Sunday, June 7, 2015

"Toy Story"

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My friends in college have been routinely shocked by me uttering the phrase, "I have never seen Toy Story...ever." They were quick to tell me what I'm missing out on. There are two big reasons why I'm first watching this movie a full two decades after its release. The main one is that I remember seeing TV commercials for the movie back in 1995, but nothing about it jumped out at my 5-year-old self enough to cause me to beg my parents to take me to see it. (And believe me, I saw just about everything Disney released between 1992 and 2002 in theaters). I vaguely recall getting a remote controlled RC the Car from a family friend who had no idea I never watched the movie.

The second reason is that in my later childhood, I became (and remain) a Disney snob. Computer animation looks cheap and ugly to me compared to the hand-drawn cartoons of my youth. The only fully computer animated movie I have ever enjoyed is the first Happy Feet. Give me an old-school cartoon like Cinderella or The Emperor's New Groove any day of the week. I truly believe that getting involved with Pixar was Disney's downfall, because their other collaborations like Cars and Finding Nemo seem like they can only be enjoyed by very young children. Disney movies are supposed to be fun for the whole family.

A third relatively minor reason I never sought this out is my extreme dislike of Tom Hanks, who voices Woody. Ever since seeing the horror that is Forrest Gump, I have stayed far away from any movie he's had anything to do with. I think Saving Private Ryan is a masterpiece, but absolutely not because of him. He also did a fantastic job with Band of Brothers, as his role was confined to being behind the scenes.

I'd like to say that finally seeing this changed my entire view of the computer animated genre despite my prejudices. Don't misunderstand me, this is far from the worst thing Disney has ever done, but it's also not even close to their best. Though the human characters don't appear often, they are all distractingly ugly. The movie's other flaw is its godawful Randy Newman soundtrack. How could the studio that gave us Pocahontas the same year and The Lion King the year before miss the mark so badly?

The basic story is simple. A kid's toys come to life whenever he leaves his room. Cowboy doll Woody is concerned that his owner Andy's cool new astronaut action figure Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) will replace him as the kid's favorite toy. Buzz and Woody end up lost together and have a series of misadventures trying to get back to Andy's house before he and his mother move away. They don't like each other, but have to find a way to overcome their differences.

From an adult perspective, both of these toys have some mental issues. Woody is mildly sociopathic; he pushes Buzz out of a window to keep Andy from being able to play with him and doesn't seem to feel bad about it. Buzz Lightyear has delusions of grandeur and thinks he really is a Space Ranger on a mission to defend the galaxy; when he learns otherwise, he becomes depressed and at points catatonic.

I grew up loving Tim Allen in Jungle 2 Jungle, so it's no surprise that the character I warmed up to the most was Buzz. He really does make you feel for the plastic spaceman who can't fly and doesn't have superpowers. My second favorite character was the green army man voiced by the only man for the job: R. Lee Ermey. There were a lot of moments made me laugh out loud, particularly the part with the claw machine aliens at Pizza Planet. I enjoyed the inside references like Andy listening to "Hakuna Matata" in the car. The movie was fun enough to make me wonder if Toy Story 2 is any good. However, I am by no means a computer animation or Pixar convert.

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