/Answers: Our Favorite Pixar Characters

Vanessa Bogart: Helen Parr/Elastigirl

If I had been asked this question ten years ago, I would have never said Elastigirl (Holly Hunter). When I saw The incredibles in 2004, Elastigirl was little more than the wife and mother that wouldn’t let anyone have any fun. However, when I watch The Incredibles now, as a wife that hopes to one day be a mother, Elastigirl is a queen. She is the glue to her family. She has her glory days just like her husband, Mr. Incredible, but she has to put those memories on the back burner in order to protect her family and support her increasingly distant, depressed, husband. Every time she releases a defeated sigh or an eye roll, I look over to my very own Mr. Incredible at the other end of the couch with that “Yeah, it’s kinda like that” look. Of course my husband just lets out a short laugh, a pat on my leg, and the usual, “but baby…I am incredible.”

Elastigirl’s secret identity, Helen Parr, is just as much a superhero as her spandex-wearing self. When I used to watch The Incredibles, I never thought that I would be like Elastigirl. Everyone wants to be Mr. Incredible. Everyone wants to believe that they would never be able to put away their dream. That they would be the one out there doing secret vigilante work and still trying to save the people. It takes some growing up and some solid life experience, and maybe even finding that person that you want to take care of forever, to really realize how fantastic of a character Elastigirl is. She is so much stronger than I ever gave her credit for as a young adult. Elastigirl is the Pixar character that I need in my adult life. She gets shit done. Picking up her kids from school? Done. Making dinner? Done. Cleaning the house? Done. Rescuing her husband? Done. Saving the world? DONE. What a beast.

Chris Evangelista: Sadness

As a professionally miserable person, I find great comfort in the character of Sadness from Inside Out. As voiced by Phyllis Smith, Sadness is one of the guiding emotions that exist in the mind of a 11-year-old girl named Riley who is trying to come to terms with her new life after her family packs up and moves her across the country. Inside Riley’s mind, we get to meet her guiding emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). And, of course, there’s Sadness.

Sadness is at first seen as a nuisance – a troublemaker who keeps bringing everyone down while uttering highly relatable dialogue like “Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.” Yet as the film progresses, it shows that, in many ways, Sadness is essential. That human beings as a whole need more emotions than just happiness. It can be hard to accept that sometimes, it’s okay to be sad, especially when you’re dealing with depression. Anyone who doesn’t suffer from depression has a tendency to not understand how it works, and to offer unhelpful advice that amounts to little more than saying, “You should just cheer up!” There’s a stigma with depression; a sense, by some, that it’s easily controllable – something to be turned off and on like the flip of a switch.

Inside Out stops short of going into the territory of mood disorders, such as clinical depression, because hey — there’s only so much you can probably get away with in a colorful Disney movie. And also I don’t think Riley’s sadness is of the clinical or mood disorder variety. But the implications and some of the signs are there. And more importantly, the acceptance of Sadness is there as well. In the end, it’s Sadness, not Joy, who saves the day. Joy, who has spent most of the film trying to tamp Sadness down and act as if she doesn’t exist, learns that the emotion can be just as valuable as any other. Also, it’s hard to resist a character who gets to say things like, “I’m too sad to walk. Just give me a few…hours.”

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