When it comes to animation, Pixar movies have become the gold standard. The studio produces hit after hit — its best efforts leave audiences in tears, and even its worst films are entertaining box office successes. Pixar has defined animation for an entire generation of moviegoers and each film feels like it's made with more passion than the last. Pixar's concept art reflects that, but sometimes its passion can be a little misguided.
For this list, we've collected some of the most unique Pixar artwork that the studio decided to leave on the drawing board — for better or for worse. The art covers the studio's entire filmography, and every piece is a glimpse at what could have been. You'll be glad some of these were abandoned, but others will make you question how they didn't make the cut in the first place.
We would like to stress that this is not about criticizing the artistic merits of each image. There's no denying the talent in Pixar's art department, and we're not here to belittle their hard work. Instead, we'll be looking at how the unused designs would have fit into their respective films, and whether they would have made things better or worse. The following pieces of art are all incredible — but sometimes they're perfect for the final product, and sometimes they aren't.
Want to know how differently your favorite animated movies could have turned out? H
ere are 7 Pixar Concept Art Better Than What We Got (And 8 Worse).
15 WORSE — The Giant Scorpion (The Incredibles)
In this concept art from The Incredibles by Lou Romano, Mr. Incredible is fighting a giant scorpion. Something similar appears in the final film, but with major changes.
Instead of the octopus-shaped Omnidroid, the art suggests it would have been modeled after a scorpion. The cave is also more dangerous here, as the film lacks the lavafall and jagged rocks. There's also an observation deck that isn't in the movie at all. This changes the plot, as Mr. Incredible doesn't know he's being watched at this point in the film.
It's a cool concept, but too excessive for a sequence that occurs halfway through the movie.
The same goes for the scorpion design — it was probably abandoned to seem less sinister. These changes benefit the story, but this remains an awesome piece of art.
14 BETTER — Dessert Wonderland
In this Ratatouille art by Dominique Louis, Remy stands surrounded by pastries in a sugary snowstorm. Are you hungry yet? If you aren't, then you probably don't have much of a sweet tooth.
It's unclear how this would have fit into the story, as it may only exist to guide the film's visual design. Surprisingly, though, in a movie brimming with food-porn, sweets are almost nowhere to be found.
It wouldn't have been game-changing to see Remy bask in a flurry of desserts, but the visuals would have added some cooler tones to the film's warm color palette — that, and the fact that it looks too darn tasty to pass up.
This concept was probably unnecessary since the movie already spends lots time gawking at food. Even still, it would have been nice to see this artwork come to life.
13 WORSE — Woody's Alter Ego
The late Bud Luckey's early designs for Woody came when he was still the villain of the movie — a villain that even the film's creators found too unpleasant to watch.
Instead of accidentally knocking Buzz Lightyear out a window, early versions of the script had Woody push him out on purpose, hoping to end him permanently and publicly. Is that dark or what?
If his nasty personality wasn't enough, Woody was designed as a stocky puppet with a nutcracker-like movable jaw.
Horror fans might enjoy creepy puppets every now and then, but this wouldn't have went over well with general audiences.
Eventually Woody was rewritten to be more sympathetic, redesigned with softer edges, and given expressive plastic mouth. From there, he became the lovable Sheriff fans know today — thankfully.
12 BETTER — Grasshopper Invasion
This heavily stylized art by Geefwee Boedoe depicts a grasshopper attack in A Bug's Life, and it's nothing like what we got.
It's a harrowing image for a Pixar film, and one that would have made A Bug's Life more memorable. Between the harsh colors and legion of grasshoppers, it's a pretty scary sight. It's also a nod to the film's crowning achievement: crowd shots.
Pixar wanted push its limits and render tons of characters once, with no two acting the same. At the time, the only way to accomplish this was by creating them one by one and animating them individually — very time-consuming.
The studio created new software to accommodate these massive crowd shots, which still remain some of the most impressive feats in the film. It's too bad none of them look as unique as this.
11 BETTER — Dory, Marlin, and Squirt
These concept designs from Finding Nemo are all loose variations on what would appear in the final film. Many of them include additional characters in scenes and locations that they wouldn't be present in, but the art does reveal a major change in the lead cast of characters.
Squirt appears in more of the concept work than he does in the actual movie.
He first appears when Dory and Marlin make their way to the East Austrailian Current, where the two meet his father Crush. The duo ride the sea turtles until they get thrown out of the current, and the turtles are never seen again.
These artworks suggest that Squirt might have appeared in more of the film, and he may have even been present earlier when Dory and Marlin meet Bruce the shark.
10 WORSE — Monstropolis City Skyline
Would you believe that this was from Monsters, Inc. and not Tim Burton's Batman?
Monsters, Inc. concept art reveals that the production couldn't decide between a mundane aesthetic or a fantastical one. While Monstropolis eventually becomes a sunny Western city, this artwork by Dominique Louis shows that it could have been way less inviting.
The dark color palette and looming buildings suggest an edgier, more surreal take on the Monster world. Of course, the whole point of the movie is to make the monsters seem welcoming and relatable, and this doesn't exactly scream either of those things. It looks like a city for vampires.
It's a gorgeous vista, but it was understandably dropped for the metropolitan look in the final film.
9 BETTER — The Fantastic Five
As one of Lou Romano's earliest mock-ups of The Incredibles, this sketch makes an obvious change to the team's lineup.
If the monster's pointy hair didn't give it away, the middle member is baby Jack Jack.
Jack Jack was very nearly a Hulk-sized creature who likely would have served as the Parr family's heavy-hitter.
It's unclear why this was changed, though it's possible that has was never intended to be a main character in the first place. Making him a monster also robs the audience of the twist ending, where it's revealed that he's had several powers all along.
Remnants of the idea can still be found in the final cut, as Jack Jack shape-shifts into monster at the end of the film. Maybe his giant form is being saved for the sequel.
8 WORSE — Regal Merida
This concept art for Brave by Craig Grasso is a slightly an alternate take on its main character, Merida.
In the film, Merida is a rebellious young princess who defies her family's traditions. She's a rough-and-tumble girl who is strong and, well, brave. However, this design is more of the "traditional" princess look, with a more intricate dress, picture-perfect long hair, and her trademark bow and arrow completely absent. It's a little counterintuitive, isn't it?
While it captures the character's physical traits well enough, it doesn't really speak to her personality. Though to be fair, it is a precursor to her talent on horseback.
This just isn't the character that Pixar fans know and love.
Ultimately, Merida was made less regal in the final version, and the movie is better off for it.
7 BETTER — Monstropolis City Streets
Here's another take on the Monsters, Inc. world by Dominique Louis — this one more "normal" than the other entry on this, but way more grungy than the overly-pleasant Sesame Street vibes found in the final version. It's a lived-in city with a bit more personality than what we got in the movies.
It features flooded streets (perhaps for water-based monsters), and early concepts for Mike and Sully. The location design feels like a sweet-spot between the alien and familiar, being way more interesting than the generic version in the movie while still retaining a weird and otherworldly feel to it.
The artwork looks like a place that monsters would enjoy living in, but it still feels relatable enough to sell younger audiences on the concept of friendly monsters.
Okay, well, maybe that "Drink Blood" sign is a step too far, but you get the idea.
6 WORSE — Edna Mode Concepts
Edna Mode is one of the quirkiest characters in Pixar's history, and her early designs for The Incredibles are just as odd. Clearly, the artists knew they wanted a short woman with glasses, but these designs by Teddy Newton and Lou Romano all feel vastly different.
The first design is surprisingly normal and approachable — not quite the eccentric fashionista that the film went with. The second design is almost too eccentric, as if a James Bond villain found her way into a Pixar film. The third is a bit too stylized, though it's the closest to what we actually ended up with.
These designs are all on the right track, but none of them are quite as refined as the final version.
5 BETTER — Riley's Mind
Concept art for Inside Out shows a very different direction for the film's visuals.
This piece, which depicts Joy on a pile of Riley's memories, is way more surreal and childlike than what the movie offers.
In the final version, much of Riley's subconscious is designed with parallels to the real world. Her mind is made to look like a control room that powers different branches of a factory. However, this abandoned design suggests something less tactile, with an emphasis on light and color.
It may have been dropped for being a bit too psychedelic, as it's clearly an experimental visual concept, but the bright lights and crayon-looking visuals would have been a quite a trippy sight. Perhaps it's a bit too odd for children to grasp, but it's easily the more unique aesthetic.
4 WORSE — The Gels
Early versions of Wall-E, featured a race of alien antagonists called the Gels. The Gels would appear as the dominant species on the Axiom spaceship, and were imagined as cruel, self-absorbed creatures with gelatinous bodies.
This concept (depicted above by Daniel Arriaga) stuck around far into development, as they would have acted as the chubby humans do in the final film. Can you see where this is going?
Originally, the Gels would have been revealed as the descendants of the human race — the last remnants of our species that had survived in space and slowly deformed into fat, shapeless jelly-creatures.
This twist was seen as an unnecessary complication to the movie, and was rectified simply by changing the Gels into inept, baby-like humans. Let's face it — that's a bit more realistic anyway.
3 WORSE — Flight Of The Biplanes
This art by Daniel Arriaga is an early concept of the biplane attack at the end of Up.
While this moment technically occurs in the final film, this art depicts Carl in the flying house instead of Russell.
The movie has Carl face off against Charles Muntz on the airship, while Russell is at the mercy of the planes dangling below his house. This suggests that Carl would have been the target, and that the scene may have occurred earlier in the movie.
This isn't a game-breaking change but it takes away from the heated fight between Carl and Muntz, which is the more emotional conflict. It also robs the audience of a great moment — when Russell destroys the planes by yelling "Squirrel!" from the house, inadvertently distracting all the dog-pilots and making them crash their planes.
2 WORSE — Bedridden Buzz
Early drafts of Toy Story 3 were totally different from what we got, and this concept art from Jim Martin shows just how dark it could have been.
The original story for the film had Buzz Lightyear malfunction, as his toyline was recalled to a factory in Taiwan.
Andy would have sent him there in the hopes that he would be fixed, but the company planned on destroying and replacing all of the broken Buzz toys instead. Naturally, the gang follows Buzz to save him before he's thrown into an incinerator.
While the incinerator scene did end up in the final cut, Buzz's fatal malfunctioning did not. Good thing, too — Toy Story 3 is enough of a tear-jerker, and it would have been hard to handle watching our favorite toys suffer like in the art above.
1 BETTER — Sully And Boo Hang Out
The Monsters, Inc. world was originally way more surreal than it turned out, as depicted in this concept by Harley Jessup. This aesthetic seems to have been abandoned early on in the film's development, but it looks like such a missed opportunity.
Monstropolis manages to be a bit too familiar in the final release, and while that makes it easier to relate to the monsters, it doesn't feel like a different world from our own. This concept balances that surreal feel while still remaining pleasant and inviting. It's also a taste of the more industrial, vaguely steampunk look that a lot of the early concept art emphasizes.
It makes sense that Pixar chose the more relatable route, but this is an undeniably original design that has way more personality than what we ended up with.
What's your favorite concept art from Pixar? Let us know in the comments!