What Makes Adults Cry Watching Cartoon Movies?

toy story movies, disney movies
Having a good cry during cartoons

The latest of the Toy Story movies was talked about mostly for its ability to make grown men cry. The actual storyline — that of any run-of-the-mill escape movie — weren’t all that original. And you knew that, like any other Disney or Pixar movie, the toys would survive and be OK.

So why the water works? Especially on behalf of the humans in the film? How did watching Andy playing one last time with his favorites leave so many of us weeping behind those ridiculous 3-D glasses?

One word: Prolactin.

And also some expert emotional manipulators. But first with the breastfeeding hormone:

Studies have found the presence of prolactin in tears. Remember, prolactin is the hormone that, when enough of it is released, gets the milk factory going. Men produce prolactin, too, just not usually enough to feed a newborn.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women are known for their easy tears, so maybe prolactin has something do with that. But men, who famously cried during Toy Story 3, don’t have that excuse. So what gives?

Well, the filmmakers know how to get people going. During that scene in Toy Story 3, when we were just sure all the toys would be incinerated? Director Lee Unkrich tells Time magazine that he imagined what it would be like to be on a crashing airplane with his own children.

Buttons pushed, triggers pulled. Dad, Mom and every other grown-up who has ever loved another is emotionally primed. Cut to the cartoon humans coming of age, saying good-bye, no longer looking back and, cue the tears: you’re a goner.

I get a little misty just thinking about it.

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Article Posted 6 years Ago

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