Saturday, June 26, 2010

Every Road Leads Home: Toy Story 3

When I was extremely young my parents gave me a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure for my birthday. My friends and I would get together and create these fantastical situations with all of our toys and face the wrath and ridicule of our siblings in the process. My Ninja Turtle would woo the Barbies and join forces with the Ghostbusters to vanquish evildoers which existed solely in our overly imaginative minds. As time faded, Leonardo lost his plastic katanas and the paint on his body began to scuff and peel. Before long I had simply outgrown him. When the time came I tossed him away in a box with the rest of my plastic memories without remorse. His blue bandana was frayed, his legs and arms were scratched and my name written in permanent marker along his bottom foot had all but worn off.

One day, in a fit of despair, I frantically searched for a bunch of old toys my parents had stowed away in our furnace room. It was the day before I would move away to university. I was scared stiff. I didn't want to leave home. I didn't want to grow up. I didn't want to be alone. While my best friends were far too big to fit into my luggage Leo would fit just fine. My hands slowly stopped trembling and my heart found a steady beat. Though I had tried to forget a vital part of my childhood it was always there waiting to be rediscovered. The next day, when I got in the car with a box filled with my things headed to St. Catharines, I didn't have any photos of my parents or my friends, just memories stored within a little green Samurai tucked between two pairs of jeans.

It might be silly to put so much weight on something mass produced and uninspired but many of us find refuge from our emotions in the realm of popular culture, when we should really try embracing them. Nobody understands this quite like Pixar. Even if Toy Story 3 seems like a bit of a step back for the studio in terms of both breadth of animation and storytelling, it is still a powerful and heartfelt farewell to characters who myself and millions of others have come to love. Toy Story 3 plays like a realization that the filmmakers have let themselves grow up too fast. Thus, they wanted to offer a genuine “goodbye” to some of their most beloved (and bankable) creations before their future works completely overshadowed this blast from the past.

Before I went into the film I had my doubts. The picture's marketing had placed far too much emphasis on the introduction of new characters: there was the obvious 3D push and the introduction of a new director, with John Lasseter (director of the original Toy Story) passing the reins in order to sit back and act as a producer. The end result, however, is a bittersweet affair which is thankfully not bogged down by commercial concerns. These commercial tactics are certainly present and unavoidable in a film of this ilk but they don't overshadow the filmmaker's intentions.

Though, littered with new characters (most of whom are still undeniably charming) and an all too familiar plot – the Toy Story gang try to get back home to Andy, their college - bound owner – I find trouble faulting a film that can make my heart ache quite the way first time director Lee Unkrich and the gang have here. By the time the closing credits began to roll I felt just like I did when I painstakingly searched for Leo to cling onto a tangible piece of my youth as I moved onto the next stage of my life.

Saying goodbye to Woody and Buzz Lightyear is simply admitting that I need to grow up. Pixar, too, knows it's time to move on and they've delivered an elegant au revoir to some of their most inspired characters. The loss of these fine friends has left a hollowness in my chest, but the memories will be cherished long after. Growing up doesn't have to mean “goodbye.” I thought somehow that moving away to go to university meant I was to be exiled, that I needed to mature alone. I was wrong. Just as my parents continue to call me on a consistent basis (to give me a warm “hello" five years since my graduation from university), Leo serves as a constant reminder of my past between their calls. Pixar is ready to do some growing up, too, but they don't want to forget what got them here in the first place.

-- Andrew Dupuis is a devoted cinephile and graduate of Brock University's Film Studies program with an extensive background in Canadian and popular cinema. He is currently working on his first book.

1 comment:

  1. Andrew you have certainly grown up. I find your story touching and heart-felt. I rarely go on this site, but for some reason could not sleep and decided to check on your reviews
    Keep up the good work! I am so very proud of you.

    Love always mom.