John Ratzenberger is best known for his onscreen performance of know-it-all postal worker Cliff Clavin on NBC sitcom Cheers, but the actor has the sole distinction of being the only person to appear in every Pixar Animation Studios movie — all 20 of them.
The mustached man of many characters is referred to by Pixar filmmakers as their “good luck charm,” and the Disney-owned studio has grossed over $12 billion in worldwide box office receipts since their first feature-length CG-animated movie, Toy Story, opened to rave acclaim in 1995.
Ratzenberger doesn’t know what was so special about his work on those first voice sessions that lead to his becoming a mainstay in Pixar’s filmography, but his recurring cameos have become expected by fans.
“It was a job,” Ratzenberger told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2010 ahead of the release of Toy Story 3, where he loaned his voice for a third time to Hamm the piggybank — his first Pixar role. “I believe in taking every job seriously, and doing my best work. But I didn't feel anything different. I definitely didn't know I'd be back.”
“They call me and say, 'Hey, we have a character we want you to play,’” said the voice-acting veteran, who no longer has to audition. “I ask when and where, and then I show up.”
And show up he has, in every Pixar movie — almost one a year — appearing as everything from an anthropomorphic car to a banished monster.
Ratzenberger first appeared as wisecracking piggy bank Hamm in Toy Story, one of many toys who comes alive when their owners aren’t looking.
The sarcastic and clever slotted pig — who doubled as Evil Dr. Porkchop when it came time for playtime with former owner Andy — has been a mainstay of the beloved Toy Story trilogy, appearing in all three big-screen movies as well as shorts ‘Hawaiian Vacation,’ ‘Small Fry,’ and ‘Partysaurus Rex,’ again voiced by Ratzenberger.
Ratzenberger will ham it up again in video game Kingdom Hearts III, out in January, and Toy Story 4, in theaters June 21, 2019.
Ratzenberger next voiced circus ringmaster P.T. Flea in 1998’s A Bug’s Life, Pixar’s second full-length feature film.
Short-tempered and greedy, the showman has been named as Ratzenberger’s favorite Pixar role “because everything in his life is a crisis — he always makes me laugh,” Ratzenberger told Independent.
In 2001’s Monsters, Inc., scare team Sully (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) are ousted from their position as the top scarers in the energy-generating company and banished to the snowy Himalayas. There they meet Ratzenberger’s Yeti, a.k.a. the Abominable Snowman.
“Abominable! Can you believe that? Do I look abominable to you?” said the friendly monster, also a banished outcast. “Why can’t they call me the Adorable Snowman, or the Agreeable Snowman, for crying out loud? I’m a nice guy.”
The creature then offered Mike and Sully yellow snow cones, telling the pair, “Don’t worry. It’s lemon.”
Ratzenberger reprised the role in 2013’s Monsters University, where the Yeti was seen working as a Monsters, Inc. mailroom employee — a nod to Ratzenberger’s famed Cheers character.
Ratzenberger voiced an entire school of fish in 2003’s Finding Nemo, who helped point a desperate Marlin (Albert Brooks) in the right direction during an ocean-wide search for his missing son.
The Moonfish help the clown fish by way of charades, forming themselves into a ship, Sydney, and an arrow.
“What you wanna do is follow the EAC, that's the East Australian Current. Big current, can't miss it, it's in that direction,” the like-minded fish said. “And then you gotta follow that for about, I don't know, what do you guys think? About three leagues? And that little baby's gonna put you right past Sydney.”
In 2016 sequel Finding Dory, Ratzenberger voiced Bill, a particularly pessimistic husband crab.
Super-villain the Underminer appears in both 2004’s The Incredibles and 2018 sequel Incredibles 2, where the megalomaniacal and arrogant villain wields a giant, Earth-piercing drill.
The villain — inspired by Fantastic Four villain Mole Man — appeared briefly just before the end credits of The Incredibles, and is dealt with by the newly-formed superhero team early on in Incredibles 2.
Ratzenberger also voiced the bad guy in 2005 video game The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer.
Big-hearted and friendly Mack — responsible for transporting champion race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) in the Cars franchise — gets his voice from Ratzenberger, who returned to voice the big red truck in short film ‘Mater and the Ghostlight’ and video games Cars, Cars Race-O-Rama, and Cars 3: Driven to Win.
Ratzenberger voices nervous waiter Mustafa in 2007’s Ratatouille, where his soft-spoken character comes equipped with a French accent. The former Gusteau’s waiter quit the upscale restaurant when it was discovered it was chef rat Remy (Patton Oswalt) — not human Linguini (Lou Romano) — who was responsible for the restaurant’s acclaimed delicacies.
He next voiced plump Axiom passenger John in 2008’s WALL-E, a spaceship passenger encountered by trash-collecting robot WALL-E in his search for EVE.
John and other Axiom space travelers helped the lover bots overthrow the nefarious AUTO, and was among the humans to step foot on Earth for the first time in over 700 years.
In 2009's Up, Ratzenberger voices a well-intentioned construction worker, Foreman Tom, who tries to convince Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner) to relocate to Shady Oaks Retirement Village so a shopping center could be built in place of Carl’s beloved house, which he shared with his deceased wife.
2012's Brave, set in Scotland, sees Ratzenberger put on a thick Scottish accent as Gordon, a castle guard responsible for help protecting the royal family of the DunBroch kingdom.
Ratzenberger’s role in 2015’s Inside Out is among his most brief: he voices Fritz, a mustached, blueish-green Mind Worker in the head of pre-teen Riley (Kaitlyn Dias). The construction worker installs a new, expanded console in the emotions Headquarters when Riley turns 12.
That same year, Ratzenberger voiced Earl, an unhinged Velociraptor. Earl belongs to a pack of thieves — dubbed “Rustlers” — who preyed on the prized herd of longhorns belonging to T-Rex Butch (Sam Elliott) in The Good Dinosaur.
Ratzenberger had his shortest Pixar part yet in 2017’s Coco, where he voiced Juan Ortodoncia — a skeleton belonging to the mystical Land of the Dead. He has just one line: “gracias.”
In addition to 2019’s Toy Story 4, Ratzenberger is expected to participate in Pixar’s five in-the-works productions, set for release in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Incredibles 2 is now playing.