Friday, June 25, 2010

Paradise Lost and Regained: Toy Story and the Child in Me

Paradise Lost and Regained

Toy Story and the Child in Me

by rick olivares

The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us. -- Bill Watterson in Calvin and Hobbes

I was weaned on Calvin and Hobbes; perhaps the best testament to a child’s window that is called imagination. If the Mona Lisa is to the Louvre then Watterson’s entire catalogue is to my Museum of Supercalifragelistic Things; that wildlife preserve of my totems from childhood. However Mr. Watterson’s quote is sadly erroneous because by the time he ended his timeless creation, he never met the guys at Pixar.*

Calvin and Hobbes was and still remains the one true unfettered showcase of a child’s imagination run wild. No one could bridge the Jurassic Period quite well with the 20th century and “the final frontier” --- as Captain James Kirk described outer space as – quite like Calvin. There was a joy to seeing the world through his eyes.

Until Pixar came along and gave birth to some of the best if not most memorable films of all time.

Toy Story trilogy is the internet generation’s Calvin and Hobbes. And “Calvin” in Toy Story is “Andy” except that the toys come alive only when Andy or any other human (save for the evil Sid from the first movie). It’s a “buddy film” unlike Rob Reiner’s masterful “Stand By Me” that starred Richard Dreyfuss, Wil Wheaton, Kiefer Sutherland, and the late River Phoenix because the latter is uniquely American like Huckleberry Finn+. But a story with the universal plot about friendship is something anyone can relate to.

It’s a good old-fashioned film using modern technology (that will eventually see Toy Story stamped as being “culturally significant” one day) to talk about values without ramming them down your throat.

It’s humor is timeless because even years later, I still get a kick out of “that’s not flying – it’s falling with style!” and that sumptuous homage to Star Wars with the Emperor Zurg and Buzz Lightyear parodying Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker’s parental problems.

While there is nothing in Toy Story that does not remotely resemble traditional Filipino playthings such as the “trumpo” or “sipa” it is the unbridled creativity of a child, even one playing by his lonesome, that creates one’s own adventure tale. Who didn’t spend hours daydreaming or playing make believe? A cul-de-sac in the neighborhood was an imaginary demarcation line between Rome and the barbarian hordes. There was a coconut tree at the corner of the garden was a Stargate. If I went around I would emerge in another dimension or even another period in time. I wasn’t Dr. Who but Jacque Costeau. I was Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. I was a little geek with all these adventures and who never got bored.

And that is why Toy Story – the Trilogy – is a beautiful film for people of all ages. It’s proof that yes, you can go home again, even if only in fleeting moments and in glimpses of the past.

I was like Andy who bravely donated his toys (right before moving to college) to a young girl named Bonnie who is just like him. But unlike him, I kept some and in some instances, many, of the relics of my fun-filled childhood, in my closet that is in many ways, a safety deposit box. My treasure trove that is constantly filled with material hordes from the fruit of my labors.

I saw Toy Story 3 just the other day and like the previous two films it moved me. It’s a perfect way to close the story. Andy moving to college notwithstanding, it still is a “buddy film” albeit expanded to a “we’re-all-a-family film.” Throw in the old cliché about a new spin on an old yarn while you’re at it. Like any kid in a sandbox, there are haphazard elements of suspense, adventure, and rescue films that mix superbly well.

And at the end of it all it the movie succeeds brilliantly because it makes sure that it hits you in the heart yet leaves you with a smile.

Pixar Animation Studios just showed that there is intelligent life out there – to infinity and beyond.

* Calvin and Hobbes was syndicated until December 31, 1995 while Toy Story was released on November 22, 1995.

+ Toy Story drew inspiration from the film 48 Hours that starred a young Eddie Murphy (in his breakout debut) and a sagacious and jaded Nick Nolte who was perfect. 48 Hours would later inspire other similar films such as Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour.

No comments:

Post a Comment