I love Pixar. I love how they tell unique stories, and how each one is so distinct from the next, but they are all universally relatable. I recently noticed that they all explore different stages of life, and so I thought I would go through and order every Pixar movie, not by quality (which I’ve already done), but almost narratively. This order might be interesting only to me, but if I were to do a full rewatch of every Pixar movie, this is how I would do it.
The first Toy Story movie is about something that everyone has to learn at a very early age. How to share. If you are an older sibling, you had to learn how to share your parent’s attention, or you might learn how to share toys. Whatever it is, this movie is about jealousy, and learning how to overcome it, and how to share.
The Good Dinosaur
A newer movie, this movie is about two things. It’s about experiencing loss for the first time, and it’s about learning who you are as a person. Your first loss, real loss, happens at different times for different people. For some it is a parent at a young age, or it might be a grandparent, maybe it’s a pet, and maybe it doesn’t happen until you’re older. But you learn about yourself in the shadow of that loss. You also learn where your strengths lie at an early age. You find out how you are different from other people, but you have your own strengths, and your strengths are necessary.
Toy Story 2
The second Toy Story film continues this idea of loss and heartbreak. What happens if you let yourself become cold and selfish because of it, or if you continue to open your heart to new family, new friends, and new experiences. Don’t put your heart in a box on the shelf. It’s made to be used.
Now, how do you begin to handle all of that? How do you open yourself up after being hurt, and after loss? By experiencing those emotions, fully. You can’t hide that hurt away and be okay. You have to allow yourself to feel the pain, and work through it, and grow through it. Find those that love you, that want to help you grow, and grow into the person that learns to live with pain. This movie takes place right before puberty hits.
Note: Turning Red, which comes out this year, explores puberty, and so will be slotted here.
If there’s anything universal about being a teenager, it’s getting into arguments with your parents. Merida’s parents want to raise her in a way they see fit, but she wants to live a life different from that. This argument turns to something that could have irreversible consequences, and in order to stop that, Merida has to see things from her mother’s point of view. Learning and empathizing with your parents is a very important moment in childhood, but it’s never an easy lesson.
This is one of the easiest movies to place on this list, because it is a classic high-school adventure/coming of age movie. In the same way you have to see your parents as people, so too do you need to see your siblings as individuals, who need the same things you do; love, acceptance, closure.
Toy Story 3
Speaking of closure, the third installment in the original franchise is all about Andy leaving for college, and his childhood being left behind. How do you handle these extreme changes in life, where everything you’ve known is being left behind, or questioned. Becoming an adult is scary, and there are people that will clearly be villains in your life. Your job is to learn to navigate how everyone else is dealing with this new situation, and find the way you need to.
College! New people, new challenges, new rewards, new freedom. College isn’t a necessary step of life, but it is an intense one, where you learn more out of the classroom than you do in it. The way to succeed in college is very different from how you succeed in High School, and you probably aren’t ready.
A Bug’s Life
This can take place before or after college, depending on whether or not you are a “Gap Year” type of person. Exploring the world, meeting new, strange people, and realizing that the world is not the way your parents told you it was. It’s time to go and see the world.
Now it’s a very different thing, leaving your family for school or adventure, and leaving your family to start your career, and start your life. Remy realizes that he doesn’t want to stay in the family business, he wants to go and create his own destiny. Not only that, but it’s a destiny that his family (initially) disagrees with. Do you succumb to the pressures from your family, do you get sucked into the excitement of the new world, or do you find a balance between the two?
You’re in your career, you’re becoming successful, and you’ve established yourself in your identity. You might start becoming a bit arrogant, but when roadblocks come your way, how are you going to handle them? You cannot lose humility on your way to success, or else you’ll realize just how hollow that success is.
You can become stuck in your rut as an adult. You wake up, you go to work, you get a Rubik’s Cube, and you go back home to watch a movie. It’s very natural, so natural in fact that you look around, and all you see are people that are stuck in this rut too. However, when you find love, you have to let it take you away from what you know, and on this new adventure. You will leave your comfort zone, but the good news is that so will they, and together you’ll achieve things you never could have imagined.
Some people plan to have kids, and some people find out they are having kids. There’s never an easy time, and it will have an impact on your career, and your friendships, in ways that aren’t always adorable. You’ll find though, that the things that were precious to you before, have fallen aside, and you are willing to do whatever it takes for the sake of this child, even though you’ll have no idea what you’re doing.
Now that you have a child, you have the monumental task of protecting them. Sometimes it seems that the whole world is designed to be dangerous, and sometimes your child seems to seek out that danger for some unknown reason. The sacrifices you make as a parent for your children, however, are greater than whatever dangers are out there. While you want your child to stay safe and happy, you know that it is in those moments of danger and chaos that they start to grow into the person that they need to be. It’s always scary, but it’s also always necessary.
You have a family, a job, a home, and maybe a few regrets, you start to think that perhaps your best years are behind you. This is a dangerous time for everyone, which is why the midlife crisis is such a universally understood stage of life. However, if you start to keep secrets, hide decisions you make, it doesn’t matter that you have a nice new car and fun job, it will get you into trouble. Include your loved ones in your decisions, or find yourself in a situation where they will be involved in ways you’ll regret.
The thing about a midlife crisis, is that you still have just as much time on the back half as you did on the front half. Be ready for a rejuvenation in your life, as your career begins taking exciting turns, and you face bigger problems, and find bigger solutions, than you ever thought you could before. Also, don’t be afraid to share the house responsibilities once in a while.
Toy Story 4
The final Toy Story follows Woody as he raises a child, and the frustrations that you deal with. There’s a million questions, they don’t do what you want them to do, and all they seem to want to do is get themselves into trouble, and play in the trash can. But once that time is past, you realize just how special it was. What do you do with all of your free time now that it doesn’t involve taking care of children? The writer came up with this story after his child left for college, and he didn’t know who he was or what he wanted outside of being a parent.
When you start asking these questions of who you are outside of your job, or your family, it’s important to look back to your roots, and remember where you came from. This can be an adventure itself, just remembering who you are. You might find yourself picking up projects from years ago once again, and realizing that you never got to see what happens when you saw it through. Well, now it’s time to see it through.
As you get older, you start to realize that you aren’t on top of your game anymore. Your career or industry is starting to leave you behind. It’s time you start looking for an exit strategy for retirement (more like reTIREment, because he’s a car). A great option is to begin mentoring the younger generation, teaching them things you wish someone had taught you, and seeing them start to achieve things you had only dreamed of. Otherwise, if you try to do it yourself, eventually you’ll be left behind, looking foolish. What legacy do you want to leave behind when you go?
Now you’re retired, and it starts to seem like nothing is happening. It’s a common misconception that you don’t do anything when you’re retired, but in actuality, you can have adventures in your twilight years, just like you can as a child. Sure, the nature and limitations of those adventures will be different, but there’s no reason to think that once you retire you’re just sitting around, waiting to pass. Go find a new adventure, and think about getting a dog.
Soul is all about a dying man. He goes through life, thinking that he would be happy if only X happened. However, as he starts to see his own life through different eyes, through a different perspective, he realizes that his life is still something to be proud of, even if he never did the one thing he wanted to. He still lived a full life, in a beautiful city, with friends and family around, making a difference in other’s lives on a daily basis. When you are lying on your death bed, will you regret the things you never did, or the moments you didn’t cherish?
This is where we end our story. Coco explores the idea of being remembered. They say you die twice, first when you heart stops beating, and the second when someone mentions your name for the last time. Will you have lived a life where your family will remember you? Will you have a legacy? Or will you have made choices where your family chooses to forget you, chooses to never mention your name again? Only you can make that decision.
Don’t watch Cars 2.