Howard the Duck has the distinction of being the very first Marvel movie AND bombing, taking all of George Lucas’ Star Wars money with it. This led to Lucas selling the Computer Division of Lucasfilm to Steve Jobs, which later became Pixar.
Thanks, Howard! But also, fuck you, duck.
Pixar has moved from taking simple stories and making them epic and jaw-dropping with strides in computer animation and writing to telling the same stories with similar characters over and over again. Also? Pixar will always, always emotionally falcon punch you. It isn’t even a question at this point. Just one of life’s few certainties. Death, taxes, Pixar making you bawl like a four-year old watching Dora the Explorer murder Swiper the Fox using Map as a makeshift garrote.
Some people are willing to accept this, but I am not. I refuse to see anymore Pixar movies. I am done. Legend says I’ve been done ever since Toy Story 3 wracked my then 5-year old daughter’s tiny body with sobs. We were at a drive-in theater and the raw emotional output from the other gathered rugrats was palpable. Also I could hear them. In their own cars, rows away.
I understand death in service of the story and I am cool with that. I understand that some movies make you feel your own feelings and sometimes that feeling is to cry until you feel like you really deserve some six-pack abs from that full-body workout. What I don’t like is killing a character just to trigger an emotional response from an audience with no story reason except the emotional response.
Did Pixar start this meddling with our fragile emotional ecosystems after they were purchased by Disney, Killer of Parents (and being in a partnership is different than your company being bought out by another company)? Perhaps not, but I think it did become their Thing after the 2006 purchase.
SPOILERS FOR PIXAR MOVIES
BDP (Before Disney Purchase)
Toy Story — 1995
There is no father in the picture, but I assumed divorce and not death. I think it was later confirmed that the fewer people in the movie, the better. That was because their humans looked like Baby’s First Computer Animation Studio created them. Exhibit A:
Toy Story was an adventure movie that left us thinking perhaps our toys watched us pick our noses or hump the mattress. It didn’t leave us listening to Morrissey and terrified of life, TOY STORY 3, HELLO.
A Bug’s Life — 1998
One of my favorites of the Pixar catalog, I don’t think anyone dies in this. No, those baby birds weren’t pecking Hopper to death at the end. They were making him better, faster, stronger. They were turning him into the 5 Million Dollar Grasshopper.
Okay. They fucking straight murdered Hopper.
Other than that, we felt for our protagonist Flick and the circus bugs. We wanted them to succeed and feel like they belonged somewhere, but they didn’t break our tiny hearts.
Toy Story 2 — 1999
NO DEATHS. In fact, we get new characters and one of them yells “MY BISCUITS ARE A BURNIN’!”, which I think we can all agree is awesome. We had the uncertainty of whether Woody would return to Andy’s bedroom, but no gut-wrenching sce…nevermind. I just remembered Jessie’s memory. Goddamn you, Sarah McLachlan.
Monsters, Inc. — 2001
Boo’s parents are MIA, but that’s to be expected from a couple that doesn’t notice a toddler missing from her room for a week or whatever. Neglect, yes. Dead, no.
I did cry when Mike put Boo’s door back together and she yells “kitty!” when she sees Sully and I’m not crying, shut up.
Finding Nemo — 2003
Uh-oh. This flick starts off with the cold-blooded murder of Nemo’s mother. But, ho! What is this? The event that killed Marlin’s mate was a catalyst for the neurotic helicopter parenting that led to Nemo pushing his boundaries, touching the butt, and being fishnapped! SERVICE TO THE STORY.
The Incredibles — 2004
This is the best Pixar movie ever made. Characters that we do not know die to illustrate how dangerous Syndrome and capes are to superheroes. Syndrome dies at the end because he did not heed the dangers of capes or pissing off dads with superhuman strength. Did that really get anyone in the feels?
It was a villain being killed as a consequence of a main character’s actions, as well as the actions of the villain himself. It seems to fit the whole “service of the story” parameters I’ve set for the acceptance of Pixar death, but I’m now wary and keeping my eye on them.
ADP (After Disney Purchase)
Cars - 2006
Okay, the Disney purchase of Pixar was completed May 5, 2006. So did that have any effect on this terrible, overlong, non-murderous flick? Perhaps not, but it’s going on this side of the timeline.
Guys, can we talk about what even was this movie? I still can’t comprehend the thinking behind this squeaker and the sequel. Buh.
Ratatouille - 2007
Does the Black Death count? NOITDOESNOT. The chef that guides Remy’s journey in the film is deceased, but this has happened prior to our meeting him and is in direct service of the story. I’ll allow it, because this one didn’t make me cry.
WALL-E - 2008
The entire human race is fat and/or dead and all of the other adorable WALL-E units are kaput. This all serves the story. Excellent.
Did this entire movie make me cry until after the fifth viewing? You shut up.
Up - 2009
In short order, we are introduced to Ellie (and fall in love with her alongside Carl), watch their happy life together, and then have her wrenched away from us in one of the most aggressively emotional movie openings in recent history. Is it in service of the story? Could Carl have taken the journey with Ellie at his side? Yes. I think so. We would have probably lost Russell and Carl’s gruff personality being softened by him, but they could have had a final adventure together.
I mean, fuck that opening 10 minutes, right? Goddamn, Pixar.
Toy Story 3 - 2010
This is where my side-eye for Pixar started. That whole movie from top to bottom was emotional blackmail. Andy is going to college and has outgrown his toys, leaving them behind and taking from them the life they’ve known for years. That resonates with kids and adults on different levels. Sure. Let’s get these emotions out there.
BUT THAT TRASH SCENE AND LIKE THE BEAR BEING A STRAIGHT SOCIOPATH? Hell no, Pixar. You broke something in my little girl with this movie and I’ve been done ever since. You made us think you were going to melt characters, that we had both grown up with, in front of our face. That’s some cold shit right there.
Cars 2 - 2011
I don’t really know, so I’ll guess: Tow Mater moved into a cabin in the woods and started murdering cars that ventured his way, wearing their upholstery on his face to terrify new victims. Right?
Brave - 2012
Merida probably lost her Dad and then was called brave because she watched the first 10 minutes of Up sooner than she should have.
Monsters University - 2013
I did see this one! It’s terrible! No one dies and the emotional moments are vacant and fully entrenched in our memories of the characters…in the future. So we know what will happen and what is up, but good try.
Inside Out - 2015
Pixar finally gave up all pretense and just made a movie about emotions. They gave human form to emotions so that they could literally manipulate them while manipulating our emotions at the same time.
RIP Bing Bong. Or so I hear from the internet.
The Good Dinosaur - 2015
According to Kristy, “But gang, I wasn’t prepared for Pixar to put out a movie that had me yelping with fear and gaping in horror. I was not prepared for the depressing drama of The Good Dinosaur.”
Then? Parent death.
That’s it. I’m done with Pixar. You can keep watching their emotional attacks disguised as amazing animation in “family film” skins, but I am finished. I’m done crying my own tears and enduring scenes that skillfully make me feel real, measurable emotional ties to fictional characters while allowing me to also bawl in a socially acceptable and public way. Damn you and your magic, Pixar. Damn you to hell.