Pixar feature-length animation films have been pulling at our heart strings, playing them like a finely-tuned violin for 18 years now. The computer-animation studio has produced some of the greatest animated films, or just films in general, in the last two decades and longer. What makes Pixar that phenomenal at story telling (26 Academy Awards in thirteen movies, your welcome) is the studios ability to understand what it is to be human, what makes us tick–understanding and showing to us that they know exactly what makes us laugh and cry. Be it through toys, bugs, cars, or monsters, every time we finish a Pixar movie we feel a bit more humble in our nature as we appreciate the great things we have in life. And Pixar knows exactly how to take an arrow and shot it straight at our pouting emotions to give us some the saddest, yet most human moments in cinema.
10. I Didn’t Get To Say Goodbye
Okay, I know I’m going to have to start this list by justifying number 10. People are iffy about Cars. And to be honest if this list went to 11, the announcement of Cars 2 would be sad Pixar moment 11. But there are a lot of heart-string tugging here for anyone with a buddy or good friend that departed them, be it in moving, heading to college, or the even sadder alternative to all of that. Mater is a kind-hearted, innocent kid, if anything, and he found someone to confide in with Lighting McQueen, a best friend. And even though the moment didn’t reflect as well on screen as it should have, the thought of seeing someone you care about leave without the chance to say one final and proper goodbye because they have become lost in a world that is theirs and not both of you like it use to be is a moment any of us can relate to with the closest of friends.
9. “I Hate You”-Well Sea If I Care
All-in-all Nemo got what he deserved. He was a juvenile and selfish brat who hit his rebellious stage only because he wanted to impress the cool kids. I would ground that kid for a month and make him write a letter to Mr. Ray apologizing for his terrible antics that nearly harmed (or worse) five classmates…yeah, suddenly Nemo sounds real bad…but you know what, Nemo is a kid. He was a sheltered kid but for good reason. The blow up was inevitable. So I can give the kid a break. The film is about a father who has lost all but one thing wanting to make sure the one thing he has left is safe, so when Nemo tells Marlin that I hate you because he is just being a father…well, wow, that hurts. Finding Nemo=Taken (of Pixar)
8. Lots-O’-Huggin & Replaced
Oh yes, you will see Toy Story more on this list again…and again. If there is one trilogy that has captured everything it is to be a child, it was Toy Story. And to do it through catalyst of toys is the best, nothing exemplifies the wonder and the sweet ignorance of childhood than the relationship with our toys. They have so much value, and in return with Lotso, there is some too. So to be accidentally left behind, return home to find yourself replaced, your value depleted to nothing more than a substitutable object is heart wrenching. The irony of it is Lotso doesn’t understand, or maybe he does, that he is only an object to a child that is just learning about value, so a replacement would not be any different from the original thing. She would not know the wiser. But to Lotso, being that one and only was important. The sad development of a damaged and sympathetic villain ..and the whole story is told by a sad clown.
7. Good Guy Robot
Not everything on this list has to be sad, but emotional–like I said, a reflection of what makes us most human. And with Wall-e the greatest aspect of the film is the robot’s point-of-view on the universe. It is the Forest Gump of Disney and Pixar. Wall-e is a completely, clean slate of experience and knowledge of the world. So we learn from him about love and friendship in the most unbiased of manners. Alone for so long, then the arrival of Eve, who I imagine is a pure hotty in the little robot’s eyes, lets him learn what it is to interact with others, gaining the experience that makes being human so awesome, friendship and others. You have to love the way Wall-e, despite being immediately friendzoned, protects Eve, watches her, guards her. He goes to the other side of the galaxy, just to follow her because of a connection that he hardly understands, but he does it anyway. and when Eve realizes how much Wall-e has done for her, he becomes a boss of love. He got to hold Eve’s hand like he always wanted, making every guy out there feel like they need to do a little more to impress their girl because they have yet to save Earth just to get her.
6. Jessie Abandoned
I’m not going to lie, the five minutes of Jessie explaining her back story is the dullest moments of Pixar history. I honestly fast-forward through it. I’m sorry, I’m just all like “who cares, could you not have just instagramed this story to Woody”. It is sad and abandonment is the greatest fear of many people, and the way Jessie embodies it and its effect on her is down right scary. It elevated the psyche that you made up for any toy you owned. They had feelings too, they lose something too when we grow up. And the way this foreshadows the inevitable conflict Woody will have to deal with ten years later is fantastic in the way that it shows a flaw in Woody, a flaw we all have. Woody knows his day will come when he will be left behind by Andy, but he just ignores it in a way, at the end of the movie saying he will deal with it when he comes. We do the same but do we have any choice. The worse that any of us must handle will eventually come but there is nothing we can do about it except ignore it and carry on.
5. Telling Boo Goodnight
We know nothing about Boo. Who is she. Where she comes from. But the bond her and Sully develop, a protective father-daughter relationship, is something to admire. It helps prove that there is more to Sully than scaring the children, there is also the soft spot in his heart for the cute little buggers, for they are the kindest and most joyful thing we have in this world. So when that time comes when Sully must tuck Boo in one last time, this time with enough time to say a proper goodbye which can be worse than not having that time, he knows it will be the last time he sees her, but Boo has no idea. He has to pretty much sit her down, lie that he will be back, and quickly run away before she can catch him. And when young and oblivious Boo runs to her closet door to find nothing but emptiness, yeah, a tear develops. We are so happy when good ol’ Mike fixes that door so Sully can visit Boo again.
4. Who is WALL-E?
Eve just learned to love Wall-e, just as Wall-e was reaching the pinnacle of discovering who he was–and now he has no idea who he is. Wall-e is without a doubt the most adorable, super hero character of Pixar. Wall-e is all about everything the tiny robot has learned, and to have it completely erased, especially in sight of Eve’s revelation, is disheartening. Wall-e has become unique, exceptional, one of a kind–then everything we know about him is stripped from his memory. We have to watch as Wall-e basically becomes nothing in light of the movie, we witness the loss of it all. Could you imagine that happening to a love one? They have no idea who you are? You no longer exist despite everything you have done for each other. But then with a spark of love (literally) Wall-e returns. One of the few movie moments that make me sad to watch until all is good again.
3. Mortality of Toys
In terms of slapping me in the face about life and our limited life span as people, and how we all end one day, Toy Story 3 is the most painful. No one saw this kind of moment coming, right out of the ball park’s left field, Pixar honestly becomes a brand new studio that I doubt they will be able to match emotionally ever again. These are toys. Toys we have grown to love and care for. But we never thought we would have to deal with their mortality, the death of something that should be inanimate. Through cotton and plastic, Pixar has created a moment more human than anything imaginable in recent cinema history. As the toys gather hands, accepting the inevitable as a community of friends who have bigger hearts than most people in the world, you can’t help but feel a dropping feeling in your gut. For something that should be able to live forever, for all intensive purposes, the look on Woody’s face as he sees a physical end in a burning garbage heap (Woody’s fear as we saw in TS2), we all think about our own death in the most eerie way possible. Thanks Pixar, I was suppose to happy during this movie. But it isn’t the physical end that is the most emotional…..
2. UP’s Opening Scenes
Do I even have to explain this? This was deep, very deep for Pixar or any movie, especially for children. And even though we are watching a family-friendly cartoon, this is very real world. There is nothing more unfortunate than the news Ellie and Carl receive. But it wasn’t this event alone that makes this one of the most mournful and despairing scenes in animation. This was almost Wall-e in human form. We watch the young Carl looking for adventure meet his love as a child, they grow together, Ellie leads and guides Carl, she is everything Carl wants in life, her love and presence. She kept him grounded and literally brought the happiness and purpose to his life. But then he lost her. Not only once, but twice. First, when Ellie was told she would not have the ability to bare children. The emotional distraught of the news overshadowed Ellie’s life to the extent that the original Ellie disappears mentally. Carl had to witness an heartbroken and dejected Ellie fall apart. She was no longer the Ellie he met. Then he loses he a second time, in death. Carl has lost the light in his life. Becoming the grouchy hermit we meet in the film’s main exploits. In five minutes we watch love then loss, twice, of one man. This is the first time I think we have to watch a story actually become a “fairytale”. We start too real then enter the magical world of learning that we have not lost everything, no matter what.
1. Andy’s Departure
If you didn’t already cry during UP then I don’t care who you are, you cried here. Not only the most emotional moment in Pixar, probably in Disney, and in my case childhood. I grew with Buzz and Woody. I was Andy’s age when he first received those toys. Then fifteen years later I had grown into a man, I was in college. I cherished my childhood and toys above anything. It was an innocence and simple time that I will no longer get back but I must find it in other ways now. And here, at the conclusion of Toy Story 3, it is done in so many ways. From the drive to Bonnie’s, the slow personal departure with each toy, to Woody sitting and watching as Andy drives away, for good. A man now. No need for toys. His responsibilities and goals lay elsewhere. Everything that was important to Woody, his commitment, his life, now finished. We watched Andy grow into a man then not only symbolically, but psychically give his childhood away (but I love that he handed that joy to another child who needed it). It was an end to an era of childhood as it was for me. It was a parallel to my life and tears come to my eyes every moment I watch it. How did you do it Pixar, how did you do it? It was such an amazing piece of story telling that was the greatest example of what movies and art are suppose to be–a reflection of human nature. I mentioned it before, but here it is through a toy, and in addition a boy. We are Andy. We are Woody. We are Toy Story. This scene hits you from every direction and every emotion. Departure, purpose, a place in the world, growing up, change…you name it, it was there. Just thinking about it now gets me choked up. A phenomenal piece of emotional story telling all the way to the final “Goodbye partner.” Amazing–simply amazing.