Lee has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.
When I heard they were going to make a Toy Story 4, my face would have hit a desk if I was sitting at one. Instead, I contented myself to sit in open-mouthed bafflement and anger.
We all know the reason behind this endless slew of Disney sequels and live action remakes is a combination of greed and a severe and sudden lack of creativity. So hearing that the beloved Toy Story franchise would be subjected to this rightfully pissed me off.
Please, Pixar. You have enough going against you what with all the allegations of sexual harassment. Can't you focus on not sexually harassing your women employees? Isn't that more important?
You also do not need Millennials coming after you with pitch forks because you ruined their childhood. Think carefully about this.
We do not need another Toy Story for any discernible reason whatsoever. We did need Toy Story 2 and 3, though.
Toy Story was amazing when it came out. It was pretty great how the toys were depicted as adults who loved this one boy and wanted to make him happy.
They were sort of the direct opposite of Christopher Robin's toys, in that they were snarky, wise-cracking, sarcastic, intelligent, sometimes cynical, and fully adult.
They were sympathetic characters and easy to root for.
Woody (Tom Hanks) was Andy's favorite toy and loved him a great deal. Suddenly, he finds himself getting replaced and is mocked by the other toys for it. You feel bad for him, watching him struggle with the new hierarchy.
You also can't help but feel sorry for Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) who goes on a journey of self-discovery after realizing he is "just a toy" and not really a spaceman.
One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Woody gets trapped under a crate and has a heart-to-heart with Buzz about what it means to be a toy.
Through this conversation, Woody and Buzz overcome their differences. Buzz forms a heartwarming bond with Woody, who teaches him that being a toy is actually great. Toys have a very important job to do, and it is to make children happy.
Buzz realizes that being a toy isn't so bad and the film ends on a high note.
Pixar could have stopped there, but I think everyone's glad they didn't.
At this point, Pixar realized they needed to have more female toys, because they were ignoring half the audience in excluding little girls. So in the second film, in addition to Little Bo Peep (Annie Potts), we got Jessie (Joan Cussak), Mrs. Potato Head (Esetelle Harris), and Barbie (Jodi Bensen).
The second film told a wonderful little story that forced the toys to deal with the inevitability of Andy growing up and forgetting them.
Jessie has already gone through what Andy fears: she was given away by her owner, who grew up and forgot about her. As a result, she spent years in the dark, in storage, in a box. This should have made her completely insane (perhaps blind too), so it's remarkable how she recovers during the course of the final two films.
Jessie was really just a wonderful character who never took crap from Woody. The scene where she beats him up -- an echo of Buzz beating up Woody in the first film -- is hilarious and immediately establishes the two of them in a heartwarming brother-sister relationship (See, kids? Attractive women can be just friends with men! Attractive women are people).
Woody also gets some backstory as we learn that he is a toy based on the old TV show Woody's Roundup, a clear nod to the real TV show Howdy Doody.
As he watches "himself" on old recordings of the show, Woody seems to gain some self-esteem and realizes he was a pretty big deal back in the day, as big of a deal as Buzz Light-year. It is a character defining moment, as it reveals that Woody -- a toy -- had been struggling with feelings of self-worth.
This becomes more evident when the bad guy, Prospector Pete (Kelsey Grammer) convinces Woody that he should stay and allow the collector to sell him to a museum, rather than allow Andy to eventually and "inevitably" throw him away.
By the end of the film, however, Woody has a change of heart and decides to go home to Andy, taking Jessie and Bullseye with him.
Toy Story 2 was needed because the franchise a) needed to include women, dammit and b) expanded the lore of the world, giving backstories to established characters and exploring fears and doubts that further defined them as people.
What's more, it was just a damn good movie for a sequel. Pixar really pulled something off with it. But unfortunately, the question of Andy eventually growing up was left lingering.
This is why Toy Story 3 was needed.
Toy Story 3 was the darkest of the three films. This was not an accident, as it was a movie created specifically for the adults who were children and enjoyed the films as they literally grew up with Andy.
I must've seen the first and second Toy Story movies twenty times, but I can't rewatch the last one because I was one of those kids, and it chokes me up every time Andy passes on Woody to a new owner.
When the toys are accidentally donated to a daycare by Andy's mom, they meet Lotso, a damaged toy who has gone full-throttle-evil over losing his owner. In fact, you could probably say he was the antithesis to Jessie. Jessie was deliberately given away but retained some humanity (so to speak) in that she just gets sad and cynical.
But Lotso wasn't even given away. He was lost, and then he was replaced. This sent him off into Evil Teddy mode, and he took over a daycare, running it like some kind of mob boss, where toys who didn't obey his elitist rules were punished by his thuggish followers.
This movie also further defines characters like Buzz. He and those toys who are eager to try moving on from Andy and embracing life at the daycare are defined by those choices, while Woody stubbornly wants to go home, even if it means being put in Andy's attic and waiting twenty years for the kids he might never have.
In the end, the toys -- after nearly getting eviscerated at the dump -- overthrow Lotso while completely reestablishing the daycare's "government."
Despite its dark themes, the third movie maintains its adult-oriented sense of humor. Especially in characters like Trixie the dinosaur (Kristen Schaal -- another female character, yay!), who has questionable internet history.
The age-old dilemma of "What will happen when Andy grows up?" is finally resolved when Andy gives his most beloved toys away to a little girl whose mother is a friend of his family.
It's pretty rare that a movie can make me cry, but a tear slipped from my eye when Andy looked back and waved goodbye to Woody. In that moment, Andy seemed to realize that Woody was alive the whole time -- even if he was just alive in his heart -- and that he was actually saying goodbye to an old friend.
I think people my age cry over this film and make a big deal about the ending because it was closure that we needed as adults. We are all grownup, struggling in a crap-economy, and are nostalgic for the days when we were carefree children. We occasionally look back on those days through rose-tinted glasses, and when Andy looks back, he's doing the same thing.
Then he gets into his car and heads off to college . . . bills . . . joblessness . . . bad relationships . . . all the depressing crap that comes with adulthood. But hey, at least the toys get to be happy.
The toys, after a long journey of anxiety, fear, and hopelessness, finally have a new home with a new owner, who will love and care for them. (Ten points to Pixar that the "new Andy" is a girl.)
With Toy Story 3, the toys finally have a happy ending to their story.
What more needs to be said?
© 2018 Lee