Remember how I said every now and then I'd go off topic?
This is one of those times, although I wish it didn't have to bump my E3 impressions so soon. Please check that out if you haven't already!
Who didn't watch Disney films when you were younger?
No, seriously, if you didn't, you missed out. I watched a lot of their films when I was younger, not to mention all of the Christmas specials and the Disney Channel cartoons. I loved watching the classics, such as Pinocchio and The Sword in the Stone, and of course we had the modern blockbusters such as Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. By far my favorite of those, however, was The Lion King, and I watched that just about every day 24/7.
But none of them, and I mean none of them, came close to how much I loved 1995's Toy Story. I still don't know how that sucked me in. Maybe it was the CGI, maybe it was the recognizable action figures, or maybe because it was about a bunch of toys. I don't know. But the case still stands I loved that movie to astronomical heights. I had a bunch of the toys, I played two of the computer games (where ARE those?!?), and I watched the movie so much that I could, get this, hum the entire background music from beginning to end without watching the movie. My life's crowning acheivement.
Fifteen years later, I still love this movie. Now that I'm older, I can appreciate the themes of friendship/jealously littered across the film, and all of the parts I used to love the most resonate with me even more today. It's amazing how in this day and age, where 3D/CGI are so commonplace, that the original animation hasn't aged one bit. Buzz Lightyear's first flight is still impressive to watch, as is the moving truck chase scene. And who could forget the toys' revenge against Sid?
Toy Story 2 arrived some years later, but I missed out on the premiere. Unfortunately, I had already reached the age in which most kids deem Disney movies as childish fluff. Having corrected that assumption in the past five years, I sat down with both movies numerous times within the previous year. Not only did I found that that the original still held up after all this time, I found that it had a worthy sequel. Despite it's originally straight-to-DVD origins shining through at some points, the themes found in the original film were still present, not to mention new ones beautifully executed. Oh, and by the way, the heartbreaking moment isn't the flashback for Jessie the cowgirl. It's when Woody sits down and watches the country version of You've Got A Friend in Me with the most pathetic look on his face. Tears were shed.
And now here we are, in 2010, and the second sequel is already upon us. Toy Story 3.
The previews for the movie were surprisingly strong, not to mention with an interesting premise for the story and hilarious snippets from the film. Screenings for the movie reported heartbreaking moments and the recommendation of bringing your tissues. Pixar had broken the chain of bad Disney sequels with Toy Story 2, and they've done it here again.
And now that I've watched the film twice, I can reaffirm that not only have they captured that magic, this is the best film they have ever done.
There's no need to spoil how the movie opens, but all I can say is that a) This is the most imaginative/action-packed way to open the movie and b) Those with the first movie fresh in their minds will engage in flashbacks. Soon after, we find that over ten years have passed, and Andy, the owner of the toys, had graduated high school and is about to transfer to college. His room has undergone a complete makeover, with radios and movie posters plastering the walls. Even Andy himself has changed, having grown more reserved since being a kid.
And the toys have been left forgotten in a box. No matter how hard he tries, Woody finds that he and the other toys can no longer hold the attention of Andy, and is ready to call it quits. Even this particular family of toys has changed, with many of them having moved on to greener pastures (i.e. yard sales), and only a recognizable few are left. Of course, Buzz is still there, as is Mr. Potato Head and Slinky Dog. Rex still suffers from anxiety and Hamm is still cracking jokes, and even the newcomers from Toy Story 2 are present. As they accept their fate of being stored in the attic (Hamm instead ponders how much they'll go for on eBay), Woody climbs onto Andy's desk and takes one long, last look with a sigh.
As Andy's family is preparing the transition, a series of events lead them to being donated to the Sunnyside Daycare Center. After an enthusiastic greeting from a band of toys, the gang is introduced to Lotso, a big kindly old teddy bear who runs this veritable paradise for toys, which is complete with repairment spas and even a Ken for Molly's (Andy's sister) Barbie. Everyone loves the idea of being loved for an eternity by children...except for Woody, who was chosen by Andy to come to college with him.
I dare not speak of what happens next, other then there's obviously a darker side to this facility. What I can say about the positive side of the movie is that all of your favorite quirks are here. From Woody's apprehension in regards to new situations and change (not to mention his limitless devotion to Andy), to Buzz's awkward relationship with Jessie, and even the green aliens' fascination with The Claw. All of the new characters get their chance to shine, most notably the meterosexual Ken, the sophisticated Mr. Pricklepants, and the super creepy Big Baby. Also worth mentioning is the reimagination of the classic Fisher Price telephone, which alone requires a visit to the theater.
The visual gags are as strong as ever, most of which involve...well, I guess I'll tell you this much. There's a "prison break" sequence that is easily the film's comedic highlight, and it all involves the following: a cymbal banging monkey, a Spanish take on a certain main character, and a tortilla. Also, you haven't seen funny until you see Mr. Potato Head's role in the escape.
There's always been dark elements in Disney films, beginning with the poisoned apple in Snow White. We've had our villains, from Maleficent the witch in Sleeping Beauty, Scar in The Lion King, and even the voodoo doctor in last year's The Princess and the Frog. Then there's the bone-chilling donkey transformation in Pinocchio, and the entire situation surrounding, again, The Lion King. In terms of Pixar films, this element has only really been explored in the opening sequence to Up, and to an extent The Incredibles and I guess Finding Nemo. In short, they haven't really focused too much on this.
Seeing as how Toy Story 3 deals with the coming-of-age for Andy, it only makes sense that the series itself grows up as well. There's always been a sense of humanity and (obviously) deep friendship in the previous two films, but none of them reach the maturity this film presents. I can't exactly word this, but the wonder and allure that surrounded the first two films is gone, replaced with an ever-present sense of concern. We have the toys wavering between their loyalty to a grownup Andy and spending in an eternity being loved (or thrown around like ragdolls) by a group of preschoolers, and even the simple-minded Rex and Woody's lovable horse Bullseye understand the perils and consequences they're facing. We witness the true reality of Lotso's iron-fisted authority and observe new characters being "broken" for not obeying the system. Lotso himself is a terrifying figure, secretly carrying the weight of a dark past (ever lose your favorite stuffed animal?) and doing whatever he pleases.
But nothing in the entire plethora of Disney films, sans maybe Mufasa's death, reaches the impact of what awaits the toys in the film's nail-biting climax. In fact, I don't even think The Lion King even comes close to accomplishing what Toy Story 3 has up it's sleeve: what is by far the most tensest, frantic situation I have ever seen Disney characters face. My mouth was slowly dropping to the floor as the characters were being assaulted with one hazard after another, and they were finally dropped into one final jeopardy. It was incredibly hard to sit through this the first time, and even more the second time knowing this was coming. This is literally the most horrifying fate I could imagine for some of America's most treasured cartoon characters, and you cannot avoid having tears welling up in your eyes as you helplessly watch the way these toys handle their situation.
Of course, I'm not going to say how the film ends. But I'll just say this.
This ending is perfect. Flawless. Absolutely impeccable. The way the curtain is drawn on the final chapter in the Toy Story saga could not have been handled any better, and in fact, I'd say this is the greatest ending I have ever seen in any medium. I'm dead serious, I can't even hint at it or else I'll have just ruined the entire movie for you. So far, I've seen nothing but agreement.
At this point in both of my viewings, I turned my head around, and I saw people with their tissues out. I saw grown adults quietly sobbing over the fate of pieces of plastic.
I was doing the same thing.
"Woody's no ordinary toy...he's brave. But the best thing about Woody is that he'll never give up on you...ever."
When you watch these movies as an adult, you can't help but think back on your own toys. Which ones you played with the most, which ones flew and which ones walked, which ones you had cast as the villain or the village idiot, and of course, which one was the hero.
Toys never carried the same magic for me as video games did. Like Andy, I too have outgrown them in a way. And yet, I'm too stubborn to let most of them go. They're still there in the back room in the basement, gathering dust and reflecting on old memories.
I went back there yesterday, and took a long look at them. I saw toys from not just Toy Story, but from Pokemon too. I saw stuffed animals my cat had chewed on, my friends' gigantic, left behind collection of Dragon Ball action figures.
And I was talking to them. I told them I was sorry, for playing with them too roughly, or deeming some of them stupid, or having their arms or heads fall off. I was sorry for not being around with them anymore. I told them when I'd get my own house one day, they'd have a special place of their own. Guaranteed.
If a movie can inspire me to do that, then there's really no question. This the greatest film I have ever watched.