Be a wimp: Pixar movies make you cry, and that’s okay

If you’re a cynic, you probably ran away cocoa convinced that you had just been manipulated. You may have the opening minutes of . found it Upwards to be tacky and sentimental, or so you might think, just as beautiful as some parts of Soul may be, it’s all a bit obvious. Pixar movies became a dominant factor in our cultural conversations as soon as we first met Woody and Buzz in 1995, and since the very beginning, the storytellers in the studio have been remarkably good at making adults cry like babies.

In more recent years, the crying that many expect from a great Pixar film has begun to feel like a trap to some. Critics claim that Pixar sticks too closely to the formula it settled in its earliest days, and that it relies too much on sentiment and preening to move its audience. All of that may be true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the experience of a good Pixar shout isn’t worth it.

Boys don’t cry – we all do

Perhaps the best recent example of a great Pixar weepy is cocoa, a film about Miguel, a young member of a Mexican family who discovers that his family’s late patriarch is misunderstood and on the brink of being completely forgotten. The emotional climax of the film comes in the form of a song Miguel sings to his great-grandmother in the hopes that she will remember her father, who disappeared when she was a child.

This moment is very poignant, and it also adheres quite strictly to what Pixar almost always accomplishes near the climax of its stories: a character once misunderstood, claims to have a right to be heard, and the main character learns a lesson about empathy or history or what it means to continue to love the people you’ve lost.

Joy shows Sadness a bright ball in Inside Out.

Inside out gives another recent example. The thematic content of the film is all about the emotions of a teenager, represented by five characters living in her head. Joy, the protagonist of the film, spends most of the time trying to maintain control and make sure that Riley, the girl she lives with, stays happy above all else. It is Joy’s panic at losing control that sets the film’s plot in motion, and the emotional climax of the film is her realization that Riley’s other emotions, and grief in particular, also play a part in guiding Riley. to a satisfying emotional life.

At the core is everything Inside out really tells the audience that being sad is okay, but the film conveys that message so artfully that it feels like a revelation. The same applies cocoa, a movie that is really just about how sad it is to lose someone you love. These aren’t complicated ideas, but they work for kids and adults alike because Pixar is so clever at best at deploying its unsubtle themes through its characters.

Simple but universal messages

Some may find the simplicity and overt sentiment of Pixar’s core themes lumpy, but one of the reasons the studio has found such success within a fairly standard formula is that everyone can find something in the stories it tells. That may take away some elements of the individual experience, though, but Pixar has begun to bridge that gap, albeit falteringly.

cocoa focuses on a distinctly Mexican experience, Soul is about a black man in Harlemand To blush is perhaps the most radical film of all, taking Pixar’s storytelling conventions and creating a story tuned to the specific rhythm of a child of Chinese immigrants.

Ming Lee looks concerned in Turning Red (2022)

Something like To blush suggests how Pixar can evolve without giving up on the successes that have brought it to its dominant place in the entertainment industry. The film has universal themes about the relationships between mothers and daughters, but it is inflected with the specific experience some Chinese children can have with dominant mothers. It’s a classic empathy machine, allowing you to find common ground against a background that can be very different from your own.

Exceptions to the rule

Of course, Pixar’s tear machine doesn’t work for everyone every time. The entire cars universe feels more like a cynical money heist than a genuine attempt to tell good stories, and light year feels like one of the weirdest IP extensions of the past decade, and that’s saying something.

If a specific Pixar movie involuntarily makes you better, there’s no shame in admitting. We’re not always in control of our emotions, and even if your brain knows you’re being manipulated by the story you’re watching, you can’t stop crying anyway. Those tears are real, and they come from an acknowledgment that the story you are being told is one with a deep truth about how you see the world.

Sully Says Goodbye to Boo at Monsters, Inc.

So it’s undeniably true that Pixar movies are often simple, blunt instruments designed to communicate basic truths about the world. What’s also true, however, is that as obvious as some of those truths may be, many, many people need something like a Pixar movie to help them face those truths.

If you are a father trying to protect his child from a scary world, the fact that… Finding Nemo is about the difficulty of letting go, doesn’t make watching the movie any less profound. If you’re struggling with your meaning in life and work, it’s the fact that: Toy Story only on tiptoe to acknowledge that everyone eventually dies doesn’t make watching the movie any less touching for you.

Movies are designed to enable you to see yourself in the stories of others, and to help you feel things that you may have worked hard for in your everyday life not to feel. Pixar is incredibly good at making you feel something, at best, even if that’s something of resentment for how you’ve come to be with tears in your eyes. If you want to be hateful, you can, but we shouldn’t be mad at Pixar just because they know how to open doors that we want to keep closed.

You can use the whole Pixar library on Disney+† To check out that studio’s latest releases, read our what’s new on Disney+ list

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