6. The Incredibles – The Chase
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Super speed, F1 racer blade-pod-thingys, and explosions make for a heart-pumping thrill ride that illustrates how entertaining animation can be.  Growing up with James Bond films conditioned me to appreciate a good chase, and Dash’s crazed foray into the beautifully rendered jungles, cliff sides, and lagoons was not lost on the kid in me that just loves watching things blow up. 

Sorry, no liberal-arts interpretation here.  The scene is enjoyable just the way it is.


5. Toy Story – Sailing No More
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Disillusionment is earth-shattering.  When Buzz learns that he is mass-produced, unoriginal, and insignificant in the universe, he grasps at what he believes makes him special; flight.  But he is a toy; he can only fall with style.  Watching the Space Ranger’s face change to confusion, determination, and defeat is difficult. 

However, what makes this scene so memorable is the transformation Buzz undergoes to realize his purpose; Buzz is the best friend a cowboy could ask for.  That is what makes him special, not plastic wings, not a red light-bulb on his wrist, and not the decorative stickers of buttons and gauges.  Buzz is a hero because he is a friend before anything else.    


4. WALL-E – Dancing Defined
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Love is anti-gravity.  As WALL-E and EVE spiral along the hull of a starship, twirling between its fiery-purple interstellar engines, all after sharing a kiss, I’m reminded why I love outer space so much.  It’s so expansive, dark, and open to interpretation.  Two on-looking characters, John and Mary, touch hands after finding meaning in the acrobatic antics of two robots; sharing introductions and sparking a romance.  Captain McCrea finds meaning in the history of our home-planet, staying up long hours to learn things that have been lost.  WALL-E finds meaning in pleasing someone he cares about, and EVE couldn't be any happier. 

It’s simple, is what it is.  Two machines playing with a fire extinguisher in space.  The reason I love it so much is because there really isn't much more to say.    


3. Finding Nemo ­– The Whale

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If there is one thing that Marlin is desperate for, it’s agency.  He wants control over his life, over his son, and over the entire ocean blue.  Swallowed whole by the bristled mouth of a friendly beast, our little clown-fish-father-of-the-year loses all feeling of command of his circumstances.  He rams his body against the baleen barrier in futile attempts to change the unchangeable.  Marlin is trapped with Dory, the comical regal tang fish who playfully rides the ebb and flow of the whale’s movements.  

For me, this scene highlights the dichotomy that exists between our two travelers.  Marlin cannot forget the past, his wife and children, or all of his doubts about virtually anyone but himself.  Dory can hardly remember her own name, suffering from short-term memory loss, and chooses to blissfully live in the present instead of worry about the future.  When the whale instructs her to let go, she does.  Not because she knows it will be alright, but because she believes that whatever happens will work itself out.  The entire story, indeed, is a lesson on letting go. 

Let go of inhibitions, let go of fears, let go of whatever is holding you back.  Plain and simple, optimism is more enjoyable than pessimism.


Up
– A Love Story
    
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Pixar are storytelling geniuses working within time constraints.  Carl and Ellie’s married life scene, in my humble opinion, is five of the most effective minutes in movie history.  I felt like I was intruding on their happy memories.  Every snapshot of cloud gazing, house painting, and tie tying felt so inexplicably real.  The music mimics the emotions portrayed in the increasingly wrinkled faces of our explorers, as things take a turn for the complicated.  Dashing their savings jar from mishap to mishap, coming to grips with an empty nursery, and lovingly letting go.   

The dual image of Carl with his baby blue balloon, first traversing the perilous sidewalk, and then later returning from the funeral to an empty house, is powerful enough to sink anyone’s heart.  I cannot imagine a more beautifully somber opening to an animated film.  


1. Toy Story 3 ­– One More Playtime 
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Toys are heavy things.  As I write I am surrounded by relics of playtimes past: an entire fleet of LEGO star fighters, dusty wooden blocks, and a drained remote-control car.  My room contains objects of a childhood that I live every day.  Toys contain memories, sure, but they also represent emotions, milestones of uncomfortable aging, and a naïve fascination with the world that rivals any education. 

Growing up never happens when we want it to.  As fate would have it, Andy and I are the same age.  I watched this film just before moving out of home and embarking to college.  It felt so much more real after Toy Story 3.  I had grown up with Woody and Buzz, Rex and Mr. Potato Head, Jessie and Bull’s-eye, and now it was time to say goodbye. 

But the most touching part of Andy’s farewell is his commitment to retaining his childhood while passing on his toys to another more imaginative generation.  It is difficult at first, but ultimately necessary.  I know that look in Andy’s eyes as he waves goodbye before questing onward into a brand new adventure.  It is a look of sad recognition and appreciative gratitude.  Things can be rough getting older, but memories never age. 

The trilogy ends as it begins.  The camera pans skyward to a flotilla of familiar clouds.  Childhood, like everything, is cyclical.  It always comes back right when we need it most.

Now Your Turn

I have a confession, this list was supposed to include seven moments.  For the life of me, I couldn't find another scene that affected me as deeply as these six.  So I have a suggestion; on the comments below, write out what sticks out in your mind as the most iconic, moving, humorous, exciting, inimitable Pixar moment.  What are your favorites?            
 


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