Remember when films such as A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2 had an outtakes reel? We look back at a lost but much-loved Pixar extra.

With the release of Soul back at Christmas, Pixar has now released 23 feature films in total. Several more are planned and on the way, and the studio’s output has never been so prolific.

Back in its early days, it was a little more hand to mouth. It’s often forgotten just what an enormous risk its first movie, 1995’s Toy Story, was said to be. For its first five films, it was beholden to a deal with The Walt Disney Company too, that was quickly going sour. Thankfully, things ultimately got resolved there, and history tells us of the benefits of that.

What I find incredible though was that back when it was still pathfinding, back when the technology was having to be pushed up a metaphorical mountain to make it do at least some of what the animators wanted, the animators at Pixar made things even more difficult for themselves. They did so with a little innovation that threatened to become something of a rod for their back.

It came with 1998’s A Bug’s Life, Pixar’s second film and one that followed Toy Story by more than three years. It was a struggle behind the scenes to make the film – a natural-themed remake of The Seven Samurai, effectively – but if you stayed for the end credits, boy were you rewarded.

Outtakes at the end of movies aren’t a new thing. Jackie Chan often insists they’re included in his features to get across just how dangerous some of the stuff he’s attempting actually is. But outtakes in an animated movie? Where every mistake had to be individually designed by hand and created? Well, that’s a whole new level of madness for you right there.

But that’s just what Pixar did. As such, if you sat through the end credits of its second feature for long enough, the following started to play…

Explaining their addition, the director of A Bug’s Life and former Pixar head John Lasseter – who left the company following sexual harassment complaints, I should acknowledge – explained that originally the team had wanted to include a blooper reel at the end of the first Toy Story movie.

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The problem there was they were defeated by the clock. With A Bug’s Life, they were planned in pretty much from the start. As Lasseter explained at the time to the Las Vegas Sun, “we studied a lot of movies that had outtakes in them to see what they were like – Cannonball Run and the Jackie Chan films. The biggest inspiration was the Peter Sellers film Being There, plus, TV shows like Home Improvement, and we came up with a lot ideas from those areas”.

The actors were asked to record their deliberate mistakes as part of their final recording session for the movie, and “they went nuts. They loved it”.

The bloopers were an instant hit, a word-of-mouth success too, and a further point of differentiation from the-then equally nascent DreamWorks Animation’s first CG movie, Antz.

The production of Pixar’s next movie, the sequel Toy Story 2 that landed just a year later, was a frantic and difficult one. The book The Pixar Story giving a superb account of just how close it got to the line and how hard the Pixar team was pushed.

But again, this one had outtakes built in, even when Lasseter was drafted back in to effectively direct a film that he hadn’t intended to.

Here’s the blooper reel that arrived at the end of the picture – and it’s worth acknowledging too that they’ve been re-edited in 2019 to remove a casting couch gag, in the light of the #MeToo movement.

The final time a Pixar film concluded with an outtakes reel would come with 2001’s hit Monsters, Inc.

This was the firm’s fourth film, and I remember going to see the movie when it came out and actively expecting the bloopers come the end of the production. That it had become, in a matter of a couple of films, a Pixar trademark of sorts. Understandably so, given that nobody else was even daring to attempt them.

After that came Finding Nemo two years later, and I went again expecting the outtakes reel and… nothing. With no explanation, no fanfare, no anything, the bloopers were gone. They’ve never returned.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. If you dig through The Incredibles disc release there’s a series of blunders as one of the extra features on that disc, although they’re not quite in the same style. But that was pretty much that. The films started coming faster and faster, the hits were bigger and bigger, but the outtakes were over.

All we’re left with is speculation as to why they disappeared, and it’s not hard to make a bit of a guess there. As the films became visually more and more sophisticated, and more to the point more successful, it presumably became harder and harder to justify including the bloopers in the schedule. Pixar moved to a cycle where it was developing several films at once, and as part of that, had it assigned a team to make bloopers for a few months, there was an opportunity cost there, a trade off against development time for other projects.

Plus, maybe all concerned felt they’d run their course. Go out at the top, as it were.

It’s telling though that they were such a potent, successful idea that here we are still talking about them, two decades after Pixar last included them at the end of one of its features.

Is it something the studio would ever want to revisit? I’m clearly the wrong person to answer that. But with Pixar no longer a young upstart company, and instead coming laden with levels of expectation it never had in those early years, it’s at very best an extremely forlorn hope that we’ll see them back. Never say never, mind…

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