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