May 19, 2012

Finding Pixar, Ep. 3: Great Scenes Coming Back

Welcome to the third part of my Pixar retrospective and apologies for the long delay between episodes. We’ll finish this before Brave comes out, I promise. You can see the first two episodes here and here. Today we’re on to Pixar’s third film and back in trilogy territory.  

Toy Story 2 has the unenviable position of being the second installment in a trilogy that begins with the film that started it all for Pixar and ends with one of the greatest animated films – or films of any kind, if you ask me – ever to grace the silver screen. Luckily for us, it lives up to the standard set by the bookending episodes. Despite the similarity of its narrative to the first film, Toy Story 2 is still representative of Pixar at their most exciting, adventurous, witty and hilarious. 

That bar of quality is not a surprise to anyone. What did surprise me after re-watching the film, however, was that the two sequences that I remembered most vividly from my childhood remain the standouts today. 

The first one, Woody’s repair job by the old toymaker, is one of Pixar’s most dazzling visual achievements and an embodiment of their obsessive attention to detail. It’s a significant piece in the plot as well, since we’ve seen Woody worrying about how Andy might treat him if his arm is torn off and despite the repair, the tear comes back near the end of the film to teach the audience an existential lesson – though as is always the case with Pixar, the lesson is taught in disguise and without any preaching. 

The second and the more important sequence is Jessie’s story about her owner Emily. It shook me as a kid and still gives me goose-bumps now, but if I say it is an important scene it is for two reasons. First, because it’s a direct inspiration, in terms of narration and visuals, for one of the terrific sequences in the third film: Chuckles’ story about Lotso’s background. Second, it had an immensely moving two-fold effect on me as a kid. I did not want to become Emily so I vowed never to give up my toys – you can imagine how that’s turned out 13 years later – and I also did not want to become Jessie. Again, this existential question – what do the toys mean if they’re not played with - has been a central theme in the series and Jessie’s relationship with Emily epitomizes it. I will discuss that theme and how it transcends the toys when I get to the third film, but this touching moment visually realizes Jessie’s identity questions and it’s a beautifully crafted way of showing the transition to adolescence. 

The transition of Emily's room from childhood to her teenage years

No comments:

Post a Comment