The anatomy of Pixar's sad face
It’s not necessarily a prerequisite for a Pixar movie, but it seems that the common trend is that they make us cry. And I’m not talking a little tear here and there throughout the movie, but more like, full out bawling in a dark and crowded theater. Pixar’s newest film, Inside Out, appears to tackle our inner crying demons head on, with an actual character in the movie called Sadness. Here’s the just released image of her:
(Hey, she looks just like us at the beginning of Up!)
While Sadness might be the physical embodiment of sadness — and she’s voiced by Phyllis from The Office — this is not the first sad Pixar character. For animated figures, the folks over at Pixar do a pretty good job conveying emotion—particularly sadness. There seems to be a formula for the look, no matter if you’re a toy or a monster. It’s actually really simple: it’s all in the eyebrows. There is nothing more heartbreaking than a little animated creature with his/her eyebrows pointing upwards. That is just the saddest thing you will ever, ever see on a movie screen. If you need more proof, consider the Pixar sad face hall of fame.
Woody has just realized that he’s no longer the toy in charge of Andy’s room, and it’s hitting him hard. He’s got the token arched eyebrows from all sad Pixar characters, and you can clearly see on his face that he is contemplating his whole plastic existence. Does he then go do something like push Buzz out a window? Yes, but here we really feel for him.
Here’s the exact moment in time when Buzz Lightyear realizes that he is not a flying toy. He stares blankly ahead, but with so much emotion in his face for a space toy. Just like Woody, suddenly his whole world is shattered down to his very existence. Oh did you just want to watch all of Randy Newman’s “I Will Go Sailing No More” and cry a little bit more?
Promise this is the last sad toy, promise. But, here we have Jessie who has just been left by the side of the road in a donations box. One second she’s the best friend of her girl, Emily, the next she’s simply a forgotten memory. And oh gosh, do we feel for Jessie as she sings about the time somebody loved her. There’s just so much emotion in not only the song, but in Jessie’s features, and if a toy could cry, she would. Once again, those eyes big enough to be fit for a Disney princess, and the perfectly arched eyebrows which tells us that this is the worst its ever been for her.
As far as Sulley is concerned, his girl Boo has just been crushed into a tiny little monster box, and he witnessed the first thing. His whole body shakes, his lips tremble, if this .gif could cry out, we’d hear his low hollow sob for the loss of his little friend. The way his mouth moves, almost forming words but too shocked to do so, really hits home. This is how we’d all react to a traumatizing life event.
Full disclosure, Ratatouille makes me cry in so many places because I believe in the dream of little chef, Remy. But time and time again Remy is told that he can’t do what he wants to do, and for being a tiny little rat, he manages to pull all of our heartstrings. I can’t look at this picture without wanting to weep myself. Those eyes! The slouched ears! The way his whiskers droop! It’s too much for a cartoon.
Sad Mr. Incredible
Sadness doesn’t always stream from one solitary moment — for Mr. Incredible it’s the sadness of his everyday mundane life. He sits behind a desk all day, he gets stuck in traffic every day, and he’s no longer the guy he used to be. His eyes say it all here, and we can really feel for the fact that he no longer considers himself incredible. While he’s a big guy, his whole body seems so small here as he slouches over, ready for another day to simply end.
OK, Wall-E doesn’t even have eyebrows he still manages to pull off the eyebrow arch—maybe the most out of all the sad characters.Wall-E has been alone on Earth for as long as he can remember, doing the same thing day after day as if it does anything for the desolate planet. He looks up at the sky, wondering what else is out there, and he is a robot who shows so much emotion in two metal eyes. Not only can we see the sadness here, but all of his hopes and dreams of a different life, too.
Oh, you didn’t think Pixar could make a movie with two sad robots? Eve is watching the shell of her friend Wall-E operate with a completely new directive and it breaks her heart. Eve has no facial features other than her eyes, but notice how they’re animated, all upturned and such.
Finding Nemo starts off very intensely. Within the first five minutes Marlin becomes a single dad tasked with taking care of the last remaining egg, Nemo. Though he doesn’t exactly have a human head, it’s so clear the emotion that Marlin is going through right now with his entire underwater world suddenly ripped apart. He’s a sad fish! Show me someone else who can make a clown fish sad.
Major props to whomever was in charge of animating Merida’s wild red hair for this film, She’s just gotten into another fight with her mother, and every part of her shows it, including her hair. Tightly clinched eyes and a tight grip on her horse, Angus, and we all feel for the daughter who just wants to live her life freely.
Maybe Dory can’t remember anything longer than five seconds ago, but she knows what’s in her heart. She knows that when she’s with Marlin, she’s got someone special with her and when he tells her to go away, she can’t take it. We can’t take it.
The saddest Pixar sad face of all: Dug, in the cone of shame. There is nothing sadder than a dog that’s been confined to the cone, especially a dog as special as Dug. We feel you, buddy.
So what have we learned here? For starters, if you want a case of the cries, take an animated character, make their eyes big and blinky and turn their eyebrows skyward. It really doesn’t matter what their predicament is. We will feel for them if their face looks all Pixar sad.