I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.
Don’t drop the soap!
That’s what she said.
If you recognize any of the above lines, chances are you’re a huge fan of the American version of The Office. And thanks to DVD box sets, syndication, and streaming, chances are that you’ve watched all nine seasons more than once. Or twice. Or, if you’re like Sarabeth and me, you’ve lost count, but you’re always looking forward to the next episode.
Also, mega fans of the show have likely listened to the No. 1 podcast by Jenna Fischer (Pam) and Angela Kinsey (Angela Martin), Office Ladies. Or Brian Baumgartner’s (Kevin Malone) one episode of An Oral History of The Office. (Sure, there’s only been one episode posted for almost two months, but it’s a damn good episode.) And did you know there’s also a book about the making of The Office by Andy Greene?
All these fun making-of’s and behind-the-scenes goodies about the beloved show, and not once have I found someone making the claim I’m about to make. Pixar fans and Office fans alike, get out a towel and bucket for your loved ones, because your minds are about to be splattered all over the walls (luckily you’re supposed to be six feet away from anyone if you’re reading this article at a Starbucks).
Here’s my big claim:
Nearly every Pixar movie was referenced in one way or another during the show’s run up until 2013.
That’s right. Whether directly, or indirectly, almost every Pixar movie from Toy Story to Cars 2 found a way to tie into the world of The Office.
So here’s how we’re going to do this. I’m going to walk through the Pixar movies in order of release and I’ll point out which episodes they’re referenced in. Ready? Good! In the conference room, now!
- Toy Story 1 and 2: Of all of the Pixar movies most prominently mentioned in The Office, Toy Story makes the most obvious cameos. The first mention I found is in “Niagara Part 1” (6.4), where Michael lists off all the Pixar movies that made him cry. Toy Story is mentioned by name. The next mention of the beloved toy franchise comes just four episodes later in “Koi Pond” (6.8): One of the office characters, while making fun of Michael for falling in a koi pond uses Toy Story as a way to mock Michael (after he attempts to name all of the Pixar movies) by calling it Koi Story. And then Woody himself makes an appearance in arguably the best Christmas episode of the show, in “Classy Christmas” (7.11), where Michael (playing a Sid-type role) dunks Holly’s Woody doll with coffee out of jealousy. But don’t worry, he redeems himself later by playing the toy doctor and fixes Woody up.
- A Bug’s Life: This one’s a good one, and a very curious one. It’s curious because The Office was put out by NBC. Now stay with me on this. I was always under the impression that NBC was the parent of Dreamworks Animation SKG (you know, those other animated movies – the ones you might rent for your kids on a desperate weekend, but would never pay a ticket price for). But after doing a bit of research, I discovered that NBC didn’t buy Dreamworks until 2016. However, the fan favorite episode, Threat Level Midnight (7.17) aired early in 2011, long before NBC bought Dreamworks. So they were free to have Michael state that A Bug’s Life was better than Antz. But it’s still curious because Disney and NBC, as far as I’m aware, have been competitors, and with Spielberg being tied to Dreamworks, you’d think that NBC (Universal) would show preference to Dreamworks over Disney/Pixar. Don’t worry, I wrote in to Office Ladies to see if they can clear all this up for me. So maybe we’ll get some answers from them in the future.
- Monsters, Inc.: Okay, this one’s a cheat. But remember, at the beginning of this article I stated that almost every Pixar movie is directly or indirectly referenced in The Office. And of the ones referenced, Monsters, Inc. is definitely the most indirect and I admit, probably not even conscious, reference. But if you think about it, the entire show is like how Monsters, Inc. would be run after Sulley took over and generated power by making kids laugh. After all, that’s Michael’s entire goal, isn’t it? To make people laugh? He believes laughter and entertainment are the backbone of the paper industry. Also, Mike/Michael do have a hard time hitting the funny bone, right? Okay, I won’t cheat again until the end. Let’s keep moving.
- Finding Nemo: With this fish tale being just as good as Toy Story, it’s fitting that it would be mentioned in the same episodes Toy Story was. In “Niagara Part 1” (6.4), Michael calls out Finding Nemo as a Pixar movie that made him cry. And it’s also called out by Creed in “Koi Pond” (6.8) when he asks Michael if he “found Nemo.”
- Incredibles: This one’s a little bit loose, but it’s also the very first Pixar reference in the entire show. It’s early on, in the episode “Halloween” (2.5) where we see Kevin dressed up as Mr. Incredible, except instead of an “I” on his chest, he has “Dunder Mifflin” stitched on the big red suit. Sure, it can be argued that it wasn’t a conscious reference, but consider these three arguments: 1) Incredibles was still a fairly new movie when this episode aired, 2) IMDB points it out as a genuine reference, and 3) The Office was obviously dedicated to making as many Pixar references as possible, as you’ll continue to see. Read on.
- Cars: There are a lot of people, Pixar fans included, who only saw this movie once and then swore the franchise off. But to those of us who actually enjoyed this movie, we were rewarded by being able to catch this reference in “Employee Transfer” (5.5) when Michael and Darryl drive Holly back to her home branch in Nashua. Trying to kill time on the long drive, Michael tries to sing along (hilariously) to the Rascal Flatts version of “Life is a Highway,” which was prominently featured in and remade for the movie Cars.
- Ratatouille: Similar to the other greats (Toy Story and Finding Nemo), this Pixar gem gets two references. The first one is in “The Delivery” (6.17) where Kevin makes ratatouille. And the second one is… in my memory somewhere. Okay, so I picked up on this Pixar trend in The Office years ago as I was watching it for the first time. And I have this very vivid memory of Michael Scott saying that he saw Ratatouille and it put him to sleep. I remember this, because at face value it sounds like a knock against the movie, but it’s really an underhanded compliment, meaning that Michael went into it expecting a kid’s cartoon movie, but it was really too deep and mature for him to follow, so he fell asleep. And, I’m sorry to say, I can’t recall where this talking head is. It very well could be a deleted scene. If you can find it, please leave a comment below.
- Wall-e: This one’s very obvious. In “The Seminar” (7.14), creepy Gabe is trying to decide what slasher-horror he and Erin should watch after work. Erin tells him she wants to watch Wall-e.
- Up: This one’s so good it got mentioned twice as well, and I can name both sources this time. One is (again) in “Niagara Part 1” (6.4) as one of the movies that made Michael cry. And two, in “Andy’s Play” (7.3) when Phyllis looks at Michale’s balloons and says, “That’s like in Up.”
- Toy Story 3: This could also be a reference to Toy Story 2 as well. In “Promos” (9.18) Jim and Darryl are meeting with Ryan Howard (the athlete, not the temp), and he’s telling them about the book he wants to write, and he says he wants it to be “Toy Story sad.”
- Cars 2: I’ve got to be honest. This movie was so bad that I assumed no one would want to draw attention to it, but Jim not only draws attention to it in “Test the Store” (8.17), he calls it out by name in his presentation. “From Chuck to Cars 2,” he says. Of course, it was a very bad presentation, so maybe that was part of the joke.
- Brave: Brave, which came out in 2012, the year before The Office’s series finale, was not mentioned or even given a passing nod. Perhaps they couldn’t find a way to shoehorn it in like they did with many of the others, or else they had already finished filming much of the final season by the time Brave was released. I’m not sure. But Brave, unless you count Monsters, Inc., is the lone dead fish in the pond in The Office universe.
- Monsters University: This movie was released after the show’s beautiful and heartbreaking end. However, I want to draw attention to it, because a piece of The Office lives within this movie in a small way. One of the monsters was voiced by none other than John Krasinski (Jim).
And it didn’t end there. Phyllis Smith (Phyllis Vance) and Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor) went on to voice characters in Pixar’s Inside Out, and Rashida Jones (Karen Filippelli) had an early writing credit on Toy Story 4.
So what are your thoughts? Do you think it was intentional for The Office writers to include as many Pixar references as possible throughout the duration of the show? After all, according to Office Ladies, Craig Daniels dedicated a whole storyline to Call of Duty simply because he loved that game. Let me know your thoughts below!