Let's just get the most obvious thing out of the way: I cried during Toy Story 3. We're not talking stinging eyes like I experienced with UP, or the chin wobble I experienced at the end of Wall E, but shook off in the shiny happiness of the end. We're talking full blown sobs and an inability to breathe. I'm famous in my family for sitting stony faced through everything and laughing at them, and I'd been teasing my Twitter friends for their emotional Toy Story 3 frailty. So shocking was my outburst of emotion that my mom took a photo and Tweeted it. Friends are still laughing and commiserating with me. I deserve all jeers.
Even days later, I can't get over just how bad I felt. This wasn't cathartic crying. It was guilt, agony and the keen sense of my own mortality. My mom and I were joking about how the kids in line weren't even born when the first Toy Story came out, so that was already on my mind. We can all measure time by franchises like these. I was thirteen in 1995, and I remember wondering if I was just too old to be watching Toy Story. After all, I'd seen Braveheart that year and was crushing on Mel Gibson, so everything else paled. In 1999, I was 17, and had snapped out of I'm-too-old-for-this for Toy Story 2. That year, we also got a pug puppy named Quincy, who my sister nicknamed Bullseye because of his round eyes, and his penchant for licking things as obsessively and happily as Bullseye laps up the Cheeto dust. Fast forward to 2010, and Quincy is now old, and just recently went blind. (PIXAR, thanks for putting an old dog and a crying Bullseye in 3. Why not just rip my heart out and show it to me? Seriously, that would be easier.)
Oh man, here I go. Keep it together, Rappe.
Ok. Ok, I'm back. Ahem.
Growing up is, obviously, something we all do. And we celebrate it. I'm not just talking about birthdays, but the way each adult milestone of your journey is celebrated -- sweet 16, your first car, your ability to vote, your graduation, college, your first legal drink. We await these with impatience. Life is going to be so sweet once you can drink, travel, make new friends, meet romantic partners. At 11 or 12, it just doesn't seem to happen soon enough.
I was a kid who matured quickly. My teachers told my parents when I was in kindergarten that I was a 30 year old trapped in a kid's body. (What a freaky observation! It makes me wonder what the hell I was like.) I was a really good and responsible kid. And I was obsessed with being old enough to get a job, because I wanted so many things: books, movies, a stereo, cassette tapes, figurines from Disneyland, a bomber jacket. I had my own pet-sitting business by the time I was 11 or 12, and I couldn't wait to go to college. I was done being a kid. Being a kid was lame. My parents warned me that I'd eat my words someday. Fast forward to 28, and my losing my self-control at Toy Story 3. They were right. Oh hell, were they ever right. What was I thinking? Why did I want to grow-up? Why didn't I spend every waking minute playing with my Barbies and Ninja Turtles, reading comics and watching cartoons? Why was I trying to earn volunteer credits? Why did time move so fast? Did I play with my dogs enough? Did I love my toys enough?
And about those toys -- I have a basement full. Just a few weeks ago, I was thinking it was time to just haul it all to the Goodwill and free myself of old memories and belongings. I was feeling very zen about it. Who needs belongings when life is so temporary, and all that. Well, guess who is keeping her Barbies and stuffed toys forever?
I recognize this is a form of madness, just as I recognize I'm not the only one who feels this way after walking out of Toy Story 3. I'm not going to say PIXAR is sinister or has a dubious message (even if I'm picturing them as a cheerier, more colorful Mola Ram), but I wonder why they make growing up feel so very, very bad. Surely we shouldn't be fretting about what we did with our toys, and frantically rushing into basements, attics, and crawlspaces to see what remains. They're just belongings, even if they're powerful reminders of happy days.
We should be glad we grew up -- it is exciting to take that first solo trip, to have that first car, to go college -- and as a society, we've got a real problem about clinging to youth and immaturity. People don't grow up as fast as they used to. Yet as much as we cling to our salad days, PIXAR is still reminding us that so much of what made childhood fun is all boxed up and trash-bagged. It reminds us of what we really want to go back to. I know that if a genie granted me three wishes, it would no longer involve a castle and Gerard Butler, it would be to go back and be 8 years old, forever. I'm reminded of that gut-wrenching line from Adaptation: "I want my life back ... I want to be a baby again. I want to be new. I WANT TO BE NEW."
I could be bright-eyed and say that PIXAR is merely reminding us to always stay a child at heart, or to cherish our memories, or that life renews itself. Yes, I see those themes, but I don't feel them through my tears and pain. PIXAR makes growing up feel like one of the soul's ultimate betrayals. But why make me hate something I couldn't prevent?