashes his car (or, if he is a car, himself) in a small town. That causes damage, so he's sentenced to some local community service. He resists at first but starts to like the town... and eventually develops a respect for a fellow doctor/car who he thought was a bumpkin. He leaves town to continue on to L.A. but can't get the town out of his head... and then, finally, relocates back there in the end.
It's the same in both movies. Although only one stars Michael J. Fox, not Owen Wilson... and features some legendary PG-13 frontal nudity.
"Ratatouille" (2007) accused of ripping off "MouseHunt" (1997) - "MouseHunt" was a slapstick movie where Nathan Lane and Lee Evans (the guy from "There's Something About Mary" and more importantly "The Ladies Man") chasing a mouse around a mansion for 98 minutes.
This rip-off claim feels very loose to me. I found it in an Associated Content article -- Associated Content, of course, being the Wikipedia of journalism. (And/or a version of Yahoo Answers without the questions.)
The author notes that both movies involve people chasing around a mouse who has superb cooking ability -- cooking ability that, by the end of the movie, leads humans to success and riches. That's right: There are TWO major motion pictures from the last 15 years where the moral of the story was that a rodent with cooking ability can change your life. And you thought "Indiana Jones 4" was the ultimate sign that Hollywood's creative well is running dry.
"WALL-E" (2008) accused of ripping off "Short Circuit" (1986) and "Idiocracy" (2006) - The "Short Circuit" comparison was obvious from the moment Wall-E art was released -- he looks exactly like Number 5.
I found the "Idiocracy" claims more interesting. I'm a huge "Idiocracy" fan (I once did a list on 11 Hidden Secrets in Idiocracy) so the comparisons between Wall-E's obese, illiterate, TV-obsessed, dystopian future featuring a monstrous Costco-like store and Idiocracy's obese, illiterate, TV-obsessed dystopian future featuring a monstrous Costco landed for me.
Based on the timing, "Idiocracy" production started after "Wall-E" and finished before "Wall-E"... but still, you never know. And half of the videos uploaded online every day are rip offs of "Ow, My Balls!"
"Up" (2009) accused of ripping off "Above Then Beyond" (2005) - Here's another French connection. "Above Then Beyond" was a short made by a group of French students. It features developers trying to evict an elderly widow from her small, old-fashioned home so they can build... so she sews a giant sail onto her home, then uses the chimney to create smoke that raises the tent and her house into the air. Visually, there are shots that appear exactly the same as the ones from "Up".
It doesn't feature any adventure in South America or more emotionally manipulative tearjerking than a Linda Rondstadt greatest hits album -- but otherwise, the similarities are more damning than pretty much any of the other comparisons on this list.
"Toy Story 3" (2010) accused of ripping off "The Brave Little Toaster" (1987) - There was an explosion of articles comparing these two movies after "Toy Story 3" came out last year. I think it's because "Avatar" finally flipped the switch where everyone realized "Oh my God, movies totally can rip off other movies."
In both movies, a kid is going to college and, in a gross misunderstanding, his beloved childhood toys/appliances are taken away. They decide to work together to find their way back to the kid, find themselves in a life-or-death jam at the city dump, manage to avoid dying on a conveyor belt, and are reunited with the kid. Oh, and a guy named John Lasseter helped conceive "Toaster" for Disney back in the '80s... and is now one of the key people at Pixar.
Hey, at least by biting himself, this newest "Toy Story" didn't follow the lead of the other two and bite Jim Henson. Although I have heard that "Toy Story 4" might feature the toys having to escape from Fraggle Rock.
This post was originally published on Monday, January 3, 2011 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Movies.