For the past couple of years, I’ve always responded to the old ‘What’s your favourite movie’ riddle with ‘Fight Club.’ It’s served me well, and it’s still a solid movie, but I know it too well now, and I am no longer 16 and drowning in enough Year 10 English essays to make me want to burn the world down. In light of this… personal development(?), I’m thinking of jumping ship to ‘Toy Story 3’, a film that is – funnily enough – about growing up, amongst a whole heap of other things.
I first saw Toy Story 3 in cinemas, on my own. Yeah I know, that was sad of me, but to be honest I don’t think I’d have been much use in a social context immediately after watching it. I came out of that movie struck literally dumb. I remember walking home and not knowing what to do with myself, with my life. This film came about as close to physically attacking me as a film ever has, and I guess we should probably examine why that is, huh?
Firstly, Pixar were very clearly aware that they were holding a generation’s childhoods in their hands, and – crucially – were not afraid to use that as ammunition. The opening scene of the film is basically a montage of references – with dialogue ripped straight from the previous two films. We see a Western-style conflict between a sheriff and a robber, a la the opening of the first film, but told in the semi-earnest, in-character, genre-movie style of the start of Toy Story 2. This all has the effect of basically saying… ‘Hey. You guys remember the Toy Story movies? Remember how much you loved those when you were little?’
Immediately after this huge reference-melange, we cut back to reality. We’ve been watching Andy play with his toys all along. Here’s where the clip I presented begins. We come out of this action-packed nostalgia festival, and slip smoothly into a sunny, care-free montage of… well, nostalgia again. A different kind of nostalgia, for all the stuff we remember from our childhoods outside of Toy Story 1 and 2. Andy’s antics remind us of our own. His life looks so different from ours! But that classic Randy Newman song is playing over the top, and everything’s so happy…
Do not trust this warm, fuzzy feeling, courageous viewers. In ten seconds Pixar is going to spin around, grab that nostalgic bliss tightly from either end and throttle you with it. I know every word of that song. So when, on the line ‘Our friendship will never die,’ the music fades out, and we fade to black… I die a little.
In that one moment, you know everything you need to about where this film is going. Your friendship is going to die. The whole movie is about these characters we know and love dealing with the fact that time passes and things change. They face abandonment, being forgotten… even death, briefly; and by the end of the film, Andy’s still never coming back. These are, as far as I can tell, universally resonant themes… so yes, kid movie. But a quality one…
Anyway back to the scene I actually presented: I selected it because I thought it showed the film’s tendency to sucker-punch you with nostalgia with maximum efficiency. Straight after that brutal fade to black, we jump straight into another one of the Toy’s elaborate schemes. It’s just like it used to be! Sound is once again used beautifully, the music playing in this scene is the same music they played in the earlier films during these sequences. Pixar builds us up with all these little notes, lets us remember the good old days, and then WHAM. Grown-up Andy strides in, and we watch as Woody – clinging pitifully to the phone – listens to his owner ask ‘Is anyone there?’ but can’t reply. It’s quite possibly the closest Andy’s come to talking to him in years.
On repeat viewings, this scene gets even sadder. The toys have blatantly been planning this phone heist for a long time (Woody says they ‘rehearsed’ it) all to get Andy to notice them. They just want him to realise they’re there. In this scene the toys could easily be seen as representing, say, elderly parents in retirement homes. They just want their ‘kid’ to talk to them…
God, isn’t that bleak? Is this film seriously targeted at children??
Anyway… I’ve ranted again haven’t I? Bottom line: great use of sound, fantastic animation – especially like the little cracks in the material where the big toy box has aged – and shameless weaponization of childhood memories. A+++ would cry again.
Isaac Mitchell-Frey (9985182)