Among many Hallmarks of Pixar’s fantastic repetoire, the one I love the most is the way that the animators and storyboarders use space and character limitation to their advantage; take any Pixar movie about characters that aren’t people — for example, Finding Nemo: the fact that the characters are fish isn’t something that we ever forget, and not something that limits the characters at all; rather, in that movie, the viewer sees Marlin hold his breath before reaching the surface of the water looking for a boat; and the humour of the fish in the tank in the dentist’s office revolves around the characters’ abilities or inabilities as the species of fish they are; for example, the octopus spitting ink, and the starfish stuck to the side of the tank. Another good example is A Bug’s Life; one of the best scenes is all of the insects flying towards the light and essentially getting high off its lumination; the idea of a scene like this is, if bugs could talk, and we could understand what they do and why, this is what they would say, and this is how they would react. Of course, the same ideas are VERY applicable in Toy Story; everything the characters utilize as part of their plans and daily activities, is a toy or something small that they would be able to hold; all of their limitations aren’t as much “limiting” as opportunities for the animators to be creative with the characters’ abilities; for example, Mr. Potato Head’s removable orifices and limbs, or Buzz Lightyear’s wings. It’s a fascinating exercise in ability versus inability, and utilizing what you’re given in order to create visually appealing dramatics that had me as a viewer repeatedly thinking, “how did they even come up with this?!” in my head.
All three movies in this adorable and somehow morbid and imminent trilogy are delightful in their own ways, and continually go deeper and delve into the aforementioned aspects of the film as well as the characters’ personalities, friendships and relationships and lives. While I am always aware that these characters are made of plastic, and while I am aware that they’re “toys”, I care so deeply about them and sometimes, despite the visual reminders, care more about Andy’s toys than real people in other real films I’ve seen; the emotional grip on me is that powerful.
I think what Pixar does in all of their movies, but particularly in the Toy Story franchise, is capitalize on nostalgia. They tap into the childhood minds of the viewers, who have, like Andy, left their toys behind for the real world, and seeing flashbacks of Andy playing elaborate imaginary games with his toys/best friends, reminds us all of that time when the world was so carefree and we were that imaginative. In that sense, we care about his toys, as if they’re OUR toys. And personally, I’d like to think that if my toys could come to life, they would be that in love with me, and they would be that hard to give up on me, and they would go to any length to be as loyal to me and longing for me as Andy’s toys are with Andy. That kind of friendship — between children and their toys — is incredibly unique in its lack of transformation; even Andy has a hard time letting go of Woody. And I’m looking over at my own bed at Tornado, and I think, I would NEVER let him go. I would be DEVASTATED if I lost him. And that strong consciousness is what attaches adults to the Toy Story movies almost more than children; to them, their toys are still their friends; they haven’t experienced that sense of growing up and letting go and being nostalgic for what you once had the way that adults have.
I feel incredibly passionate about all three movies, but the third one in particular, perhaps because I did leave my old friends behind when I departed for university, resonated with me. Its imagination knows no bounds; its animation is visually stunning and seamless; and in true Pixar fashion, the movie knows exactly which strings to pull to evoke sympathy, empathy, longing and laughter from the audience that grew up watching the first two films. It might be one of my favourite-ever Pixar movies for those reasons. The studio has outdone themselves once again.
I can’t wait until the next time I go home so that I can revisit all of my old toys, who will always be there when I need them.