The Pixar Performance Bracket -- Round One

Well, friends, the Muppet performance bracket has come to a close and I want to extend a hearty and surprising congratulations to Tim Curry for his performance as Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island. (Here is how surprising these congratulations are: when I typed this paragraph two days before it was published, I had Michael Caine’s name here. I wasn’t expecting him to lose!)

And now that we’re taking a break from the Muppets (…for now), it’s time for a new bracket. But just as we talked about performances in the last bracket, we’re doing it again with this one.

It’s the Pixar performance bracket. Take a look.

By now, you may know the drill. It’s time for me to answer any questions about this bracket you may have on your mind. Questions, folks?

Didn’t you do a voiceover performance bracket already?

I sure did!

And weren’t some performances from Pixar movies also on that bracket?

They were, but it was mostly weighted to performances in Walt Disney Animation Studios films. Less than a quarter of that bracket’s seeds were from Pixar movies.

Fair enough. So, I notice here that there are some performers who have more than one Pixar credit to their name.

Is this a question about John Ratzenberger?

I thought I’m the one asking the questions around here.

Yes, but…it’s a Ratzenberger question, right?

It is.

So, the rule with every performer on this bracket is the same: you are intended to vote on just one of their performances.

How will I know which performance you want me to vote on?

I’ll specify it here and — when applicable — I’ll note it in the tweet threads I post each day.

Now, what if I decide to really vote on John Ratzenberger’s body of work with Pixar?

I can’t stop you from doing that. But you’re really only supposed to vote for one performance.

Do you think this one will be…dare I say predictable?

I feel like this is an implication regarding our last bracket.

It might be.

So, I can’t say for sure. But here’s what I will say: one of the exciting aspects about this specific bracket is that Pixar is rightly known for having excellent casting in basically all of its films. So while there are a few performances here that are…let’s say deserving of a low seed, I think there’s a lot of strong candidates to go pretty far in the competition. I would be much less surprised to see fewer top seeds as we move to the end than I was with the Muppets. Let’s put it that way.

Enough questions! Let’s get to the matchups and my preferences for what should go to the second round.

Day One

(1) Tom Hanks, Toy Story vs. (16) Michael Caine, Cars 2: Michael Caine breezed his way through the last bracket, didn’t he? He’ll be stalling out pretty quickly this time around. Hanks. Of course.

(8) Bob Peterson, Up vs. (9) Jim Varney, Toy Story: This is a little tougher, if only because Jim Varney was able to very quickly communicate who Slinky Dog was with just a word or two. But it has to go to Pixar stalwart Bob Peterson as the lovably dumb Dug.

(5) Dave Foley, A Bug’s Life vs. (12) Gael Garcia Bernal, Coco: I am tempted to give this to Bernal, because he sang as well as acted. I like Foley a lot as Flik, but I think I’ll go with the low seed this time.

(4) Jason Lee, The Incredibles vs. (13) Kevin Spacey, A Bug’s Life: Yeah, listen, this one’s going to be a rout. (I do think it’s worth noting that Spacey was well cast as Hopper, but…yeah.) Lee deserves it too.

Day Two

(6) Willem Dafoe, Finding Nemo vs. (11) Ben Burtt, WALL-E: Willem Dafoe is one of our finest actors. I say this not because I’m voting him in, but because I need to remind you all that he’s excellent. And in a lot of other matchups here, I’d vote for him. But WALL-E as a character is a triumph of sound design as much as visual design. He won the heroes/villains bracket, and he’s at least winning this matchup in my book.

(3) Richard Kind, Inside Out vs. (14) Brian Dennehy, Ratatouille: Bing Bong is a shamelessly manipulative emotional character, but dammit if Richard Kind doesn’t make it work.

(7) Julia Louis-Dreyfus, A Bug’s Life vs. (10) Tony Hale, Toy Story 4: I paired these two together mostly for the tie-in to Veep, but I am sad to say that Selina Meyer will not be getting my vote this time. Forky all the way.

(2) Ed Asner, Up vs. (15) Bonnie Hunt, Cars: Much love to Bonnie Hunt, but Ed “Why am I a clue in every other New York Times Crossword?” Asner gets my vote.

Day Three

(1) Albert Brooks, Finding Nemo vs. (16) Raymond Ochoa, The Good Dinosaur: Brooks gets this one very easily. He’ll go far in the bracket.

(8) Brad Bird, The Incredibles vs. (9) Sarah Vowell, The Incredibles: Bird’s daffy performance is one of the most inspired elements of his excellent 2004 superhero deconstruction. Nothing against Vowell. But I vote for Bird.

(5) Jamie Foxx, Soul vs. (12) Janeane Garofalo, Ratatouille: I have problems with Soul that I’ve written about, but Jamie Foxx’s performance is perhaps the film’s strongest element aside from its animation. He moves on here.

(4) Billy Crystal, Monsters, Inc. vs. (13) Chris Pratt, Onward: Billy Crystal nearly played Buzz Lightyear, which is one of those bits of trivia I can never fully wrestle with. He ended up with the right role when he played Mike Wazowski, as compared to Chris Pratt channeling Jack Black through Burt Macklin. Crystal moves on.

Day Four

(6) Phyllis Smith, Inside Out vs. (11) Jennifer Tilly, Monsters, Inc.: Jennifer Tilly is very talented, and very ill-served by thin writing in Monsters, Inc. (I like the movie a lot, but it’s part of the early phase of Pixar not writing female characters well.) Smith, on the other hand, is almost the best performance of Inside Out. She gets my vote.

(3) Holly Hunter, The Incredibles vs. (14) Emma Thompson, Brave: The older I get, the more I appreciate how subtle and nuanced Holly Hunter is as Helen Parr. An excellent performance that should go far here.

(7) Annie Potts, Toy Story 4 vs. (10) Steve Buscemi, Monsters, Inc.: I’m doing what I can to help Annie Potts out here — the most recent film is the only one where Bo Peep has anything approaching characterization — but alas, I give this to Buscemi.

(2) Tim Allen, Toy Story vs. (15) Elissa Knight, WALL-E: I give this to Tim Allen with the caveat that I expect he will be one of the earliest high seeds to go down.

Day Five

(1) Amy Poehler, Inside Out vs. (16) Estelle Harris, Toy Story 2: Amy Poehler is my choice for the best performance in any Pixar movie. So…sorry, Mrs. Costanza.

(8) Tina Fey, Soul vs. (9) Kristen Schaal, Toy Story 3: One of the bigger problems I had with Soul centered not only around the character of 22 but of Fey playing 22. So I’ll be voting for Kristen Schaal here.

(5) Ned Beatty, Toy Story 3 vs. (12) Kelly Macdonald, Brave: I really like Kelly Macdonald as Merida, but I have to give this to the elder statesman Mr. Beatty. Lotso is a truly nefarious bad guy, and arguably the best villain of the Toy Story series.

(4) Patton Oswalt, Ratatouille vs. (13) Ian Holm, Ratatouille: This one’s tough. I love Ratatouille, and it doesn’t have a weak voice performance in the bunch. I will lean slightly — ever, ever so slightly — to Holm, whose goofy French accent still makes me smile.

Day Six

(6) Ellen DeGeneres, Finding Nemo vs. (11) Owen Wilson, Cars: I have grown less enamored of Dory over the years, but I cannot deny that DeGeneres’ is the better performance here.

(3) Don Rickles, Toy Story vs. (14) Cristela Alonzo, Cars 3: It’s gotta be Rickles.

(7) Anthony Gonzalez, Coco vs. (10) Jordan Nagai, Up: I give this one to Gonzalez, if only because the character of Miguel has more to do, but both of these young men are very good in their respective roles.

(2) John Goodman, Monsters, Inc. vs. (15) Tom Holland, Onward: I bet that of all the seedings I introduce, this is the one that will annoy some folks, because of their love of the young Peter Parker. Well…listen, it’s my bracket. I don’t think much of Holland’s performance here. I give it to John Goodman, easily.

Day Seven

(1) Joan Cusack, Toy Story 2 vs. (16) Sigourney Weaver, WALL-E: Cusack all the way here. Sorry, Sigourney.

(8) Kelsey Grammer, Toy Story 2 vs. (9) John Ratzenberger, A Bug’s Life: First, yes, I’m only limiting this to Ratzenberger’s best, most exuberant performance, as the shameless showflea P.T. Flea. Anyway, did you hear about Kelsey Grammer coming back for a Frasier revival but no one else from the cast is confirmed yet? What a terrible idea it would be to just have Frasier back. (I tweeted about this over the week, it weirdly got traction, and some people shared very dumb takes about how if Cheers could spin off Frasier into his own show, it could work, and I’m here to tell you that is a very dumb take indeed.) I digress. Grammer wins here.

(5) Michael Keaton, Toy Story 3 vs. (12) Erik von Detten, Toy Story: Two fine performances, but I am voting for Mr. Keaton on this one.

(4) Craig T. Nelson, The Incredibles vs. (13) Christopher Plummer, Up: Let it not be said that Christopher Plummer isn’t excellent as Charles Muntz. But Nelson has a lot more to do, and gives a more impactful lead performance, so he gets my vote.

Day Eight

(6) Samuel L. Jackson, The Incredibles vs. (11) Catherine Keener, Incredibles II: I am giving this one to Keener. As much as I like the casting of Samuel L. Jackson in a superhero movie (and what a missed opportunity that absolutely no one else has ever cast him in such a film), he doesn’t have that much to do in either Incredibles movie. Keener has a much more complex role to work with and does wonders with it.

(3) Paul Newman, Cars vs. (14) Fred Willard, WALL-E: First, I do strongly argue that this counts, in terms of including Willard. He’s a live actor, but it’s a Pixar movie. That said, I give this to the man, the myth, the legend, Paul goddamn Newman.

(7) Wallace Shawn, Toy Story 2 vs. (10) Jodi Benson, Toy Story 3: A tough battle, but I give this to Wallace Shawn. Rex is a wonderfully neurotic character and he gives him such cheery life.

(2) Peter O’Toole, Ratatouille vs. (15) Larry the Cable Guy, Cars: This is not a contest. O’Toole.

Share That Still, Small Voice