Toy Story 3D (John Lasseter, 1995/2009)

“Say there, Lizard and Stretchy Dog, let me show you something.”

Introduction

14 years ago. You’re kidding me. Year 9 pupils who are taking their GCSE in Art & Design who – may I add – are doing very well – were not even born when it was released! Madness. I remember watching it with my younger brother purely through luck. It was that £1-to-go-to-the-cinema Day in England in 1995 and everyone was going. My family of eight were all going and, obviously like every other 11 year old, we wanted to see Toy Story. We got to the cinema and it was completely sold out. All day. We were gutted. But, seconds later, two grown men came up to us and decided to change which film they were going to see and sold on their tickets for us – so Graham and I managed to go! It was rammed full and we felt so lucky. Funnily enough, a siilar thing happened the following year but, alas, we didn’t see the film we wanted to see (can’t remember what it was…) and we had to settle for … The Chamber. Eugh.

Big-time on DVD when Toy Story 2 was released they had this sweet ‘Toybox’ boxset and, excited now at the age of 17, I took the boxset home, keen to see all the special features – having spent £40 on, effectively, two films and my Matsui DVD player wouldn’t play it. It was one of those discs whereby the DVD player was too old to play it. Same thing happened with the second disc of Gladiator and Scream whereby you could watch the film, but you couldn’t select the menu.

So, as you can see, I am big into the Story of the Toys and this 3D release made me regress back to childhood and enjoy the movie anew. It truly was a memorable experience – but not-so-much because Buzz could reach out of the screen and touch me.

What I reckon …

There is definitely something interesting about watching this film as an adult – and, more importantly as a cine-literate teacher with a certain appreciation of social-situations that affect children. Watching Fishtank (not the best comparison…) recently about, effectively, a destroyed 14 year old girl and then watching Toy Story whereby the suburban child has friends, family and happiness strikes a chord to some extent. It is what it is, and clearly Toy Story is not commenting on the sadness of children – but celebrating their creativity. Then again, I always remember a presentation my good friend Tom made in Year 10 in a theology lesson about ratings and how Toy Story and Jurassic Park are both rated PG. Maybe that’s because their are darker issues at hand – Sid, for one, is a problem child. He makes you think of the whole ‘if you torture animals as a kid, you’re destined to be a violent person’. Okay, that’s not a ‘saying’ but you see the connection. When Woody and Buzz arrive back to Sid’s house and Sid shouts at his sister, rather than snatching her doll (a mean act in and of itself), I felt it would not have been out of place for him to hit her. The idea of abuse to toys must stem from somewhere … and I think if you were to profile ‘Sid’ you would have an abusive, violent child who has and abusive background and an unstable homelife – and clearly has an awful diet (Are Poptarts the best way to feed your children?). I’m starting this review off on a very dark note, but this was something which I was interested in: what are the issues in this film? is there any realism in this film? Rather than answer ‘Yes – Sid hits his sister’, the answer might simply be ‘No’. End of. Food for thought though.

Another interesting thing about the characters, I noticed, is that they are not exactly ‘good’ characters. We have Woody – this jealous cowboy who attempts to knock Buzz down the side of a chest of drawers. Potato-head this spiteful fella’ with a real envy for Woody’s position and, when given the opportunity, a desire to exclude Woody from the group (I don’t think the punishment fitted the crime myself… and, to be fair, it is Potato-head who RC annihilates in the final act). Slinky Dog clings onto Woody’s every word – eventually forced to give up on him due to peer pressure (it is he who pulls the blinds on Woody as Woody is, effectively, going to be murdered in Sid’s room). Buzz is the only one who is a genuinely nice guy – but he’s a little arrogant and is completely delusional and naive. Nevertheless, it is a testament to the writers, the voices and the story that we are still gripped to this story. It also shows this role reversal in how Bo is clearly more dominant than Woody – it is she who asks Woody to watch the flock, and it is she who grabs him by the neck. Woody – the character we stick with from start to finish – is a weak character with envy and jealousy issues to boot. Hardly characters you want your kids to impersonate. As Andy (without realising their true character) actually does!
It might be the adult-attitudes of the characters that make this cross the boundary from kids-only to family-friendly. We know these types of people – the top-dog usurped by a new arrival (think David Brent in Series 2 of The Office when Neil arrives), the realisation of times changing – and having difficulty accepting change, etc. I was laughing so hard while I watched it too – laughed alot more than when I watched The Invention of Lying – little bits like Woody’s “Tuesday night’s plastic corrosion awareness meeting, was I think, a big success. We’d like to thank Mr. Spell for putting that on for us, thank you Mr. Spell…” and Buzz’s alternative names for the toys (see above). A huge laugh with those aliens – “Nirvana is coming. The mystic portal awaits.” before being mauled by that dog. Amazing.

But, to finish: the 3D stuff. Yeah, it looked great – but I’m not ‘sold’. I wasn’t reaching out for the screen or anything. I felt, as soon as I was into the film, I didn’t really care. I’m sure its great for younger kids and a boy in Year 8 was telling me that he watched it with his Dad over the weekend too and it was ‘sick’ (thats good it pupils-speak) but I was just glad to see the film at the cinema. I did feel that when the toys were all lined up you felt a real prescence as they leant out of the screen -and when Woody and Buzz fly over the cars it is great, but I felt like because there was a foreground and a background, I focussed on the foreground moreso. So, I didn’t appreciate the detail and scope of the background. I’m also sure that the neon colours in Sid’s room were alot more impressive than I recall. But I am not going to run out and buy a new copy in 3D – as my current ‘Toybox’ version is good enough. I think Up will sell 3D moreso -the trailer that preceded Toy Story did look incredible. Nevertheless, I am excited about revisiting Toy Story 2 and then, in due course Toy Story 3 … Good times.

Interesting facts I never knew. Don Davis assisted with Randy Newmans score – as in Don-composed-the-score-for-The-Matrix-Davis. Interesting though I see no link between the two soundtracks. Secondly, Joss Whedon assisted in the writing – alongside the Pixar team. This is prior to Buffy and two years prior to Alien Resurrection. Any link … you decide …
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