It’s hard to believe that the original Toy Story was released in theaters 17 years ago. I remember in my cynical old age of 11, I was curious to see what a fully computer animated movie would look like, but I also worried that the days of t
he hand-painted cell feature would soon be ended. I was right in many ways as the release of Toy Story had heralded the release of a slew of animated feature from everybody’s mother in varying degrees of computer animation…even anything approaching traditional cell animation these days is touched upon by computers (unless it’s some artsy-fartsy French cartoon about the never ending bloody nose). Of course, this is not all as bad as I thought and none of it is really to blame of Toy Story or the franchise that emanated from it. They are good movies and the vultures always circle around a good idea to peck it to death.
The thing about the Toy Story franchise that , as an adult, is amazing to me is the inherent sadness of the idea—a staple of Pixar features that hit its apex in the first few minutes of Up. The notion that these toys exist solely to provide happiness and support to a boy who will inevitably grow up, break them, forget them, move on and leave them behind has an ephemeral memory—a nostalgic twinge causing less than a moment’s pause on most occasions. These toys are well aware of the minute fate and treat it with the impending severity of a military operation despite the finite nature of their existence. The notion is touched upon in every installment of the fantastic series of movies. In Toy Story, Woody has to deal with the new toy on the block, Buzz Lightyear, knocking him from the utmost preferred spot in Andy Davis’s heart. In the second installment, Woody has to cope with the prospect of being outgrown and left behind after being partially broken, and in Toy Story 3 Andy is ready to move on to college and the whole crew has to cope with the prospect of living in the attic or becoming garbage. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty just in case someone out there has impossibly not seen all of these movies (like my wife impossibly has achieved).
My two-and-a-half-year-old son has recently become completely engrossed in the Toy Story movies and requests to watch them ad infinitum. Through the afternoons and nights, he chants “More Buzz! More Toy Story!”…regularly…even as I type this (which is why I said it’s high nigh impossible that my wife hasn’t seen them…I think she’s blocking it out using her Emma Frost-like telepathy). As an adult-child, I find myself invariably torn at the narrative of the story—I am now the parent of a child—children actually—who’s toys exist solely for their enjoyment and comfort. Toys that accompany them to bed, toys that escort them on excursions, toys that provide wondrous opportunities for faux social interaction and imaginative play—some toys that I saved for my kids to play with (that many swore I would never pass down! Fooey to you!). Watching the movies, I am torn between my relation to all the characters, human and toy.
This, of course, is due in no small part to the quality and standard set by the first—the movie that launched a billion dollars; produced by Pixar, funded by Disney, written by Joss Whedon (et. al.), and voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen (et. fantastic-al.). The bar was set high and, to this day, remains one of the highest regarded movie trilogies on Rotten Tomatoes—and, though a love a great many trilogies, I am inclined to agree. The series is remarkably consistent in its tone and humor and each is a well set up adventure-movie-providing its problems, conflicts, solutions, and developments naturally within the course of the plot and in the logical context of the setting (logical that is in the world of sentient toys). There are moments, especially written in to Toy Story 3, that bring elements from the first and second movies full circle in a way that is satisfying and rewarding; something rarely achieved in any movie let alone popcorn animated children’s features. As I am older and watch these flicks through the eyes of a child-now-grown-but-still-a-child, and through the eyes of a parent, I am appreciative of the magic that they bring to the minds of children as well as the, admittedly tear-welling, nostalgia of a kid who actually did save most of his toys to give to his son—and did—just to watch them be given a new life. If somehow you haven’t seen any of these movies, you are missing out on great stories full of laughter, friendship, and adventure. They are well written to such a degree that the man who wrote the first one was tapped to write and direct The Avengers, which is the current reigning top grossing film of all time, and the man who wrote the third was recently tapped to write the newest installment in the Star Wars franchise—you’ll never find a greater endorsement of popcorn entertainment. If you haven’t seen them all, you’re in for a great treat in watching a well-continued story that excellently fulfills all the promises of a trilogy.
Written by: Brandon Melendez