Damn You, Pixar, you’ve done it again

Toy Story (1) was the first movie my son and I both enjoyed equally. He was five or six when I took him and I remember our shared delight at the scene with the little aliens.

And therein lies at least part of Pixar’s absolute brilliance. For those who have yet to see TS3, I won’t spoil you. But you’d have to have been living under a rock not to be aware that this is a movie that reduces many of its adult viewers to tears. I was okay, mostly – I even got through Andy’s mother suddenly choking up as she realises this really is it, her little boy is leaving to go to college.

But the point is, that five year old who giggled with me at the aliens is now waiting for his A Level results and will, DV, be off to college himself. At the end of the show my son and daughter walked ahead of us, suddenly both looking so mature and self-contained. I took my husband’s hand and left the theatre with something firmly lodged in my eye.

Damn you, Pixar, you did it again. Your technical brilliance alone ensures you record box-office takings and a place in cinematic history, but it’s equalled if not surpassed by your grasp of the emotional issues that touch human hearts. You also know how to place cues and trail a plot resolution that seems to come completely out of left-field but has, in fact, been perfectly set up earlier. I love the way you do that, and the way that every single one of those toys has a vital part to play in the story, with the most insignificant, apparently, turning out to be the most important of all.

I rather hope there won’t be further sequels. We’ve been on a perfectly defined emotional journey with this wonderful trilogy, the ending embraces the inevitability of change, even when it’s painful and, as the Doctor says, "Everything has its time." And no matter how much we grandstand and bluster and put hands on hips and declaim, "To Infinity And Beyond", deep inside the vast majority of us human beings want to love and be loved in return, to have someone we need to be there for, who will recognise, sooner of later, how much that relatlionship means to them. The toys are desperately vulnerable. Anyone can throw them in the trash, shove them in the attic, lose and then replace them, or just forget about them. A lot of the time, they have no control over their fates and they know it, which is why they fight so hard for their dreams, and they don’t give up.

In one respect, TS3 and The End of Time are similar. Both present their characters with the option of making the best of a bad job. Some of the toys – heck, all of them in their different ways – are ready to take that option at various times in the movie. The great thing is that, just as one loses hope, another will find it and pull the whole group through. In the end, they keep going and fighting for the best possible outcome, however unlikely it seems. Collectively, they never give up on Andy (and by association, the universe) to come through for them. That’s the reason why the movie can take us through terrible pain but leave us moved and elated when it ends.

I wish RTD’s who had been more like the Pixar universe. You don’t have to break your characters and leave them with nothing to make the point that the world is a harsh place. In fact, you’ve a duty to leave your audience with hope, precisely for that reason. We watch movies to teach us how to cope with that world, and to inspire us never to lose sight of the possibility of a better outcome than the one that seems unavoidable. And before anybody protests that we need stronger intellectual fare than Toy Story, I’d like to point out that (a) you have to be really, really clever to make a movie as good as TS3 and (b) I once saw the Grigori Kozintsev, three-hours-plus, Russian-language of King Lear, and it left me with a lot more hope than The End of Time did, even though everybody dies at the end.

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10 thoughts on “Damn You, Pixar, you’ve done it again

  1. W felt the same way when we saw TS3. We watched the first one together on a date, the second one when we had a baby. And now we have two kids who are walking, talking, functioning little people, and I’m left staring at the clock and trying to slow down time.

  2. I’m at a similar stage to you in that my eldest has just left primary school and will be going to secondary in September and I’m wondering how she got so big so fast. I did cry; at the part you mentioned, but also when Andy was playing with the little girl, and with Woody and the gang for one last time.
    You’re spot on with what you say about Pixar’s technical brilliance always being wonderfully balanced by their ability to tell a bloody good story. I was saying to Mr Caz that they’ve never made a duff film; they take so much care over the films they put out and I get the impression that no matter how clever they can be with the animation or the special effects – if the story doesn’t fly then they won’t make it.
    I’m almost sure that the creative team are good enough to know they’ve finished their story. And it was a truly magical one.

  3. I saw the movie last Sunday and I’m still floored by it. Back when the first two installments came out I was single and I related to them through nostalgia for my own childhood; this time I’m a father and, yes, this time whenever Andy appeared I wasn’t looking at my past self who used to play with Masters of the Universe toys, but at my 20 months old toddler (who, by the way, already knows and loves Woody and Buzz from the Toy Story DVDs but, to my regret, is too young to see this one in a movie theatre)
    I really don’t know how they could make a sequel to this, but I also felt a threequel wasn’t needed back when Toy Story 2 came out, and look how things turned out. At this point I probably trust Pixar’s instincts more than I trust my own. But I do feel Pixar must have thought of this one as the end of the line for these characters (although a short film is scheduled for 2010; regular shorts would be a very good way to keep revisiting these characters without reopening this emotional arc)
    I do see an obvious and huge emotional connection between this story and the one in Eleventh Hour/Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang; and did you notice there’s even some degree of physical resemblance between Eleven and Woody? Their pointy noses and hairdos are similar, and you may even say Matt Smith looks like a rag doll (the raggedy doctor!). Also, Woody, as you said, never gave up on Andy to come through for them, the same way the Doctor trusted Amy and her capacity of remembering to be his salvation.
    Memories and imaginary friends are common themes (because, in their own way, toys are imaginary friends; objects whose life is conveyed by a child’s imagination). And the place they occupy in adult life when people grow up; toys and imaginary friends are memories during most of our lives but that’s why they are so powerful: they’re recollections of a (hopefully) beautiful past we will always treasure and we will always strive to live up to. The spanish translation for Latin-america of “You’ve Got A Friend in me” (not the one sang by the Gypsy Kings in Toy Story 3, but the very different version used back in Toy Story 1 and 2) puts it very eloquently, perhaps even more than Randy Newman’s original:
    Yo soy tu amigo fiel
    Y si un dia tu te encuentras
    Lejos, muy lejos de tu lindo hogar
    Cierra los ojos y recuerda que
    Yo soy tu amigo fiel
    Which, after translation, says something like this:
    I am your faithful friend
    And if some day you happen to be
    Far, far away from your nice home
    Close your eyes and remember that
    I am your faithful friend.

  4. You don’t have to break your characters and leave them with nothing to make the point that the world is a harsh place. In fact, you’ve a duty to leave your audience with hope, precisely for that reason.
    THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS!
    I get it, RTD is a cynical bastard who hates the world. (If he isn’t, he’s done a darn good impression.) But for 40+ years, this was a show about hope. Not “the story of the day I died… not.” Not your song ends. Not endless reminders that the season will pass and some companion will leave with it. Not I get a reward.
    The reason I disliked the end of Torchwood is that the nihilism didn’t have the slightest brake put on it; he could go all to the wall and then be pissy when people objected. When they wanted hope and a little happiness. He may not think they exist, but they do all the same.
    I would have stopped watching if the show wasn’t in the hands of the man who wrote “Just this once, everybody lives!”
    I haven’t seen TS3, although I’ve been spoiled a bit. The plot is always the same – the toys are separated from Andy; Woody and Buzz fight; Buzz and Woody make up; the toys get back to Andy. It’s the right ending, from what I hear.

  5. It’s a little bit darker and more subtle than the previous two, though.
    And I agree about RTD as you know…I think the way Tennant going was deliberately made as awesomely tragic as possible was very indulgent, not in the spirit of the show, and made it much more difficult to accept Matt Smith and all the good things he brings to the role.
    I’m not sure if RTD’s problem is that he hates the world, but I do think he’s unhealthily obsessed with his power over the audience. No wonder he wrote Ten with a God complex.

  6. I hadn’t really thought about parallels between DW and TS2, probably because I was too busy spotting the obvious ones between DW and the new “Sherlock” as imagined by SM and Gatiss – which is wonderful, BTW.
    I wondered if my little bit of Spanish would flush you out! Everything sounds better in Spanish, even when translated back to English. Buzz en Espagnol made Puss in Shreck look like a racial stereotype, though I still think his hairball scene is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in any animated movie.
    Is Spanish your first language, or English? Your English is extremely good.

  7. This is scuttlebutt, but I was told last ChicagoTARDIS by someone in a position to know that RTD is inherently a very cynical and angry person, and was using the end of his reign at Who to dump that out on everyone. While rumors are worth the paper they’re written on, it certainly explains a LOT about the final shows to me.
    he’s unhealthily obsessed with his power over the audience
    I’m not entirely sure if it’s power over the audience as much as getting the impression from interviews that nobody on his side of production tells him “no” – so when he puts things out there and the audience does not fawn on him – when the audience outright complains – he starts lashing out. That’s certainly what we saw about CoE; he wasn’t defending his own writing, he was outright calling portions of the audience defective for not liking it.
    ETA: For Pixar… well, it would have to be. The movies have grown up along with Andy (and the audience, as you point out). At some point Andy *will* be too old for Woody and Buzz. And because the toys have made it clear twice over that they have no life if they’re not being played with… suffice it to say that the ending I’ve had spoiled for me is the only possible happy[ish] ending that there could have been.

  8. Hey! Sorry about delaying the answer, been somewhat busy. I hadn’t seen Sherlock yet back when you wrote this comment, but I saw A Study in Pink the day before yesterday and I have to agree: it is a great piece of TV. Loved the acting: Freeman, Graves, Davis and Gatiss were superb, and Cumberbatch was just unbelievable. Great casting once again; Britain’s capability of putting out great actors never ceases to amaze me.
    Do you think everything sounds better in Spanish? I’m no expert in tongues, but I think Spanish, like all romance languages, has a more musical feeling to its pronunciation. On the other hand, the beauty of English lies in its simplicity and malleability; everything’s easier to say (less tenses, simpler grammatical persons and conjugations) and it’s more open to create new words. And the thing I love the most of your language is the way deep things are less likely to sound pompous or corny, but just plain heartfelt. In Spanish, earnest is more prone to sound like mere pretty words, while in English it just sounds like the truth.
    Don’t worry about your Spanish! I really wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t the strongest. I’m aware english-speaking people do not have as many chances of interacting with the Spanish language as we have with English. And I’m also aware that spanish may look somewhat daunting, unnecesarily contrived at some points.
    Spanish is my mother tongue, yes. Thanks for the compliment! I’m from Argentina, still live here and I never been to the UK, though I’ve been a couple of months in the US to carry out some jobs I had. So I have never felt attacked by the puss or the flamenco Buzz; they are very much based on spaniards.

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