Pixar Movies Are Required by Disney To Be Sad, Animator Reveals

in Disney, Pixar

An elderly animated character wearing glasses reads a book intently, sitting in a cozy, patterned armchair by a window with sunlight filtering through.

Credit: Pixar

If you’ve ever broken down sobbing because of Pixar Animation Studios, it turns out there was a reason for that: the Walt Disney Company mandates it.

The Pixar logo with characters
Credit: Pixar

Since it released its first feature film, Toy Story (1995), Pixar has been considered a leader in both the future of animation and deeply emotive storytelling. The company has a complicated history, first being created as part of Lucasfilm, passing through the hands of Steve Jobs, and finally ending up as a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company in 2006, ironically just a few years before its original parent company did the same.

Buzz lightyear, jessie, and woody from "toy story" look worried as they face a perilous situation, surrounded by a fiery backdrop.
Credit: Pixar

For decades now, Pixar has produced masterpieces like Finding Nemo (2003), WALL-E (2008), and Up (2009). Even as the years go by and the animation studio loses some of the public goodwill it once held, it cannot be denied that it has created some of the most emotionally effective children’s movies of all time. By and large, one thing links these films: they are actually pretty sad.

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A purple, animated character with large eyes and shaggy fur, holding a microphone in one hand and three colorful candies in the other, surrounded by a crowd of black spheres.
Credit: Pixar

From the opening scene of Finding Nemo, in which Marlin (Albert Brooks) shockingly loses his wife to a deadly predator, to the tearjerking erasure of imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind) in Inside Out (2015), Pixar movies are shockingly stuffed with tragedy. According to a new interview with a longtime Pixar staffer, that’s no accident.

Speaking to UNILAD, animator Jason Deamer, whose work includes Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Brave (2012), and Turning Red (2022), revealed that Pixar films are sad because of the collective creative direction of Disney. He says, “It’s like a philosophical thing that comes from creative leadership… I think just stylistically, the creative leads of the studio kind of believe in that approach to storytelling.”

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Academy Award-winning producer Mark Nielsen chimed in to further explain the frequent usage of trauma and sadness as a plot point in Pixar films: “I feel like it always starts by finding something really personal to talk about, and it’s coming from the filmmaker, usually exploring something from their history or their own life that really changed them or affected them.”

A concerned-looking marlin, a clownfish, peers at a small, red, cheerful-looking fish in a dimly lit underwater scene with soft corals around.
Credit: Pixar

Pixar Animation Studios has always been somewhat distanced from Walt Disney Pictures, but it cannot be denied that the same kind of death and sadness-filled storytelling that once typified Disney movies like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) is reflected in its modern-day films. Considering the massive acclaim of Pixar over the years, it’s safe to say it works.

What’s the saddest Pixar movie? Tell us your most emotional Disney experience in the comments below!

in Disney, Pixar

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