by John

Admit it – we have all shed tears during a Disney or Pixar movie. The master storytellers from two animation studios are known to produce films that make viewers feel all the feels. Why are Disney and Pixar titles so good at tugging at our heartstrings? These films often explore sentimental themes like separation, regret, reunion and love. With the help of gorgeous animation and a moving soundtrack score, viewers can easily relate to these universal emotions.

It also helps that the movie characters are animated, thus inducing a sense of affection in viewers. As compared to a bad actor, you are more likely to feel for an adorably animated human (big eyes and wide smiles are often a prerequisite), an unbelievably cute talking animal (any creature from a lion to an ant) or a fictional character (a witty genie or a wise willow tree).

Pixar’s latest film Coco promises to be full of heart as well. Directed by Lee Unkrich, the movie’s protagonist is a young boy who embarks on a journey to reunite his family. Based on the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), the fantasy adventure film featuring the voices of Benjamin Bratt and Gael García Bernal explores poignant issues like culture, family, life and death.

With another notable film that may leave moviegoers crying, here are six moments from Disney and Pixar movies that made us tear up.

1. The Lion King – “Dad, come on. You gotta get up!”

We aren’t sure whether this is the best way to introduce kids to the concept of death. In this 1994 Disney movie, young Simba’s Dad Mufasa gets pushed into the middle of a stampede by the evil Scar. What happens next will tear anyone apart. A powerless Simba appears and tries in vain to wake his father up. He calls out for help but no one hears him.

Whether you are a child or an adult, Hans Zimmer’s Oscar-winning score will hit you when Simba crawls under Mufasa’s limp paw. This crushingly distressing scene will stay with you forever. We are now wondering how Jon Favreau will pull off this iconic sequence in the 2019 live-action remake starring Donald Glover, Beyoncé and Chiwetel Ejiofor . Fun fact: James Earl Jones will be reprising his role as Musfasa!

2. Toy Story 2 – “Because Emily was just the same. She was my whole world.”

Jessie the cowgirl (voiced by the ever-reliable Joan Cusack) may appear to be bubbly and hyperactive in this 1999 Pixar movie, but she has a sad, sad past. When Woody (Tom Hanks) insists going back to his owner Andy, Jessie shares her tale of being abandoned by her previous owner Emily.

In this montage set to the beautiful Oscar-nominated song written by Randy Newman and performed by Sarah McLachlan, we see Emily fondly playing with Jessie, before growing up and shoving her under the bed in favour of nail polish and music records. The saddest moment is seeing Jessie eventually being discarded into a donation box. We are having second thoughts about clearing out our old toys now...

 3. Finding Nemo – “I promise I will never let anything happen to you, Nemo.”

We hear you ask: who’s Coral? That would be Nemo’s Mom, who dies even before the title appears in this 2003 Pixar film. Earning a total of $871 million worldwide by the end of its theatrical run, the movie made countless viewers cry with its heartbreaking opening sequence. We see two clownfish Marlin and Coral looking proudly at eggs which are about to hatch. A menacing barracuda approaches and Coral bravely swims forward to protect her soon-to-be-born babies. The screen cuts to a sudden black.

Marlin wakes up after being knocked out and finds one damaged egg containing Nemo. Grief-stricken, he makes a promise to protect his only son. We shudder to think about what happened to Coral and the rest of the eggs, and take a while to grapple with the fact that a mass murder just took place in this film that was recognised as the Best Animated Feature at the 76th Academy Awards. 

 4. Up – Carl & Ellie

The Best Animated Feature at the 82nd Academy Awards is a deserving winner. The opening montage of this 2009 Pixar movie sees Carl and Ellie’s love story unfold in a movingly tear-jerking manner. We follow the couple as they grow up, fall in love, get married and make plans to travel the world together. All seem happy until - bring on the handkerchiefs - Ellie becomes infertile after suffering a miscarriage.

As the wedded couple grows old, Ellie becomes ill and we bid farewell after she passes away. Carl is heartbroken, and so are we. Accompanied by Michael Giachino’s Oscar-winning score, the sequence portrays life and love much more endearingly than most live-action movies. You are probably lying through your teeth if you claimed that this 10-minute segment didn’t make you shed a single tear.

5. Wreck-It Ralph – “You really are a bad guy.”

In this 2012 Disney movie, Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is an arcade game bad guy who dreams of becoming a good guy. He makes friends with Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), an outcast living in a racing game universe. Just when you thought it will be warm and fuzzy seeing Vanellope presenting Ralph a medal with the words "You're my hero" (he inspired her to be a racer), he wrecks her racing car and crushes her hope of participating in an upcoming race.

While Vanellope isn’t aware that Ralph is trying to keep her safe from a master villain, it is heart-wrenching to hear her sobbing in agony while her car is being wrecked. Silverman does a great job of sounding like a poor child whose hopes are completely shattered. After all, she feels betrayed by the person whom she regarded as a hero. If you ask us, this scene does feel dismally close to many real-life situations.    

6. Big Hero 6 – “Are you satisfied with your care?”

Loosely based on the Marvel comic book series of the same name, this 2014 Disney film tells the story of Hiro, a young boy who forms a superhero team to fight evil. He forms a special friendship with Baymax, an inflatable robot which serves as a healthcare provider companion. During the movie’s finale, Hiro is forced to deactivate Baymax by telling him he is satisfied with his care. This will result in Baymax’s demise as he will be trapped in the abyss of the portal forever.

You will find it difficult to hold back your tears when Baymax calmly explains to Hiro that his sacrifice is the only way of survival and assures him that he will always be with him. The Best Animated Feature at the 87th Academy Awards which grossed over $657.8 million worldwide is a fine example that a story with heart can be a commercial and critical success.