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Image: Woody from "Toy Story"
Pixar
Cowboy Woody, so beautifully voiced by Tom Hanks, led Andy's toys through three wonderful Pixar films.
By
TODAY.com
updated 10/6/2011 12:07:02 PM ET 2011-10-06T16:07:02
OPINION

In the final scene of the "Toy Story" trilogy, Woody the cowboy doll sits on the steps of his new home and watches the boy who's owned him for nearly two decades drive off to college.

"So long, pardner," he says wistfully, and in those three little words, he sums up a childhood, a young adulthood, a lifetime.

On Wednesday, the world said "so long, pardner" to Steve Jobs. Yes, he founded Apple, but he also bought computer-animation studio Pixar from "Star Wars" mogul George Lucas, paying just $10 million in 1986. Without his leadership, we wouldn't have any of the dozen wonderful animated films that a generation has grown up watching over and over again.

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Everyone's got their favorite of the 12 Pixar films. Here are our top five.

Vote: What's your favorite Pixar film?

1. 'Toy Story'
This 1995 film gave Pixar its start and introduced viewers to a beloved group of toys with personality to spare. Cowboy Woody and spaceman Buzz start off as enemies but must pull together when they end up trapped in neighbor kid Sid's house with the mutant toys he's reassembled. The witty film, jammed with familiar voices (Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz. Cliff Clavin — OK, John Ratzenberger — as Hamm the piggy bank) is smart enough for adults yet simple enough to break your heart. If only all our toys loved us the way Woody loves Andy.

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2. 'Finding Nemo'
The message here: Families will go miles, through stinging clouds of jellyfish, dark caverns, and well into the unknown, to reunite. Clownfish Marlin loses his son, little Nemo, to a dentist's office tank, and along with cheerful but short-memoried Dory, sets out to swim Australia's Great Barrier Reef to find him. The film smoothly combines two journeys — Marlin and Dory's swim and Nemo's adventures in the tank — and all ends happily. And Dory's advice to Marlin is a good tip for us all in this crazy world. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

Slideshow: Animated films take flight

3. 'Cars'
You may want to head out on Route 66 after watching "Cars," the story of sportscar Lightning McQueen and his unwanted sojourn in the dusty town of Radiator Springs. His love interest is Porsche (and lawyer!) Sally Carrera, but it's the wonderful Doc Hudson (voiced by Paul Newman in one of his final roles) who teaches Lightning about love and loyalty. It's hard to find a kid who doesn't own at least something with the "Cars" logo on it.

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4. 'Toy Story 3'
In "Toy Story 2," a fine film as well, the toys almost go to Japan. In "Toy Story 3," they end up donated to a daycare, which at first seems like paradise but then quickly turns into a prison camp. The film contains one of the most shocking and scary scenes for young viewers, when the toys are on a moving belt heading toward a junkyard incinerator. It would take a cold, cold heart to not tear up as you watch the toys grab hands and silently prepare for the flames. Of course, they're saved, and the entire trilogy ties up sweetly, with owner Andy heading off to college and the toys finding a new home with young Bonnie. So long, pardner indeed.

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5. 'Up'
If you want to see what makes Pixar so great, watch the four-minute wordless sequence of "Up" in which Carl and Ellie wed, buy and fix up a house, dream of babies that never come, and save for their dream trip. It's a breathtakingly condensed look at life and love. Other expenses get in the way, and suddenly, Carl's alone, the trip never taken. So he attaches balloons to his house and takes off on the trip without her, but learns too late that he's not alone. And the message of the film is, neither are we.

Tell us about your favorite Pixar film on Facebook.

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Vote: Which is your favorite Pixar film?

Video: Steve Jobs: Remembering a visionary

  1. Transcript of: Steve Jobs: Remembering a visionary

    MATT LAUER, co-host: And I'm Matt Lauer . Because Steve Jobs was a guy who touched our lives in so many ways, reaction to his death has been pouring in from all around the world . Overnight a makeshift memorial is now in place outside of Apple 's headquarters -- that's in Cupertino , California -- following the sad death of that company's founder and visionary Steve Jobs . If you look this morning at -- simply at the apple .com on my iPad here, you will see a simple tribute to Jobs , a black-and-white photo with the dates that he was born and he died.

    CURRY: Because it's hard to overstate the impact that he had on all of our lives. I mean, he never graduated from college ...

    LAUER: Right.

    CURRY: ...and yet who doesn't have at least an iPod or an iPad or an iPhone or a personal computer ?

    LAUER: You know, I think -- obviously, this did not come as a shock to people, because we had watched his health deteriorate over the years...

    CURRY: Hm.

    LAUER: ...since he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer . He appeared very frail in recent months. But still, when it finally happens, you stop and you really take notice.

    CURRY: No question, you know. He also -- in a commencement address to Stanford University in 2005 , he had something really pretty wonderful he -- to say. He said, "Remembering that you're going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose." And he added, "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life."

    LAUER: Yeah, as I mentioned, tributes immediately poured in as the news of his death spread. President Obama released a statement saying in part, "There may be no greater tribute to Steve 's success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device that he invented."

    CURRY: Yeah. And Bill Gates , Jobs ' one-time rival and co-founder of

    Microsoft, had this to say: "The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come." And then there's this from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg , who said, "Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world."

    MATT LAUER, co-host: Let us get right to NBC 's George Lewis . He's at Apple 's headquarters in Cupertino , California . George , good morning to you.

    GEORGE LEWIS reporting: Good morning, Matt. This is a very sad day for Apple 's 47,000 employees worldwide. They're mourning Steve Jobs , a man who dropped out of college and had no formal schooling in computer engineering but figured out a way to make tech sexy and transformed Apple into the world's most valuable company. He was a college dropout who co-founded Apple Computer in 1976 and within a few years became fabulously wealthy.

    Mr. DAN LYONS (Newsweek): He's kind of a regular guy who started in his garage with this idea, with a friend, and built this thing into this multibillion-dollar business.

    LEWIS: His secret, wow the consumers with cool designs and ease of use.

    Mr. STEVE JOBS: When it comes to consumer computer users , the computer industry hasn't done a really good job of trying to understand them and understand their desires and their needs.

    LEWIS: So in 1984 he introduced the Macintosh , calling it "insanely great." There was a famous Super Bowl ad for the Mac , running only once on TV but seen millions of times on YouTube .

    LEWIS: Apple didn't always prevail. Faced with tough competition, the company struggled, trying to gain a share of the personal computer market. And Steve Jobs had an abrasive personality that contributed to his ouster from Apple in 1985 .

    Mr. LYONS: There's a -- the brilliant, genius, visionary side of him that burned very, very bright, and there was this terrible dark side to him, too.

    LEWIS: He went into the movie business, acquiring Pixar Studios in 1986 , making a string of hit computer-animated films starting with " Toy Story ."

    LEWIS: Then, after an 11-year absence, he was brought back to Apple , where his creativity revitalized the company. The iPod changed the way people listened to their music.

    Mr. JOBS: Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone.

    LEWIS: And across the country, there were long lines for the first iPhones in 2007 . Then three years later, they lined up for the iPad , changing the way people consume media.

    Mr. JOBS: Most of the great ideas, when you see them, you go, 'Of course!'

    LEWIS: But while he was brimming with great ideas, Steve Jobs was battling declining health. He was operated on for pancreatic cancer in 2004 . A year later he spoke about that in a commencement address at Stanford University .

    Mr. JOBS: This was the closest I've been to facing death and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. And yet death is the destination we all share.

    LEWIS: Then in 2009 he underwent a liver transplant.

    Mr. JOBS: I now have the liver of a mid-20s person who died in a car crash and was generous enough to donate their organs.

    LEWIS: On August 24th of this year, Jobs stepped down as Apple's CEO . Six years earlier he had this bit of advice for the Stanford grads.

    Mr. JOBS: Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.

    LEWIS: He was a man who followed his heart and intuition to become one of Silicon Valley 's great visionaries. Steve Jobs leaves behind a wife and four children. And a statement from the Jobs family says Steve died peacefully, surrounded by people he loved. Ann :

Data: His life and legacy