Industrial Light and Magic
(Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich, US, 2010, 108mins – including Day and Night short)
Conflicted? It was ever thus. On a good day, when the sun shines and your beau rings you and says, “let’s meet, I’ve something to tell you” and your innards are flooded with winged insects because you know she’s going to pronounce love or something like it, then Pixar are Hollywood’s shining lights. Your only regret is that they can’t make 250 films a year because even if their methodology represents a computer generated approximation of the film making process, rather than the organic article, it’s the best of the animation tradition; the best of old school storytelling values. If only, you say to yourself, if only live action filmmakers would pay half as much attention to the construction of a well spun yarn, the ticks of character or indeed, being so precise in building sequences. It’s ever better than working twice as hard as the rest, you say, because Pixar’s animators must build their world from the ground up – every detail, every shadow, every inanimate object capable of jacking in to an ethereal field of consciousness – it all has to be programmed from nothing. It’s magic.
But then you meet that girl and it turns out that she doesn’t reciprocate your love at all. In fact, it’s more than mere rejection on an emotional level, she doesn’t want to see you anymore.
“Ed” she seems to say, “you’re too clingy, the presents have got to stop, though I’m keeping them all. Basically, I’m just not comfortable with our friendship as it stands and I think it might be better for both of us if we spent some time apart.”
So now you’re thinking, Pixar – yes, they manufacture magic but maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps it’s the pristine images – the inorganic gloss of the computer generated object; lifelike but lifeless. Maybe it’s that idea you can’t shake, the notion that it’s a saccharine confection. That curiously for a film aimed at children it oscillates between cloying sentimentality and the unabashed cynicism of corporate product.
You remember the Disney films of your youth and note the difference, or at least you felt it was different. You ask yourself if you should deny your own kids a film they’d probably adore, bless ‘em, because you don’t want them to be given an advertising shot in the backside. Hasbro, Mattel, Fisher Price – great brands no doubt but the what the fucking hell are they doing in the middle of a charming story aimed at the young and young at heart?
Why, you say, and by now you’re getting a little irritable, could filmmakers not invent brands, like Buzz for example? Then you wonder if that matters when the non-branded characters are just metamorphosing into commodities in front of your very eyes and to your kids, there’s no difference – they’ll want one anyway.
And while you’re at it, why must every character be voiced by a well-known personality these days? Does anyone really go and see Toy Story because Forrest Gump is “in it”? When you hear Woody, don’t you just picture Tom fucking Hanks? You realise that 25 years after you first saw the animated version of Robin Hood, you still don’t know who voiced the characters but that’s okay because you don’t need to know – it’s an unwanted and intrusive layer of additional knowledge.
Oh yes, and because you’re in a really bad way now, I mean Amy has deleted you from her Facebook AND messenger, the bitch, you ask yourself if you like this culture of self-referential masturbation, with script writers rubbing their gland in front of your face because they think you’ll get a kick out if it. So Toy Story 3 is a prison break movie is it? Great, and I’m enjoying it too but- wait, is that a reference to Escape From Alcatraz, and is that a thinly veiled allusion to a sex act?
Hey Pixar, you bastards, why don’t you just tell the best story you can and allow us to select our own iconography? Perhaps a few years from now, smug, pop-culture literate lackeys can lazily trade on said references, because they may be short of ideas and require a crutch. Think of them.
And wangsuck, stop targeting my demographic to maximise your box office! If your movie is endearing and rich and funny and free of infantile humour – references to bodily functions and the like, I’m always going to enjoy it, you don’t need to buy me off with jokes for the parents. Most adults remain young until well into their forties these days so you’ve got us for the precise window when we’re likely to go the cinema and buy merchandise anyway, okay?
Do you realise that timelessness is a label conferred on almost all classic animation? That’s the test. It only needs to work within its own terms of reference. When geeks starting using the word “meta” to describe why they enjoyed a scene, I reach for my gun. It’s loaded too. No one watches Snow White or 101 Dalmatians but stops half way through, saying “It’s not a bad kids movie but there’s not enough in here to sustain my media literate brain. Where are the self-referential asides? Where are the classic movie pastiches?”
Finally, the phone rings and low and behold it’s Amy. She was wrong. She thinks she might have been a little hard on you earlier and in light of this, she suggests you should honour your commitment to take her to see Bon Jovi at the Wembley Arena.
So you think for a while and you realise that Toy Story 3 is probably the best of the series, with a genuinely sweet ending. Sure, there are issues, but they’re ancient history now, and even Randy Newman’s syrup drenched compositions were kept to a minimum. Yes, he didn’t ruin the middle of this movie was a dreadful song like last time. When you and Amy have kids, you realise, they’ll enjoy the film as much as you did. But you better hope you get a great job because that merchandise bill is going to be huge.