Pixar Has A Secret Formula For Making Audiences Cry

A great movie is an emotional journey. The movie makers at Pixar have become masters of taking us on emotional journeys over the years. Now we know who’s to blame for making us pull out the tissues whenever we sit down for a "fun" Pixar movie.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Kevin Nolting, editor of this weekend’s big release Inside Out says there is a secret to making those emotional moments work:

I think the secret is the combination of Pete Docter and (co-director) Ronnie Del Carmen. Pete has the initial idea, and then he lets Ronny run with it and something magical happens. … [The moments] are always very relatable, but we have to earn it. We can’t just add a sad beat because we need a sad beat in the movie. We spend a lot of time making sure we can get to that sad beat, that the audience is ready and that we’re not forcing it on the audience. The character arc has to take you there.

Pete Docter was also the director for one of Pixar’s previous features, Up! so he does know a thing or two about emotional content. That film contained a sequence, only about four minutes long and without any dialogue, that took viewers through the entire married life of lead character Carl and his wife Ellie. We’re pretty sure it makes Terminators cry. Del Carmen was also a story supervisor on both Up! and Finding Nemo.

We know Inside Out deals with the emotions and memories of the child Riley so there will certainly be ample opportunity for Pixar to tug on the heartstrings again. At the same time, as Nolting says, it’s something that they work to earn, not just an emotional moment for the sake of having one. It can be difficult to prevent attempts at emotion from becoming corny, especially in an animated film, where the characters are another step removed from reality, but Pixar seems to have truly found the way to make the emotion come through. Whether it’s the death of Ellie in Up!, or Nemo’s mother in Finding Nemo, the loneliness of Wall-E, the separation of Boo and Sully in Monsters Inc., the letting go of one’s childhood in Toy Story 3, the...I...I’m sorry, where was I?

Inside Out is sure to be an emotional rollercoaster but it will be one be one worth riding for most fans. The only problem is that we’re usually given about a year to recover from these journeys, and this time we only have a few months. Pixar’s next film, which we also expect to be ripe with potential tear jerking, The Good Dinosaur will be out this fall.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.