One thing is for sure in movies: you’ve got a friend in Pixar! The acclaimed studio has grown from its tiny roots of animating inanimate objects and has given cinemagoers some of the best-loved movies of all time. While the modern wave of superhero movies struggle to climb the ranks of review aggregator websites, Pixar is easily living it large at the top.
Since opening its doors in 1979 and showcasing Toy Story as its first theatrical release back in 1995, Pixar now has 19 movies under its belt and finds itself under the watchful eye of the Disney overlords. The past is pretty impressive, boasting a much loved back catalogue, but with the future slate including a long-awaited The Incredibles 2, a fourth Toy Story, and three mysterious films set for 2020, 2021, and 2022, there is no stopping that bouncing lamp just yet.
However, for all the triumphs and Academy Awards that weigh down the shelves of the Pixar offices, there have been some casualties along the way. With unproduced sequels, canceled features, or projects that just never got off the ground, here are 18 Canceled Pixar Movies We’ll Never Get To See.
18 "Evil Woody" Toy Story
It is no secret that Toy Story is one of the most important cinematic events of our time, and being the first feature-length computer-animated movie, it isn’t hard to see why. While the eventual story of a jealous cowboy and his outer space counterpart became a beloved tale of love, loss, and kids growing up, John Lasseter had originally imagined a much darker take on Woody the cowboy.
Everyone knows that the sadistic Sid became the de facto villain of the 1995 movie, but back in early drafts, it was Woody himself who played the big bad. Early concept art even shows woody with heavily-lidded eyelids, a pointed nose, and evil puppet chin. The rootin’ tootin’ leader of the Round Up Gang eventually became the hero of the franchise, but it all could've been so different if Woody had embraced his gunslinger persona.
17 The Yellow Car
Before Wall-E was getting political about fuel consumption and saving the planet, the original pitch for Cars was meant to have the same message. Strangely, The Yellow Car was completely different from the gas-guzzling Lightning McQueen.
In 1998, story development artist Jorgen Klubien sketched a cute electric car who would find himself out of his depth. It was an ugly duckling tale with promise, but Lasseter felt the main character wasn’t strong enough to hold his own movie. Instead, The Yellow Car kept its small-town setting, but swapped its lead for big red McQueen who now rules the franchise.
In 2001, the movie’s name was changed to Route 66 and underwent rewrites to give bigger parts to the likes of Sarge and Mater, before changing again to Cars so that people didn’t get it confused with the ‘60s TV series. As for Yellow Car, it looks like he was sent to the scrapheap.
Probably the best-known (and most tragic) canceled Pixar movie is Gary Rydstrom's Newt. Scheduled to be the studio’s fourteenth movie, Newt mysteriously moved from its original 2011 date, was pushed to the following year, and ultimately replaced by Brave on the roster.
The tale of the last two blue-footed newts forced to mate to save their species was eventually shelved for various reasons. Mainly though, some thought that the plot was almost identical to Fox’s Rio - also released in 2011. Secondly, when the project was turned over to Up director Pete Docter, he had one condition that he could do his own story. This idea ultimately evolved into nothing to do with newts, but became the basis for Inside Out. The rest, as they say, is history.
Gigantic, an ambitious Jack and the Beanstalk retelling for the modern generation ended up taking a tumble from a great height. Presumably off the success of the Rapunzel retelling Tangled, 2015’s D23 promised a twist on the beanstalk adventure with some innovations to set it apart from previous adaptations.
The changes involved setting the story in 15th century Spain and gender-flipping the giant to a woman called Irma. With Jack as her own personal doll, the pair would tackle dangerous foes called Storm Giants. It certainly sounds different enough to warrant telling the tale again.
Tangled's Nathan Greno would return to fairytales to direct, while Captain Marvel’s Meg Fauve would write a script, setting the whole movie for a November 2018 release. However, Disney president Ed Catmull said it just didn’t come together and Gigantic has been indefinitely shelved.
14 Shademaker/The Shadow King
Given the success of stop-motion classics like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, it is no surprise that Pixar brought on Henry Sellick to focus purely on this medium for the studio. However, Sellick’s tenure was short (and not-so-sweet) when his first movie didn’t even get off the ground.
The plot would follow an NYC orphan with freakishly long fingers, who eventually embraced his talent to create fantastical shadow puppets and bring them to live in an otherworldly war.
Having already spent a reported $50 million on Shademaker - eventually retitled The Shadow King - Disney and Pixar pulled out. It left Sellick with a cast and a plot, but no one to back it. Given talents like Catherine O’Hara and Brendan Gleeson, you would expect someone to snap Sellick’s movie up, but as of 2013, it just lurks in the shadows without a distributor.
13 Finding Nemo 2
Nope, this one isn’t Finding Dory. Long before Ellen Degeneres got to carry her own solo movie as the forgetful royal blue tang, there had been big plans to give Pixar’s aquatic adventure a sequel.
Finding Dory eventually hit cinemas some 13 years after the original, but after Disney and Pixar briefly parted ways in 2015, the House of Mouse spin-off company Circle 7 retained the rights to the franchise and was supposed to make a splash with a sequel.
Although Finding Nemo 2 barely made it into any form of production, a script review did find its way onto the web. The plot would this time follow a lost Marlin (Nemo’s dad), there were supposed to polar bears, and Dory would get her memory back. It's all hearsay, but it sounds like a pretty standard exchange of characters from Finding Nemo and Finding Dory.
12 Direct-to-video 2D Toy Story 2
When a movie like Toy Story does as well as it did, why would you stop at just one? As only Pixar’s third film - and first sequel - Toy Story 2 went on to become a legend in its own right. Joining the hallowed ranks of movies like Aliens and The Godfather Part II to spark debate on, “Can a sequel be better than the original?” Toy Story 2 opened up the toybox to a much larger world.
However, while we settled with Al’s Toy Barn, an Empire Strikes Back subplot, and great new additions like Joan Cusack, it was all supposed to be very different. Only a month after Toy Story hit cinemas, Disney wanted a quick direct-to-video sequel that intended on swapping out CGI in favor of traditional W.D. animation. Thankfully, Lasseter managed to twist the studio’s arm into a full release and another entirely CGI movie.
11 George & A.J.
2009’s Up was a quintessentially charming tale about fragile life and everyone getting old, but with a near-perfect ending, why would anyone ever want to go back? Viewers were over the moon to see Carl Fredricksen escaped a gloomy future at the Shady Oaks Retirement Village, but if anyone ever wanted to know what happened to its employees, we have the answer.
Told in a crude storyboard style, George & A.J. followed the two titular characters as they headed away from the helium-floating house. Various other elderly residents of the city soon start heading to the sky as well, leaving the pair dumbfounded. It was never fleshed out into anything longer than four minutes, so was released as a bonus short alongside Up. Whether it was intended to be part of Up, a sequel, or always a short, no one really knows.
10 LIVE-ACTION 1906
Pixar doing live-action? Well, it nearly happened. The Incredibles director Brad Bird was attached, and the animation studio was set to adapt John Dalessandro's novel 1906. Teaming up with Disney and Warner Bros., Bird would tell the tale of the San Francisco earthquake and fire from 1906. Dalessandro pitched to many major studios after the success of Titanic in 1997, under the claims, "Titanic was a boat in the North Atlantic – this is an entire city, the most beautiful we've ever seen, destroyed in 74 hours."
Bird stopped work on 1906 briefly to helm Ratatouille, but by the time he returned to the project, the budget had ballooned to over $200 million. Bird and co. tried to rewrite the script (again) and worries continued that 1906 was just too big. The final nail in the coffin came during 2012 when all parties declared they weren’t moving forward with the movie.
9 A Tin Toy Christmas
Long before Woody and co. were bouncing around Andy's bedroom, the Pixar guys were best-known for animating balls and lamps. However, one of their most ambitious early projects was a 1988 short about Tinny the one-man band. It was a concept that would eventually evolve into a loose premise for Toy Story, so it isn't hard to spot the similarities.
The original Tin Toy short went on to win an Oscar, so spurred by hopes of proving that Pixar could make a full-movie, A Tin Toy Christmas was planned with a half-hour length. Walt Disney Studios president Peter Schneider was keen to get Lasseter back and decided to scrap A Tin Toy Christmas to move ahead with a feature film project instead. With a synopsis and a storyboard, this one was so close and yet so far from making it to our screens.
8 Trash Planet
Wall-E may have become a beloved piece of Pixar history, but you can’t help but sometimes feel it was a movie in two halves. That's probably because the whole premise of Wall-E was changed from Peter Docter’s original pitch about a family of gloopy aliens, a rubbish-riddled Earth, and the annoying robot who bothered them.
Under the much easier to understand name Trash Planet, the movie would’ve been shot entirely without the use of human speech - effectively avoiding the second half of the finished Wall-E. The big twist was that the human race had evolved from being the lazy slobs we see in the theatrical Wall-E to become entirely gelatinous sacs that spoke gibberish. Wall-E director Andrew Stanton and co-writer Jim Reardon even concocted their own language using an IKEA catalogue as reference.
7 Mater's Tall Tales: Backwards to the Forwards
Looking back over the entire Pixar catalogue, most will see the Cars movies as the weak link in the bunch. Not that Radiator Springs and Lightning McQueen are terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but compared to the rest of the studio, it’s a bit “meh.”
However, the bumbling rust bucket Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater is a shining star of Cars, meaning that the popular pick-up has gone on to host his own set of shorts. Mater’s Tall Tales hosted 15 mini-episodes that focused on the exaggerating tow truck.
Titled “Backwards to the Forwards,” one story was supposed to be Pixar’s own homage to Back to the Future. It would send Mater to Radiator Springs in 1955, Ancient Rome, and even to rub shoulders with a T-Rex. Unfortunately, the idea was eventually abandoned and sort of became the short "Time Travel Mater".
6 Toy Story Rescue in Taiwan
It's time for Toy Story 3. Following in the footsteps of Circle 7’s plans for Finding Nemo 2, the Pixar spin-off wanted to finish its own take on Toy Story trilogy.
An early script was submitted by Teacher's Pet writers Bill and Cheri Steinkellner about a whodunnit as toys were stolen from Andy’s grandmother’s attic, but Disney eventually settled on a plot about Buzz being recalled.
As all the Buzz Lightyears in the world are sent back to Taiwan, Andy and the rest of the toys ship themselves to rescue him. In a similar plot to the actual Toy Story 3, the toys would find themselves trapped in a daycare centre and trying to escape. There was tons of concept art for various recalled toys (like Cindy Scissors), but Disney went back to Pixar with its head between its legs.
5 Where the Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are has actually been around since 1963, but these days, most remember it for Spike Jonze's beloved film starring James Gandolfini. Back in 1983, we nearly had a much earlier theatrical release when John Lasseter wanted to show what advances he was making with 3D.
Disney had owned the rights to the concept for a number of years, but had yet to make a move on Max and the monsters. Lasseter was set to direct and two minutes of revolutionary footage was even produced. Although the characters would be created in the traditional animation style, the background would be completely computer-generated.
The project reportedly cost too much and was shelved indefinitely, meaning that Disney didn’t get around to using the rights in time and the project eventually went to Warner Bros. ahead of the 2009 movie release.
4 Monsters, Inc. - Boo is a 30 year old man
It is hard now to imagine Monsters, Inc. being the success it was without playful Boo leading the movie. However, the original pitch for the 2001 scarefest was entirely based on a 30-year-old accountant and his mundane life - how thrilling!
Pete Docter's first idea had the man discover an old drawing book from when he was a kid, filled with monsters that he had forgotten existed. After finding the book, he starts to be haunted by these creatures, with each one representing a different fear from childhood that he never conquered. It sounds a bit like Inside Out but with things that live under your bed instead of emotions.
Also, while it may have been a moral story to teach kids about overcoming their inner demons, it all sounds a bit morbid compared to the colorful tale we actually got.
3 Brenda Chapman's Brave
Itt isn't technically correct to say that Brave belongs to director Mark Andrews, because it was originally developed by Brenda Chapman.
In a shroud of suspicious circumstances, Chapman was promptly removed from Brave over “creative differences,” but has since gone on to say that the House of Mouse is “run by a boy’s club. Chapman has also stated that she does not wish to work with Pixar again - a good call if the recent harassment allegations agains Pixar head honcho John Lasseter are any indication. Thankfully, the movie still stayed as a feminist fairytale, though Chapman and Andrews were forced to share their Oscar win for Best Animated Feature Film.
Chapman notably gets the honor of being Pixar’s first female director, and though apparently devastated about her replacement, remains proud of the way Brave turned out. Still, will never know what about her creative vision was so "different" that she couldn't finish her version of brave.
2 Up: Brother vs Brother
It is quite magical to imagine a flying house to escape your worries, and while you can call similarities between Up and Howl’s Moving Castle, Pete Docter says his influence came from his own troubled childhood.
There were early fears with Up that kids wouldn't be able to relate to having an old man as the movie’s protagonist, and a very early draft was about two brothers vying for the inheritance of their elderly relative’s flying castle. As the two fell to Earth, it was up to a mythical bird to teach them the way of sharing and caring.
Later included ideas that Kevin the bird laid magical Fountain of Youth eggs to explain the age similarities between Carl and Muntz. However, going with his gut and dedicating the movie to various Disney veterans, Docter managed to deliver one of the most emotionally heart-breaking but brilliant Pixar movies to date.
1 Monsters, Inc. 2: Lost In Scaredise
Another Circle 7 production lost to ages - and perhaps the most tragic - Monsters, Inc. 2: Lost in Scaredise was an official sequel to the first movie, Mike and Sully were set to discover that Boo had moved, sending them on a dangerous journey into the real world.
Audiences could've expected more wardrobe hopping, more colorful creatures, and undoubtedly another merciless monster as the villain. Lost in Scaradise even got its own trailer, which doesn’t look half bad. However, with Circle 7 closing in 2006, Pixar abandoned sequel plans and moved forward with prequel Monsters University.
Would fans have preferred Lost in Scaredise or Monsters University? Well, the jury is out on that one. You can see why it may make sense to go backwards rather than forward with the story, but here’s hoping that Pixar will eventually develop a proper sequel for Monstropolis.
Which is your favorite abandoned Pixar movie? Sound off in the comments!