John Ratzenberger became a star by playing mailman Cliff Clavin for 11 seasons on Cheers, but his fame didn’t stop with the conclusion of the series. After he left his iconic role, Ratzenberger went into voice acting for Pixar and played in every single animated film the studio made from its inception until 2020.
The 76-year-old first met with Pixar in the mid-1990s when the company was planning its first movie, Toy Story. which was produced with Disney. He took the role of piggy bank Hamm alongside other stars Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. The movie ended up grossing nearly $395 million at the box office and earning three Oscar nominations. From that point on, Ratzenberger was set.
“It was a job,” he told Easy Valley in 2011. “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.”
As the films continued and Pixar officially morphed into Disney-Pixar, John Ratzenberger simply stayed with the studio.
“They call me and say, ‘Hey, we have a character we want you to play,’ ” he continued. “I ask when and where, and then I show up.”
John Ratzenberger was Pixar’s ‘Good Luck Charm’
Over the years, the actor voiced in 15 Pixar movies, as well as several shorts and series, including Monster at Work. At the time of his Easy Valley interview, P.T. Flea from A Bug’s Life was his favorite character. He’s also mentioned that Hamm is close to his heart.
The filmmakers eventually felt superstitious about their regular star. Pixar has officially made over $15 billion from its movies. Because John Ratzenberger has been the only common denominator, they dubbed him their “good-luck charm.”
However, Ratzenberger doesn’t believe he’s the secret sauce to their success. He thinks the company has a strong foundation and takes time to ensure every release is perfect. So, he gives the filmmakers almost all the credit.
“It’s not a mistake that they’ve had the success that they’ve had. They don’t make a movie until they’re satisfied with every aspect of the production,” he shared. “When you look at the old Disney films, you see the similarities. They both make movies with a lot of heart, and they don’t rush anything out until it’s ready.”
Aside from lending his voice to Monsters at Work twice, Onward was the actor’s final Pixar film. He hasn’t said why he chose to step away from the company.
The execs continued to make an effort to keep their good luck charm involved, though. Construction worker Fennwick in Soul was intentionally made in his likeness. But if anything, the character proved that his voice gave Pixar its fame. Soul only earned $7 million at the box office. It is the company’s lowest-earning film yet.
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