Top Ten Saddest Pixar Moments

5: Buzz’s Realisation – Toy Story

The film that kick started it all back in 1995 was also the first full-length computer-animated film. Toy Story centred on a group of toys, led by Woody, that are much more alive than their owner Andy realises. Woody’s world changes when Andy receives a new toy: space ranger toy Buzz Lightyear. Suddenly, Woody is no longer the favourite. The funny thing is, Buzz isn’t aware that he is in fact a toy. After a series of events lead to Buzz and Woody being lost in the outside world on their own, they end up in the hands of Andy’s sadistic neighbour, Sid. Whilst they are trapped there overnight, Buzz comes across a television and witnesses a commercial featuring him. Refusing to accept that he is a toy, he climbs to the top of a set of stairs and attempt to fly out an open window. He leaps…and immediately falls to the ground, our hearts dropping with him. You see it hit him immediately, the sheer disappointment and painful realisation that he is not a real space ranger. As he lies on the floor with his arm detached, you feel exactly what he feels. The first Pixar heartbreak moment, some may say their calling card.

4: Nemo’s Mother – Finding Nemo

Arguably one of the most visually stunning films in Pixar’s repertoire. 2003’s Finding Nemo focused on anxious clownfish Marlin and his search for his only son after he is taken. Short-term memory loss sufferer Dory (voiced by the always-energetic Ellen DeGeneres) joins Marlin on the search and an all-out adventure full of fun, frights and laughter ensues. The film took the world by storm, and is the highest-grossing Pixar film to date if adjusted for inflation. The film kicks off with an emotional wallop. We meet Marlin and his partner Coral, who have a nice place in the ocean with hundreds of eggs. Before long, they are in the sights of a deadly barracuda. In an effort to protect their eggs, Coral dashes towards them and Marlin bravely goes for the barracuda but is swiftly knocked out. When he comes to, he can’t find Coral and all but one egg remains. As he weeps, he names the little egg Nemo and vows to never let anything happen to him. Then the credits start. You’ve gone through just about all the emotions you can in such a short space of time, and you’re only at the start.

3: Bing Bong’s Sacrifice – Inside Out

2015 saw Pixar uncharacteristically release two feature films in one year: Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. The former focused on the personification of human emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust. Their job in life is to capture and keep the memories of the human they reside in, which will determine what kind of a person the individual will grow up to be. We meet the emotions of 11-year-old Riley, who is undergoing a series of emotional changes as she deals with a move from Minnesota to San Francisco. A mishap leads to Joy and Sadness being whisked away into the far reaches of Riley’s mind. They enlist the assistance of Riley’s childhood imaginary friend, Bing Bong, as they make their way back to base. Along the way, Joy and Bing Bong get separated from Sadness and end up in a deep valley of forgotten memories, which are slowly disappearing. After several failed attempts to get out of the valley, Bing Bong realises that both of them will never make it. He makes the ultimate sacrifice and bails out so that Joy can escape. The scene is utterly painful. When you see him stay behind you’re already hurting, when you see Joy make it you are slightly elated. She turns around to cheer with Bing Bong, but he isn’t there. As he cheers from below, ecstatic that Joy made it, you struggle to keep those tears in. And then he begins fading away. Pixar have ripped out your heart yet again.

2: The Opening – Up

When we first meet Carl, the protagonist of Pixar’s Up, he is five years old. He meets Ellie and instantly falls in love. The next 4-5 minutes of the film is spent watching the two grow more in love; they have a life together. We see the day they marry, when they build their dream home. When it becomes evident they can’t have children, they decide to invest in moving to a far-away location. The day finally comes when their dream to move can be realised, but Ellie falls ill and is bed-ridden. She implores Carl to go anyway. Soon after, she dies. We see Carl by her coffin. We have barely started the film and we are already in tears. The creators managed to put more heart into these two characters in only a few moments then many films can muster over their full run-time. Amazingly, Pixar does all this without a single word of dialogue. It was able to show children a lot about life and, particularly, about death in a way that was palatable. For all of us, it was simply brutal to watch. The film would go on to become an adventure for Carl as he learns to enjoy life again thanks to a boy scout by the name of Russell, but it’s those first few minutes that would etch themselves onto our hearts forever.

1: The Furnace Scene – Toy Story 3

After seeing these characters on screen for 15 years, we essentially grew up with Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang. Andy is all grown up now and on his way to college. Cleaning out his room, the toys are accidentally put into a box and sent to a day care. On their journey back home, the gang find themselves taken to a rubbish tip. One thing leads to another, and our toys are soon on a conveyor belt, heading towards a giant furnace. Woody desperately tries to find a way out, but it’s no use. They all hold hands and accept their fate. The scene is easily the most heart-breaking moment Pixar has offered up. It’s not just that they are about to perish, it’s the beauty in their acceptance. It’s the fear and panic in Woody’s eyes. It’s the fact that these toys are willing to die for and with each other. They are thankfully saved at the last minute, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch. Up made you care about characters you knew for a few minutes; these were characters that you knew for a lifetime.

B.P.