Which Pixar moment always makes you laugh? Which one always starts the water works?
ixar’s Incredibles 2
had a record-breaking
opening weekend at the box office, which is rather astounding given that the first Incredibles was released in 2004. Not many film studios or film franchises could take off a decade and-a-half then waltz right back onto the big screen and rake in $180 million.
But most movie studios aren’t Pixar. There’s a vibe about that place that knows us and knows how to tell stories that make us laugh and
cry, often at the same time. With Incredibles 2
set to rule the summer, it seemed like the perfect time to reflect on the moments from Pixar past that have made us feel all the feels and cry all the tears, both happy and sad.
: Trauma no. 1: the fiery furnace in Toy Story 3
. As a child, I had an innate knowledge that stuffed animals and dolls had souls. These movies confirmed my suspicions, as each Toy Story
movie was like stepping back into my childhood mind. So yes, I was crying even though I know it was just some toys in a movie.
Trauma no 2: the end of Toy Story 3
when Andy drops his toys off and leaves for college. (No, of course I'm not getting choked up as I type this. It's just allergies). I saw Toy Story 3
in the theater with a friend, her daughter and my son (they were born on the same day and we've all been friends ever since). The kids sat in front of us, which I'm sure they were happy about because so many tears
. That ending scene is KILLER. We sobbed as silently as possible. Our kids were only seven at the time, but even then we knew how fast time would go. They are now in high school. They did not get it. They were amused by our snuffling and possibly a little embarrassed.
It is possible that I will never watch this movie again. I really can't take it now.
This is what makes Pixar's storytellers so amazingly brilliant. Each story captures so much of our human experience, as laughter and joy mingle with fear, sadness and injustice—we feel it all. The stories reach deep, pulling memories and thoughts to mind that we could not have articulated without provocation.
If you have not shed a tear over a Pixar movie, I question your humanity.
: Perhaps my favorite laugh-out-loud Pixar moment came in the summer of 2015 when I took my daughter (age nine) to see Inside Out
. Along with us were three 20-something female friends of ours. And the genius of Pixar is that while my girl enjoyed the movie, the four adults totally got
the movie. Or, more accurately, it got us
We all connected with the tug of war between Joy and Sadness and the need for both in our lives. My 9-year-old daughter hadn’t really had to engage with that in a deep way. So the movie didn’t tug at her heartstrings in the same way it did the rest of ours. To her it was an entertaining way to spend an hour-and-a-half. For the four of us, it was a journey back into our own childhood and that-never ending battle between adolescent emotions.
While we all enjoyed the entire movie, it was the epilogue that did us in. The new control console gets installed with some upgrades, most notably a new button marked Puberty.
Disgust: Wait guys, what’s puberty?
Joy: I don’t know. It’s probably not important.
The four of us burst out laughing. And my girl turns to me and echoes Disgust: “Mom, what is puberty?”
Oh, my girl, that is the question, isn’t it?
A few scenes later we arrive at Joy’s last voice over: “We’ve been through a lot lately, that’s for sure. But we still love our girl. She has great new friends, a great new house. Things couldn’t be better. After all, Riley is 12 now. What could happen?”
Ah, pre-adolescence. Right before everything goes haywire.
And now my 9-year-old is on the verge of being 13. Maybe we should go back and watch Inside Out
together again. (More for my benefit than for hers). It’s going to be a wild ride...
: Let’s go back to where it all began. Toy Story
was a game-changer on many levels, including how my brothers and I interacted with our own toys. The first few Christmases after our initial viewing of the film found us hiding little green Army men in our family Christmas tree so they could keep an eye on our loot. Yes, we were home schooled. Why do you ask?
But I had forgotten how much of Toy Story
’s humor hinged on Buzz Lightyear’s delusions that he was, in fact, the actual
Buzz Lightyear, and Woody’s frantic attempts to keep this new toy in his place. Woody’s disdain for Buzz leads to Mr. Potato Head’s crack about “laser envy.” In Sid’s room
, as a still-delusional Buzz aims to defend the duo from the misfit hordes, Woody deadpans, “Oh, great, great. If anyone attacks us, we can blink ‘em to death.”
All of this works so well because the casting for these two characters is impeccable. You can just see
Tom Hanks’s face scrunch up with disgust as he yells at Buzz
, “You’re an action figure
!” (It’s like he’s yelling at Evelyn in A League of Their Own
.) Tim Allen’s slapstick versatility shines when Buzz’s identity has fractured into half parts Space Ranger and half parts Mrs. Nesbit
. After Woody slaps some sense into him, he stammers, “I’m just a little depressed, that’s all.” Depression, in a kid’s movie! Take that, Inside Out
. (“Tell me the hat looked good! The apron was a bit much...”)
There are funnier animated movies, but there’s a subtly about Toy Story
’s jokes that make it memorable and quotable. Could you ask for a better combination? At the time of Toy Story
’s release in 1995, the tightness and maturity of the humor were just as revolutionary as the computer-generated imagery. Now 23 years later, it’s easy to see how ahead of its time (by measures of infinity) the film was. Not bad for a child’s plaything.
: The funniest Pixar moments have to be in Up
. I thought it was hilarious how Doug the dog's voice and lines were arranged. He is lovable and simple and has a perfect dog voice. "Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says, 'I forgot to store acorns for the winter and now I am dead.' Ha! It is funny because the squirrel gets dead." And, "I was hiding under your porch because I love you.”
The saddest I’ve been in a Pixar movie would be Finding Dory
. I took my daughter for her fifth birthday, just her and me. Throughout the film I kept imagining my daughter as Dory, lost and without her parents. That helped me emotionally understand Dory and her memory disability. But then, at the end of the film, when Dory finally finds her parents again, I started crying. Their longing, their deep desire to be reunited with her and Dory's hopelessness broke my heart. I gave my daughter a huge hug after watching it. We both had tears of joy as Dory swam up to her parents.