There’s an unfortunate implication inherent in our current, pop-culture-flooded mindset that children’s films have to be vulgar and dumbed-down in order to successfully appeal to their target audience. While there are a few notable exceptions (Wes Anderson’s capricious and witty “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” this year’s magical “Paddington”) the sad truth is that a disproportionate majority of films aimed at children are charmless and disposable, crammed full of fart jokes and product placement, but light on things like character, subtext and real feeling. The truth is, a lot of kids are smarter than we give them credit for. The best children’s entertainment uses the accessible framework of its medium to examine timeless themes – themes that will, ideally, resonate with both children and their parents – in a way that speaks to its core audience on their level.
Over the years, Pixar has given us some of the most challenging and emotionally affecting films for children in the history of the medium including the “Toy Story” trilogy, “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E.” These are films that are not afraid to go dark and illuminate the fragile, wounded hearts of youth that lies dormant beneath the bright colors and zippy sight gags. In a new video entitled “Emotions of Pixar,” we are afforded a glimpse at some of the most poignant moments from these films – the ones that stay with us and shake us up after we leave the theatre.
What becomes almost immediately apparent upon revisiting these old nuggets of Pixar history is how decidedly bleak some of these films are. Sure, “Finding Nemo” is ultimately a cute adventure yarn that features surfer-dude turtles, a chorus of comically squawking seagulls and Albert Brooks voicing a particularly nebbishy species of fish. But at its core, ‘Nemo’ is a deeply sad and ultimately very serious film about parental neglect, yearning and that crushing feeling of knowing you may never see your loved ones again. Unsurprisingly, the tear-jerking climax of “Toy Story 3” – arguably the darkest moment in any Pixar film – gets highlighted more than once here.
Not all of the studio’s movies are such serious affairs. The dippy frivolity of the “Cars” movies has proved to be immensely profitable and Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles,” while it features a few noticeably grown-up moments, is ultimately a playful, colorful lark whose primary purpose is to entertain. And yet it’s hard to deny that the Pixar films are powerful, meaningful films: aflush with metaphor and visual poetry, and sometimes even more satisfying upon repeat viewings. Relive some of those old memories and watch the supercut below.