Welcome to another edition of Disney In Depth! This week, in honor of Disney-Pixar’s most recent feature, Brave, I will be focusing on some of the best elements of Pixar’s films: funny characters. They evoke a laugh or two during perilous scenes, and manage to make us smirk when a situation seems far from humorous. These are the funniest of the bunch, offering a witty quip or inspiring a gag. This animation studio is known for developing deep characters, in both their personalities and designs. Thanks to Pixar’s brilliant team of writers and the talented voice artists who made these images into fully-fleshed individuals, we have a bunch of characters to root for and giggle along with. Here are the ones I find as most hilarious.
Top 10 Funniest Pixar Characters
10. Linguini (Ratatouille) Pixar production artist Lou Romano voices Alfredo Linguini, the garbage boy-turned-chef, in Ratatouille, a “comedy with great taste,” according to the film’s tagline. The Brad Bird-directed classic, which deftly blends mirth with intensity, is recognized and beloved for many reasons. One arguably integral factor is the inclusion of this character, which was created to utilize physical humor to full extent. We see this in heavy use during the scene where Remy the rat discovers that he can manipulate Linguini’s hair like a marionette, in order to help the down-on-his-luck human to cook tasty dishes. One of my favorite scenes occurs toward the film’s start, when Remy blind-folds Linguini to feel better accustomed in his cooking abilities. Well, the results are a little disastrous as you will find in this clip.
9. Roz (Monsters, Inc.) This administrative clerk is more than just a mollusk-like monster. She’s brusque. She’s firm. And to many an audience member’s surprise, she’s the head of the Child Detection Agency (CDA)! Mastermind Pixar team member, the incomparable Bob Peterson, breathes such charisma into Roz, who delivers such memorably-sarcastic lines to poor-man Mike Wazowski as “your stunned silence is very reassuring.” Sure she doesn’t appear in a ton of scenes, but Roz’s raucous role cannot be devalued. I cannot count how often I have quoted her somewhat-menacing line in this scene below. If you’re a Monsters fan as well, odds are you have as well.
8. Edna Mode (The Incredibles) Pixar’s tradition of using its own team to voice the characters carried into Incredibles, as director Brad Bird enthused incisiveness into Edna Mode, the fashion designer to the superhero gang. Who can forget the tragically-funny scene where Edna explains why she does not like capes? Certainly not me. Though a supporting character, Ms. Mode steals the show whenever she appears on screen. During the clip you will find below, when she tries to “console” Helen Parr, we appreciate her true blunt colors. Yeah, it’s a little strange that a middle-aged, full-grown Caucasian man voiced a short, older Asian woman. Yet nobody can deny that Edna, in all of her straightforward glory, is magnetic.
7. Aliens (Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3) The trio of three-eyed cute “Little Green Men” from the Toy Story movies is uproarious from the moment we meet them. I say “trio,” because I’m referring to the bunch that we first get to know in the sequel, found in the Pizza Planet truck. Sure, there’s a whole group of aliens who are amazed by “The Claw” in the original Toy Story, but the characters are not realized until the second movie. The three little guys, saved by their soon-to-be adoptive father, Mr. Potato Head, are “eternally grateful.” Yet another Pixar animator/voice artist, Jeff Pidgeon, voiced the aliens. Their lines are limited, but we are eternally grateful for them reappearing in Toy Story 2 and later the ones conducting the “saving” in Toy Story 3. Check out their gratitude-filled scenes in the clip below from Toy Story 2.
6. Mike Wazowski (Monsters, Inc.) If there was ever one role that Billy Crystal was born to play, it was this green eyeball character, a warehouse of humor in what is probably the studio’s funniest film to date. Crystal’s comedic Mike Wazowski is the total antithesis to John Goodman’s straight-man Sulley. That’s okay, as Mike offers just as much heart as his furry friend. Every scene is a platform for Crystal to showcase his trademark skits, but thankfully the character is developed to make that element fit accordingly. We even see Mike belt out a tune in the after-credits scene, “Put That Thing Back Where It Came From, Or So Help Me!” Check out the entire musical.
5. Dug (Up) Bob Peterson makes another appearance on this list as the barking bundle of joy that makes up Dug, who is easily-distracted by one particular woodland creature. Pixar has featured a few dogs in their productions, such as Scud and Buster from the Toy Story films, but not until Up was a canine appreciated. Sure there’s Alpha, Beta and Gamma, the mal-intentioned dogs, yet Dug is the one we remember for his trademark line and also his complexity. He demonstrates warmth and geniality that cannot be matched. Watch when he first meets Carl and Russell in this scene below.
4. Heimlich (A Bug’s Life) He suffers from gluttony, but don’t think this character’s obsession with leaves and other goodies is such an issue. Heimlich the caterpillar’s enthusiasm for a tasty dish makes him as charming as they come. The late Joe Ranft, one of Pixar’s geniuses, voiced a handful of characters, but as Heimlich he really shined, giving this larva such endearment – and a German/Hungarian-like accent to boot. He dreams of literally fleshing out into a “beautiful butterfly,” and by the film’s end his vision comes to fruition. But rather, to mixed results. Let’s see how Heimlich transforms in this clip.
3. Mrs. Potato Head (Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3) Audiences first heard that Andy received the “spouse” to Mr. Potato Head as a Christmas present at the tail end of the first Toy Story, but we did not witness the “Mrs.” in action until the following film. Voiced with great gusto by Estelle Harris, this sweet-natured, but demanding wife to Don Rickles’ Mr. Potato Head shows her love in every scene. “Don’t talk to any toy you don’t know,” she shouts to her husband from the bedroom window in Toy Story 2, before Mr. Potato Head embarks to help find Woody. The deleted scenes of that movie, found in this clip, place extra spotlight on this affectionate toy with a New York accent. Here she “packs up” her husband with any additional belongings she can find before he sets off on his mission.
2. Ken (Toy Story 3) Like many other Pixar aficionados, I have caught all of the films in the theatre. Perhaps no other character inspired such loud laughter as Michael Keaton’s take on Ken, Barbie’s “accessory.” This fashion-focused fella enjoys his variety of outfits found in the Dreamhouse, as well as donning high heels. Sure his metrosexuality, or something along those lines, may raise a few eyebrows, but Ken is pure-hearted and hilarious as possible. “No one appreciates clothes here, Barbie!” he says, dismayed. “No one.” In this clip, you’ll see a promo for the film, featuring Ken. You have to love how he “communicates” with himself.
1. Dory (Finding Nemo) The good-intentioned Regal Blue Tang, voiced by the one-and-only Ellen DeGeneres, played an important role in revitalizing this “has-been” actress’s career. For good reason. DeGeneres proved her extraordinary comedic timing, and also her sensitive side, as Dory, Marlin’s amusing sidekick who struggles with short-term memory loss. Every moment is an adventure for this explorative fish, from engaging in a therapy session with a bunch of sharks, to finding her “squishy,” a baby jellyfish. Even the threatening whale does not stop Dory from taking part in some fun, demonstrating her verbal abilities in talking with the giant mammal. Let’s see how that goes in this clip.
Surely Pixar is full of fun and funny characters in each of their films – well, at least most of the time – and, for certain, future entries will feature some droll personas as well. Did your favorites make this list? If not, be sure to post your thoughts on who you think were notable omissions. Of course, this is a subjective selection, and that’s the fun of it. We all evaluate humor in different ways, and the online community is a perfect platform to discuss our opinions. One thing we can all agree on is that Pixar’s movies, and their characters, contain more than just hilarity. They represent great humanity, too.
This is Brett Nachman signing off. See you again next week in another edition of Disney In Depth!