It’s not secret to anyone who has ever seen a Pixar movie that they are hell bent on making even the hardest of us weep like children who left their favorite toy at camp on the last day. But, take a few minutes to think deeper about the worlds they present, and they take on an even deeper level of tear-inducing depression. And I will detail here why, for your “enjoyment”
Toy Story 1-3
The Toy Story movies follow the adventures of a boy named Andy’s toys as they deal with change and perceived rejection all toys face because we assume they are inanimate objects, but for some weird reason, they are all alive but forbidden from letting us know this. This creates a terrible situation for the toys, who become utterly dependent on their owner for love (despite being surrounded by equally sentient, feeling beings) to the point that pretty much all of them are neurotic at levels that would require hospitalization. In fact “Andy’s love” and the quest to keep it is the central theme of all 3 movies. It’s an obsessive codependent need that makes Glenn Close seem pretty level headed in Fatal Attraction.
Woody has waking nightmares that a simple, easily resewn tear would cause the same little boy who has professed his love over and over again to him will discard him like used toilet paper because he was slightly marred. We saw what a caged animal Jessie became when it was even suggested she was going “back into the box”; her rejection and abandonment is detailed in an aptly depressing montage set to a Sarah McLachlan song more depressing that the one they use in the dog abuse commercials. She is clearly suffering from rejection-induced PTSD on a scale that she would actually threaten violence to avoid it again.
And let’s talk about the toys that are left alone for an extended period. Prospector Stinky had never been opened, never been played with, and it left him bitter and manipulative. If he was never going to be played with, then his peers won’t either. This also happens to Lotso Huggin’ Bear in Toy Story 3. In the Toy Story universe, every toy is alive, and apparently a single brush off away from deep neurosis or sociopathy. Now, the toys can move, talk, feel… They can do everything a human can do, and it’s not like they CAN’T move and talk when around people; Woody happily scars the little braces-wearing asshole in Toy Story 1 by moving and talking to him. Why can’t they just grab the kid, pull him aside some day and say “Look, we’re alive, and when you give us away, you crush us emotionally and we can’t handle it.”
The world would change overnight. Think of the sad lonely rejected kids who might NOT one day grow up to murder hookers or shoot up a mall if their favorite toy showed them the love and understanding they needed. Instead, everyone loses, until Woody and friends (those that weren’t thrown away or sold) find a new kid to cling to. And that’s another sad point; Andy is the center of their world, until they wind up in the hands of another kid who’ll play with them. It’s like they’re in love with being in love. Because that’s a healthy way to live.
Cracked gave a pretty good rundown of why Cars takes place in a post-human apocalyptic world, but there is actually more to expand on that idea since Cars 2 came out. We know that the cars definitely run on petroleum, because apparently even sentient machines have their Koch brothers. We know they harvest oil in much the same way we do now (Cars 2 opens in an archipelago of flame-tipped mid-ocean oil wells), so presuming this is a future world where smart-machines developed into the dominant life form, where did the oil come from? Assuming we have already passed peak oil by the time the cars took over, and there are a LOT of them populating the world now, the only explanation I can think of is that enough time has passed that humans are the oil.
Imagine that; Some sort of apocalypse killed all human and biological life, to the point that the insects in the Cars world are cars. If the cars are self-replicating intelligent machines capable of subtle mutations with each generation, then it makes perfect sense. Hell, maybe everything is manufactured in self-aware factories that alter their code ever so slightly with each passing generation, mimicking the evolution of the lost meaty creators. And they never realize their gods, their creators, are buried beneath the soil and sea, being mined and burned.
Another idea is that the cars and their world were all created, almost like an experiment. Think about it; everything, from the rock formations to the shapes of the clouds are car themed. I imagine a being powerful enough to create a race of thinking, feeling machines would have little trouble manufacturing a planet for them that followed pre-determined themes. Maybe the whole world is made of nanomachines programmed to act like regular matter, but made to express themselves in vaguely car-like shapes.
A world where life itself is based on machines and utterly dependent on oil? Maybe it’s run by the Koch brothers.
A Bug’s Life
Let’s get out of the way the fact that based on this movie, every arthropod on earth is sentient. So are the molluscs (we see a talking snail at one point). That means every time you swat a fly, or your car flies through a swarm, you’re killing feeling beings. Hell, clearing out a roach infestation must be their version of the holocaust. And the pill bugs are crustaceans, so we know that every lobster eaten spent its last moments in abject terror and pain as it boiled alive. Maybe that “scream” isn’t steam escaping, after all.
But that aside, there are two characters I want to focus on; Manny and Rosie. They are in a group with other bugs, yet both are predators. They don’t appear to pose any danger to their friends, which is good, but they have to feed sometime. And it’s not like predatory insects and spiders only eat insects and other animals because they think veganism is stupid, it’s what they require biologically for food. So what are these two doing? My guess, they keep their friends safe by acting like travelling serial killers. Think about it; they are part of a travelling circus. Everywhere they go, in this world where death is a hungry bird or some little asshole with a shoe or magnifying glass away, who’s going to notice a few bugs missing here or there?
The rest of the group may or may not be aware of what is going on, or maybe they just cast a blind eye toward it. Here are two co workers leaving a trail of dessicated bugs in their wake. No wait, that’s Rosie; Manny is a mantis, so he tears his prey apart and eats them in pieces. And in this world, his victims scream. Rosie simply injects them with poison and wraps them in webbing until they die and liquefy, then sucks everything out. Makes you wonder what Flick had in store for him before they thought he was going to pay them.
In this movie, all the rats in the world are sentient, and at least one guy has some kind of weird interface between his hair and his brain. Unlike the other movies, though, this one has a much simpler sad tale to tell; Remy’s days are numbered, as are those of his friends and family. See, rats only live to be about 2 or 3, mayyyybe 4 or 5 in captivity. So basically if Linguini and Colette had a baby, Remy would be a memory before the kid was a toddler.
And let’s hope for their sake that he produces a long-ass line of ultra-talented chef-rats, because if not, Colette, Linguini and Ego will discover pretty quickly that opening a restaurant where the chef has a shorter life expectancy than their car loans was a bad idea. One morning, they come in to open for breakfast and find their meal ticket belly up next to an oven filled with smoking croissants.
And let’s not forget that the health inspector and Skinner were both swarmed by rats who then tied them up and tossed them into a meat locker. Tell me that isn’t going to lead to years of therapy and an unrelenting terror of sewer grates.
Again, Cracked already did a great piece on this movie, and again, there’s more going on here. Nemo eventually becoming his dad’s concubine aside, there’s a lot going on in this movie that’s disturbing. First off, if Bruce (the shark) and his buddies are swearing off fish, then what the hell are they going to eat? Kelp? As we saw with the Bugs, it’s not a question of taste that determines an animal’s diet, it’s what they require to live. Does this mean Bruce and friends now only eat molluscs? Or whales? Dolphins? Divers? Since they are all equally self aware, it’s like saying you won’t murder black people, but everyone else is fair game, because you don’t want to be a racist.
Then there is the Spicoli turtle and his kid. here’s a fun fact about sea turtles; they never meet their parents. Ever. If they wanted to meet mom, they could hang out at her spawning ground and hope to not get eaten by anything there until she and her book club return the next year and hope to see if one had similar eye color or something (they all do. They’re turtles) What’s really depressing is that the adorable little tyke never would have found his dad. Let’s face it, not only does mom leave the kids in a hole hundreds of feet from safety (Mother sea turtles a Jigsaw) but when she was fertilized all those weeks or months back, it wasn’t an act of turtle-love. Mom’s a turtle-slut whoring it up with whatever turtle douche bought her the biggest drink or however that works out with sea reptiles. So yeah, spicoli turtle just decided some random little turtle was his kid. Which is kind of sweet, in a raised-by-a-loving-kidnapper kind of way.
One can only imagine what kind of trauma Dory has been through. She can read english, yet has an inability to remember anything beyond a minute or two. What the hell happened to her?
Then there is the end of the movie; all of Nemo’s aquarium pals make it out, but are stuck in bags. Unless they were very lucky, odds are pretty good that they either boiled alive in the midday sun, or the bags popped and they got stuck and suffocated.
HOW DO THEY REPRODUCE?! Everyone is human veal, they do nothing for themselves, yet clearly generations have grown and died on the ship over the course of hundreds of years. Are their robots that jerk the guys off? Are the women impregnated and deliver babies, or is there an artificial means to accomplish this?
And where does all the food come from? Is it synthesized? Does the ship have a garden? What do they do with the dead? Fertilize the garden? Soylent Green ’em? Chuck them into space? It’s a good thing the machines were programmed to take care of the humans, because if they ever got tired of it, the interior would have been covered in flabby pale bodies and arterial spray.
Number one, Merida is never going to consent to marry one of those losers. She’s more man than any of the 3 and that isn’t going to fly in their society.
And what’s up with the witch? Her solution to every problem is apparently “turn them into a bear until they learn to not be dicks.” That’s not magic, that’s trying to force a square peg into round, elliptical and star shaped holes. Plus, it’s a very “Wizard of Oz” method of teaching someone a lesson. Instead of saying “fix the tapestry, and you and your mom have a talk” it was the magical medieval version of a Saw trap; “someone gets hurt or everyone gets hurt, choose.” The least she could have done was say “I want to play a game.”
This movie ends on a wonderful up note. The Supers have returned and they are no longer going to be prosecuted for helping people! Yay! Except that between Syndrome and cape mishaps, the “Supers” appear to be Mr Incredible, Elastigirl, their kids, and Frozone. Granted, that is 6 more than there would be without them, but all of their old buddies are now dead; Incredible’s wannabe protege killed all of them. Also, Bomb Voyage was apparently never caught (and is in fact a mime in the background of Ratatouille). And while their boss might be gone, there is an island in the south pacific entirely populated by shifty characters with access to state of the art technology. Just tell me piracy in that area doesn’t go through the roof.
Also, what was going on with the world when the supers weren’t out being super? Did the villains just agree to back off (not likely) or did society lose more than its fair share of firemen, police and soldiers to them? I’m guessing a lot of good people were killed.
Also, although he was the bad guy, let’s not forget that Syndrome was sucked into a jet engine. How fucking gruesome is that?
Possibly the saddest part of the movie is Bob Parr’s (Mr Incredible) boss. A super human threw him through like 6 walls and he winds up in traction. He either received a HUGE settlement and signed papers saying he would never speak of it again, at which point, how do you explain to people how you wound up in a full body cast? Or, they wiped his memory (which they say they can do) and then what? He wakes up in traction, broken and confused, having no idea why he’s there or what happened to him. And considering he worked for a crooked insurance company, is he even covered? Best case scenario for him, they gave him a false memory of flipping off a bear and covered his expenses.
Up is a stand-out Pixar movie in that it doesn’t even wait to crush your heart; they introduce Ellie just long enough for you to love her so you can see her go senile and die. It fits the story, but it’s still sad as hell. Then we have Carl hitting some guy on the head and getting remanded to a nursing home, which inspires the whole thing.
Skip ahead to the end, kevin and her kids get away, Carl and Russell return to civilization and all’s well that ends well. Except, you know there are going to be questions about what happened to Muntz. If someone happens to stumble over his corpse, they’ll find the broken heap of an old man with balloons tied to his ankle, and another old man a few thousand miles away in his zepplin. Hmm.
Also, there’s a chance he could be charged with kidnapping, if the DA is douchey enough and assumes Russell is going through Stockholm Syndrome when he defends him. Keep in mind, this is a belligerent old man who was already in trouble with the court system over assault, and then likely even more for skipping town and causing who knows how much damage between his house running into things and car accidents. Also, pray those dogs don’t wind up in the hands of PETA, or they would likely not live out the week. Barring that, did Muntz vaccinate his dogs? They may not even be able to be adopted out, which means euthanasia for the lot of them.
Lastly, there’s Kevin. Keep your fingers crossed that Kevin and her 3 babies were part of a population of thousands, because if not, her species is in deep shit.
This one has so many unanswered questions. Do all of these kids grow up no longer fearing night, because a cheery happy monster is going to come make jokes for them? Okay, so that’s actually pretty awesome. Boo in particular is all set, because Sully is fucking huge and I doubt she will ever get any crap in school, ever. The downside is that Randall is alive and well, smart and motivated. He hates Mike and Sully and has good reason to find his way back to them, or better still, get revenge on Boo. Dark, yes, but he was working with Waternoose on a machine that from the looks of things would have killed kids, and he certainly had no problem with the idea of hurting a what? 3 Year old? With luck, Sully was vigilant and had thought that one through.
Oddly enough, the movie about children being terrorized by monsters has less tragedy than the rest of them. You’re weird, Pixar.