Saturday, June 26, 2010

You got a friend in me...thoughts on Toy Story 3 @alaindebotton @leeunkrich

It's been a long night but I had to get all of this out of my head!

Without a doubt, Pixar has a way of pulling my heartstrings like no other studio can come close to doing. I have bawled my eyes out in the last 2 movies, because I had found something in its DNA resoundingly familiar in me in both of them- Up, the melancholy sweetness of bereaving a lost loved one (my Grandpa had just passed away and I pictured my Grandma going through what Carl was) and Wall-E, lamenting the demise of being able to make real human connections and the imminent deterioration of our planet's wellbeing.

So when I read the review on New York times for TS3 I knew I was in for a cryfest. The mention of how it's about "the sorrows and pleasures that dwell at the heart of our materialist way of life" sold me that I was not only going to revisit the old friends  I had made back when I was a kid trying to learn plain English (Slinky! Mr. Potato Head!), but that I was going to feel what Andy feels having grown up and needing to make the decision about leaving his childhood memorabilia behind in order to move ahead, too. That it was written by the same pen as Little Miss Sunshine only consolidated my belief that I was in for an embarrassing emotional roller coaster that I should ride only with the closest of friends.

I grew up on Toy Story. I was around the same age as the Andy then (I was seven?), and I must have watched the movie at least once a week, over and over again, on VHS. Rewind, play, repeat. In my rec room, with my faithful toys in hand, imagining that they too came to life at night only on occasions I wasn't watching. I think this movie instilled in me a fondness of looking for humane characteristics in inanimate objects- seeing a loving smiley face in a Mini Cooper here, a sad, decrepit Poland Spring water bottle there begging not to be thrown out but instead be reused. It wasn't the groundbreaking Pixar technology that I found mesmerizing, heck, because it was the pioneering first what else did we have to compare to? It was the story that unfolded and the relentless heart of these characters which I wanted to revisit again and again. One of the last scenes where Woody and Buzz were on the rocket, flying up jaws quivering- TO INFINITY, AND BEYOND!- is one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. It was the first soundtrack I begged to own. A natural hoarder, I find the connection with my toys- the Polly Pockets, the stuffed Dwarves, the strangly-haired Barbies- akin to that of Andy's- and this emotional connection with his childhood material anchors that has carried on into his early adulthood is exactly what I found so endearingly resonant.

Now that Andy is all grown up, heading to college and grappling about what to do with his beloved toys of yore, I felt a pinge of longing for the toys that are stored in my basement  back in Sydney, too. The story took me through twists and turns in my emotional spectrum that no other movie has been capable of since probably, the first Toy Story. Perhaps Nemo. If I had to think of something 'serious', the closest might have probably been Lions for Lambs by Robert Redford. I gasped, laughed and cried at the same moments and for the same duration that the five year old toddlers in the cinema did, but at the same time I was so glad that I was sharing the experience with them- because I knew they too, deserved to learn from the loyalty, bravery and wit of Woody and co. I've found that very few film characters can instill in a child; or adult, for that matter. But I must say that I'm glad I was there at the beginning, experiencing the wonderment and joy of toys the way Andy did when he did back in 1995, and feeling regret and melancholy when parting with his toys at the end in 2010, and thus his childhood past, right when I need to make the decision and lifestyle choices to 'grow up', too.

Thank you to everybody in the crew on Toy Story 1, 2, 3 for reminding me that I will always have a child and sense of wonderment in me. Watching the camcorder footage montage in the beginning made me feel as if I were watching my own. This is a truly precious of body of work that has been created and I look forward to sharing it with my children in the future and watching it over and over again for years to come.


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