Showing posts with label John Lasseter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Lasseter. Show all posts

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Toy Story 2

"Your not a collectors item... You're a toy!"

Toy Story 2 finds the hero of Toy Story kidnapped by a rare toy collector. Woody (Tom Hanks) is taken from his owner, Andy and kept in a Perspex box ready to be shipped to Japan where he will become an exhibit in a toy museum. In an attempt to rescue Woody, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Rex, Slinky, Mr Potato Head and Hamm head out of the safety of Andy’s room and into the open world in order to rescue him. Woody meanwhile has discovered that he was a big hit in the 50s and had his own TV show. He has to decide if his place is back with Andy or with his new Roundup friends.

What started out as a direct to video movie became one of the best loved sequels of all time. I personally don’t think it is as good as the original but I only The Godfather Part II is a better sequel in my opinion. The story is much more sprawling than Toy Story and it encompasses many more locations. The plot is fun and exciting but isn’t as neat as the original film. I like that the plot touches upon how toys feel when they are no longer played with, a theme present in both Toy Story 1 & 2 and the main theme of the third instalment.  It is beefed up by the introduction of some new characters, including Buzz’s nemesis Zurg and Woody’s Roundup Gang; Jessie, Stinky Pete and Bullseye. I found Jessie a bit irritating but liked the additions on the whole. In addition characters from the first instalment are given greater depth, with Slinky’s rear end developing its own character and Rex becoming much more rounded and less one dimensional. While making the original film, Pixar were unable to secure the rights to use Barbie but after the success of that film, Barbie makes an appearance here with obvious product placement.

The animation isn’t notably different from the original but is perhaps more detailed. I don’t think the film is as funny as the original but there are still funny moments. The car chase scene stands out both in terms of humour and action. The addition of a second Buzz presented plenty of laughs and the references to Jurassic Park, Star Wars and James Bond are also enjoyable. The toy’s dreams and fears are explored in greater detail here, something that is seen early on when they panic about being sold in a yard sale.

Overall this is a very good film but is in my view the weakest of the trilogy. That being said, it is still funnier and more action packed than 90% of animations and doesn’t follow the tradition of lazy, cash-in sequel.   


Sunday, 8 April 2012

Toy Story

After watching Cars this morning and being disappointed, I thought I’d go back to where it all began and watch Toy Story. In Andy’s room, top toy Woody (Tom Hanks) is head honcho and garners the love and respect of his fellow toys with prime place on Andy’s bed. Woody’s world is upset though when Andy gets a new Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) for his birthday. Woody finds himself forgotten by Andy and plots to get rid of Buzz. Upon the realisation that what he has done is wrong, Woody sets out to rescue Buzz and bring him back to Andy’s room where they both belong while trying to avoid Andy’s toy murdering next door neighbour Sid in the process.

I have seen this film numerous times, until today the most recently being in 3D (which didn’t improve it). It was the first entirely computer animated feature film ever and spawned the now industry standard GCI cartoon. The animation remains very good but lacks the detail of the latest films. The characters also have a noticeable shine to them which is most apparent in the human characters. Nonetheless, the film’s animation and design stand up well after 17 years of frantic technological advancement.  

What stands the test of time even more successfully though are the wonderful characters and story. The film uses a mixture of toys which are recognisable to young and old and introduces its own to the story. Each toy is given a neat character which works without exception. Of course Little Bow Peep is a sexy blonde bombshell and why wouldn’t Mr. Potato Head be looking for a Mrs. Potato Head? Great care and attention has been given to each toy to give them a distinct and believable personality. Even after at least six or seven viewings I still find myself gripped by the story and find myself urging Buzz and Woody to get back to the safety of Andy’s arms. It is a lovely idea that is beautifully executed.

The film is fully of subtle comedy and details, some of which I only noticed on my latest viewing. Towards the beginning of the film, Woody is stood in front of a book case on which are books with titles that refer to Pixar’s earlier shorts such as Tin Toy and Red’s Dream. There is even a book called Ant & Bee go on vacation which seems like a Tarantinoesque nod to Pixar’s second feature, A Bug’s Life. The film is littered with subtle nuances and comedic touches which never fail to impress and are bold for a debut film.
Subtle background details
The script is fantastic and features clever word play to go along with the tremendous story and characters. It is smart and witty which helps the film appeal to both children and adults alike. I first saw the film when I was around ten and each time I see it I seem to appreciate it in different ways. Along with the funny script there are plenty of visual gags which will keep everyone entertained.

The film isn’t afraid to deal with more adult themes than its Disney predecessors. At the beginning of the film, Buzz doesn’t realise that he is a toy (which is very funny), but when he does he spirals into depression and no longer cares if he lives or dies. Depression isn’t the sort of thing you’d find in your average children’s film. It is also very dark in places. This is particularly the case when Woody and Buzz end up in Sid’s room. The film takes on a horror feel as the central characters are confronted with the sight of mangled and disfigured toys. Another adult theme is that of rejection and fear of being outdated. When Buzz arrives on the scene with his shiny plastic body and electric buttons, Woody feels unwanted and outdated. This could be seen as a comment on how parents themselves feel as their children grow and no longer need them as much. This theme was explored in greater detail and with emotional results in Toy Story 3.

Toy Story is a cinematic classic and will go down in history as one of the greatest animated films of all time. It appeals to people of all ages and has an endearing and timeless story. It will still be shown to the grandchildren of the first children to watch it back in 1995 and is responsible for changing the shape of animated films forever.  



Set in a world of anthropomorphic cars, Pixar’s 2006 feature Cars is about an arrogant, rookie racing car called Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his quest to win the ‘Piston Cup’. On his way to a final showdown in Los Angeles he ends up trapped in a backward town on Route 66 where he is forced by the locals to repair the road which he ripped up while trying to escape from the police. While in town he gets to know some of the local cars and helps them to rediscover their former glory before embarking once again to LA for the final race.

I’ve now seen every Pixar film except Cars 2. I think the Toy Story trilogy is amongst the greatest in the history of cinema, I love Finding Nemo and Wall-E is one of my favourite films. In my opinion Cars is the weakest film that Pixar has produced so far. It isn’t a bad film but compared to Pixar’s back catalogue it’s a bit weak.

On the plus side, the anthropomorphised world that the film creates is strangely believable and the film makers manage to get a lot of expression and emotion via a clever use of windscreens as eyes. The whole design of the film and the animation is unsurprisingly excellent. In particular I really liked the 1950’s look and design of Radiator Springs. The film isn’t as funny as some Pixar features but there are some very funny moments and ideas. I loved that the 1960’s Hippie VW Camper and US Army Jeep were neighbours. It felt like there was a sitcom in that idea. I also thought that the idea to use tractors in place of cows was very funny and clever.  The film also contains a nice message about the nature of modern motoring and its impact on the environment and small communities.

On the downside, I thought that it was far too long. It is 117 minutes which is far too long to keep children (and me) interested in a film of this quality. Up was only 96 minutes long, A Bug’s Life 95 and Toy Story only 81 minutes. It seems shorter is better in the world of Pixar. The idea to use cars instead of humans was nice but the story wasn’t up to scratch. At the end of the day it’s a pretty traditional boy meets girl and changes his outlook story. Finally I thought that some of the characters were a bit stereotypical and that’s a bit lazy of Pixar.

One of the best parts of the film came over the closing credits when the characters were at a drive in cinema and watched clips of Pixar films whose characters were cars. These included Toy Car Story, Monster Trucks Inc and A Bug’s Life (featuring a VW Bug) and they were really funny.

Overall, the film is below the standard I’ve become accustomed to from Pixar but it is still funny and enjoyable at times. It is far too long and lacks a little imagination on occasion but is a solid family animation.