Toy 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.