The 5 “Dustiest” Pixar Movie Moments

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by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck

in Lists

Beginning with Toy Story in 1995, Pixar has now fully produced thirteen major feature films, each one invoking a wide spectrum of emotions in its viewers. Their successful formula involves creating a certain level of buy-in, making us care about animated characters more than we ever had in the past.

Sometimes Pixar waits until you’re emotionally invested in the story to hit you with a tear-jerker moment, and sometimes they hit you with it right out of the gate. Here are 5 Pixar moments that never fail to reduce me to a slobbering pile.


5. Toy Story 3 – Andy gives his toys to Bonnie

The end of Toy Story 3 really was a fitting end to a great trilogy. Watching any characters say goodbye to each other after 3 feature films worth of adventures together is bound to be an emotional send off. Add in the fact that the movie began with the toys plotting ways to get Andy to play with them just once more, and you have quite the emotional payoff as they get their wish.



4. Cars – the fall of Radiator Springs

Oh big deal. So they paved a superhighway and bypassed a small town, so what?

On the surface, it just seems like business as usual- but this is where Pixar’s bread is buttered: the James Taylor song, the flashbacks, the emotion. Sally takes Lightning McQueen up to the old site of the Wagon Wheel Motel, for a bird’s eye view of the town below. As she tells him the story of the birth of Route 66, we see a vintage era bustling town. It’s 40 years in the past; everyone is happy, and the local businesses thrive as they welcome tourists passing through town on their way across country.

radiator springs

Then Route 66 is completed, bypassing Radiator Springs and redirecting traffic around what will become a sleepy old midwest town. The customers start disappearing (literally), businesses start to close due to lack of traffic, and you see the livelihood sapped from their owners’ faces. The story is based on a whole bunch of real towns and places like this.

Let’s say your grandparents owned a family business- just picture your dear old grandad’s face the day they shut their doors for good due to a lack of customers. Choked up a little?


3. Finding Nemo – Coral dies

A barracuda eats Marlin’s wife and all but one of his unborn children in the opening scene, come on. Thankfully they got this out of the way early so we still had some soda to wash down that gigantic lump in our throat.



2. Toy Story 2 – Jessie’s backstory

When Woody is separated from “his kid” in Toy Story 2, Jessie and the rest of the Woody’s Roundup gang are elated. Reuniting with their cowboy main character meant they could come out of storage once and for all, destined to be displayed in a Japanese museum.

When Woody refuses to go, an emotionally shaken Jessie reveals her own story of how she too was once a very special kid’s favorite toy. Until that one goddamn day.

jessie toy story

They set you up with an original Sarah McLachlan song, so you’re instantly in that ‘holy crap there are so many helpless dogs without homes and food in this world’ frame of mind. Regardless of the song’s somber tone, the flashbacks show Jessie living every toy’s dream- the apple of her owner’s eye, sharing every waking moment.

One day Jessie falls behind the bed, and instead of being saved by Emily she lays there for years, watching her pre-teen owner have nail polish parties with her friends. She’s been forgotten. Dust collects.

That’s not even the sad part.

Years pass and Jessie continues to fade into childhood memory when suddenly she’s extracted from under the bed. She beams as Emily puts her in her purse and takes her in the car. Best friends reunited, just like old times! Does it get any better?

toy story jessie emilys purse

Just as you raise your arms above your head in a Rocky-Balboa-at-the-top-of-the-steps moment of exhaltation, Pixar sucker punches you in your emotionally exposed gut. The car stops, Jessie is placed in a box, and looks up to see Emily’s car drive away. A wide shot reveals Jessie’s new digs- a donation center.

It’s OK to cry here, at least that’s what I tell myself every time I see it.


1. Up – the first 12 minutes

Oh. My. Jesus.

After running the animated emotional gauntlet that is the opening scene of Up, the first question I asked aloud was “Why in the hell did no one tell me it was going to be like this?!”

disney pixar up sad scene ellie

The fast-moving life story of Carl Fredricksen and the love of his life, Ellie, is breathtakingly well executed. The top commenter on this YouTube clip sums it up perfectly: Pixar did in little over five minutes what Twilight couldnt achieve in 5 movies, create an actual love story.

Here’s the whole gut-wrenching thing. If you can get through it with dry eyes, what’s it like being a robot who reads blogs?


Howie DeckerHowie Decker (@HowardtheDeck) is the chief blogger and editor of UnderScoopFire. He likes fantasy baseball & taco night. You can read his Letter from the Editor here.



{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

@eclectik March 5, 2013 at 12:19 am

Guess what?

I’ve never seen any of these movies, ever. Not a Single Toy Story not an Up
I dont judge you for “Dusty Moments” … when it looked like Turbo and Ozone almost lost Miracles in Electric Boogaloo I coulda lost it lol


Howie Decker March 5, 2013 at 9:58 am

I hadn’t either before kids. A long time ago I tried to watch Toy Story 1 (before family) and couldn’t get through 20 minutes of it. Now, I don’t mind watching it when it’s “family time” on TV, especially because it’s better than the alternative (Dora and the other awful repetitive 30 minute shows).


Spikor March 5, 2013 at 6:22 am

I don’t remember Finding Nemo, so I don’t know if I’d personally put it above Toy Story 3, but it sounds terrible, so you’re probably 100% right.

I’ve only seen Up the once, even though I loved it, because I don’t think I can take watching that opener again.

Great article.


Howie Decker March 5, 2013 at 9:56 am

Thanks Spikor! Yeah, after seeing the opening of Up my wife said she’d never watch the movie again (this coming from someone who is stuck in a house where weekend days are dominated by Disney movies)


Corey Chapman March 5, 2013 at 7:53 am

This is fantastic. I could argue that the list should be expanded to 10. I have a few more that get me “dusty” including Sully saying goodbye to Boo in Monsters, Inc. and all the toys holding hands as they prepare to “die” in Toy Story 3. You know, for kids movies, they sure do pull at the heart strings of adults…


Jason Gross (@SockOfFleagulls) March 5, 2013 at 8:31 am

Nice pull, Cor. Those two are worthy of the list.


Howie Decker March 5, 2013 at 9:54 am

I love how “nice pull” has entered our lexicon. Thank you, Cold Slither!


Howie Decker March 5, 2013 at 9:55 am

absolutely. I had a hard time leaving Sully/Boo and a couple of others off, but couldn’t take away any of the five I had. Yeah, that Up scene is one of the most grown up scenes in any animated movie ever.


James March 5, 2013 at 9:08 am

Couldn’t agree more with all of these. There could definitely be ten, but I’d have a hard time putting any of the additional 5 in above any of these.


Justin March 5, 2013 at 9:18 am

“…what’s it like being a robot who reads blogs?”


I don’t get too shaken by Andy passing down his toys, but the near-end of Toy Story 3 where they are all in the incinerator… facing their demise. Gets me every time.

Oh yeah, and that Nemo moment. Damn. What the hell Pixar? You’re killing us.


Howie Decker March 5, 2013 at 9:53 am

I know, right? Yeah, that incinerator moment got me good the first time I saw it.. how they all hold hands.. jeez!


Brian (Cool and Collected) March 5, 2013 at 10:56 am

I remember taking the kids to see Toy Story 3 in the theater and that scene with Andy going off to college just tore me up. Glad it was a dark theater. ahem. How ’bout dem Bears, huh?


Howie Decker March 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm



More0_0Than March 5, 2013 at 11:24 am

My wife and I are were big Pixar fans even before we had kids, it’s amazing the life lessons and heart tugging moments that are included in these movies @Howie- I’m with your wife, that opening to Up just about did me in


Howie Decker March 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I was absolutely floored by how sad that scene was. It caught me off guard, but watching it again it still has the same effect.


Fogs March 5, 2013 at 11:32 am

Nice post Howie. I agree with Up being number one. But Andy giving his toys away is way too low. 🙁 THAT’S a dusty moment! 😀


Howie Decker March 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm

It really is. Thanks Fogs!


Missy Chapman March 5, 2013 at 11:36 am

Great article How. I balled like a baby during toy Story 2 when Jessie’s part came on, like full blown snot dripping shaking sobs. Corey and I still have a hard time throwing away or donating our kids old stuffed animals for fear that they may cue up a Sarah Machlauglin song. So out attic is riddled with toys. Thanks Pixar. Up, well that nearly sent me over the edge. Couldn’t watch it after the first time either. Hits too close to home with some of the topics. It never ceases to amaze me how these movies can turn you into a puddle in less than 5 minutes. I cry at every movie, but these are ridiculous! Again, nicely done!


Howie Decker March 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Thanks! Yeah, I feel the same about toys, mainly because I know how cool it would be to be able to go in the basement of the house I grew up in and have access to ALL of my toys and stuff from growing up. If you have the space, keeping that stuff is the greatest gift you can give a kid. They won’t realize it for 20-25 years, but still.


Will March 5, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Yeah, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve only seen Up from this list. Here’s the saddest part: I own most of them, but never watched them. My 74 yr old mom loves cartoons, so I buy them all for her, but I’ve never seen them. Lucky for her, she basically owns all the Pixar and Dreamworks films. I’ll get to them one of these days.


Howie Decker March 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Another of the “pop culture dark spots” that you mentioned on the Classick Team Up! Looks like we have our What’s The Scoop 2 topic! (stacking the deck) (just kidding) (Dick Decker rules)


Armando March 5, 2013 at 9:48 pm

couldn’t agree more with your choices, although the cars that stayed behind in that dusty shit hole called Radiator Springs got what they deserved. The other owners of those businesses understood the principle of location, location, location. Mater and the rest of those short-sighted assholes stuck around to try and turn a turd into gold. What they got instead was the cartoon version of The Hills Have Eyes.


Howie Decker March 5, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Haha!! Disney/Pixar presents: The Cars Have Eyes


Corey Chapman March 6, 2013 at 10:00 am


Dingo March 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm

These were all good, but besides the others mentioned in the comments, there’s one that got to me as a husband and a father. In “The Incredibles”, they’re about to go fight the big robot, Mr. Incredible tries to keep Elastigirl back from the fight saying, “I’m not strong enough”. She goes off on him about what he means, and he pulls back and says, “I’m not strong enough to lose you.”


Howie Decker March 6, 2013 at 8:31 pm

You know, The Incredibles is the only Pixar movie I haven’t seen! Been dying to lately, but can’t find the dvd anywhere. Perhaps it’s time to pull the trigger on Amazon..


Janice June 28, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Hi Howie,

Just read your list and totally agree with you on all. “The Incredibles” is a must see movie for sure. It doesn’t have the sobbing moments of the movies you mentioned but it still has it’s moments. It was an excellent action movie that totally outshines a lot of action movies out today. I’m a huge Pixar fan and I believe I’ve seen and own almost all of them.

Great article by the way….


Howard Decker June 28, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Thanks for the encouraging comment!

Yes, since writing this I have seen The Incredibles and agree with your assessment. It IS as good or better than most big budget action/superhero films. It’s very encouraging that the creator Brad Bird is involved with the new JJ Abrams-directed Star Wars movies.

I think we now have every Pixar film as well, besides A Big’s Life, which neither my 4 year old nor I can seem to get into..


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