Jun 21, 2010

Toy Story Trilogy: An Ode to Childhood Imagination

These movies define me.

I say this upfront with hopes that you will understand where I am coming from, but know deep down that you will never understand these films the same way I do. Some films have a basic understanding that everyone can grasp to, but every once in a while, there is a movie that transcends and leaves everyone in the audience with something unique and different. Pixar seems to be the master of these style of films, from Finding Nemo, to Cars, to Monsters, Inc.. But for me it all comes back to Toy Story.


When I was a child, I had a magical connection with my toy's, and these words from a jaded, evolved, and thoughtful 23 year old don't come close to describing what the emotion was in the vaguest of terms. Children have their own vocabulary for how they feel towards certain things. That vocabulary is lost though time and maturity. Toy Story as a whole captures that emotion lost in time, and presents it in a way that is oblivious to children now, but will become all to relevant when they grow up.

Toy Story was my second favorite animated movie as a kid. Top honors goes to Aladdin, ask anyone who has tried to watch it when I am within earshot. But Toy Story was always magical to me for different reason's though. There was no Princess, no magic, just the two people learning to get along with each other and learning to co-exist in a crazy world. To me, this theme hits home, as I am a man who cherishes people with or without their flaws. If you learn to look past those flaws, you will find out that there can be a friendship and a bond like no other.

Then came Toy Story 2. It was everyone's favorite characters back for a second go. The themes from the first were still present, but didn't mean as much to me, as I had grown past that stage of my life. The theme that hit me the most was the need to feel special and adored. This movie taught me all I needed to know about self worth, from accepting new friends in your life, not settling because it is comfortable, and returning to a difficult life simply because it is the right thing to do.

Finally, there is Toy Story 3. I saw Toy Story 3 three times this weekend, with each showing bringing new emotions and new experience's to the forefront of my mind while keeping the previous emotions intact.

The first showing was incredible. I saw it with a group of peers around my age at midnight. All of our lives had taken different paths, but we did care. We were all there to see Toy Story 3 and get a glimpse of our childhood days when our lives weren't as complicated, where we could forge our own adventures with our best friends: our toys. That showing will be the most important showing for most people, even once the film is released on DVD and Blu-ray. The people at that showing were the target audience for the original Toy Story when it was released in 1995 and they weren't there at midnight to see a film. They were there to visit old friends. And perhaps gain closure...

The second showing was fantastic. I went Friday night, all by my lonesome, because this was my movie, no one else was allowed to have it. I wanted to have the theater all to myself with no one else ruining my happiness so I could be allowed return to my childhood. Being opening weekend I wasn't allowed that luxury, but I did manage to find a seat with no one else on either side of me. It wasn't me with friends, it was just me. My emotions and I were in sync and content, blocking everyone else out. No children laughing at the child humor, no adults laughing at the adult humor, just me. My heart soared, my heart sank, I cried, I laughed. It was like I was back in my room just me and my toys.

The third showing was amazing. I went to see it with a friend that I hadn't seen in a while and I had only known a short time, but she was only in town for the weekend so we decided why not make a date out of it. We got tickets early, grabbed some lunch and then headed back to the theater. She sat on my right and as we flirted the theater started to fill up. To my left a 6 year old kid sat down next to me with his grandparents, plush Woody and Buzz in hand. He was ready for action and adventure! Little did he know he sat down next to a Toy Story pro.

The flirting continued, but the kid was participating with all sorts of cool trivia. "Did you know the purple bear is named Lotso?" "I don't know who my favorite is Buzz or Woody?" "I really hope this movie is good." The three of us all smiled and talked as if we were all in kindergarten together, absent of social boundaries and responsibilities. This kid was having the time of his life, and the movie hadn't even started yet. The lights dimmed and his eyes were wide behind his 3D glasses. He kept poking and prodding me throughout the film, but I loved it. It all really came together when subtitles started appearing on the screen. "I can't read" he whispered into my ear. I noticed my date smile a nod of approval as I turned to the kid "Don't worry, I got it." From that point on, I was Mr. Subtitle.

When the movie ended the grandparents said thank you for being such a sport and hoping that he didn't ruin the movie for me. I just smiled and said "No, he is a good kid. He made the movie for me." I even got a hug from him. Never learned his name. Didn't have too. I knew his name. His name was "Ryan Holt". I got a rare glimpse into my past.

When I become a father and have a beautiful wife, she needs to know a couple things outright. My son will be getting a Buzz and a Woody from day 1. He will never have to make that decision. He will be raised on these films because not only of the great story telling, but because of the great theme's the films present. I cannot wait to introduce him to my childhood memories. Until this little guy shows up, I will watch these movies in the hopes of rekindling childhood memories.

And I will love every second of it.