Thursday, June 24, 2010

'Toy' Trilogy

Toy Story
Director: John Lasseter
Voice talent: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, Wallace Shawn, Jim Varney
Released in theaters: 11/22/95
Viewed in theaters: 12/??/95

Oscar nominations:
Best Original Song - Randy Newman for "You've Got a Friend in Me" (Lost to Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz for "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas)
Best Music from a Comedy or Musical - Randy Newman (lost to Menken and Schwartz for Pocahontas)

Toy Story 2
Director: John Lasseter
Voice talent: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammar, Wayne Knight
Released: 11/24/99
Viewed in theaters: 12/04/99 and 12/25/99

Oscar nominations:
Best Song - Randy Newman for "When She Loved Me" (lost to Phil Collins for "You'll Be in My Heart" from Tarzan)

Toy Story 3
Director: Lee Unkrich
Voice talent: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton
Released: 6/18/10
Viewed in theaters: 6/23/10

Future Oscar nominations: We all know this is gonna win Best Animated Picture. C'mon.

With the recently released Toy Story 3, I've decided to revisit the first two films and review them along with the third installment, a movie I'm been eagerly anticipating since last winter. It had been quite a few years since I've seen the first two, so it was a joy to re-watch them and it almost felt like I was watching them for the first time again. The computer animation has obviously gotten consistently better in the fifteen years since the first Toy Story was released, but that doesn't diminish the film one bit. The script (which was co-written by Buffy creator Joss Whedon) is still sharp and funny with heart and I can't imagine anyone else doing the voices for the already iconic characters of Woody and Buzz Lightyear than Hanks and Allen.

BTF: Best Toys Forever

In the first movie we're introduced to a slew of toy characters who belong to young Andy. Besides our cowboy sheriff and space ranger heroes, there's Mr. Potato Head (Rickles), a piggy bank (Ratzenberger), a neurotic plastic T-Rex (Shawn), a slinky dog (Varney), a remote control car, plastic green army soldiers, and Little Bo Peep (Potts) who belongs to Andy's little sister.

Woody has always been Andy's favorite toy, but once Buzz is given to the young boy at his birthday party as a surprise present from his mother, Woody knows his days are numbered. Not only has Buzz taken the coveted spot on the bed while Woody has been demoted to the toy chest, but Buzz is a more modern toy with lots of buttons and gadgets and even has a laser (although Woody will argue it's just a little light bulb) whereas the old-fashioned cowboy utters his favorite sayings with a pull string. Also, all of Andy's cowboy paraphernalia has been replaced with an outerspace theme.

With jealousy taking over, Woody tries to get Buzz stuck behind the desk so Andy can't find him, but ends up tossing him out the window. Feeling guilty, Woody tries to make it right, but both toys have now become lost and are now in the possession of Sid, the mean kid next door who likes to torture his toys by blowing them up or taking them apart and rebuilding them with different parts. The two feuding toys have to find a way to work together to return to their owner, but the clock is ticking because Andy and his family are moving the next day.

There's so many great moments, but my favorite part would have to be when Woody comes alive in front of Sid and he screams and runs into the house where his sister starts tormenting him with her doll.

In Toy Story 2 we have the same characters, but we're introduced to new ones. Woody discovers he's part of a collection called Woody's Roundup Gang that also includes his horse, Bull's Eye; Jessie, the cowgirl (Cusack); and Stinky Pete the prospector (Grammar). Mrs. Potato Head and Barbie are also new additions to the toy family. The plot of the second film is a bit more elaborate than the first and while I know toys coming to life isn't very realistic (okay, it's not realistic at all!), it seemed plausible within the context of the story. After Woody is mistakenly taken by a toy collector (Knight) at a yard sale, the other toys try to devise a plan to rescue him. This involves them making a long trek to Al's Toy Barn, driving a car to the airport, and Woody and Jessie escaping from an airplane that has just started to take off while Buzz is galloping right beside the plane on Bull's Eye. Don't get me wrong - Toy Story 2 is a great movie with a funny script and endearing new characters, but I preferred the simplicity of the first one.

I talk about a scene from Toy Story 2 that made me cry:

The latest installment of the franchise has Andy going off to college and he's not sure what he's going to do with his old toys, who haven't been played with in a long time. The toys are worried they're going to be thrown out, but they wouldn't mind being sent to the attic and brought back down when Andy has kids of his own.

There's a bit of a mix-up at the beginning (don't want to give too much away!) and the toys end up at Sunnyside Day Care, which at first seems like a nice retirement home for toys. There they meet new toys including Lot-so, a bear that smells like strawberries (Beatty); Ken (Keaton); a rubber octopus (Whoopi Goldberg); a baby doll; and Chatterbox phone (I remember those!) However, while the veteran toys are in the Butterfly Room where the older kids play and treat their toys with respect, the new recruits are placed in the Caterpillar Room aka Toy Hell. They're abused by screaming toddlers who smash them against the floor, paint on them, sit on them, etc. Woody manages to escape, but wants to find a way to help his friends get back to Andy too. He learns that the day care is like a prison and it's impossible to escape because the toys are kept in cages at night and there are lookouts at each post. It kind of reminded me of Watership Down for toys.

The tone is definitely darker than the previous two movies and there was one moment in the film that I was really afraid something horrible was going to happen to the toys and they seemed to have realized their fate and were all holding hands. Thank goodness I had a handkerchief in my purse because I needed it for pretty much the entire third act! I have yet to read/hear a review where nobody cried!

I was satisfied with the ending and I think Pixar did a great job of ending the Toy Story trilogy. (Of course, there could always be a fourth, but I don't know if they're going to continue with the franchise as I think they ended on a good note). While the first movie remains my favorite of the three, all of the movies are very solid and it's very rare when you see all three movies in a trilogy that are great. Usually, the first movie is good and the other two are just awful or don't measure up to the first one. (Pirates of the Caribbean, Jurassic Park, Spider-Man just to name a few).

I would definitely recommend watching the first two movies again to refresh your memory as there are some callbacks to them in Toy Story 3!

Oh and it amused me that there were many kids in the theater who weren't even born yet when the second movie came out! I feel very privileged to have seen all three in the theaters!


  1. Great review - I forgot about Watership Down and now that you mentioned it I see the similarities.

  2. Great post Sara!

    I grew up with these movies as well and I love them all. In fact my first theater experience was with the original Toy Story!