The movies of Pixar are well-known for their emotional weight, with stories that appeal to those of all ages, but not every moment of their feature films carries the same impact for children that it does for adults, with some experiences shown beyond what most kids will have been through at their age.
Although there are parts of Pixar’s stories that are universally relatable, certain aspects of their plot, and character dynamics are only fully realized by adults, whether because of a character’s age or a narrative that is unique to the adult experience.
10 Carl and Ellie’s Story – Up (2009)
As one of the best non-royal Disney couples, Carl and Ellie of Up have a relationship that spans decades, shown in the movie’s opening montage. It carries viewers from their childhood through to Ellie’s heartbreaking death, with Carl’s subsequent grief later becoming a driving factor behind the story.
While children can have experiences with grief, the longevity of Carl and Ellie’s relationship and the way their time together is condensed into the movie’s setup is filled with a richness of emotion and an awareness of time that kids are yet to have become fully aware of.
9 Jessie’s Fears – Toy Story 2 (1999)
The first of Pixar’s sequels, Toy Story 2 had a lot riding on its shoulders and the movie lived up to expectations, with a plot that takes the titular toys through a range of new experiences. One of the most notable of these is the introduction of Jessie, with her backstory revealing the kid she once loved, Emily.
After Emily had grown out of playing with her toys, Jessie was put into storage for years and now carries with her a fear of being in dark and enclosed spaces (that affects her actions in Toy Story 2). Whilst it’s not central to the movie’s plot, moments where she is confronted with her phobias have a real intensity to them that are not so apparent to younger audiences.
8 Remember Me – Coco (2017)
An incredibly emotional movie for many reasons, Coco is notable for its explorations of life and death through the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead. Protagonist Miguel’s elderly great-grandmother Coco, whose memory has slowly begun to decline, plays a pivotal role in the story.
Having found Coco’s father, Héctor, in the Land of the Dead, Miguel returns home and plays one of his songs, “Remember Me,” to Coco, who is able to sing alongside him (with the song prompting memories of her father). The reconnection elderly Coco makes with her father is highly emotional, creating a cathartic moment for older people who long-ago lost a parent or may have been going through something similar.
7 Mr. Incredible Struggles As An At-Home Parent – The Incredibles 2 (2018)
The life of Mr. Incredible has become quite different in The Incredibles 2, where Bob has become a stay-at-home dad to Dash, Violet, and Jack-Jack, while his wife, Helen/Elastigirl, is given the opportunity to go on missions again.
Although they are comedic, the scenes showing Bob struggling to adapt to life as a stay-at-home parent do have an emotional undercurrent to them. Some fans are able to resonate with parents who have made the same adjustment, whilst also commenting on the societal expectations of each family member.
6 Woody Becomes A Lost Toy – Toy Story 4 (2019)
In the latest installment of the Toy Story franchise, Woody finds it hard to fit in at Bonnie’s house, where her toys have an established community that he doesn’t really fit into. Bonnie’s additional preference for Jessie does nothing to soothe his anxieties about feeling out of place.
By the end of Toy Story 4, Woody makes the big decision to join Bo Peep and her new friends as a lost toy after sharing emotional goodbyes with Buzz, Jessie, and the gang. This moment, where Woody chooses to make a major change in his life’s direction, is a reflection of one many watching adults had been through when starting a new chapter in their lives. It is also particularly impactful to those who were children when the first Toy Story movie was released.
5 Being A Dad To Your Brother – Onward (2020)
The relationship between brothers, Ian and Barley, is at the center of Onward. While much of the movie’s plot is focused on the two trying to complete a visitation spell to allow their deceased father to visit them for a day, it becomes apparent that the brothers are the emotional heart of the film.
Whilst younger brother Ian spends a lot of time thinking about all he missed out on without his dad, he comes to realize – in a very moving montage – that even without his presence, he had his brother Barley to fulfill the role instead. With many siblings having to step up as parents for one reason or another, Onward captures a very real dynamic.
4 Joe’s Existentialism – Soul (2020)
A movie so concerned with the afterlife and finding answers to the biggest questions of the universe was always going to be more accessible to adults than to kids, and in Soul, following Joe’s story meant a lesson in philosophy.
With its emphasis on ideas of determinism and a person’s purpose in life, the moments where Joe contemplates whether he lived a fulfilling life is far more relatable to adults than to children.
3 Andy Gives Away His Toys – Toy Story 3 (2010)
One of the best long-awaited sequels, Toy Story 3 shows Andy’s toys dealing with the realization that Andy is no longer a child who needs them as he prepares to go to college. Andy, himself, deals with the change by eventually passing on his toys to new kid Bonnie.
These actions are emotional from the toy’s perspectives, but also for Andy himself, with his gift to Bonnie kickstarting a new phase of his life and signifying the change that every adult has gone through as they move beyond childhood.
2 Bing Bong’s Sacrifice – Inside Out (2015)
Inside Out is a movie packed with things you only notice after re-watching it, but one moment that viewers can’t miss is when Riley’s childhood imaginary best friend Bing Bong sacrifices himself by jumping from a wagon rocket in order for it to be light enough to let Joy return to the Headquarters of Riley’s brain.
Whilst Inside Out does a great job of breaking down Riley’s emotions in a way that’s accessible to kids, the full implications of the moment of Bing Bong’s sacrifice, representing letting go of parts of early childhood weighing down a person’s present, can be hard for kids to grasp.
1 Examining Stereotypes – Luca (2021)
Pixar’s most recent release Luca continues the studio’s trend of making movies that contain messages relevant to both kids and adults who watch their movies. Following the story of sea monsters, Luca and Alberto, who have the ability to take on a human form when they are out of the water, it explores the biases they face in a world that hasn’t taken the time to understand them.
Although prejudice and stereotypes are issues that affect people of all ages, and kids do deal with them, Luca‘s focus on the prejudice against sea monsters means translating the metaphor to real-life parallels, which might not be so obvious to children watching.