Pixar fires our imagination through powerful and original stories that make us smile or cry depending on the scenes. Relinquishment is a recurring theme in Pixar movies which can be treated in several different ways.
Even heroes have emotions and weaknesses. One of the most difficult things to do is to renounce our origins, relinquish who we are deep inside. We then create ourselves a new image and turn into some kind of other self. The Incredible family is a good example of this. Since the ban on superheroes, Robert Parr has lost his smile in his new job as an insurance claims adjuster. Yet deep within himself he remains a superhero ready to help people – such a choice of career may be a good way to go on doing that. Instead of following his manager’s orders by swindling clients, he on the contrary gives them directions on how to avoid being conned, as he does with the elderly lady. Such a desire to go back to being a superhero will lead him to quarrel with his wife Helen, who is content with her new life as a housewife. Not that she completely relinquishes her past; she is simply beginning a new life with her children and wishes to make the most of it. The most glaring sentence regarding this family’s secret is uttered by Violet: "We act normal, Mom; I want to be normal!"
Being normal is probably what Rémy wished for as well. Torn between his family and his passion for cooking, he will struggle in view of this choice. To him, a rat is not necessarily a rodent that feeds on garbage, but someone who must live his desires. By choosing the human world and French cuisine, he relinquishes his status as a rat. He does not turn his back on his family, but by being away from them, he becomes more human than he would have suspected. By befriending Linguini, he becomes best friends with a man. He will gradually accept his new life without much remorse. Yet when his brother Emile returns, his “past” also reappears. And when Alfredo disappoints him, he acts as whom he had refused to be. By planning the kitchen plunder he becomes just like his family. A moment of lucidity will make him realize his mistake, and he will then manage to convince his father that, even though they are a family, Rémy’s place is not completely with them, but in the kitchen, working like a human and alongside humans. As he so cleverly puts it: "Change is nature, the part that we can influence. And it starts when we decide".
Doc Hudson also decided that, though his change did not occur in the right way. Following his racing accident after which he was relegated to the rank of a has-been, he preferred to completely withdraw from the world by taking refuge in Radiator Springs. Cut off from the racing world, he conceals his identity so as to avoid having any connection with his days of fame as a pilot. Lightning takes a long time before discovering who he really is, which enables Doc to come out in the open. "You've been here how long and your friends don't even know who you are? Who's caring about only himself?" When recognized during the Piston Cup, the spectators’ cheering reminds him that despite his untimely retirement, his name has remained engraved in people’s memories.
One whose name has remained engraved in our memories is Woody, Pixar’s signature hero. His journey is strewn with relinquishments. It all began with his status as Andy’s favourite toy, a status that will deeply change with the arrival of Buzz Lightyear. As Woody cannot stand losing his place, he does not think twice before pushing the Space Ranger out of the window. Unfortunately for him, when RC exposes this act, he is abandoned by his fellow toys. Rejected by his long-time friends, he is going to have to overcome his ego to go back to his child owner. It is as a result of this he comes to understand who he is, not number one toy, but Andy’s toy. "Why would Andy ever want to play with me when he's got you? I'm the one that should be strapped to that rocket".
Time can make us forget a lot of things, may it take decades or even centuries for the humans aboard the Axiom. Following the heavy polluting of the Earth which caused its flora and fauna to be destroyed, humans are now shut away in a spaceship with little hope of returning home. Their hope is small, since their reliance on robots has made them forget what they once were. Before spending their days in hover chairs, they used their legs, grew plants, danced…Though reconnaissance missions still take place with EVE probes, not one human being on board can remember their forefathers’ way of life. They have not just relinquished the planet Earth, they have also relinquished their own culture and civilization. Thanks to WALL-E, the capitain will discover this whole chapter of history which is now a mere digital file in a computer.
Time, however, cannot erase everything. A hint can subsist and remind us of an event. By hanging on to his house, Carl Fredricksen regards it as a piece of his late wife Ellie. He cannot accept her death and still has not come to terms with it. He refuses to abandon her by trying to make her live at all costs despite the threat of his house being razed to the ground. He will go as far as fulfilling their childhood dream by taking his house to Paradise Falls. During the fight aboard the “Spirit of Adventure”, as Carl sees his house slowly sink through the clouds, he accepts that his wife is gone and that he must move on.
Woody too, has experienced that we are almost worthless without others. Fearing that Andy might part from him after his arm is ripped off, Woody gets drawn in with Jessie, Pile-Poil and Papi Pépite. Never mind Buzz and co, his survival depends on it. Perhaps being with his fellow toys and remembering his former glory had something to do with his decision. Buzz will nevertheless manage to remind him of who he really is: "Watch kids from behind glass and never be loved again? Some life!" This sentence will trigger something off in Woody’s mind that will leave its mark on him forever. When Andy leaves for college, the roles are reversed. The other toys are the ones who abandon Woody and do not trust him. He will take all risks to make them see sense, and will succeed. This act of bravery will lead to another sacrifice. Be it a fluke or a well-calculated plan, by staying in the cardboard box, the cowboy is given to Bonnie by Andy, a relinquishment that takes the form of a farewell by his owner after 10 years of loyalty.
The same goes for Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear. It all began with his child losing him. Anxious to reunite with her, and discovering he has been replaced, as Chuckles put it, “something changed that day inside.” Despite their love, he decides to leave her for good, dragging Big Baby with him in his fury. This event from his past will even urge him to convince the other toys that owners are not the best thing for them.
The ant colony soon found out what was best for its members. Through his naivety and eagerness to help, Flik does not realize that his fellow ants have well and truly banished him from the anthill to ensure its durability. He will never find out he has been rejected by his peers (the crowd’s cheering is seen as support for his mission) and that nobody trusts him (except Dot). His return home is moreover taken very hard by Atta and the others.
With each relinquishment, these characters all experienced something powerful which helped them move forward. Woody and his friends found a new owner, Flik found his place back with his peers, the Incredible family went back to unconcealed superhero activities, Doc went back to the racing world, and Rémy made a living doing what he loved with the support of his family; the humans relearned how to live, and Carl came to terms with Ellie’s death.