Toy Story Trilogy

It’s a well-worn cliché that Christmas is really for children and that adults should take a back seat to kids. As an adult without kids I think that’s complete nonsense. The fewer children around the more time for eating lots of chocolate and watching films uninterrupted. It’s only Tuesday and I’m sensing a recurring theme this week…. Children’s films on the other hand are more than welcome and make perfect Christmas presents for anyone of any age.The best box-set is undoubtedly the Disney-Pixar classic Toy Story.

Toy Story

Released: 1995
Director: John Lasseter
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen

It’s hard to believe but the original Toy Story film is now 17 years old -17, that’s nearly a whole adult! It’s easy to forget just how ground breaking Toy Story was when it first appeared on our screen and how much it has changed since then. Toy Story was the first computer animated feature film, Pixar’s first film, and it completely revolutionised animation. It looks spectacular and it still does almost two decades on.

All that innovation would have counted for nothing if the story had been rubbish. Thankfully it wasn’t and the breathtaking new technology was matched with a witty, warm and engaging story that tapped into the belief that every child has – that their toys secretly come to life when not being played with.

Alpha toy Woody sees his place at the top of nice kid Andy’s toy-box threatened by the arrival of plastic spaceman Buzz Lightyear, a bombastic oaf who hasn’t quite realised that he is a toy and not an intergalactic superhero. Woody’s jealousy leads to both toys becoming lost at a petrol station and having to find their way home before the big house move.

The voice casting is spot on with Tom Hanks perfect as heroic Woody, Tim Allen great as the arrogant but ultimately good-hearted Buzz and John Ratzenberger on fine form as Hamm the piggy bank.

If you’re going to reinvent a genre, this is how you do it.

Toy Story 2

Released: 1999
Director: John Lasseter, Ash Brannon & Lee Unkrich
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen

All is harmonious in Andy’s playroom. Woody and Buzz are now the best of friends and even the arrival of the puppy at the very end of the first film has only brought more fun to the party. The fun is going to be cut short though as via a series of mishaps, Woody is stolen by an evil toy collector who intends to sell him to a toy museum in Japan. Woody teams up with new friends Jessie the Cowgirl, Stinky Pete the Prospector, and Bullseye the Horse while his old friends launch a rescue mission. The idea of leaving behind the shelf he has been languishing on since having his arm ripped holds some appeal to Woody and some of the seeds are sown for the third installment. What does happens to toys once their owners are too old for them?

Everything is bigger and better in this film than the first one. The technology is just getting classier and more exciting and Pixar are undoubtedly the masters of computer animation. There’s not a flaw anywhere – in the animation or the script. Everything is wonderful. Even the little in-jokes are gems, such as where they mock retailers who didn’t stock enough Buzz Lightyear toys to cope with demand – something which actually happened following release of the first Toy Story movie.

Toy Story 3

Released: 2010
Director: Lee Unkrich
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen

It’s now ten years on from the events of Toy Story 2. Andy is 17 and is preparing to leave home to go to college. His toys still love him but have been languishing in a box for several years. His little sister is now an annoying tween and the bouncy puppy is an aging old man (the first point I cried). His possessions have to be split into three categories – trash, attic and college. He bags all of his toys except Woody into a bag for the attic – he’s going to college with him but disaster ensues and all of the toys end up at the Sunnyside Day Care Centre where the initial warm welcome covers up a dark heart. Woody and the toys battle to get home to Andy before he goes to college and leaves them behind forever.

The first thing that struck me when viewing Toy Story 3 was the massive leap forward in technology between parts 2 and 3. I suppose we could probably have seen that in the other Pixar films that had been made in the intervening years but it’s really obvious here. The first time we see Woody’s face is a moment of real awe, made more beautiful in Blu-Ray. I missed it on the big screen unfortunately but can only imagine it was a sight to behold. As with its predecessor, Toy Story 3 takes the innovation of the prior films andimproves on it with every frame.

The premise of the story is heartbreaking – what happens to our toys when we’re too old to play with them? Well, my old Canhound (a stuffed dog) is still with me – a bit worse for wear and held together with t-shirts replacing stuffing, but he’s certainly not been passed on to any evil teddy bear-run prison camp.   Having spent the past 17 years learning that toys are real and that they love us even if we don’t know it, we’re now faced with the sad truth that when we grow up and leave them behind we create a world of pain. If you don’t spend the last 10 minutes of this film in floods of tears then you don’t have a soul!

Christmas, it’s all about the kids. So leave them downstairs with their One Direction sticker albums while you unpack your old, beloved toys and watch the Toy Story trilogy, reassuring them all the while that you never stopped loving them.

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