Abridged from The Wisdom of Pixar, new from InterVarsity Press.

Pixar movies and their themes resonate with us not just because of the attention-grabbing animation, but also because of their stories and characters. Whether it's toys or cars brought to life, or monsters or even rats, these characters contain a quality of reality to which we can relate. Moreover, in our often dark world, Pixar films offer hope, imagination, beauty, and a degree of purity and innocence that is countercultural in our age.

Human nature's dark side is capably depicted—in much detail—by many gritty, non-Pixar films. But Pixar calls our attention back to the almost forgotten world of virtue. We sympathize and perhaps even empathize with the characters because we relate to their struggles. Pixar's characters help us understand how to better build our own characters—morally speaking, that is. But Pixar doesn't preach to us; there is no First Church of Pixar to offer us sermons, pews, committees, incense or flowing choir robes. Instead, we come to better understand virtue through entertaining and engaging stories—the kind of stories that Pixar tells, stories that have the power to wholly engage us, heart, soul and mind.

Characters and plots need not be overtly Christian to instruct us in virtue. Christ engaged his listeners by telling parables, not by preaching or delivering dry lectures. He shared stories that have, at their center, practical moral lessons that stick with us. We remember the tales of the Good Samaritan and the prodigal son not because they sound like they come from a textbook on ethics, but because they are stories that resonate with us as human beings.

'Just keep swimming'

In Finding Nemo, after they have escaped ...

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