Saturday 24 July 2010

Toy Story 3 - Pixar hit another home run

I went to see Toy Story 3 last night, and before I went in, I was torn between outright trepidation and child-like excitement. I remember going to see the first one at the cinema when it first came out, and thinking it was one of the best things I'd ever seen, and when the second one was better, Pixar managed to win me over to the idea of sequels. But a third one? In my opinion, only Back to the Future ever managed to make a third film that was as good as the preceding two.

I've already spoken before about exactly why I love Pixar, but Toy Story 3 just proves my point. Yet again, they have concentrated on making a film with a good plot, plenty of adventures, and characters that you care about. Let me say that last part again - they've created characters that you can really root for, or loathe, depending on whether they're good or bad. Pixar delight in telling a good story, and they put this love of storytelling above everything else. It's good, old-fashioned escapism. They also make damn good short films, and the Day & Night short that accompanies Toy Story 3 really explores the boundaries of animation.

The Toy Story films have always been films that celebrate the power of imagination, and the wonderful worlds you can create with a handful of toys, cardboard boxes and household detritus. As a writer, this is a concept I can back 120% (meaning I could backtrack 20%, and still be completely behind it). But as a 27-year-old who has problems with the concept of 'growing up', it really speaks to me on a different level. I was the kid who didn't have any friends where I lived, and would spend hours playing with different toys by myself. They were mostly my brother's, as I favoured Lego and Micro Machines, but I also had an awesome toy farm that my dad built for me, and more stuffed animals than I knew what to do with (I am the extremely proud owner of a full set of Gummy Bears).

I freely admit that I still have a fierce attachment to a lot of my animals now. Nowadays I just collect them, getting a new one whenever I go somewhere new (and people bring them back as souvenirs for me, so my friend Mark brought me a toy Kiwi from New Zealand), but a lot of those stuffed bears and dogs mean a lot to me. In the aftermath of break-ups, or redundancy, or difficulties in social interactions, my toys were still there. The photo illustrating this post is of Aston, a cuddly dog I got in Hamley's a few years back. So where adults, particularly parents, were upset by Toy Story 3 for the concept of children growing up, and leaving home, I was more upset by the idea that you could outgrow your toys. Sure, I don't play with mine any more, but they're still there. One scene near the end even had me in tears - and I'm such a hard-hearted bitch, the last film that made me cry was probably Bambi. For Pixar to wring such emotion out of an essentially cold person is incredibly impressive, and to do so in such a mature way, using simply facial expressions on animated toys...other filmmakers need to study their methods, they really do.

In essence, I only have two problems with Toy Story 3. The first is that it made me cry - I don't like it when films make me do that, because it reminds me I have emotions and therefore vulnerabilities. The second is that there just wasn't enough Timothy Dalton! Honestly, I could listen to that guy all day. Still, there's plenty of the delightful Michael Keaton to keep me happy, who is so perfectly cast as Ken that all the other studios that make celebrity-stuffed CG suckfests should sit up and pay attention - i.e. do not cast a celebrity for their status, cast them because their voice suits the role.

I realise I haven't discussed the plot or the characters, but to be honest, I'd rather you just went to see it. Please, for my sake. Go and enjoy the stunning visuals, the sparky dialogue, the bonds between the characters, and the genuine heartfelt passion for storytelling. Then come home, fish out a childhood toy, and remember how you felt when you were little, when anything was possible in your imagination. If you think carefully, maybe it still is...


Anonymous said...

The beauty of Pixar is the commitment to story and narrative. The characters are brilliant and the combination of the two makes for great storytelling. It's not simply a graphic designer's orgasmic dream, but the technology serves the story.
A gentle film, with a very poignant touch.
Adam B

Anonymous said...

A truly great movie. Mature and intelligent story telling that involved me and made me care. Subtle and very clever. No wonder it appeals to everyone, it's just rollicking good fun. And oddly, Barbie almost stole the whole thing. When she told Ken, "And give me back my scarf"... I almost fell out of my chair laughing so hard.

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