Pixar Animation Studios made its first film in 1995, the critically-acclaimed box office hit “Toy Story.” Since then, the studio has been known for its high-quality animated films that delight and amaze children of all ages. That’s all fine and good, but a lot of those same movies constitute deeply traumatic experiences for the parents or adult guardians who happen to be sitting there next to the kid.
Pixar movies all function well as light entertainment for the “Peppa Pig” set, but they all deal with such adult themes as abandonment, growing old, and watching our loved ones pass on. This leads to a situation in which the child laughs hysterically while their parent cries hysterically. Here are some movies Pixar has put out that made kids smile and make parents sob, blubber, and yowl.
Note: This list contains spoilers.
‘Inside Out’ (2015)
“Inside Out” depicts the feelings inside the mind of 11-year-old Riley, whose family has relocated to a new city. Her emotions – anger, disgust, fear, joy, and sadness – are represented as sentient characters living inside her brain and affecting her behavior. Lewis Black is hilarious in the role of “anger,” but when Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong enters the picture, watch out. You’ll want multiple tissues handy when Bing Bong makes the ultimate sacrifice.
This movie is set hundreds of years in the future when human beings have so thoroughly polluted the earth that they can no longer live there. WALL-E, a robot sent to clean up the planet, meets another robot named EVE, and they fall in love. These cute robot characters will enchant your little ones while you, the parent, can only sit there and wonder how soon the human race will have to abandon this planet to mountains of Styrofoam, disposable diapers, and crushed beer cans.
This movie leans a little more toward its adult audience than it does toward the kids, but there’s still plenty of stuff for the kids to love in this movie. Meanwhile, the first five minutes will render you a complete sobbing mess, and if that doesn’t do it, the next five minutes will. If you want to teach your young ones about infertility, abandoning dreams, and the inevitable march toward death, this is the movie for you.
“Coco” is about a 12-year-old boy who accidentally finds himself in the afterlife and has to find his great-great-grandfather there to return home. What could be upsetting to adults about that? Well, if you’ve ever lost a beloved relative, plenty! So when you watch it, your kids will learn about Mexican culture while you tearfully hyperventilate over that uncle you lost 20 years ago.
‘Toy Story 2’ (1999)
The “Toy Story” saga is pretty upsetting, and some believe the third installment is the saddest. However, for this discussion, we’re focusing on the second installment, which was primarily funny but featured a flashback sequence in which Jesse, the cowgirl doll, loses favor with the girl who owned her during the transition into teenage life. We all lost interest in our toys at some point, but watching the divide grow from the perspective of the long-forgotten toy under the bed is devastating.
‘The Good Dinosaur’ (2015)
If you’ve lost a parent to a natural disaster, you might think twice when your adorable little urchin asks you to put on “The Good Dinosaur.” Kids will see it as a funny movie about these prehistoric creatures that seem to fascinate them so, but you will lie slumped and sobbing in your chair, remembering when your emotionally-withholding daddy lost his life in a flood.
‘Finding Nemo’ (2003)
If Pixar ever decides to change its name, we suggest “‘Your Parents Are Dead’ Animation Studios.” The theme of losing a parent turns up in these movies quite a bit, and “Finding Nemo” is no exception – it’s the first thing that happens, in fact. While other children’s movies with at least one dead parent have been delighting children for ages (see “Bambi”), it’s an alarming way to start the film, and adults who grew up with only one parent may find that it’s a little too close for comfort, especially if they lost that parent to a barracuda.
“Soul” was released during the COVID-19 pandemic, so it didn’t get a theatrical release, going straight to the Disney+ streaming platform. That worked well because you could watch it with your kids while maintaining social distancing protocols and openly weeping. The story of a comatose jazz musician trying to get his soul back into his body, it’s about a lost person trying to return to familiar environs, a frequent Pixar theme. Children will think it’s funny while you bawl over age-old childhood traumas.
Like “Soul,” “Luca” was another Pixar movie denied a theatrical release due to the pandemic. The story of a sea monster who takes the form of a human boy when he’s dry, it contains themes of familial separation and bullying, both of which can be more painful subjects for parents than kids. At least parents can enjoy the gorgeous depiction of coastal Italy while they ugly cry with lots of free-flowing snot.
Honorable Mention: ‘Encanto’ (2021)
Technically speaking, “Encanto” doesn’t belong on this list because it’s not a Pixar movie but a Walt Disney Animation Studios release. We’re including it anyway because it’s still an animated Disney property, and more importantly, it’s upsetting to adults. While your children will laugh and sing “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” on a perpetual basis, the depiction of familial strife, generational trauma, and unrealistic parental expectations will drive you to the Kleenex box, then the roll of toilet paper, and then whatever towel happens to be handy. It may not be a Pixar movie, but it’s Pixar in spirit to the traumatized adults watching it.
Editorial Note: This list was created based on the opinions of the author and editorial team. The choices presented are subjective and can vary depending on personal preferences and perspectives.
This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.
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