Beginning nine years before Toy Story and continuing throughout their existence, Pixar has followed the tradition of Disney's Silly Symphonies with its own one-shot animated short-subjects, which serve as both experiments for new technology and training for new talent. The studio typically creates one short for each of its feature films, with the short being a lead-in for the feature like a Golden Age cartoon. Others are spin-offs of the features created either as bonus material for the home video release, TV specials or web originals.
In 2019, Pixar started their SparkShorts series of shorts created exclusively for Disney+. In 2021, a series of short vignettes based directly on various Pixar films entitled Pixar Popcorn debuted on the same service.
Among all the theatrical Pixar feature films, Toy Story, Coco, Toy Story 4 and Onward weren't accompanied with any Pixar shorts; Coco had the Frozen short Olaf's Frozen Adventure and Onward had The Simpsons short Maggie Simpson in "Playdate with Destiny".
- The Adventures of Andre & Wally B. (1984; dir. Alvy Ray Smith) — A guy named Andre tries to trick an annoying bee, and gets stung for it. Credited to The Graphic's Group, Lucasfilm's then-new computer graphics division (making its status as a Pixar film debatable), it's mainly a test to see if computer animation could follow animation principals like squash-and-stretch and motion blur, and is therefore the first to use it at all. It is the second use of CGI in the history of animation after Golgo 13: The Professional. Originally shown at the computer graphics conference at SIGGRAPH.
- Luxo Jr. (1986; dir. John Lasseter) — A Luxo lamp watches its child (the eponymous Luxo, Jr.) play with a little inflatable ball. Hilarity Ensues. The title character would famously go on to become part of the studio's Vanity Plate and animation internship reels, while both would appear in a handful of short follow-ups on Sesame Street. The original short was later shown before Toy Story 2.
- Red's Dream (1987; dir. John Lasseter) — A unicycle in a bike shop dreams about being the star of a circus act, only to wake up and feel just a little bit more depressed.
- Tin Toy (1988; dir. John Lasseter) — The other Pixar film about living toys. In this one, a wind-up one-man-band toy tries to escape a destructive infant who wants to play with it. The first computer animated film to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. It was later played at the beginning of the 2000 re-issue VHS of Toy Story in conformity with the other theatrical shorts.
- Knick Knack (1989; dir. John Lasseter) — Pixar's first 3-D Movie. A plastic snowman in a souvenir snowglobe tries to escape so he can join an attractive sunbather in another souvenir. It was later played before both Finding Nemo and the 3D rerelease of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
- Geri's Game (1997; dir. Jan Pinkava) — An old man plays a chess game against himself... and turns out to be very competitive. Played before A Bug's Life.
- For the Birds (2000; dir. Ralph Eggelston) — A bunch of little birds try to drive away a goofy big bird from their perch on a telephone wire, with hilarious results. Played before Monsters, Inc..
- Boundin' (2003; dir. Bud Lucky) — In this musical Americana folktale, a jackalope teaches a formerly cocky sheep to take pride in his appearance after his beloved wool is shorn off. Played before The Incredibles, in which Lucky, humorously enough, voices a main character. Notably Pixar's first short not to be a Mime and Music-Only Cartoon.
- One-Man Band (2006; dir. Mark Andrews & Andrew Jimenez) — Two buskers engage in a petty feud over a child's donation. Played before Cars.
- Lifted (2007; dir. Gary Rydstrom) — A teenage alien is tested by an unforgiving instructor on his abduction abilities in the style of a driving test. Hilarity Ensues. Played before Ratatouille.
- Presto (2008; dir. Doug Sweetland) — In this homage to Tex Avery, a magician's hungry rabbit hilariously torments its owner over a carrot. Played before WALLE.
- Partly Cloudy (2009; dir. Peter Sohn) — In a world where cloud people produce babies for storks to deliver, one stork has the misfortune of being paired with a cloud who can only produce dangerous animals like rams, crocodiles, and porcupines. Hilarity Ensues. Played before Up.
- Day & Night (2010; dir. Teddy Newton) — Two hand-drawn characters, anthropomorphic personifications of daytime and nighttime, respectively, learn to appreciate each other's differences. Played before Toy Story 3. Pixar's first short to feature 2D animation.
- La Luna (2012; dir. Enrico Casarosa) — A young Italian boy is taken out to sea one night by his papa and grandpa, and gets his first look at their unusual line of work. Played before Brave after a successful run on the festival circuit.
- The Blue Umbrella (2013; dir. Saschka Unseld) — On a rainy day, a blue umbrella notices a red one in a sea of identical black ones and desperately tries to get its attention. Played before Monsters University.
- Lava (2015; dir. James Ford Murphy) — In the studio's second musical short, a volcanic island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean sings a romantic ballad about one day finding someone to "love-a". Played before Inside Out.
- Sanjay's Super Team (2015; dir. Sanjay Patel) — Bored with his father's meditation, a young Indian boy daydreams of Hindu gods as superheroes. Played before The Good Dinosaur.
- Piper (2016; dir. Alan Barillaro) — A baby sandpiper learns how to hunt for food along the shores. Played before Finding Dory.
- Lou (2017; dir. Dave Mullins) — A creature made up from the contents of a lost-and-found box has to stop a bully from stealing the toys of other children. Played before Cars 3.
- Bao (2018; dir. Domee Shi) — A Chinese-Canadian woman suffering from empty nest syndrome gets a second shot at motherhood when one of her handmade dumplings comes alive. Played before Incredibles 2. Pixar's final short to be produced by John Lasseter, following his termination that year for sexual misconduct.
- Mike's New Car (2002) — Spin-off of Monsters, Inc.. Mike buys a fancy new car, which he and Sully decide to try out. Hilarity Ensues.
- Exploring the Reef (2003) — Spin-off of Finding Nemo. Nature Documentarian Jean-Michel Cousteau tries to make an educational film about coral reefs, but is constantly upstaged by Marlin, Dory, and Nemo.
- Spin-offs from The Incredibles
- Jack-Jack Attack (2005) — A Lower-Deck Episode staring baby Jack-Jack and Kari the babysitter. While Bob, Helen, Violet, and Dash are on Syndrome's island, Kari has her hands full with Jack-Jack, who's just discovering his numerous (and deadly) superpowers.
- Mr. Incredible and Pals (2005) — An In-Universe never-aired Celebrity Toon of Mr. Incredible and Frozone, a less-than-affectionate parody of the pathetically low-budget 50s cartoon Clutch Cargo. Craig T. Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson also provide an MST-style in-character commentary as their characters watching the cartoon for the first time. Hilarity Ensues.
- Mater and the Ghostlight (2006) — Spin-off from Cars. The sheriff of Radiator Springs scares Mater with a spooky story about "the ghostlight," but is the legend true or just a tall tale?
- Your Friend the Rat (2007) — Spin-off from Ratatouille. An Affectionate Parody of Disney educational shorts from the '50s, Remy and Emile educate viewers on the history of rats and their relationships with humans, hoping to create a better understanding between the two species.
- BURN-E (2008) — Spin-off from WALLE. A Lower-Deck Episode about the robot that accidentally got locked out of the Axiom after WALLE and EVE's flight around the ship and his repeated failed attempts to repair a light which got him there.
- Spin-offs from Up
- Dug's Special Mission (2009) — Shortly before meeting Carl and Russell, on what happens to be his his birthday, the other dogs in Dug's pack try to keep him out of their way by giving him various "special missions" like sitting in a hole or standing alone on a ledge. Hilarity Ensues.
- George and AJ (2009) — A Lower-Deck Episode starring the two Shady Oaks orderlies who fail to collect Carl before he flies off. In the week following Carl's stunt, many other old people attempt to recreate it in various ways... to the orderlies' despair (and our enjoyment). Less a short film and more a colored animatic.
- Party Central (2013) — Spin-off from Monsters University. When nobody shows up to Oozma Kappa's first house party, Mike and Sulley return with a plan to turn the house into "Party Central". Released theatrically with Muppets Most Wanted and the first Pixar short to be rated PG.
- Riley's First Date? (2015) — Spin-off from Inside Out. When a boy shows up on their doorstep, Riley's parents (and their emotions) talk amongst themselves. Hilarity Ensues.
- Miss Fritter's Racing Skoool (2017) — Spin-off from Cars 3. After the Florida 500, Lightning and Cruz watch a commercial of Miss Fritter and her Mooks revealing the backstories of how they became the demolition derby racers they are today.
- Auntie Edna (2018) — Spin-off from Incredibles 2 and Spiritual Successor to Jack Jack Attack. In this Lower-Deck Episode, Edna takes Jack Jack off an overworked Bob's hands and is both fascinated and slightly overwhelmed (emphasis on "slightly." This is Edna we're talking about) by his still-developing powers.
- Lamp Life (2020) — Spin-off from Toy Story 4. Bo Peep catches Woody up on what happened to her in the ten years they were separated.
- Spin-offs from Cars
- Mater's Tall Tales. Produced for Disney Channel. One of John Lasseter's final directing jobs at Pixar.
- Rescue Squad Mater — Mater tells a story about how he was a firetruck. Oh, and he was a doctor too.
- Mater The Greater — Mater claims to have been an Evel-Knievel-style daredevil in a previous life.
- El Materdor — Mater is now a bullfighter. The bulls in question are bulldozers.
- Tokyo Mater — Mater tells a story about him getting involved in a drift race in Tokyo. Was released theatrically alongside Bolt, making it Pixar's first short to play before a non-Pixar film, and their first theatrical spin-off short. Assets such as characters and environments would be recycled for Cars 2.
- Unidentified Flying Mater — Mater makes friends with a small flying saucer spaceship that speaks in a strange robotic voice. The UFM (called "Mator") teaches Mater how to fly, but gets taken away to Parking Area 51.
- Monster Truck Mater — Mater becomes a monster truck wrestler and fights various other monster trucks (such as Ice Screamer, Captain Collision, Rastacarian, Dr. Feelbad, and Paddy O'Concrete) until he qualifies to the championship round against Dr. Frankenwagon and his monster.
- Heavy Metal Mater — During a night of karaoke at Flo's, Mater recounts how he used to be a big rock star in a heavy metal band.
- Moon Mater — Mater is inducted into the NASCA space program. His mission: Rescue Impala XIII, who has broken down on the moon.
- Mater Private Eye — Private investigator Mater must solve a case about counterfeit tyres and track down the whereabouts of Tia's sister, Mia, who's been car-napped.
- Air Mater — Mater goes to a town inhabited by planes and learns to fly. It was released on the Cars 2 DVD and acts as a set up for the then-upcoming Spin-Off film Planes.
- Time Travel Mater — Mater accidentally travels back in time to when Stanley first discovered the original Radiator Springs and with Lightning, ensures that history remains on course. Premiered at Disney California Adventure and features locations introduced in the Cars Land expansion of the park where Stanley set up the beginnings of the town as a rest stop for traveling cars.
- Tales from Radiator Springs
- The Radiator Springs 500 1/2 — On the anniversary of Radiator Springs' founding, Lightning challenges a group of off-road racers to a race and they all end up getting lost, while Mater guides a tour on the trail of founder Stanley. Exclusively released on the Disney Movies Anywhere app.
- Mater's Tall Tales. Produced for Disney Channel. One of John Lasseter's final directing jobs at Pixar.
- Spin-offs from Toy Story.
- Toy Story Treats — A series of commercial bumpers aired during ABC's final Saturday Morning Cartoon block in 1996 (One Saturday Morning debuted a year later). Later included on various DVD/Blu-Ray releases of the Toy Story movies, sans a handful which only starred Sarge and his soldiers.
- Toy Story Toons, three shorts released in 2011 and 2012 as follow-ups to Toy Story 3.
- Toy Story of Terror!, a Halloween special that debuted in 2013 and has been running annually since.
- Toy Story That Time Forgot, a Christmas special that debuted in 2014.
- Purl (2018; dir. Kristen Lester) — A feminine anthropomorphic ball of yarn tries to fit in at the male-dominated start-up B.R.O. Premiered on YouTube shortly before Disney+ was launched.
- Kitbull (2019; dir. Rosana Sullivan) — A stray kitten and an abused pitbull form an unlikely friendship. Premiered on YouTube shortly before Disney+ was launched. Pixar's first fully 2D short, animated in a "paperless" traditional style.
- Smash and Grab (2019; dir. Brian Larson) — Two robots working in a locomotive's engine room attempt to make a break for freedom. Premiered on YouTube shortly before Disney+ was launched. Pixar's first film to use Motion Capture.
- Float (2019; dir. Bobby Rubio) — After discovering that his son has the ability to float through the air, a single father does everything he can to hide the boy from judging eyes.
- Loop (2020; dir. Erica Milsom) — At an urban day camp, a chatty neurotypical boy and a girl with nonverbal autism are paired up for a canoeing trip and must each learn to understand how the other experiences the world.
- Wind (2020; dir. Edwin Chang) — A grandmother and her grandson living on a large boulder trapped in a massive sink-hole try to find a way to escape.
- Out (2020; dir. Steven Clay Hunter) — A closeted gay man struggles to come out to his parents and, with the help of a little magic, learns that he had nothing to hide.
- Burrow (2020; dir. Madeline Sharafian) — A young rabbit tries to build the burrow of her dreams, becoming embarrassed each time she accidentally digs into a neighbor's home.
- Toy Story:
- "To Fitness and Beyond": Buzz attempts to lead a fitness class in Bonnie's bedroom.
- "Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Love": Ducky and Bunny argue over which of them kids would like more.
- "Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Three Heads": Ducky and Bunny discuss Billy, Goat, and Gruff.
- Finding Nemo/Dory:
- "Dory Finding": Dory discovers lost human items in the reef.
- The Incredibles:
- Chore Day: The Incredibles Way: The Parrs do chores around the house with the assistance of their various superpowers.
- Cookie Num Num: While getting a midnight snack, Bob, Dash, and Violet fight over the last cookie.
- Unparalleled Parking: The Radiator Springs residents practice parallel parking.
- Dancing with the Cars: The cars have a dance party at Flo's.
- A Day in the Life of the Dead: A slice-of-life short taking place in the Land of the Dead, framed around Oscar and Felipé going on a bike ride.
- "Soul of the City": Another slice-of-life short showing Joe Gardener and others going about their day in New York City.
See also, Borrowed Time, a short not created by Pixar themselves but independently by two of their employees.
Pixar short films with their own pages include:
- The Adventures of Andre & Wally B.
- For the Birds
- Geri's Game
- Jack-Jack Attack
- Knick Knack
- La Luna
- Luxo Jr.
- Mike's New Car
- Mr. Incredible and Pals
- One-Man Band
- Partly Cloudy
- Sanjay's Super Team
- Tin Toy
- Toy Story:
Other Pixar shorts contain examples of:
- Animate Inanimate Object: Quite frequent.
- Impossible Shadow Puppets: Buzz Lightyear does this in "Shadow Play".
- Irony: Pretty much most of the shorts end on an ironic note.
- Living Toys: Tin Toy, and, arguably, Knick Knack and Red's Dream. And the Toy Story characters.
- Mickey Mousing: Used in some shorts, but most notably in Presto.
- Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: Nearly all the shorts have little or no dialogue. However, the follow-up shorts have dialogue (except BURN-E, which is logical).
- Float presents itself as a straight example, but powerfully subverts it for one spoken line.
- The Pixar Popcorn shorts lack dialogue beyond occasional exclamations (via archival recording) as well, with the exception of the "Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny" shorts (featuring new dialogue courtesy of Key and Peele).
- No Antagonist: In contrast to Pixar's feature length films, quite a few of the shorts use this trope.
- No Name Given: Regular shorts gave characters no names, though a few such as Presto and Lava are exceptions.
- Oh, Crap!: The first bird to realize what was about to happen in For The Birds. Also, Stu (the alien student in Lifted) when he accidentally releases the tractor beam on Ernie (the farmer).
- Pop-Star Composer: BT provides the music for Tokyo Mater and Partysaurus Rex.
- Shades of Conflict: White vs. white, white vs. grey and grey vs. gray depending on the short, with Geri's Game even going so far as to have the both opposing characters apparently be the same person. Not counting the ones based on Pixar's feature-length films that have a villain from the film appear (Jack-Jack Attack, Dug's Special Mission), there are no clear-cut villains.
- Silence Is Golden:
- The studio loves this (the shorts featuring the movies' characters notwithstanding). Boundin' and Lava are the only theatrical shorts to avert it, unless you count the radio talking in the background in Day and Night or the superhero cartoon that Sanjay watches on his TV in Sanjay's Super Team.
- Of the SparkShorts, Purl, Loop, and Out are aversions and Float is a subversion due to a single line of dialogue.
- Spiritual Successor: To Silly Symphonies, a testing ground for an animation studio's technical innovation, storytelling techniques and new recruits.
- Downer Ending: Red wakes up from his nice dream and has to face the bleak reality of languishing in the clearance corner.
- Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: Gravitational cognizance is demonstrated in Red's Dream when the clown realizes he's no longer on Red.
Exploring the Reef
- Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: Marlin does this to Nemo when the coral are laying all their eggs. When Nemo protests about it, Marlin says that he'll explain it to Nemo when he's older.
- Running Gag: Whenever Jean-Michel Cousteau says his name, a fanfare Leitmotif plays, making the fishes look around for the source of it.
Mater and the Ghostlight
- Genius Bonus: In "Mater and the Ghostlight". A "ghostlight" is also the theatrical term for the one light traditionally left on when the theatre is closed.
Your Friend the Rat
- Affectionate Parody: Your Friend the Rat, with its use of different animation styles, can be seen as one of these to Disney cartoons directed by Ward Kimball.
- Art Shift: Your Friend the Rat has 3D animation, 2D animation, clay animation, and even a scene done in the style of an old arcade game.
- It also has live action (the flea) and a section which is a pastiche of the earliest (silent) movies.
- The Cameo: The Beatles have a brief cameo near the end (complete with a rat assisting Ringo on drums).
- Also in Your Friend The Rat, P.T. Flea appears.
- Early-Bird Cameo: WALLE shows up for a moment in Your Friend the Rat.
- Educational Short: Your Friend the Rat both spoofs this and plays it straight, as tongue-in-cheek as the short is it still manages to accurately teach a lot about the history of rats in a short span of time.
- Male Gaze: Blink and you'll miss it, but when Remy and Emile are strutting down the street, the camera briefly pans past a passing woman's ample posterior.
- Medium Blending: Your Friend The Rat combines CG for the scenes with Remy and Emile, stylized traditional animation for most of the other scenes, live-action Stock Footage, and a brief Stop Motion shot.
- Retraux: Your Friend The Rat is made to look like a 1950s educational short.
- Shout-Out: WALLE is driving a lunar exploration vehicle in the ending scene of Your Friend the Rat.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: The whole point of Your Friend the Rat was a refutation of this trope.
- You Dirty Rat!: Already averted with Remy and Emile, Your Friend the Rat is one big aversion of this trope, in which the two rats explain that rats are not all bad, and, among other things, that it was the flea that got on the rat, not the rat itself, that caused The Black Death. The rat was as much a victim as humans were. In fact, the Norway rat, the kind of rat that Remy and Emile are, had supposedly helped to end the Black Death.
- And then this trope is both played with and double subverted at the very end, when a cautionary message allegedly from the clip's producers scrolls by to remind the audience that rats are vicious, unsanitary, pestilent vermin, and anyone who interacts with them do so at their own risk, as Remy and Emile can be heard vigorously protesting in the background.
The Blue Umbrella
- Art Shift: The Blue Umbrella has a very photorealistic look to it.
- Bilingual Bonus In The Blue Umbrella, the two umbrellas' owners meet up at a café named "Le Parapluie Café", with parapluie meaning umbrella in French.
- Blue Boy Pink Girl: In The Blue Umbrella the title character is a boy, while the girl is a light red umbrella.
- Umbrella of Togetherness: Exaggerated in The Blue Umbrella
- Wacky Fratboy Hijinks: Party Central.
- Portal Network: Mike and Sulley smuggle two doors from Monsters Inc. to bring the party at Roar Omega Roar to Oozma Kappa. The party goers go through a human couple's bedroom, who are occasionally woken by the noise.
- Accent On The Wrong Syllable: All over the place, to the point where towards the end of the song the emphasis is improperly executed multiple times per verse.
- Alone Among the Couples: Uku the volcano sees animals and even clouds with their mates and wishes to have "someone to lava."
- Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: The volcanoes, the male one is a volcano with a rough, craggy face, while the female one is tall and skinny, with a finely carved, pretty face and long hair. Justified in that they're based on famous Hawaiian singer Iz Kamakawiwoʻole and his wife Marlene, who actually looked like that.
- Genius Loci: Uku and Lele, a pair of sentient volcanoes.
- In the Style of...: The main song from Lava is a Hawaiian ukulele song, reminiscent of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.
- Land, Sea, Sky: From Lava, we get this in the form of a song/prayer from the Volcanoes."I wish that the Earth, Sea, the Sky up above-a
Will send me someone to lava..."
- Missed Him by That Much: In Lava, Lele rises just in front of Uku, but facing the wrong way. Uku can't alert her because he's going extinct and is slowly sinking.
- Monster-Shaped Mountain: The premise of the volcanoes-in-love story Lava.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The two volcanoes in Lava are heavily inspired by the late Israel "Bruddah Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole and his wife, and the style of music used in the short is heavily reminiscent of his cover of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow".
- Pun: That volcano just wants someone to lava!
- Punny Name: The volcanoes are named Uku and Lele.
- Shown Their Work: The sequence of events is a fairly accurate depiction of the life of a volcano formed by a geologic hotspot. As the tectonic plate shifts over the "hotspot" in the mantle, the volcano slowly goes dormant. It can form a ring atoll as the peak sinks into its emptied magma chamber and the island erodes, while coral grows up around the edges—and a new volcano forms nearby from the same hotspot. (This creates chains of islands, Hawai'i being one.) The main difference is that in the real world, the old sunken volcano wouldn't revitalize from The Power of Love and would simply continue sinking, and the young volcano would eventually face the same fate. (But also, in the real world, neither volcano would be sentient, sing, or yearn for love in the first place).
- Something Else Also Rises: This happens to an entire volcano.
- Statuesque Stunner: Lele the female volcano in is taller than Uku, especially when Uku is sinking into the ocean floor.
- Punny Name: BURN-E, like WALLE before him, is named specifically to have a human-sounding name (Bernie).
- Shout-Out: Near the end, there's a reference to a very famous scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Dug's Special Mission
- Continuity Snarl: Dug's Special Mission features Alpha talking in his high-pitched voice, in scenes set before the other dogs are surprised by it in the film.
George and AJ
- Art Shift: George and AJ is a 2D colored animatic.
- Call-Back: The news ticker during the report in George and AJ tells that scientists have discovered that "South America is like North America, but South".
- Crazy Cat Lady: One of the many senior citizens impressed by Carl's escape in his house of balloons. When the titular male nurses show up to take the cat lady in question to the nursing home, she makes an escape of her own similar to Carl's, using her cats instead of balloons.
- Jaw Drop: George and AJ hold it for quite some time.
- Limited Animation: George & AJ is done as an animatic, just the storyboard drawings with some movement added.
- Lower-Deck Episode: "George and AJ", though rendered in Flash animation, counts for the titular Shady Acres male nurses from Up.
- Oh, Crap!: George and AJ keep having it over and over again.
- Running Gag: The van's car alarm in George & A.J.
Mater's Tall Tales
- And You Were There: Mater adds Lightning McQueen's involvement in his stories with this phrase.
- Bad Humor Truck: Ice Screamer from Monster Truck Mater.
- Bilingual Bonus: In Tokyo Mater, Mater runs through a restaurant with the name Harryhausen (written in katakana) early on. Even triples as a tribute to stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen.
- Bull Seeing Red: The bulldozers chase after El Materdor's red cape, and then Lightning McQueen.
- Butt-Monkey: Lightning is this in some of Mater's Tall Tales.
- The Cameo: Two cars designed like Mike and Sulley appear in Tokyo Mater (themselves originally appearing in a joke cameo in the credits of the original Cars film).
- Chekhov's Gun: This was the impetus for the "Mater's Tall Tales" shorts, as a key aspect of Cars 2 is Mater's fanciful storytelling. Since this was a trait not shown in the first film, the Pixar staff feared that its sudden appearance would look like an Ass Pull. The "Tall Tales" shorts averts the problem by establishing this trait ahead of the movie.
- Defeat by Modesty: Happens to Kabuto at the end of "Tokyo Mater."
- Deliberately Monochrome: "Mater P.I."
- Did You Die?: In the short "Mater the Greater", when Mater claims that it was Lightning McQueen who tried performing a death-defying leap across a canyon...and that he "didn't make it". It's Lightning himself he's telling the story to.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Skipper and Sparky in Air Mater.
- Herr Doktor: In "UFM: Unidentified Flying Mater", the Parking Lot 51 scientist pitties, as well as "Dr. Aschleppwagen", Mater's disguise, when he uses to try and save Mator. A real scientist pitty sees Mater.German car: So, herr doktor, what does "dad gum" mean?
Mater: (fake German accent) Ze "dad gum" means... (drops accent, saves Mator) ...let's get outta here!
- Hubcap Hovercraft: Mater in "UFM: Unidentified Flying Mater".
- Innocent Aliens: Mator, who strikes a friendship with Mater.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: At the end of Air Mater, Mater reckons that someone should make a movie about planes, then proceeds to wink at the camera.
- The Münchausen: Mater, in the "Mater's Tall Tales" series.
- Oh, Crap!: Mater's match against the champion in "Monster Truck Mater":
- Announcer: Dr Frankenwagen!!
Mater: Heh. Piece of cake!
Announcer: Aaaand his Monster!
Announcer: It's alive!
Mater: I'm dead!
- Pro Wrestling Episode: Monster Truck Mater.
- Real After All: How all of Mater's Tall Tales end, when Lightning McQueen has trouble believing what Mater had done in the tale he told, only for something to happen that associated with that tale.
- Retraux: The time-travel segments in Time Travel Mater are made to look like they were shot with the type of film used at that time period.
- Shout-Out: Time Travel Mater is an homage to Back to the Future, including a scene where Mater fears Lizzie might fall for Lightning and alter the time stream.
- Strictly Formula: The Mater's Tall Tales shorts follow the same template: Mater tells a story to McQueen about a past occupation, which McQueen finds hard to believe; the story builds to a climax, at which point McQueen asks what happens next; Mater then includes McQueen into the story, usually in a highly humiliating way; finally, McQueen tells Mater that it didn't happen, and something happens that somehow proves the story is true.
- Take Me to Your Leader: In UFM, Mater says to "Mator":Mater: [at the train crossing] Well, should I take you to my leader?
Mator: Your lea-der.
Mater: [cut to Mater's yard, in front of a stack of oil cans] Well, here's all my liters!
- Tempting Fate: In "Tokyo Mater", when Mater is giving a Japanese car a tow, he warns Mater that his destination is pretty far. Mater doesn't mind as "No Tow Is Too Far For Tow Mater". It then Gilligan Cuts to Tokyo, with Mater surfacing on a shore with the car.Mater: Man, I gotta change my slogan.
- Tall Tale: The whole point of Mater's Tall Tales shorts.
- Unreliable Narrator: Tow Mater, in all of the "Mater's Tall Tales" shorts.
Guido: Modify! (he puts several wooden boxes on Mater's body, with the last one forming his missing "hood")Mater: Hey, look! I'm "motterfied!" (he starts making fake motor sounds while scraping the boxes on the body across the pavement, sending sparks flying into the air. McQueen palms his windshield with one of his front wheels)
- However, it's revealed at the end of each short that Mater's story actually did happen, with only one of them being completely made up.
- Also, in Cars 2, Kabuto can be seen with his modifications again.
- Whole Plot Reference: The entirety of "Time Travel Mater" is this to Back to the Future. Mater gets hit on the head while trying to set up a clock and becomes a time-travelling car,note where sneezing causes him to time travel. He ends up meeting Radiator Spring's founder Stanley and after kindly refusing a radiator cap sale, causes him to take his business elsewhere and accidentally Retgones the entire town in the present since he had no reason to found it. With help from Lightning McQueen, Mater convinces Stanley to stay and found a town named after the radiator-shaped water spring he was drinking from. Fast-forward some time later to when Stanley met Lizzie, only for Mater to think that she's falling for McQueen, dooming the town's existence yet again.note Thankfully, she's interested in Stanley and history runs its course.
Tales from Radiator Springs
- Hiccup Hijinks: The short, "Hiccups", is about Lightning Mc Queen getting hiccups and trying to cure them. After several failed attempts to cure the hiccups, such as holding breath and drinking water, Sally kisses Lightning and his hiccups are cured. Suddenly, Sheriff gets hiccups too.
- Mythology Gag: In The Radiator Springs 500 1/2, Lightning McQueen and the Baja racers get lost in a dark forest and scared by the car corpses there, as a nod to the "Lost" deleted scene from Cars, in which Lightning gets in the same situation himself.
- Pungeon Master: Mater as the tour guide in The Radiator Springs 500 1/2.
- Wrong Turn at Albuquerque: In The Radiator Springs 500 1/2, Lightning and the racers make a wrong turn while taking Stanley's original route and end up going through dangerous terrain, while the others follow the correct route and have a pleasant drive.
- Your Other Left: How McQueen and the races get lost in The Radiator Springs 500 1/2, after misinterpreting Mater's instructions about the first left turn being right.
- Bittersweet Ending: "Wind." On the one hand, Ellis successfully escapes the sinkhole. On the other hand, he had to do it without his grandmother, who stays behind in the sinkhole.
- Darker and Edgier: The Disney+ SparkShorts definitely count as this, as they explore more mature themes such as animal cruelty, autism, and homosexuality. Burrow is the odd one out of the SparkShorts, having a more child-friendly theme (learning to ask for help when needed), though its protagonist is still shown to be socially awkward.
- One of the Boys: Purl becomes one in order to fit in at the office. Then undoes it to help other balls of yarn.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Burrow's music is made up of the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, notably his Oboe Concerto (Mozart is therefore given a special thanks in the credits, credited as "Wolfie A. Mozart".)
- Wham Line:
Dad: Why can't you just be normal!?
- In Float, the dad yelling at his son is a particularly powerful one, by virtue of being the only line in the short.
Mother: We'll always be here for you, and I know that someday you'll find someone who loves you as much as we do. I just hope that whoever it is...that he makes you happy.
- In Out, Greg is moving to the city and spends most of the short trying to prevent his parents from learning he's gay, whilst finding himself in his dog's body, leading him to biting his Mother. His Mother steps out in frustration, with Greg apologetically following her. She breaks down and admits that she is upset that Greg does not tell her and his father anything anymore and that since he is moving it will be more difficult. The Wham Line comes when she tries to figure out how to express this to Greg...
- Eating Solves Everything: In Cookie Num Num, Helen diffuses the situation by eating the cookie.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: "To Fitness and Beyond" takes place after Toy Story 4 and as such Woody does not appear in Bonnie's room.
- Logo Joke: Each short has a unique Pixar logo showing Luxo Jr. getting into humorous antics with popcorn (such as popcorn suddenly dropping down onto him after he squishes the I, popping corn with his light, or all of the letters in "Pixar" inexplicably turning into popcorn after he jumps on them).
- Multiple Head Case: Discussed by Ducky and Bunny in "Three Heads" where the two discuss the Fridge Logic behind Bo Peep's sheep and how they look like one three-headed twelve-legged sheep.
- Stock Footage: Excluding the Ducky and Bunny installments, all of the voices heard in the shorts are re-used audio from their associated feature films. Soul of the City also heavily uses footage from Soul.
- "YEAH!" Shot: "To Fitness and Beyond" ends on one involving many of Bonnie's toys.