No 99 - Toy Story
Director - John Lasseter
Yes indeedy... this is my 100th film. It as taken a pitifully long time to get this far. I almost feel ashamed. But I'm trucking along at a much better pace now. We're gathering up steam and we'll hit 200 before you know it! I promise ya.
My Sunday ended up being delightfully Pixar-tinted. Starting with this, their first feature film, followed by Up - which has a delightfully poignant introductory sequence followed by 90 minutes of Looney Tunes style insanity and finally a really interesting South Bank documentary on Pixar.
Naturally - I'll be following it up today with Toy Story 2. Makes sense.
It makes me feel disgustingly old to think that Toy Story came out 14 years ago. 14 YEARS ago. That is just strange. I remember going to see it at the cinema and the excitement of seeing the Disney logo appear in glorious CGI. My how things have changed now....
All it takes is the Disney castle to show you how CGI has developed in the last 15 years, and yet Toy Story still feels surprisingly modern. Yes some parts have visually dated. Especially the organic stuff - the humans feel a bit dead eyed and vacant and Sid's dog Scud is just rubbish in comparison to the new dogs who appear in Up, however elements like the shiny plastic toys still could compete against other, non Pixar, films.
What really impresses about Toy Story though, is the story and the characterisation. Whilst the CGI may have been the initial draw (back in 1995) it is Pixar's amazing depth of character and richness of story that keeps the viewer interested. It is also the bravery of their films. Toy Story may well be a buddy movie told using toys, but it is also far more than that - it is a film about rejection and the fear of replacement. It is a film that addresses the fear of feeling inferior and helps you to tackle it. It is a very strong message told with such lovable characters, letting us see childhood favourites become smart ass shit stirrers and creating new childhood favourites.
As well as tackling rejection and the story of cooperation (after all Buzz and Woody learn to work together), Toy Story tackles some pretty dark moments.
Firstly Buzz's breakdown at the realisation that he isn't a toy. Going through moments of hysteria, despondency and finally realisation. At times it is pretty tough to watch.
The moments where Buzz realises he is a toy is the beginning of Pixar's tradition of putting immensely moving performances into their cartoons. Considering how ridiculed he is, and how odd some of his songs are, Randy Newman's work works really well in the film and this sequence is quite the tear jerker.
As are the dark moments. For Pixar don't shy away from the potentially scary (in what is, after all, a kid's film). Sid's toys are twisted bastardised mutants but are also a prime example of Disney's main message - Don't judge a book by its cover. These twisted mutants have hearts of gold - and Ducky is the most stupidly genius character in the film. Mainly because I love Pez dispensers.
However, Woody's final plan to save Buzz and stop Sid is dark. Through and through. Zombie dolls lurching out of the mud... Woody even evokes the spirit of the exorcist. The poor child will be traumatised forever.
But he is a bully - so fuck him. After all, for everybody else the film ends happily and the toys are more contented at the end of the film then they ever have been before.