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Disney is my favourite film genre when I’m feeling happy or sad. Blasting out some Aladdin or Mulan when I’m cooking dinner, or having a Disney princess sing-along in my best friend’s car when we have a long drive back home are just a couple of my favourite pastimes. Disney is a shared interest between me and so many of my friends, and we would all argue that you’re never too old for a bit of magic! I also love Disney because my younger brother loves everything Disney and because I’ve been to Disney World with my family. There’s just something about the magical world the franchise has created. Even just the mention of Disney can bring a smile to my face.

On the other hand, I sometimes find that Disney films can be really quite sad, especially recent Disney Pixar movies. One great thing about Disney is that you can always expect a happy resolution but along the way, the characters often experience some pretty heavy story arcs. I think Disney films are really useful tools in introducing big emotions, such as a grief, into the lives of young children – and in helping me cope when I’m sad too, if I’m being honest! In fact, when I’m really low I find myself tearing up even at the mention of some of the really poignant Disney scenes. Equally, there is nothing more reassuring than the happy ending of a Disney film – and when you get through the sad bits and reach that happy conclusion along with the characters, it often gives you the courage to get over the sad blips in your day.

In this article, I’ve listed some beautifully moving moments from five of my favourite Disney Pixar movies – ranked in no particular order. If you’re anything like me, be prepared to cry (even if only through reminiscing). Just remember: it’s Disney, so it all works out okay in the end!

(Disclaimer: there will be spoilers)

1. Up – when Ellie doesn't make it up the hill

This scene continues to get me every time I watch this film, especially when Ellie falls on her way up the hill and they realize they won't be able to make it on their dream trip.There is nothing more heart-warming than the relationship between these two characters, and very few things are more devastating than the thought that they never managed to achieve their great travelling dreams. Nevertheless, the dynamic between these two is beautiful – and it is so very moving when Ellie can no longer run up the hill like she used to. Sometimes I can’t even watch the full scene. It seems amazing that an animated film can capture the reality of grief in this way. Hats off to Pixar – and in memory of the great and adventurous Ellie. We mourn her too, Carl. 

2. The Incredibles – when the plane goes down

The scene where Bob thinks that his wife and kids have perished in the plane crash always makes me either gasp or tear up. It's the moment when Helen reveals that there are children on board and Bob just goes “no!” that I get actual shivers up my spine. The paralyzing grief Bob goes through is visible on his face throughout the scene. There is some very real menace to the villainous Syndrome and it is at this particular moment of the film that you realize just how terrible he really is. Perhaps Disney would never really kill off two child characters in a plane crash, but Mr Incredible doesn’t know that. Bob’s utter defeat in this scene is what makes this part so moving for me. It's also what helps makes the family's later reunion even more powerful.

3. Toy Story 2 – Jessie’s song: “When She Loved Me”

Sometimes I find myself humming this song in my head and then I remember how sad the montage is in the film. Jessie’s backstory is shown to us when this song plays, and for anyone who has ever felt discarded or forgotten, this scene will really resonate with you. There is real power to the lyrics, and to the pain that Jessie is feeling even years after having been discarded by her former owner (and friend). Jessie is not just a toy that Emily has grown out of – she is an image of the feelings of any of the viewers who have ever felt like someone has stopped caring for them. Thankfully, Jessie will not remain unwanted for much longer after this scene, and the family of toys spend the rest of the film showing everyone what can be achieved when you believe in yourself and start trusting that others believe in you again too.

4. Monster’s Inc – When Sully says goodbye to Boo 

When Sully tells Boo that he has to go, my heart breaks every time. His transformation from “top scarer” to top carer is one of my all-time favourite Disney character developments, especially now that we have the prequel film too. Although he sees her as a terrifyingly "toxic" toddler at the beginning of the movie, Boo even manages to win Mike over by the end. This is one of those films that, like The Incredibles did for so long, needs a sequel. Nevertheless, I still love that this film ends with Mike restoring the door and Sully walking through it. It is so terribly moving when they have to say goodbye in the above scene, but waiting for that little ending exchange of “Boo” and “Kitty”, and the way Sully’s face lights up as the screen goes dark is definitely worth it, believe me. 

5. Finding Nemo – “Daddy’s here, Daddy’s Got You"

I’ve always felt that Finding Nemo’s main plot is one of parental strength and love. Marlin loses his wife and so many babies at the beginning of the film and yet he manages to raise Nemo alone and, for the most part, comes across as a loving, caring father. For me, the most moving moment is in one of the opening scenes, when he discovers baby Nemo is alive. The film begins with Marlin holding his son in his arms and telling him everything will be okay even in the face of such great adversity – and that’s how the film concludes as well: with family, and with everything coming together. 

I don’t care that they are animated fish; this film still provides us with one of the most poignant tales of father and son bonding, and the story of Marlin finding Nemo, and Nemo finding that a father’s love knows no bounds seems the most poignant way to FINish (sorry) this article.

And so, all of these moving Disney Pixar scenes are haunting and beautiful, and I know that I'll be glad to laugh and cry along with old (and new) Disney and Disney Pixar movies for years to come. 

Exeter Cornwall undergraduate studying English
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