50 greatest Pixar moments

21. Turtley awesome

The moment: In Finding Nemo, Marlin and Dory are transported along the East Australian Current by sea turtle Crush and his family.

Why it's great: Never mind the brilliant surf-dude characterisations. What's really great here is how Crush's sense of adventure contrasts with Marlin's parental timidity, as he shows the clownfish the glories of an ocean that Marlin has been too afraid to experience.

Pixar say: Supervising animator Dylan Brown on the animation style - "We knew we could make a Jacques Cousteau-type of documentary, but that's not what we were trying to do. What we do at the studio is caricature and it would look funny to have cartoony caricatures of fish in this realistic world. We didn't want to fool the audience that they are in a real world. You have to believe you are underwater, but it doesn't have to be photo-realistic to do that."

20. Riley opens her eyes

The moment: Starting with just Joy and a button to make Riley laugh, we see Riley's mind being shaped as all the other emotions arrive with their own particular skill set.

Why it's great: The exquisite opening sequence expertly establishes the rules and mechanics of Inside Out without the need for lengthy exposition or being too complex for younger audiences. Film-making of the highest order.

Pixar say: Producer Jonas Rivera on the development of Inside Out - "For three or four screenings, it wasn't even really a movie. I remembered the notes we'd get would all start like, 'this is a great idea' and for a minute we're like 'Okay cool, thank you, we agree!' then we realise, 'They're not even saying movie'. It took us a while to rein it in and go 'that needs to be funnier, that needs to be slower, that needs to be clearer'."

19. Courting EVE

The moment: Wall-E doesn't know what's hit him when 'female' droid EVE arrives on Earth in search of life… not least because she really is trying to hit him, with lasers.

Why it's great: Few movie characters are given such depth of feeling as Wall-E, with his initial euphoria at finding a soul mate turning to heartbreak when EVE goes into standby mode and Wall-E selflessly keeps vigil over her come rain or shine.

Pixar say: Andrew Stanton on the character of Wall-E - "We came up with the last robot on Earth, this robot that just keeps doing the same thing, that got left on for whatever reason, and it's just doing the same job. And I just thought that was the saddest character I had ever heard of and I just loved that and I remember Pete Docter and I couldn't drop it for a couple of weeks."

18. Rounded up

The moment: After being toy-napped in Toy Story 2, Woody discovers his heritage as the much-loved hero of 1950s TV show, Woody's Round-Up, when he meets the gang: Jesse, Stinky Pete and Bullseye.

Why it's great: By giving Woody not only a backstory but a choice - is he Andy's toy, or a museum piece? - Pixar elaborated on the existential themes of the first movie in sad, profound ways. The idea remains one of Pixar's best.

Pixar say: John Lasseter on deepening the original - "Most sequels are just part of the same old story being told again, which actually makes the original less interesting. And we always looked at The Empire Strikes Back and Godfather Part II, which are two sequels we held up as our model, because both expanded on the original. And that’s what we wanted to do."

17. A la Mode

The moment: Mr Incredible pays a visit to superhero costume designer Edna Mode in The Incredibles.

Why it's great: Voiced by writer/director Brad Bird, Mode is a fabulous creation with her Edith Head-inspired obsession with form and function, and disdain for capes. Yet she's the perfect embodiment of the film's tongue-in-cheek approach to realism: of course superheroes outsource their clothing requirements!

Pixar say: Brad Bird on creating the character - "The idea was that superheroes always have these flamboyant costumes, and nobody explains who designs them. Every once in a while there would be a half-hearted attempt where they'd show some muscle-bound guy sewing in the basement. And I never really bought it that suddenly this guy had an interest in fashion, you know?"

16. Lightbulb moment

The moment: Cute lamp Luxo, Jr is crestfallen when he deflates his ball, but quickly regains his puppyish enthusiasm by finding an even bigger ball.

Why it's great: While not Pixar's first short, Luxo, Jr was its breakthrough, securing an Oscar nomination and proving the viability of CG animation. No wonder the l'il lamp is now world-famous as the studio's ident.

Pixar say: John Lasseter on realising he had a hit - "After the film show, Jim Blinn, who's one of the pioneers in this field, came running up to me and said, 'John, I have to ask you a question.' And I thought, 'God, I don't know anything about these algorithms; I know he's going to ask me about the shadow algorithms or something like that.' And he asked me, 'John, was the parent lamp a mother or a father?'"

15. The claw

The moment: Thinking he's found a way home in Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear stumbles into a claw game filled with evangelical aliens - "the claw is our master!"

Why it's great: Even in an ensemble filled with strong, engaging characters, the unexpected arrival of these space cadets adds further wit and charm to the story.

Pixar say: Jeff Pidgeon on doing the voices - "The key is to sound awestruck most of the time, as if you’re seeing something incredible happening in front of you."

14. The doors

The moment: The climax of Monsters, Inc. sees Mike, Sully and Boo pursued by Randall through dozens of magic doors, cueing up a surreal, globe-trotting chase in and out of various bedrooms and the vertiginous factory vault where the doors are stored.

Why it's great: Few blockbusters have set-pieces this original, funny and exciting. Fewer still can tie them so well to the film's theme - the doors are charged by Boo's laughter, setting up the ending's transition from horror to comedy.

Pixar say: Co-director David Silverman - "We were referring to it as the international door chase... and I just thought the door chase thing was a great thought. It went through quite a bit of development once we really rolled up our sleeves, but that was always a key element and always a great idea."

13. Up, up and away

The moment: The authorities arrive to take Carl Frederickson off to a retirement home, but Carl has other ideas. "So long, boys!" he whoops as his entire house takes off and heads Up into the sky, under the power of 10,297 balloons.

Why it's great: It's a simple, arresting, instantly iconic image, layered with symbolism and nostalgia (it's very Wizard Of Oz) and the perfect subject for Pixar's first 3D movie.

Pixar say: Supervising technical director Steve May on animating the balloons - "in every frame of the animation, [the computer can] literally compute the forces acting on those balloons, [so] that they're buoyant, that their strings are attached, that wind is blowing through them. And based on those forces, we can compute how the balloon should move."

12. Disciplinary action

The moment: Mr Incredible - stuck in a dead-end insurance job and banned from using his powers - takes out his frustrations on his supervisor by throwing him through the wall - or, as it soon turns out, several walls.

Why it's great: The slow pan to reveal the extent of the supervisor's journey is one of the great Pixar sight gags, and a literal depiction of The Incredibles' themes about meritocracy vs mediocrity that caused some pundits to accuse Bird of fascism.

Pixar say: Brad Bird on the film's themes - "Well the cool thing about it was even though I may have disagreed with a couple of writers' analysis of what it was, the fact that it was written about in the op/ed section of the New York Times several times was really gratifying to me. Look, it's a mainstream animated movie, and how often are those considered thought provoking? It's meant to be a great time at the theatre, but it's also designed to work on more than one level."