Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Toy Story 1-3

For whatever reason I never got around to seeing Toy Story 3 in the theaters. After watching it at home by myself on Christmas, this is probably a very good thing. I had so many emotional responses while watching this movie it was kind of ridiculous. Did you realize that the original Toy Story was released in 1995? It doesn't seem like it was that long ago. We've been knowing these characters for 15 years now. As such, I guess I shouldn't be so surprised that I was so attached to them and so worried about their fates. As someone who holds on passionately to my childhood, and has collected action figures since 1991, I have an extra special investment in these movies.

With the first movie, there was this great theme of old vs. new. I was Team Woody all the way. I think it was a brilliant bit of casting to get Tom Hanks and Tim Allen to play the roles of the main characters. Hanks represents 1980s comedy to me in a lot of ways, since I grew up repeatedly watching films like Splash and Big, as well as Bosom Buddies reruns. Tim Allen was one of the major comedy stars of the 1990s, thanks to Home Improvement and various films. While I wasn't particularly against Tim Allen, I was mostly against Buzz Lightyear. The "I'm Mrs. Nesbitt!" scene is incredibly hilarious, don't get me wrong. What I didn't understand was that this guy was basically a complete idiot for most of the film, but kids seemed to love him best and there were Buzz Lightyear toys and merchandise everywhere and no where near as much Woody stuff. I guess the movie was right.. cowboys just aren't as cool as astronauts anymore. I've never been a big fan of westerns myself, but Woody was just so cute, charismatic, and witty that I just loved him. Of course the point of the movie is that you don't have to replace the old when you get the new, and love and appreciate both equally. It just seemed like as far as Disney's marketing was concerned, that sentiment had been completely overridden.

It was four years later when we got a sequel, and in my opinion it ranks right up there with the original. I loved the point of the movie, that toys are meant to be played with, not kept in boxes and sold to the highest bidder. I may be a collector, but very few of my figures are still in their original packaging. I don't look at them as far as what they are worth - I choose them because they are models of characters I love. One day, I'm going to make a kid very happy.. whether that child is my own, or perhaps a niece or nephew I'm not sure, but the point is I'm going to gift them all to someone who I know will appreciate them - not sell them or destroy them. The other great thing about this movie is Jessie. I love her enthusiasm and the fact that she's such a rough and tumble action girl. The song, "When She Loved Me" makes me cry almost every time I hear it. It makes me want to run to the closet and pull out my special, well-worn teddy bear and tell him I still love him.

That's one thing at the heart of these movies that I think is what makes them so appealing. Is there anyone out there who didn't think their toys came alive when they weren't looking? A lot of my toys in my youth were arranged on shelves around my very small room. My Little Ponies sat on a shelf near my light switch. In the dim of the night, I thought I could see their mouths moving. The sad part is that I was convinced they were talking bad about me. I guess in my mind those ponies were ultra-catty. I did not have any such suspicions about my other toys, but I was convinced that all the stuffed animals were moving when I wasn't looking. I remember even trying to sort of fake them out by playing peekaboo, and that the reason I never caught them was because they were simply too good. If there's any real loss of innocence we experience, it's in when we have to accept the fact that this kind of magic just isn't real. Fortunately, the Toy Story films let us live it again, at least for little while.

Having now seen Toy Story 3, I'm impressed that the team managed to make an entire trilogy without any glaring weak points. Of course they got to take their time with this one, and obviously an additional film would not have been made if they didn't have a good idea. The fun aspect of waiting 11 years to make this one was that the actor who played Andy was still age appropriate for the role. The film once again brings back the theme of "toys are meant to be played with," this time asking it not in a collector's mindset, but whether it's better to hold on to them for future generations, donate them, or maybe just throw them away.

As I mentioned, I was extremely invested in what was going to happen to these characters. I was on the edge of my seat for a large portion of the film. I'd compare it to how I felt when I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it was that tense for me. They seem to be put in almost constant peril for awhile there. I had managed to avoid all spoilers before going into it, and I'm glad I did, because I really had no idea just what was going to happen to them. That's the hint that says if you haven't seen the movie yet, you might want to stop reading now so I don't spoil you.

I was so upset to hear that Bo was gone. It's logical that a kid wouldn't keep such a baby oriented toy forever, but still sad for Woody. My first real shout at the TV occurred when Woody was put in the college box and Buzz relegated to the bag with the others. It may have been a victory cheer of words that I should not repeat in polite company. I quickly switched to feeling horrible for Jessie, who was once again having to lose her playmate. I was glad they acknowledged that - I can't stand sequels that don't remember the things that happened before. Watching them all be treated so horribly by those pre-K kids was horrifying, though nothing could prepare me for the eventual scene at the dump. While part of me was thinking "surely they're not going to end it like this!" I also couldn't think of a way for them to get out of it and was really worried that was in fact going to be the end. Yeah, I probably should have seen the claw coming a mile away, but what can I say, I was in the moment.

As far as the ending goes, I had mixed feelings. Bonnie was an adorable character and she'll certainly make a great playmate for the gang. I do believe that toys are meant to be appreciated for what they are.. but as someone who does collect, I do sometimes take these messages a little personally. In the 40 Year Old Virgin, it is basically suggested that Steve Carell's character has to sell his action figures to move on with his life and no longer be a virgin. In Ghost World, Steve Buscemi's character reacts negatively to being complimented on his collection, saying he just obsessively collects things because he can't deal with the real world and the people in it. In an episode of Big Bang Theory, Leonard tried to sell his entire action figure collection in order to prove to Penny that he was a grown up. So now, Andy must also give his toys away, including Woody, in order to grow up and move on with his life, and doggone it, NO HE DOESN'T.

I have a boyfriend. I have friends. I have a successful job and a home. I have close contact with my family. And yes, I obsessively collect things. I have comics, I have figures, I have a wall's worth of dvds and games. I have posters of bands and characters that I love. I have a vast amount of toys from my youth, and I mourn some that I have lost. All those people I mentioned? I frequently discuss these things that I obsess about with them. We share in the love for these things together. I am so sick of popular culture telling me I am missing out on something because of the things that I care about. Yes, in some ways, I am a huge kid, but I fail to see where that kind of enthusiasm for things, that sense of adventure about the small stuff is a bad thing.

It's possible I'm taking it far too personally. They may simply have wanted all the toys to have a happy ending, and splitting Woody from the rest of the group would not have given them that. I guess in my mind the perfect ending would have been if when Andy had seen all the toys magically returned to him, he would have suddenly realized how much he loved them all and taken them all to college. There they would be displayed proudly on a shelf, where he could tell his friends about how awesome they were. While he was gone, the gang would all still get to hang out and be friends, and one day, they would go to Andy's kids. But hey, it's a story. So I'll just pretend that eventually this is exactly what Bonnie will do, and we'll all live happily ever after.


  1. I'd like to weigh in here on your exploration of the perception of collectors in the media. Not having seen Toy Story 3 (or 2, for that matter), I can't speak to the relevancy in the context of the movie, but two of your examples (40 Year Old Virgin and Big Bang Theory) seem to me to speak more to the universal perception that all women are bitches. Surely no woman would want a guy who collects things like a child. I take this personally, because I don't have any hangups about men who like action figures. You use yourself as a counter-example, but I really am inclined to believe that the standards are very different for girls who collect... Your other example, Ghost World, presents Seymour's personal opinion of himself, rather than a straightforward tale of guy-loses-stuff-thus-gets-girl, so it's kind of different too, I think. Now I'm just babbling, but one thorough analysis deserves another, right?

  2. You're right, they're all a little different, I was sort of breaking it down to "if you collect these things, you won't be loved/popular/well adjusted." As far as the standards for girls who collect... I can't think of a single instance in popular media where a girl collects these kind of things. The standard seems to be that I don't exist, and that's a huge flaming rant for another time.

  3. +JMJ+

    I wish I had a more substantial comment to offer, but I didn't see Toy Story 3 in theatres, either, and still have yet to see it! =( But I've been wanting to watch it--have actually been thinking regularly about the Toy Story trilogy--since the start of the month. Think my subconscious is trying to tell me something? ;-)

    Toy Story 2 was a great surprise for me. After many mediocre, straight-to-DVD Disney sequels, I didn't have high expectations of it. A few hours later, I realised I liked it better than the first movie! Jessie's history makes me cry, too. Pixar knows exactly which emotional buttons to push--and yet it's not manipulative; there's something so genuine about it.

  4. It definitely sounds like it's time for you to go rent or buy the movie, stat! :)

    I know what you mean about those sequels. I think I purchased the Little Mermaid one just because I had loved the original so much, and I was semi-OK with it.. but the more I watched, the more I got so tired of "it's the same movie, but with a slight twist!" Definitely a low point for Disney animation.


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