A Crying Shame

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crying.JPGToy Story 3 is coming out on DVD next month, and I, for one, am not looking forward to it.

Oh, I’ve heard it’s a fantastic film. Some folks are saying it might not just get nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, but perhaps win the thing. I’m sure that, once I sit down and watch Toy Story 3, I’ll love it, just as I’ve loved practically every other Pixar movie I’ve seen.

But here’s the thing—and probably the main reason I didn’t see the film when it was out in theaters. Pixar makes me cry.

It’s true. I get weepy in Wall-E, red-eyed during Ratatouille. I get all misty just thinking about the first 20 minutes of Up. The best thing about taking my kids to 3-D screenings of Pixar movies is that they won’t immediately realize that their father is tearing up during the closing outtakes.

Hey, I’ve never pretended to be a Dolph Lundgren-style tough guy. But I am, after all, a guy—a manly man who does not faint at the sight of blood or cower in the presence of an adjustable mortgage. I did not cry during Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows. I can handle cinematic sadness: just not, apparently, if it’s computer animated. Men are allowed to cry if, say, they lose a hand in a farming accident. They should not cry while watching a CGI robot watch Hello Dolly.

Of course, I’m not entirely alone here. Pixar has made more men cry than the entire National Football League, and Time offers some theories why. One is that CGI characters help us feel more connected, oddly enough, with the story onscreen. “Live action movies are someone else’s story,” says Lee Unkrich, director of Toy Story 3. “With animation, audiences can’t think that. Their guards are down.” Thus we more easily step into the characters’ shoes and find parallels between their stories and our own. The toys in Toy Story become like familial avatars: At times, we see them as our children. At others, we see them as ourselves. And the folks at Pixar know how to play on that dynamic until adults start wailing and reaching for tissues. Writes author Belinda Luscombe:

"To get the right tone for Toy Story 3's incinerator scene, in which the toys are carried toward a fiery death on a conveyor belt, "I thought of what I'd do if I were in a plane with my children and something went wrong," he [Unkrich] says. Think you couldn't imbue a bunch of toys with that much love? Well, it worked well enough that Pixar's employees teared up just upon seeing the storyboards.

Great. Can’t wait.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Teena:

Hmmm- I don't remember if I cried in those other Pixar movies, but I did constanly cry in Toy Story 3.  I think it was mostly because I originally saw the first two when I was a kid- and the characters were like old friends by now... also- the creators of Toy Story timed its release perfectly.  When it was in theaters I had just graduated from High School and would be going to college in the Fall.  As the movie progressed I became more and more connected to what Andy was feeling and sorry for those he was leaving behind.  I think my connection in age with Andy is what made the movie so very sad.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Watcher500:

You've got the crying part right. I cried tears of sorrow at the afore-mentioned incenerator scene and tears of joy at a moment at the end. I'm not so sure I agree completely with Time magazine about the reason that CGI movies create more emotion. I think, in the case of Pixar, it's simply because Pixar understands what makes a great movie. It's all in the writing and giving us well developed characters that we can love and relate to. Humor and quality CGI are also important, but always second and third behind writing. All of the other CGI production houses, including Dreamworks, put humor and CGI above or equal to the writing. The characters and their story will always be what makes us love a movie. They're a bunch of toys for crying out loud! Why do I care so much about what happens to them? Because Pixar is king of the story.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  sddks:

Good article! I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of Pixar. And FWIW, to not get a bit misty at the ending of TS3 is to be made of stone. The incinerator too. I saw it with my father at a midnight screening and we were both incredibly moved, despite the tiredness.

I tend not to put much stock in what are typically called "children's movies." They're generally not very good. Stick to "all ages" if you want the memorable movies. Ghibli and Pixar are the go-to studios for this kind of movie. They are folks that understand that the medium of animation doesn't have to mean your movie can't entertain adults at the same time as the kids.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  jessek:

I don't think there's anything wrong with guys crying at a Pixar movie. I'm a 25 year-old male and I definitely cried at the ending of Toy Story 3. In regards to why Pixar movies elicit more emotion than the common flick, it's because, in my opinion, not that they are animated, but that they are simply good stories told well. That's the difference between Pixar and the majority of Hollywood, and so far it's worked incredibly well for them.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  StorySpinner:

Sniff! Ohh, just thinking about it makes me teary-eyed! (Unless that's the allergies, or the sunscreen I got in my eye, or...)But it isn't only the sad parts of Pixar movies that get to me: It's the funny ones. There I am, dying laughing at Mr. Potato Head minus the potato, and I knew I was a lost cause. If I was laughing that hard early in the film, I knew that I would be completely unable to resist the tearjerking scenes that I had heard were coming later. That's Pixar. But that's also emotion; once the dams have been breached, there's no turning back!