Sunday, May 2, 2010

John Ratzenberger and His Roles in Pixar Movies

John Ratzenberger is an actor most famous for his role as a mailman named Cliff Claven in the 1980s sitcom Cheers. This was the place for his funnyman lines, being the sort of Know-it-all guy with an inflated ego.

Ratzenberger's got a unique voice and Pixar has kind of regarded him as their good luck charm. They create a character for him to voice if one hasn't been integrated into the story at the time.

Of all the Pixar roles Ratzenberger's gotten to play, the one that's his favorite is P.T. Flea, the hot-headed ringmaster of the Circus Bugs. John loves this character because he's so on edge and unpredictable.

What are the other characters he plays in Pixar films? Let's go through the list and find out.

Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 (coming June 2010): John Ratzenberger's Pixar movie role in the Toy Story movies is Hamm the piggy bank. Hamm is pals with Mr. Potato Head and they do well together with their sarcastic wit. Hamm's a bit of a pessimist and likes to take pot shots at his fellow toys, often jumping to the wrong conclusions about them too quickly.

A Bug's Life: In the second Pixar film, as mentioned, Ratzenberger's role was that of P.T. Flea, ringmaster for the troupe of Circus Bugs. He's greedy, demanding and obsessed with money. Being a highly irritable bug, he fires the troupe after they failed the "Flaming Death" performance.

Monster's Inc.: In 2001, John Ratzenberger's role in Monsters Inc. was for The Abominable Snowman, a monster who had been banished from Monstropolis some time ago. Mike and Sulley were also banished when they discovered Henry Waternoose's agenda and were sent to the snowy Himalayan mountains where they meet Mr. Abominable. Looming and frightening at first, he quickly greets the two with "Welcome to the Himalayas!" and is a hospitable, gentle creature. Personally, he is my favorite Ratzenberger-voiced character!

Finding Nemo: The role John plays in this film is unique; it's not a single character, but a school of moonfish. Marlin and Dory cross paths with the school of moonfish as they search for a way to get to Sydney, Australia. The moonfish swim together with remarkable precision and can make pictures of such shapes as an octopus and the Sydney Opera House. They poke fun of Marlin by making his shape and moving his mouth as he explains something to Dory, whom he's upset. In the end, the moonfish make a brilliant, flashing arrow, pointing the way to the East Australian Current, the superhighway direct to Sydney.

The Incredibles: Stick around to the very end for The Incredibles, because John Ratzenberger's minor role doesn't occur until, literally, the end of the film. After the Parr family (The Incredibles) defeat the Omnidroid and Syndrome, they think they're back into a life of normal routine. As the family is leaving the track event Dash just finished, a villain named The Underminer breaks through the surface of the parking lot in an enormous drilling machine. He's a mole-like monster who declares war on peace and happiness. The Incredibles family don their masks, ready for the challenge of defeating a new bad guy.

Cars: Big, lovable and loyal, Razenberger's role on this Pixar film is Mack, a 1985 Mack Semi-Hauler who wears the red and white Rust-Eze cap and pulls the fancy, state-of-the-art container for Lightning McQueen. Even when the rest of McQueen's crew quit on him for being so arrogant and obnoxious, Mack sticks by him. McQueen later demands that Mack drive all through the night to get to LA for the tiebreaker race of the Piston Cup. Mack can barely stay awake though, and finally dozes off when a gang of street racer cars put on some pretty music. This is when the trailer door opens and Lightning McQueen's adventure begins.

Ratatouille: Ratzenberger's role for Ratatouille is in a restaurant full of colorful characters. He plays Mustafa, the head water of Gusteau's in Paris, France. Mustafa is a plump man with a thin mustache. He's great at taking orders, but only if they're off the menu. When the feared food critic Anton Ego snidely tells Mustafa to "Serve me some fresh perspective," the waiter looks like a deer caught in the headlights, frozen with fear and confusion. What's that supposed to mean, he wonders.

WALL-E: John plays John in WALL-E. John is one of the passengers aboard The Axiom starliner who is lost in his own world with holographic screens and a sedentary lifestyle. Robots wait on him every moment of the day and in the movie John mistakes WALL-E for a drink-bot and falls out of his chair. This is what "wakes" him up and the small robot introduces himself to John. Later on, John meets Mary, another passenger who has been awakened from the oblivion around her. Together they watch EVE and WALL-E space dancing outside and then they notice one another, feeling an attraction. They help one another save babies when Auto tries to take over the ship and John shows some real leadership qualities.

Up: Ratzenberger's role in this Pixar film is Tom, a construction worker on the site surrounding Carl Fredricksen's home. John relates to Tom because he used to be a house framer before his career in acting took off. Tom is friendly toward the old man Carl, and makes an offer on the house on behalf of his boss. But his answer is met with a face full of wind as Carl points the leaf blower at him. Carl then takes Tom's megaphone and insults his boss, to which Tom shouts back urgently that he's not with him. Poor Tom!

These are the Pixar Roles that John Ratzenberger has played thus far. I hope that Pixar continues this tradition along with the many other fun traditions in their animated films. The characters and roles Mr. Ratzenberger shall play in future films will be so much fun to listen for as we sit in the theater immersed in a great Pixar story.


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