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Girls who are toys who like toys to be girls…

June 28, 2010

Last week, the wife and I took son 2.0 to go see Toy Story 3. We were all looking forward to it, but my wife most of all. Last year, I took 2.0 to see Up, which was his first movie in a theater. Since then, he’s always called it “our special movie,” which is heartbreakingly adorable, but I think she felt left out.

Anyway, it’s been a week, and it’s had some time to percolate in my head. The movie itself was, of course, excellent. Pixar has yet to make a film that failed to appeal to me (or for the general viewing public), and this was no exception. It had the typical Toy Story charm (“I’m pretty sure I just came back from the doctor with life-changing news!”), and the animation was up to par.

Tthis isn’t really a complaint, but Pixar has come so far since the first Toy Story in 1995 that similar animation in 2010 looks like a step back. Of course, everything is more detailed now, but there’s only so much more detail you can add without changing the characters from their beloved, iconic appearance. The newer characters, such as villain Lotso, were clearly more advanced. But while it paled compared to 2008’s Wall-E, which was a masterpiece of detail, Toy Story 3 still did the job well.

The tone of the story was surprisingly dark. Not just the actual scary parts (of which there were a couple: a cymbal-crashing monkey henchman and incinerator scene frightened 2.0, and not without reason), but some of the themes. Andy, the owner of the toys, is on the verge of leaving for college, and the toys fear being abandoned. Rather than wait for the inevitable, the toys go to a local daycare center, where another story of abandonment awaits.

The entire story has a sense of staving off the inevitable. After all, no matter how much fun he had with his toys, Andy is not going to get younger and play with them again. In the end, during the aforementioned incinerator scene, the main characters give up hope, simply accepting their fate and resigning themselves to oblivion, with the only consolation that they are together at the end. They are saved by a literal deus ex machina, and they go on to another home, another appreciative child.

I find the emotional content of the movie is not really aimed at kids, but at their parents. The idea of a child growing older and not needing you anymore is a powerful one, and in my showing, there were more than a few teary-eyed adults (including myself), and at least one mother sobbing hysterically.

I’m not sure if it’s coincidence or not, but 2.0 has begun to ask about one of the topics I’ve always dreaded discussing: death. I personally find it very difficult to try to explain, because I’ve struggled my entire life with the loss of a loved one. He doesn’t really understand it, he just knows that eventually, you won’t be able to see people anymore. I’ve been trying to take the middle path, explaining that it’s okay to be nervous about it, but that it’s not going to happen to anyone he loves for a long time. He clams up and doesn’t want to discuss it further, and I don’t want to belabor the point, but I’m not sure what he’s thinking about it.

At any rate, the movie also got me thinking, what happens when Pixar finally has a bomb? They have a remarkable string of successes, and clearly have a culture set up to nurture success, but no one is perfect forever, right? I have to imagine that Disney pretty much just pencils in a hit movie every summer from them, so how would they react when a surefire revenue stream suddenly dries up for a year?

I don’t imagine we’ll find out next year, as Cars 2 is on the schedule. Pixar has two films scheduled for 2012: Brave and Monsters, Inc. 2. Interestingly, they did announce a movie, Newt, which has since been canceled. I was hoping for a sequel to Aliens focusing on Carrie Henn’s character, but it was actually a love story between two newts facing extinction, which sounded pretty good to me too. I find it interesting that they chose to cancel the project completely. I am pretty sure other studios would have forged ahead, doing rewrites and reworks to try to polish a turd.


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One Comment
  1. I wrote this post a while ago, as I was struggling with the same thing.

    Hope it gives some insight or lets you know that you’re not alone. 🙂

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