To infinity and beyond. That’s of course Buzz Lightyear’s favorite turn of phrase, but it might as well describe the amount of viewing options you’ll have now that Disney+ is live. With almost every classic animated movie on the service, as well as most of Disney’s live-action library, there is a cornucopia of options for the Disney faithful. But what might make a certain subsect of the congregation especially happy is nearly full access to Pixar Animation Studios’ catalogue.
The animation house responsible for changing the very way its art form is made and largely consumed—now in three-dimensional computer generated imagery!—Pixar was not originally part of Disney, yet has released every single one of their feature-length films through the Mouse House. Disney purchased Pixar in 2006, but there is a clear distinction between a Pixar film and what everyone else is putting out into the world. Now you have the ability to watch almost all of their films whenever you want on Disney+. Here’s the rundown of which ones are available.
Just a note: Den of Geek may receive a commission from links on this page.
Pixar Movies on Disney+
Toy Story (1995)
Toy Story had a difficult birth. It was worth it. A project that went through many rewrites, including a late-in-production recalibration after executive notes from Disney set it down an apparently grim road, the final film retained the youthful optimism of its premise: What if your toys came to life after you left the room? What if a toy enjoys playing with a child just as much as the kid themselves? It’s a simple, beautiful idea that launched a studio and arguably the most consistently fantastic franchise of all-time.
The original Toy Story also remains remarkable unto itself. During its release, its lack of in-story musical numbers and emphasis on the modern world seemed as unusual as its CGI. Today everyone mimics Pixar’s style, but even in this first effort, that careful detail and specificity that suffers no imposters is in place. As are instantly lovable characters like its odd couple heroes, the felt cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) and the plastic spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). The Joss Whedon edition of the script also added sophisticated existential questions about one’s purpose in life—even for a toy—and a meaty dramatic weight that continues to be a cornerstone of Pixar’s best movies.
A Bug’s Life (1998)
Pixar’s second movie was treated to a critical and commercial ribbing that perceived it as a “sophomore slump.” And while A Bug’s Life is certainly not as good as the Toy Story movies it’s sandwiched between, we think it gets an unfair rep. Better than a number of other Pixar movies, and a healthy plethora of other popular animated movies that have copied Pixar’s formula in the ensuing years, A Bug’s Life was an ambitious effort for the 1990s that told a story of revolution and royalty in the context of an ant colony—and all with an eye level that turned blades of grass into pine trees.
The movie has an appealing cast of characters and some nice supporting vocal work that marks A Bug’s Life as worthy of a second look. If you haven’t ever seen it, or just not caught up with it in 20 years, we’d recommend a watch.
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Full disclosure: We think Toy Story 2 is probably the best in its franchise. And yes, we’re willing to back that up. While the first film is a landmark achievement, and the third film has a sweet tearjerker of an ending, the second one most fully encapsulates the themes of the series while also being something of a miracle given this movie shouldn’t exist… and almost didn’t several times. Originally conceived by Disney as one of their listless direct-to-video sequels, Pixar insisted on making this one first for home release and then for theaters after they realized they couldn’t half-ass their characters. What followed was a saga that included its original director stepping down, the film being accidentally erased from Pixar hard drives only to be salvaged because one savvy animator had it on her home computer, and then two-thirds of the film still getting scrapped at the eleventh hour… only for it to all end with a great movie.
How did that happen?! Well, because Pixar rallied around directors John Lasseter and Lee Unkrich, and the studio built a much more sophisticated film about existential angst. There is even the specter of death for a toy introduced here: your child growing up. Adding elements of impermanence and obsolescence to the Toy Story universe, Toy Story 2 foreshadowed the heavy themes of the third film, but also tackled them here in a more original way that involved satires of corporatized toy stores, adult toy collectors, and even 1950s television. It also introduced Jessie (Joan Cusack) as an amazing third franchise lead with the most heartbreaking backstory in all of Pixar. Just watch Sarah McLachlan and Randy Newman’s “When She Loved Me” and try not to cry. We’ll wait.
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
The Pixar movie that revealed Billy Crystal and John Goodman have terrific chemistry, Monsters, Inc. is a cute buddy comedy that most importantly proved Pete Docter would be a go-to director for Pixar afterward (he’d go on to direct true greats like Up and Inside Out). This is not quite of that league, but it gave Pixar its first major hit that was outside a toy’s vantage.
In the movie, Crystal and Goodman voice Mike Wazowski and Sulley Sullivan, two working stiff monsters whose job is to scare kiddos. The only problem is they’re not very scary with their blue collar wariness and general schmuck attitudes. Two-year-old girl Boo doesn’t think so. In fact, she finds them delightful and follows them to the world of monsters beyond her closet. Good times ensue.
Finding Nemo (2003)
The movie that confirmed for good to Disney that Pixar was no fluke—and that they needed to find a way to buy the animation company before losing them forever—Finding Nemo takes its under the sea setting and runs wild. Far more photorealistic than The Little Mermaid or other animated films beneath the waves, the movie makes art out of translucent jellyfish and joy out of surfing sea turtles.
Another Pixar classic constructed on a poignant emotional anxiety, Finding Nemo is about a parent having to let go of their child. Albeit, a little too early in the case of Marlin (Albert Brooks). His son is captured by a diver during his first day at school as a clown fish, so Marlin must literally swim to the other side of the Pacific Ocean to bring him home, making friends with Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) along the way. And if you’ve ever had a grandparent who’s become forgetful, you just met your new favorite character.
The Incredibles (2004)
We know you’ve heard this described as the best Fantastic Four movie ever made… and you know what? It’s true. Writer-director Brad Bird adapts the spirit of what was once Marvel Comics’ First Family, but in a way even modern day Marvel Studios would not. Unencumbered by the limitations of human anatomy and physics, or a strict tonal formula, Bird creates a fictional world that is an amalgamation of 21st century suburbia and go-go 1960s futurism that’s as wild as the most extravagant Jack Kirby art and Ken Adams Bond movie set designs.
The movie is also, at its heart, a comedy of manners among an American family unit in crisis. The children are, or are about, to enter puberty, dad’s middle-aged and bored at work, and mom feels underappreciated and trapped in the family home. Oh, and there’s a supervillain trying to kill them, but priorities! The first priority here though is to make a visceral piece of goofy entertainment.
So, yeah, Cars is a franchise at Pixar. And apparently a popular one because there’s three of them. Yep, you can’t take that away from them. And the first one kind of works due to embracing the Doc Hollywood formula with its hotshot race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) learning the value of small town life by getting his kicks off Route 66. So that’s nice. In theory. Honestly, skip this one and the sequels.
Critics can sometimes be real villains. Thinking their word is the end all, be all of appreciation in their given field, and even taking palpable pleasure in destroying the reputation of those they consider inferior, there are certainly a few bad apples that most filmmakers are happy to lean into while creating a grotesque stereotype. But Brad Bird does not. While Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole) is definitely the antagonist of Ratatouille, and is smugly condescending to a fault, he also can be won over by the culinary charms of a rodent. So can we all, however, when it’s a rat as charismatic as Remy (Patton Oswalt).
Indeed, Ratatouille was a surprise crowd-pleaser about the joys of creation in which a rat turned out to be the best chef in Paris in spite of a disapproving family of, well, rats… and the fact he kind of needed to hijack the career of soft-headed Linguini (Lou Romano) to make it happen. It’s a sweet parable about creation that even recognizes the virtues of criticism, so long as the critic is humble enough to concede surprise and delight. And this is nothing if not delightful.
One of Pixar’s greatest triumphs, WALL-E proves you don’t need celebrity voices, or even voices, period. Acting as a silent film for large swaths of its running time, this is a love story between a garbage disposal robot and a sleek Apple-esque female robot from the future… and how they can communicate one beep, bop, and zero gravity dance at a time.
Arguably director Andrew Stanton’s best movie, WALL-E is a science fiction space opera in which the apocalypse is nothing but foreplay for a meet cute that brings about a new garden of Eden for an overweight set of survivors. But that’s okay, they’ll find their way while our mechanical Adam and Eve build their own paradise.
Tired of waiting until the end of their movies to make yo ucry, Pixar’s Up gets us all misty-eyed in the first 10 minutes of Up. Opening on a sweet love story that follows the romance between characters Carl and Ellie from its cradle to the grave, we see when these two scamps meet as children, and live a whole lifetime together as husband and wife. That is until Ellie gets sick, and Carl (now voiced by Ed Asner) is left behind to grieve.
This movie is a gut punch, but it’s also a celebration of life that turns a road trip into Old Man Carl and wee lad Russell (Jordan Nagai) exploring the great unknown via a bouquet of balloons so strong they can lift a house out of its foundations, and carry it to the edge of the world. The movie also has the most realistic depiction of a talking dog that you are likely to see.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
How could we have known when meeting Woody and Buzz in Andy’s idyllic childhood bedroom, and playing with them to the gentle keys of Randy Newman, that we were setting ourselves up for a trilogy of heartbreak and pain? Such is life, and such is a toy’s story. Thus Toy Story 3 makes good on the promised foreboding of “tomorrow” in Toy Story 2 by jumping to a future where Andy is all-grown up and about to go off to college.
Just as the target audience for the 1995 film was either in college or entering the workforce by then, simple childish things have gone away for Andy… but what of those things that have been put away? What of the happiness they represented? We see their point-of-view to sometimes hilarious and often poignant effect here, with director Lee Unrich leaning heavily into his love of horror by making the third act downright apocalyptic. No, the toys don’t die (albeit barely), but the suffering they endure makes this in many ways Pixar’s most powerful movie. It is also arguably the best trilogy closer of all time too.
Cars 2 (2011)
But if both Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 are perfect sequels, there is then Cars 2 on the other end of the spectrum. It would be charitable to call this a ho hum follow-up in which Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater gets his own movie to dominate the narrative… but, uh, here we are. Enjoy at your own peril.
Brave had a notoriously troubled production that saw writer-director Brenda Chapman replaced by Mark Andrews after disagreements with John Lasseter. Given what we know now, this controversy has aged even more poorly for the animation studio. Nonetheless, Brave is a sweet and at times affecting fairy tale far removed from the Walt Disney Animation tradition. Pulling from actual medieval and early modern lore, Chapman imagines a moving fable about mothers and daughters in feudal Scotland, and about the need to declare your independence. Patrick Doyle’s Gaelic-infused score is also quite haunting. Somewhat dismissed in its time, Brave is quite underrated and worth seeking out now on Disney+.
Monsters University (2013)
Did you ever want to know what college was like for Mike and Sulley? Well you’re about to in Monsters University! While the premise is definitely a little thin, this prequel cash-in on a popular IP is actually quite cute in an unassuming way. Basically a Pixar-ification of the frat movie formula, think Animal House or Old School, Monsters University gives a creepy-crawly sheen to higher learning hijinks. It’s solid family entertainment, if not much else.
Inside Out (2015)
Pete Docter’s masterpiece, Inside Out is a moving and thoughtful meditation on depression and the necessity of anxiety, all told in a child-friendly yarn about colorful emotions on an adventure. Literally, they’re colorful emotions, as most importantly defined by the sunny hued Joy (Amy Poehler) and the blue-as-can-be Sadness (Phyllis Smith). Reimagining every individual’s emotions as personalities operating a Star Trek-like control center, Inside Out gives a school clique vibe to all our feelings—visualizing the desire each of us has to ostracize and ignore our inner-sadness.
But as the film depicts when Joy and Sadness must navigate the labyrinthine contours of little girl Riley’s mind, both are vital to a healthy and happy childhood… or for that matter adulthood too. The movie is a sophisticated work of art while still being utterly entertaining for all ages. But even if you’ve seen it before, have some tissues ready when Bing Bong shows up again…
The Good Dinosaur (2015)
The Good Dinosaur is the Pixar movie that the studio seemed to release as a contractual obligation given how much money had already been sunk into the project. Delayed a year after its original director was let go, the movie was massively retooled into this modest and rather run of the mill story about a baby Apatosaurus named Arlo being lost in the wilderness and having to find his way home, all while befriending one of the first humans ever along the way. It will still entertain young ones, but their parents should recognize it wouldn’t have been out of place as one of the average animated movies stuffing multiplexes in the 1980s. Indeed, one could even call the finished product a three-dimensionally animated, but emotionally flatter, rendition of Don Bluth’s The Land Before Time from 1988.
Finding Dory (2016)
The prequel you never knew you wanted to Finding Nemo, this is indeed a movie you won’t really want now on Disney+. That said, there is still plenty of cute humor and Ellen DeGeneres’ Dory remains endearingly flighty. Some gags involving seals at a Northern Californian aquarium also make this a mildly enjoyable time-filler.
Cars 3 (2017)
So they made a Cars 3? How about that. Moving on…
One of the most sublime achievements in Pixar’s history, Coco was a sincere attempt to marry Central American heritage and tradition, namely the celebration of Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), with animated wonder. The result is one of the most visually dazzling films ever created with computer generated pixels.
The gist of the film is about a young lad named Miguel who desperately yearns to become a musician and mariachi like his idol, the late great Mexican film star Ernesto de la Cruz. There’s just one hitch: music is banned in his family ever since their grandmother Coco was abandoned as a child by her mariachi papa. But when Miguel discovers Ernesto might be that mysterious ancestor, he inadvertently sets out on a quest that brings him face to face with his grandfather in the Land of the Dead: a bustling colorful metropolis that has only grown more spectacular with time. Come for the heartwarming story and stay for the heartbreaking rendition of “Remember Me” at the end.
Incredibles 2 (2018)
Available in the UK Only, Debuts in the U.S. in July
The second Incredibles film may not be as creative as the first, but it’s still a charming way to revisit the Parr family and enjoy the zaniness of their powers. In this one, roles are reversed with Holly Hunter’s Ellen going out into the world and fighting crime as a new superhero spokesman celebrity while Bob (Craig T. Nelson) struggles with being a stay-at-home dad. The role reversal may rely a little too much on formulaic “Mr. Mom” styled jokes, but the good-natured charm and sharpness of returning writer-director Brad Bird’s script goes a long way… especially for anyone who’s ever tried to teach their child math! Also the superpower animation has never looked better.
Toy Story 4 (2019)
After the pitch perfect ending of Toy Story 3, it is understandable if you think there didn’t need to be a sequel. But bless Pixar for proving that you can build off perfection. Taking exacting care to turn even a third sequel into a passion project when it comes to their crown jewel franchise, Pixar Animation Studios reinvented Toy Story 4 into less a story about Woody and Buzz or even Woody and Andy. Instead, this is just about Woody.
Positing the hero of the franchise as experiencing something akin to a midlife crisis after losing his owner to adulthood, Woody is allowed to reevaluate his purpose and desires in life when he runs into a long lost friend, Bo Peep (a missed Annie Potts). Their nuanced relationship, as well as the hilarious existential crisis thrust upon new character Forky, turns this into a sweet and true epilogue to its series. If Tom Hanks has really said goodbye to the role, he did so beautifully.
(not yet available in the UK)
Pixar’s latest effort is on Disney+ a little early–like at least six or seven months early. Technically the number one movie in the country when it first moved to a short VOD window ahead of its Disney+ premiere, Onward is one of the many cinematic victims of the coronavirus outbreak. But at least families in self-isolation can enjoy this affable (if slighter) effort from the House that Buzz and Woody built.
An easygoing story about two brothers who grew up not knowing their father, Onward takes a fantastical twist when they discover their dad was a wizard who left them a spell so they could bring him back for one day. This shouldn’t be entirely surprising since they are themselves elves who live in a world where magic was the norm thousands of years ago. But now, their fantasy land looks a lot like our own: modern suburbia. Nevertheless, if they actually want to see papa again, they are going to have to find a magical gem to finish the spell that brings him back to life. But the real magic, of course, is about two brothers coming closer together while going on a quest. They also discover, like the movie itself, a little of that old school (Pixar) magic can go a long way.
PIXAR TV SHOWS ON DISNEY+
Monsters at Work
In addition to bringing subscribers most of Pixar’s beloved animated film library, Disney+ is also a chance for viewers young and old to embrace many of their favorite characters in all-new TV shows developed for streaming by the animation house. The first of such developments is Monsters at Work, a television series that acts as an actual sequel to 2001’s Monsters, Inc.
The official premise is that six months after the movie, Mike and Sulley’s power plant is now harvesting laughter instead of scares for the slimey citizens of Monsteropolis. In this setting, new character Tylor Tuskmon (Ben Feldman) is introduced as a talented mechanic on the Monsters, Inc. Facilities Team. He dreams of working on the Laugh Floor with Mike and Sulley. We imagine it’ll take at least a season to get there…
Forky Asks a Question
Less of a full television series and more of a series of short films, Forky Asks a Question is a Disney+ exclusive that will make everyone’s favorite new character in Toy Story 4 the star of his very own web-series. Honestly, the premise sounds a lot closer to what animated cartoons were at Warner Bros. in the 1940s when they were building their Looney Tunes stable, although Forky should provide plenty of more existential questions about life, what with him being the Toy Story equivalent of the Frankenstein monster. In fact, each short is but another chance to get deep and esoteric with titles like “What is Love?” and “What is Cheese?”
This is a short film from Pixar about what exactly Bo Peep got up to in the intervening years between Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 4. Hopefully it’ll also answer when she started wearing her dress like a cloak, and just what that backstory is between her and Duke Caboom.
Again less of a traditional television series, SparkShorts is the name for a wide collection of short films produced independently by animators and staff at Pixar Animation Studios. The gist is that Pixar employees are given six months and a limited budget to develop original ideas that once were intended for YouTube. Now on Disney+, burgeoning talent will get its chance to shine and make a statement for millions of viewers around the world.
And who knows, one of those animators may one day be directing your new favorite feature-length Pixar movie?