Woody and Buzz Lightyear (Toy Story Series, 1995/1999/2010)
Earnest cowboy and hipster spaceman, trusty companion and preening egomaniac, Woody and Buzz aren’t just the yin and yang of the Toy Story films. They’re still the most beloved of all Pixar characters. Maybe that’s because, as shiny plastic playthings who are also larger-than-life figments of fun, they’re the perfect fusion of analog coziness and digital wonder.
WALL?E (WALL?E, 2008)
He’s like R2-D2 reborn as a binocular-eyed trash compactor, with a touch of Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp. WALL?E, a lonely robot, saves his planet with a dutiful precision that looks a lot like love. He’s proof that a Pixar hero can speak volumes — and break your heart — while barely saying a word.
Doc Hudson (Cars, 2006)
If you want proof that an actor voicing an animated character can give a truly great performance, look no further than Paul Newman’s crusty, washed-up, gleefully cynical, marvelously witty old coot of a vintage race car. Newman pours so much of himself into the role of Lightning McQueen’s mentor that he gives Pixar’s spangly automotive fable a surprise touch of soul.
Anton Ego (Ratatouille, 2007)
Imperious, judgmental, hard to please: The gloriously named food critic Anton Ego is an artist’s worst nightmare — especially if the artist is a rat in a restaurant kitchen. As voiced with exquisite dignity by Peter O’Toole, though, and redeemed in the end with a speech of profound humility, Mr. Ego is this critic’s delight.
Edna Mode (The Incredibles, 2004)
The job of superhero would be much more dangerous without the blunt input of this madly charismatic fashion designer, voiced in a delicious German-Japanese accent by Incredibles director Brad Bird. Who knows how many in the superhero community have been saved by E’s sensible “No capes!” policy?
Dory (Finding Nemo, 2003)
The chatty charms of the Pacific blue tang with short-term memory loss who helps her new clown-fish friend Marlin find his son are inextricable from the chatty charms of Ellen DeGeneres. And…hey, did you know that Ellen really, really wants Pixar to make a Finding Nemo 2, because she’s eager to…wow, wasn’t it funny when Dory called Marlin “Mr. Grumpy Gills”?