John Ratzenberger: Pixar’s Lucky Charm – Part One

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John Ratzenberger: Pixar’s Lucky Charm – Part One

Pixar Studios has done the unthinkable in terms of the movie business. They have produced an unbroken string of box office hits. Even the mighty Walt Disney Company hasn’t been able to do that, and didn’t, even in it’s heyday.

What is Pixar’s secret? Is it having some of the most talented people in the business? Maybe. Could it be the technology? Maybe. Is it that everyone just likes John Lasseter’s shirts? Nope.

The real reason for Pixar’s success is a certain lucky charm named John Ratzenberger. Don’t believe me? Then let’s look at the evidence:

1995 – Toy Story (Hamm / Supporting Lead)

“We’re next weeks yard sale fodder for sure!”

John got his big boost playing Cliff Clavin on the hit TV sitcom Cheers (1982-1993). His know-it-all character was a fan favorite, and made him the obvious choice to play Hamm, the self-professed expert on everything. It’s interesting that out of all of the acting talent linked to Toy Story, only John advanced to Pixar’s next movie. Interesting, or something more?

John Ratzenberger: Pixar’s Lucky Charm – Part One

Pixar has a history of superstition. For example, the Luxo ball shows up in many of the movies, as does the Pizza Planet truck. The number A113 also surfaces on doors and license plates, and as codes, in movie after movie. Do the Pixar artists also wear the same pair of underwear throughout the making of a movie, like so many sports players do during the playoffs? I don’t want to know! But I do know that they don’t change one other important thing: John Ratzenberger.

1998- A Bug’s Life (P. T. Flea / Supporting Lead)

“Flaming Death!”

He’s back, this time as a feisty owner of a Flea Circus who employs the characters that will be the main focus of the movie. Later, he reappears to blow their cover and provide the conflict for the second half of the movie.

John Ratzenberger: Pixar’s Lucky Charm – Part One

Toy Story 2 brought John back as Hamm along with the rest of the original cast.

2001 – Monsters Inc. (Abominable Snowman – Cameo)

“Welcome to the Himalayas!”

The trend begins here with John only providing a minor character to the film. In 2003’s Finding Nemo (School of Fish) and 2004’s The Incredibles (The Underminer) John was again only used briefly. But still to great effect!

An interesting part of John’s story actually comes from The Incredibles. Did you know he was almost not used for this movie? Brad Bird, the writer and director, didn’t dig the constant use of John in every Pixar movie. He was vocal about losing the star, and fought with Lasseter over his inclusion in The Incredibles. But tradition won out and Pixar’s lucky charm got his 30 seconds of screen time!

John Ratzenberger: Pixar’s Lucky Charm – Part One

So far, we can see that John Ratzenberger, if not the sole reason for Pixar’s success, has at least greatly contributed to it with a string of unforgettable characters! John Lasseter was asked about John’s constant inclusion in Pixar films. Lasseter simply said: “He’s our lucky charm.”

But what did the future have in store for John and Pixar? Would he ever have a big part in one of their movies again? We have 5 movies left to cover; not including the soon-to-be released Cars 2. Part Two of this article will provide the answers.

Oh, and I’ll also share with you what Ratzenberger said when he was asked about why Pixar keeps using him.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2!

John Ratzenberger: Pixar’s Lucky Charm – Part One

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One thought on “John Ratzenberger: Pixar’s Lucky Charm – Part One

  1. John has such a distinct voice, and I’m fond of growing up with Cheers as a child in the 80s (how I was allowed to watch that is beyond me – Mom must have been in the other room playing Scrabble!). Just look at the diversity of the characters one man can voice successfully! Great post, Lee; looking forward to part two!

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