A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Toy Story

June 26, 2010

Toy Story

We needed something easy to watch tonight, and Toy Story 3 is in the theaters, so it’s a special treat! The first ever feature length computer animated movie, and the film that launched Pixar to fame and fortune. It’s cool looking back at this movie again. The cutting edge of computer generated effects from the early nineties have aged somewhat. There are some scenes where the backgrounds appear vast and empty (often intentionally – such as when Buzz and Woody are lost at the gas station.) But the plastic looking CG tech of the day was ideally suited to the look of the movie they set out to make.

I was caught up in this movie again tonight as if all those years had not passed in between. Right from the opening scene I was grabbed once again by Randy Newman’s folksey songs and the bright and brilliant palette of the film. It was like being welcomed again by an old friend.

I haven’t watched this movie in rather a long time, and it’s kind of a shock to see how darkly jealous Woody gets. I suppose I had glossed over that in my memory after his later heroism and the different arc of the second movie. A quick summary of the plot for the one or two of you who have been living in a cave for twenty years and for some reason haven’t seen this movie: Woody is a cowboy toy – favorite toy of young Andy and sort of de-facto leader of all the toys that inhabit Andy’s room. (As a quick aside – I always found it strange that the children in this movie are Andy and Molly – since that’s me and my sister. As far as I know nobody involved in the making of Toy Story ever knew us, so I assume it’s a strange coincidence. I’m not ruling out the Truman Show explanation though.) For his birthday Andy gets an incredible new Buzz Lightyear toy, and Woody begins to fear that he’s destined to play second fiddle to the newcomer. Things are not made easier by the fact that the Buzz toy is delusional, and believes that he really IS Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and not a child’s plaything. Eventually Woody accidentally knocks Buzz out the window and into the yard of the sadistic toy-torturing neighbour Sid. The rest of the movie is a big adventure story, as Woody has to rescue Buzz and they need to find a way to get back to Andy before he and his family move away.

It’s a simple idea, but it’s the care and love with which the good people of Pixar realize the story that makes the movie so endearing and has provided such lasting devotion and created not just a fantastic film franchise but also an entire film studio. As I watched it tonight I was examining every little detail. Things like the books behind Woody as he leads the toys in Andy’s room through a meeting (many of the titles are from Pixar shorts – with Tin Toy prominently displayed in the middle.) Things like the cool effect they used for Buzz’s glow-in-the-dark detailing. Things like all the cool space-themed games and drink dispensers at the Pizza Planet that Buzz and Woody visit.

The movie is packed with jokes that poke loving fun at the toys we all grew up with. (Mr. Potatohead particularly gets about twenty great gags about his removable appendages.) It’s also a celebration of the joy of play. Like all kids Andy has a huge mish-mash of different toys all of different scales and different manufacture, and the opening scene of him playing with them all is exactly the kind of imaginative flight of fancy that kids playing with their toys have to take. I love the over-sized popgun taped to Mr. Potatohead’s outstretched hand, and the piggy bank being the bank he’s robbing. I love all the cardboard boxes used as buildings. You see these toys, and Andy playing with them, and you want to play with them too.

When you think about Pixar (or when I do anyhow) there are names that come to mind. Lasseter, Docter and Stanton primary amongst them. (Bird didn’t come on the Pixar scene until later.) And there all three of them are in the story credit at the start of the movie. And look at the writing credits! Joss Whedon and Joel Cohen working on the same film? How could it NOT be pure genius? And that’s not even acknowledging the great vocal performances given by everybody on the project, and the amazing animation from the Pixar team. (I grin a little just thinking, for example, of Woody’s disjointed ambling ragdoll run.) I think Andrew, John, Joe and Pete created this world, made it real in a way through their own vivid imaginations and then shared it with some friends so that they could all play along in it. Then they opened it up and let us play in it too. It’s a wonderful thing. No wonder the joy of it hasn’t worn off at all in the fifteen years since this movie first came out.

June 26, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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