John Ratzenberger And His Many Pixar Characters - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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John Ratzenberger And His Many Pixar Characters

Which one is your favourite?
Who would have thought, when watching Cheers back in the 1980s, that the slightly odd guy playing Cliff Clavin would go on to be one of the most successful actors of all time in terms of box-office receipts? To be fair, by the time, John Ratzenberger was cast as the postal worker who regularly frequents Boston's most famous bar he already had made a significant dent into that achievement with small roles in Superman, Superman II, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and Gandhi.

But it would be Ratzenberger's voice which would really rake up the box-office dollars. No stranger to voice-over work, Ratzenberger had provided the voice of Rigger across six seasons of the 1990 animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers, along with reprising his character of Cliff for a 1994 episode of The Simpsons titled Fear of Flying. The following year, he'd take his dulcet tones to the big screen to portray Hamm in Pixar's first full-length movie, Toy Story.
Hamm, the wisecracking piggy bank with a cork in his belly in place of a stopper, would go on to appear in each of the Toy Story movies, with his alter-ego of Evil Dr. Pork Chop being a personal favourite. Ratzenberger would, of course, provide the voice across al four Toy Story films to date, as well as popping up in the 2019 video game Kingdom Hearts III, with Ratzenberger again reprising his role.

Unlike Tom Hanks, Tim Allen or any of the other character actors who provided voices in Toy Story, Ratzenberger came back for Pixar's second feature, 1998s A Bug's Life. Whilst promoting the film, when asked how this came about, Ratzenberger had this to say...
“I always thought it was a clerical error. Did they know I was in the other one? I’m not saying a thing.”
Whatever the reason, Ratzenberger was back again the following year for Toy Story 2, and with Pixar having had three big hits from their first three movies, the actor soon became known as "Pixar's good luck charm". Further roles followed. Boy did they follow! With Ratzenberger lending his voice to at least one character in each of Pixar's first 22 movies. These include;
  • The Abominable Snowman in the Monsters, Inc. series (2001, 2013)
  • The school of Moonfish in Finding Nemo (2003)
  • The Underminer in The Incredibles series (2004, 2018)
  • Mack the truck in the Cars series (2006, 2011, 2017)
  • Mustafa the waiter in Ratatouille (2007)
  • John in WALL-E (2008)
  • Tom the construction worker in Up (2009)
  • Gordon the guard in Brave (2012)
  • Fritz in Inside Out (2015)
  • Earl the Velociraptor in The Good Dinosaur (2015)
  • Bill the crab in Finding Dory (2016)
  • Juan Ortodoncia in Coco (2017)
  • Fennwick the cyclops construction worker in Onward (2020)
Ratzenberger's many Pixar roles were parodied during the end credits of Cars in the most meta, existential way. His Cars character, Mack, watches car-themed versions of previous Pixar films (Toy Car Story, Monster Trucks, Inc., and A Bug's Life). Mack then notes that all the characters Ratzenberger has played had excellent voice actors until he realizes that they are performed by the same actor, at which point he remarks,
"They're just using the same actor over and over! What kind of cut-rate production is this?!"
Although technically not Pixar films, Ratzenberger also voiced Harland the jet tug in Disneytoon Studios' 2013 feature Planes, and a mustached plane named Brodi in its sequel, 2014s Planes: Fire & Rescue. Both of these films are set in Pixar's Cars franchise universe, meaning Ratzenberger is even ubiquitous within this fictional universe.
Ratzenberger's favorite of his Pixar characters to date is P.T. Flea from A Bug's Life, because...
"In real life, I always get a kick out of those kinds of characters, people who just go into a rage for [no] explicable reason. He was always on edge. His blood pressure was always way over the top, and everything that he did was done in a panicked state. So it was a lot of fun to play him."
All good things must come to an end, or at least a brief pause (hopefully), as John Ratzenberger did not voice a character in Pixar's 23rd feature Soul. He did, however, appear in it. Sort of.
Director Pete Docter hinted in advance that Ratzenberger makes a "cameo" in the film, but when it arrived at Christmas 2020 his voice was nowhere to be heard, and Ratzenberger's name was not credited in either the main cast or additional voices. So no voice, instead this cameo is Ratzenberger's likeness. You can catch him in a blink and you'll miss it moment when Joe, as a cat, has to chase 22, as Joe, down into the subway. They run past a guy who was created in Ratzenberger's digital likeness, so he is in the movie. Albeit in a very different way.

With Luca, Pixar's 24th film, Ratzenberger is already credited among the additional voice actors, but with the teaser of TBC next to his role. Eagle-eared fans will no doubt be listening out for Pixar's lucky charm when Luca premieres later this month and see if Ratzenberger adds another classic Pixar character to his incredibly long and successful resume.

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