To Infinity & Beyond: Pixar’s 12 Greatest Characters

pixar characters

We love Pixar.

What they have accomplished the past two decades with animated storytelling is an incredible feat. They’ve created numerous beautiful worlds and characters, and in anticipation of one of their most ambitious and creative films yet, Inside Out, we decided to take a look back at our favorite Pixar films and choose the greatest characters.

Click NEXT to see which Pixar characters we consider the best.

Princess Merida – Brave

By Allyson Johnson

People like to call Frozen the feminist film to come out of Disney, but those people clearly never saw Brave. (Of course, it shouldn’t be a competition, but I wish Brave would have received half of the media narrative that Frozen did.) Merida is tough and independent, and the biggest treat isn’t just that the film makes the mother-daughter relationship at the heart’s core, but it also refuses to force the character into a contrived romantic pairing. Merida, like her gorgeously animated vibrant red hair, is a wonderfully constructed character, one who is wild and spirited but whose emotional core keeps her grounded. She is a character for all children to look up to and to emulate, because even when she’s acting impulsively or immaturely, she manages to make up for it with her abundance of heart. She’s a fighter, but that isn’t her defining characteristic–it’s her spirit. I will be the lone Brave supporter in the corner here who will enthusiastically argue that Brave is just as good, if not better, than many of the Pixar “greats,” and Merida is a key reason why.


Remy – Ratatouille

By Gabrielle Bondi

Remy is a rat who aspires to be a great culinary chef. What an impossible dream. But thanks to the beautiful animation and storytelling of Pixar, Remy achieves his dreams. Besides relating to Remy (big, impossible dreamer right here), I found it compelling that Remy was very determined about his dreams, but was not always sympathetic. His first experience as a chef is a huge learning experience, and I don’t mean in terms of cooking. Remy already knows how to cook, but he finally learns how to treat others (both humans and rats) better and put his determination to better use, like softening the heart of a cold-hearted critic with just a simple dish. It’s not just about what you do, but how it can affect others.


Dory – Finding Nemo

By Melissa Berne

Dory is the best friend anyone could hope for. Sure, she has a memory issue, but when it really counts, she doesn’t let you down. She’s hilarious (speak Whale anyone?), and I loved the faith she has and later instills in Marlin. They forge a friendship that lifts each other up and makes each other better.


Marlin – Finding Nemo

By Camille Espiritu

Pixar continues to do a great job bringing to life vivid characters who have distinct personalities, one of them being Marlin from Finding Nemo. I have a huge soft spot for films that highlight the relationship between a parent and a child. Marlin, as a father, showers Nemo with unconditional love. Though he does not deliver the best jokes, clownfish and all, he does not fail to look at the brighter side of things. A personality that is filled with nerves and anxiety, he is the essence of what all parents feel when their child ventures off into the world.

A bit of a worrier (if that could be said lightly), we immediately see how protective Marlin is of his son. However, the overprotectiveness comes from a good place.

No ocean is big or wide enough to withstand this strong bond. We see Marlin face his biggest fears, meet interesting characters, and get caught in some of the craziest adventures, all to be reunited with his son. It is not until the climax of the film that he learns to trust himself. All a parent can do is pray that they have done their best and that their child will be okay.

In films, we tend to relate our lives to the characters on the screen. As for Marlin, he is much like my father: protective, funny (at times), and tremendously caring. No other character captures the right tone and mood of a parent quite like Marlin, making him the perfect father figure in the deep blue sea.

Edna Mode – The Incredibles

By Matthew Goudreau

Serving as the costume designer for superheroes in the Incredibles universe, Edna Mode is the biggest scene-stealer of any Pixar film. Her eccentric personality and satirical jabs at comic book tropes provide a great deal of laughs. Uniquely designed and voiced by director Brad Bird, Edna is a cross between Alfred Pennyworth and Q from the 007 canon. Edna finds herself presented with an opportunity to escape her imposed retirement when Mr. Incredible arrives with his damaged suit. Her conversation with Incredible leads to a hysterical put-down of the traditional cape and its detriment to the wearer. The subsequent montage of caped mishaps is clever enough even without Edna’s hysterical delivery. In addition to designing suits for the rest of the family, Edna provides an interesting perspective on the work of a hero. She doesn’t suit up and fight the villains, but she does have a strong sense of duty. She is also enthusiastic about her work and does it because she loves it. This is a sharp contrast compared to most superheroes, who act either out of a sense of duty or responsibility. Out of all the subversive elements of the film, this is perhaps the most subtle element. While her screentime is kept to a minimum, Edna is the first character that came to mind when I was asked about my favorite Pixar character. I guess Edna proves the old saying of “less is more” in the best sense.

Carl Fredricksen – Up

By Rachel Geiger

On the surface, Carl seems like just another grumpy man, which may initially seem weird for a Pixar movie. Although he may become a grump in his old age, we get to see him as a young boy who loved adventure and dreaming big. We also get to see him evolve throughout the film as he becomes more protective over Russell and the characters they meet along the way. The friendship between this unlikely duo is one of my favorite of all the incredible films Pixar has made. What makes it so endearing to me is that this young boy who doesn’t get to spend much time with his biological father finds a real friendship with an old man who craves adventure and happiness. Carl hasn’t felt that way since the loss of his wife, and I love how Russell’s energy and compassion rubs off on him as well. At the end of the day, Carl Fredricksen is a lot more than just a grumpy old man.

Bruce (and the whole Fish Eater’s Anonymous group) – Finding Nemo

By Jon Espino

…and always remember: fish are friends, not food.

Sulley – Monsters Inc.

By Luciana Villalba

When we first meet Sulley in Monsters Inc., he is supposed to be the best Scarer of the company. However, as the movie progresses and he meets Boo, we get to see a softer side of Sulley and how this little girl turns his world upside down. He is a character that always wants to do the right thing, even if that means putting himself at risk. Even if at times his decisions put his friendship with Mike on the line, he is always loyal and does what’s best for everyone.

I think that one of the many messages that the Monsters Inc. movies send is that change is good. From having Mike and Sulley be enemies in Monsters University, we see how their differences brought them together. Then when Sulley changes the company culture at work by having monsters make children laugh instead of scaring them, it shows Sulley’s bravery and compassion underneath all that scary fur.

Violet – The Incredibles

By Leigh-Ann Brodber

The Incredibles movie is one of my favorite Pixar films. However, out of the entire Incredibles cast I have to say I like Violet the best. In the beginning, she’s this lone wolf kind of girl, who’s unsure of herself, her powers, and her family. But gradually, throughout the movie, she comes into her own and is confident in her abilities. I’m still waiting for The Incredibles 2 to come out…

Mike Wazowski – Monsters Inc.

By Kevin Montes

As a huge fan of comedy, and as a huge unconventional fan of Billy Crystal, I think this character hits all those beautiful Crystal notes. City Slickers and Mr. Saturday Night are two classics of his that hit the nail on the coffin for me. As much as I loved it as a child, now, as a grown man, I consider this film my favorite Pixar film (outside of the Toy Story trilogy) based upon my love of Billy Crystal and comedy. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard (in a non Toy Story film) with any other character. His neuroticism as a character also made me feel like this character itself is like an animated Woody Allen. Also, the pepper spray to the eye still gets me.

Wall-E – Wall-E

By Jon Winkler

When it comes to kids movies, characters have to grab whatever short attention span they have to keep them invested in the movie. That usually means opening up with some quirky dialogue or a zany musical number. So how does a dirty, box-shaped robot make himself memorable enough for merchandise at the Disney store? Saying only two words and making electronic “beep” noises for 98 minutes…it worked. What makes Wall-E, both the character and the movie itself, is that it’s more about showing than telling. Most of the movie is visual, showing how technological innovation can lead to crippling laziness. But Wall-E is memorable for also being entirely visual, with no actual dialogue. The audience can connect and identify with him just by watching him work, from basic curiosity to the nervous feelings of approaching a crush. Despite being a robot, Wall-E maybe one of the most human characters Pixar ever created.

Woody – Toy Story trilogy

By Bri Lockart

As Andy’s favorite toy, Sheriff Woody Pride (voiced by Tom Hanks) serves as the leader of the toys in all three Toy Story movies. As a classic stuffed cowboy doll, Woody often faces issues that all of us face in the human experience: jealousy of others, the fear of becoming obsolete, and the consequences of displaying hubris. Part of what makes Woody so great is how he showed us from a young age how to deal with these issues. Whether it’s correcting his own mistakes by saving Buzz from the sadistic Sid’s clutches or learning to deal with change by arranging for the college-aged Andy to give his toys to Bonnie in the third movie, Woody is someone we should all aspire to be.

And let’s not forget, Woody teaches us all the very important skill of helping our friends in the midst of a nervous breakdown. Who else could have pulled Buzz back in the midst of his Mrs. Nesbitt spiral? No one but our friendly neighborhood cowboy doll, that’s who.

Which Pixar character is your favorite? Share in the comments.


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