The Typography of Pixar’s Film Logos

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Often not talked about, I think, are the logos for Pixar’s animated features. As a graphic design student, I’m finding more and more to appreciate in these very logos and how they work on viewers.

Now, the reason I’m going over Pixar’s logos, and not Walt Disney Animation Studios’ logos, is because with Pixar, there’s a consistency when it comes to these things. With a lot of Disney Animation’s earlier films, the logos would often be different on the posters and other promo materials. Over time, theatrical re-release posters and home media covers would use alternate logos for these films, rather than a proper master logo. Pixar’s films, from posters to video to the films themselves, usually use the same logo.

Of course, one day I’ll explore the multiple logos of the 55 (soon to be 56) Disney animated classics…

THE TOY STORY SERIES

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What makes a great logo is eye-catching qualities, ones that seamlessly tell a story without having the viewer trying to decipher it, or question why a certain color was used or why that shape was used. At the same time, it has some kick to it, rather than a single font being used. Many movies nowadays kind of commit this sin, using very bland-looking logos. Toy Story‘s logo perfectly sets the tone of the film, it has the playfulness but also the colorful fun of your playthings from when you were a kid. A theatrical trailer for the first film used this variant…

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See, this one doesn’t work as well to my eyes. I also don’t quite like the blue against the yellow. I wonder why this one was used for the trailer… Was it an early, prototype version that somehow got used for a few marketing materials? Sometimes that happens. (Sidenote: If you have the 1989 VHS of Bambi, pop it in – The Little Mermaid trailer for some reason uses a scrapped logo that also appeared on a demo reel from 1988.)

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Toy Story 2 integrates the numeral well. I simply can’t see the series logo working with a Roman numeral “II”.

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Toy Story 3 gave the iconic logo a subtle, much more three-dimensional makeover, making the blue edges seem like translucent plastic, giving it an almost neon-like vibe. In the film proper, the “3” is branded onto the logo before burning up the cloud background that resembles Andy’s wallpaper.

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Now that’s an introduction!

Here’s a fun homemade one used for the teaser trailer, which had an amusing bit where Woody’s attempts to make the logo and release date are overshadowed by Buzz’s!

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I can only imagine how Toy Story 4 (hitting screens summer 2018) will play with its logo in the film, or if there will be any more differences.

TS4 Teaser Poster

A BUG’S LIFE

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Like Toy Story‘s logo, the logo for A Bug’s Life bases its text around its ideas, integrating various bugs into the letters. Very clever! The leaf, used for the posters and marketing materials, works very well too.

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It successfully sets the tone of the film, too – this is a fun adventure with bugs. There will be some peril and some bite, but on the whole it’ll be colorful and humorous. Contrast that with DreamWorks’ Antz, and its simpler, more serious-looking logo.

THE MONSTERS SERIES

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For a film full of dizzying worldbuilding, great imagination, and color, Monsters, Inc. has a shockingly simplistic logo. Not that that is a bad thing, but what I mean is, it simply uses letters that happen to be in an interesting shape. It’s very successful in getting the idea across. The font suggests something different, something a little eccentric, and the addition of the eye in the “M” makes it really pop. It also looks cool before it’s turned into the one we know and love!

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The promo/publicity one is a little less loose, a lot more formal-looking in terms of the rendering.

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Monsters University takes the logo’s (or should we say the company’s) aesthetic and successfully contrasts it with a university font.

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THE FINDING NEMO SERIES

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Finding Nemo‘s logo is a fantastic example of what you can do with simplicity. Simple text, adding a fish shape to the “O” center, and putting a wave on the bottom to trim the letters spelling “Nemo”, you know you’re in for something set in the ocean. Finding Dory, of course, does the same thing…

Since the sequel is not out on home media yet, I’ll use the marketing logo for now.

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Like the first movie, the Finding Dory logo in the film itself is watery and pretty to look at.

THE INCREDIBLES SERIES

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This one’s big, bold, and retro. Arching the logo like this also makes it fit nicely below the “i” symbol like a puzzle piece.

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I love everything about the “i” logo. It’s a design that works off of the film’s early 60s space age aesthetic (I would love to see the sequel to explore this apparent divergent timeline where the 60s played out differently) and functions as an original, iconic superhero logo that can definitely sit alongside the likes of the DC and Marvel ones.

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Even though The Incredibles II is less than 3 years away, I absolutely love what the current logo does with the Roman numeral.

THE CARS SERIES

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If The Incredibles‘ logo screamed the early 60s and superheroes, this one screams the 1950s and car culture quite perfectly. You have the retro car insignia-like shape, the cursive font, and the nice use of red. The way it’s integrated into the racetrack pavement in the movie itself is very satisfying.

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For the marketing/poster logo, you have the really neat chrome and metal detail, making the logo look like it could’ve been on an actual hot rod in the 1950s!

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For Cars 2 and Cars 3 (coming next summer), all they did was expand the “V” to fit a numeral.

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Both the 2 and 3 are aesthetically pleasing. In Cars 2, the logo locks itself together with multiple gears and mechanisms, making for a cool few seconds.

RATATOUILLE

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Probably the studio’s most formal logo, I quite prefer the logo used for the marketing which put it against a blue oval and worked a rat nose/whiskers into the “I” along with a toque.

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The pronunciation is a nice little touch, too. When I first heard of the film in 2004, I was 12 at the time, I read the title as “Rat-tat-oil”! Either way, it fits the atmosphere, setting, and tone of the film wonderfully.

WALL-E

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Pixar did sci- fi so well, and gave the film in question such an appropriate logo. The main text is akin to the simple fonts designers tend to use for current action/sci-fi movies today, but with the “E” in the red circle, you know this will be something else. With few shapes and colors, it establishes everything perfectly.

UP

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This one goes minimalist. Big time. For the first time, a Pixar film logo is just two simple letters, with no added shapes or designs or anything… Yet the way the big capital U and P (which often leads to people spelling the film’s name wrong: It’s not UP or UP!, it’s Up. Plain and simple. Up.) are positioned, you get the idea… Up in the air, high above the clouds. The perfect title for such an extraordinary film.

Sometimes they’ll add the house and balloons, which I think enhances the logo a bit…

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BRAVE

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Admittedly not my favorite title for a Pixar film, as I preferred the working title The Bear and the Bow. Brave sounds too focus grouped to me, as if Disney’s suits were pressuring Pixar to make the title sound more appealing to a tiny demographic. (This was going on at Disney at the time.) Bravery is really not what that movie is about, if you ask me, which is why I like the original title – spoilery it might be – so much more.

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Thankfully they didn’t stray from the overall feel of that logo, and the finished logo is as detailed and pretty as ever. I think I prefer the publicity one to the one used in the film’s opening…

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INSIDE OUT

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Minimalist much like Up‘s logo (director Pete Docter must have a thing for minimalism in logos!), Inside Out uses simple capital letters yet the way they are presented, they give off a vibe. Inside Out is one of Pixar’s most surreal and out-there films, the logo fools around with the text and makes it seem almost kind of trippy. Works way better than the tentative one shown at the 2013 D23 Expo…

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Pixar ran with a psychedelic 60s aesthetic for some of the posters, with excellent results. Makes me want to see Pixar do a whole animated film in that style.

THE GOOD DINOSAUR

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Like Docter’s films, Peter Sohn’s The Good Dinosaur uses a logo that’s just plain white text, but the shape to me gives off a rocky feeling. Since it’s set in a mountainous area somewhere in the midwest, it completely fits, but I think the font feels very dinosaur-like.

Since this film went through a director change and complete story overhaul, it had a much different logo early on that worked a silhouette of the protagonist into it. Text-wise it’s not dissimilar, the only differences being the dirt-like lines and Arlo.

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When the film was first unveiled at the 2011 D23 Expo, as “The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs”, it used a simpler logo that – like A Bug’s Life – worked the titular dino into the letters.

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Three logos for one film. How about that?

COCO

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Opening fall 2017, this upcoming take on the Day of the Dead holiday went through two variants. The first of which was revealed at the 2015 D23 Expo and is used on the current poster for the film (non-theatrical), the other was snapped inside the studio…

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The D23 one works in the sugar skull, while the Pixar one has guitars, corresponding to the main character Miguel, who plays guitar. The blue “O” in the second logo is a little different, for the flower pedals (?) are colored dark blue instead of orange, giving the logo a little more consistency. Whichever one will be used in the end, who knows. Maybe both! I kind of hope the final logo combines the skull with the two crossed (bones) guitars, that would be a super-cool design.

Either way, both make for one of Pixar’s most colorful logos, but it’s also a refreshingly painterly logo that contrasts heavily with a lot of movie logos made today.

In general, animated movie logos tend to be very interesting and eye-catching, and Pixar has been no slouch when it comes to that!

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