Monday, May 2, 2016

The Pixar Project: Toy Story

Hi there! Dave-El here with another post to the #1 blog among sentient dung beetles, I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You.

Here at the Fortress of Ineptitude, the family sometimes stresses over our entertainment options. Such is life in the 21st century when there are so many choices of movies and TV shows to watch and enjoy. Sometimes such a simple recreational activity becomes a source of stress when 3 people have 3 different ideas about what to watch. To that end, my daughter recently suggested a theme for movies to watch as a family. We're going to watch all the Pixar movies in chronological order. 

While we all enjoy Pixar's films, individually we like some more than others. By watching each of Pixar's features in the order they were originally released takes that element of stress out of the equation. We're watching whatever comes next, even if its Cars. (We may have to make an exception for Cars 2.)  

So Saturday night, we started from the beginning with the original Toy Story



Apparently we were watching this on a DVD we purchased back in 2000. The trailers for theatrical and "home video" releases were for 2000 and 2001. Apparently we had The Emperor's New Groove, Monster's Inc and a re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to look forward to.  

The amazing thing about Toy Story is how well it holds up. Originally released in 1995, Pixar was just beginning to explore the limits of the then nascent technology of computer animation. Choosing toys as their subject was a brilliant touch as it deftly avoided the stiffness and unnaturalness that came with animated humans by computer. The humans we do see (Andy, Molly, their mom, Sid and his sister) are a bit creepy compared to the strides that have been made in this technology over the last two decades. 

Freed from the limits of living human beings, all the other characters are brought to life to an extraordinary degree. 

But despite their ground breaking work in computer animation, what makes Pixar films so wonderful and well liked over generations is the strength of story and character development. We invest in what's going on with the toys in Andy's room because we come to regard them as individuals and we come to care about them.  

One of the amazing things Pixar did with Toy Story was to allow the toys to be at different turns unlikable. And no where is that most risky than with the ostensible star of the show, Woody the cowboy doll. As Andy's favorite toy, Woody enjoys a position of leadership in Andy's room, a position that is threatened by the arrival of a new toy, Buzz Lightyear. Woody doesn't not react to this new development well, comporting himself in a petulant, unsympathetic manner, acting whiny and angry. 

But Woody is not really a bad sort and over time he comes to see how badly he has been behaving and regards Buzz as a friend. It is a nuanced take on a character that pushed Toy Story to a level beyond merely being a kids' movie. Helping matters with Woody's development is the casting of Tom Hanks to provide's Woody's voice.  

Other casting is also inspired with Tim Allen perfect as the overly earnest Buzz Lightyear, Don Rickles as the irascible Mr. Potato Head and soon to become a Pixar mainstay, John Ratzenberger as Hamm.  

There are so many lines in Toy Story that still resonate with me after over 20 years. 

"That wasn't flying! That was falling with style!" 
"Who are you looking at, you hockey puck?"  
"My eyes could've been SUCKED from their SOCKETS!" 
"This is a perfect time to panic!"
"You're a sad, strange little man and you have my pity." 
"I'm OKAY!"  
"We see EVERYTHING!"  
"Oh no! Now I have guilt!" 

 An astonishingly solid start to Pixar's animation domination over the next 20 years. 

Coming next for viewing here in the Fortress of Ineptitude: A Bug's Life. It's really been a very long time since I lost saw this one. Can't wait to see how this holds up. When we watch it, I'll write about it here.  

Meanwhile, a new post on something or another will be happening here tomorrow. Until then, remember to be good to one another. 

And also...to infinity...and BEYOND!   

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