Top 10 Pixar and Dreamworks Movie Copycats
VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild
WRITTEN BY: Saim Cheeda
These Pixar and Dreamworks copycats leave little up for debate. For this list, we'll be looking at times where films from these companies were followed by movies with similar premises from other companies. Our countdown includes “Madagascar”, “Ratatouille”, “A Bug's Life”, and more!
Top 10 Pixar and Dreamworks Copycats
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Pixar and Dreamworks Copycats.
For this list, we’ll be looking at times where films from these companies were followed by movies with similar premises from other companies. While some picks were bad or straight rip-offs, we’ll also consider coincidentally similar stories that turned out to be genuine uncut gems.
Which Pixar and Dreamworks films do you think were pretty much the same? Let us know in the comments.
#10: “Madagascar” (2005) & “The Wild” (2006)
Dreamworks’ “Madagascar” is beloved for the quirky set of zoo animals who accidentally get transported to the wilds of Africa. Filled with music and slapstick comedy, the film’s formula works in providing family-friendly entertainment. It looks like Disney Pictures wanted a “Madagascar” of their own, since they produced a movie with a nearly identical premise. “The Wild” features lost animals shipped off to Africa trying to return to New York. Like Alex from “Madagascar,” the Disney movie has a central lion character surrounded by quirky animal friends. Unlike “Madagascar,” “The Wild” received largely negative reviews who called it out for being a rehash. It’s hard to argue against that criticism when there’s so little creative imagination found here.
#9: “Cars” (2006) & “CarGo” (2017)
Admittedly, “Cars” isn’t exactly the most beloved film in Pixar’s filmography. But even critics can’t deny it was original at the time and had an earnest message. When cocky race car Lightning McQueen befriends residents of a rundown town, he learns how to be humble and caring. On the other hand, “CarGo” is about a talking automobile who tries to rescue his father from turning into scrap metal. Even though the poorly named film has lower production values and a different plot than the Pixar movie, it still imitates character designs and personalities. The “CarGo’” film poster is also shamelessly similar to the one “Cars” has. This copycat movie’s lazy design aspects ensured it had no chance of catching up to the Pixar story.
#8: “Flushed Away” (2006) & “Ratatouille” (2007)
Surprisingly, “Flushed Away” and “Ratatouille” contain similar themes. Both are about unlikely rodent protagonists who embrace their true selves despite what everyone else thinks of them. In Pixar’s movie, Remy rises out of the underground rat world to pursue his dreams of being a serious chef. By contrast, the Dreamworks movie sees a privileged mouse get flushed into the sewers for a new adventure. It’s still impossible to figure out if one company copied the other here or if these rodent themed stories coming out a year after each other was a massive coincidence. But there’s one fact that can’t be denied. While “Flushed Away” came out first, “Ratatouille” became a much bigger cultural phenomenon.
#7: “Over the Hedge” (2006) & “The Nut Job” (2014)
While “Over the Hedge” isn’t the most complex animated film, it still feels like it got ripped off. This Dreamworks film centers on a raccoon who plans to steal food from humans after assembling a number of woodland creatures. Seven years later, “The Nut Job” focused on a squirrel leaning on friends to steal nuts from a store. Admittedly, this film is technically a continuation of a short film that debuted before “Over the Hedge”. But both movies feature main characters who must steal food after a backup supply is destroyed. Of the two, “Over the Hedge” was more well-received and earned a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. Ironically, “The Nut Job” scoring a dismal 12%, didn’t stop it from getting a full sequel.
#6: “Finding Dory” (2016) & “Izzie's Way Home” (2016)
Although there’s times where you can argue two films are coincidentally related, other movies have no problem trying to cash in on the publicity of another. “Izzie’s Way Home” is an example of a mockbuster that seeks to appeal to fans of “Finding Dory”. The sequel to “Finding Nemo” has Dory searching for her parents to return with them to freedom in the reef. “Izzie’s Way Home” mixes things up by having the titular fish journey to find her father and the aquarium they came from. On the whole, it rehashes the plot of the main character befriending other fish in the sea and finally reuniting with her parents. It’s too bad it couldn’t copy the lovable charm that Dory so effortlessly carries.
#5: “Toy Story” (1995) & “The Secret Life of Pets” (2016)
Dreamworks arguably took a page out of Pixar’s book for their animal tale. In “Toy Story”, Andy’s favorite toy Woody becomes jealous of new arrival Buzz Lightyear. They become best friends after an incident separates them from Andy and they journey back to him. “The Secret Life of Pets” places dogs Max and Duke in very similar positions. After Duke arrives in Max’s world, the two leave the safety of home and bond as they try to get back to their owners. Both stories offer fun perspectives of what might happen at home when humans are away. And they each spawned sequels. However, it’s still impossible not to see the cues the 2016 pet film took from the 90’s toy classic.
#4: “Cars” (2006) & “Turbo” (2013)
Where “Cars” has rookie sensation Lightning McQueen's dream of making it big, “Turbo” has the titular snail develop superspeed to accomplish a similar goal. Turbo the snail also has a cocky attitude that appears derivative of Lightning’s bravado. And the mollusk also has to learn that there’s more to life than just racing. But we have to get “Turbo” credit for being the more ridiculous concept. While a world of talking cars is strange at first, that premise seems downright normal once you see a snail actually competing against humans in race cars. Both protagonists overcome their weird setups and get happy endings. But in the end, “Cars” was the franchise with more staying power.
#3: “The Croods” (2013) & “The Good Dinosaur” (2015)
Dreamworks found a winning combination of lovable characters in a prehistoric setting with “The Croods.” Years later, we saw Pixar explore a similar time frame with “The Good Dinosaur”. While a family searches for an all new home in “The Croods”, “The Good Dinosaur’s” duo looks for a way to get back to where they belong. These two stories certainly present themselves differently. “The Croods” is full of goofy gags that take full advantage of the prehistoric setting with a few moments of genuine emotion. Meanwhile, “The Good Dinosaur” see-saws between comedy and drama, but never really lands quite as well. Ultimately, the fact that we got a “Croods 2” and no “The Good Dinosaur” sequel shows which prehistoric story reigned supreme.
#2: “Finding Nemo” (2003) & “Shark Tale” (2004)
In the Academy-award winning “Finding Nemo”, clownfish Marlin must search for his son he pushed away by being too overprotective. The aquatic “Shark Tale” definitely takes a lighter approach when talking about a father-son relationship. An out-of-place shark Lenny pretends to be slain by Oscar the fish to escape the pressure he feels from his mobster father. While the dynamic is interesting, it doesn’t hit the emotional heights “Finding Nemo” does. “Shark Tale’s” main friendship of Oscar and Lenny also doesn’t quite compete with Marlin and Dory’s bond. Since these films had to be in development at the same time, it’s hard to say that the later “Shark Tale” is a definite copycat. But that fish tale was definitely swallowed whole by “Finding Nemo”.
#1: “Antz” (1998) & “A Bug's Life” (1998)
These films about small creatures sparked huge debate. While Jeffrey Katzenberg was working at Disney, a bug-themed film project was discussed. After he co-founded Dreamworks, he set upon making “Antz.” Pixar was also well on their way to making “A Bug’s Life” when they found out about the Dreamworks film. Since neither studio wanted to let go of the concept, they both released their movies within a month of each other in 1998. Both “Antz” and “A Bug’s Life” feature a kooky male ant trying to change his colony while winning the princess ant’s favor. Despite their similarities, they both found dedicated audiences and have a 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s wild to think these nearly identical films each found their place in pop culture.