Pixar seems to be untouchable, but its most famous series holds secrets hidden from view.
After several Academy Awards wins and nominations for their short films, Disney and Pixar announced a joint feature length movie to trial an uncertain prospect: a computer animated cinema release. But released in 1995, Toy Story stormed the box office to become the highest grossing film of the year, beating big name competitors Batman Forever, Apollo 13 and Goldeneye. This was a huge triumph for the studio who could now move forward onto other projects, allowing Chief Executive Officer, Steve Jobs, to open Pixar’s initial public offering on the stock market later that year.
Toy Story defined Pixar’s overall message of family, friendship and loyalty but Toy Story as a franchise is probably its most mature set of films to date despite them being about toys trying to support and love their owner, Andy. Throughout the franchise the central character, Woody, has tried to get rid of a toy and lied to his family as well as having an egotistical outlook throughout the first two films which comes from his love of Andy. When they are both older and wiser in Toy Story 3, Woody seems to recognise that Andy’s family and Andy himself are equally important and does everything he can to please both, even when that involves risking his life. It’s a nice turnaround for a character that was the friendly, loveable cowboy on the outside but a rather nasty selfish one on the inside.
The franchise also displays drastic situations with stories of mutilation, murder, capture, imprisonment and slavery to name just a few. The characters being toys cleverly offset the horrific nature of these events and with this freedom, Pixar brings gruelling traumas to its characters and especially more than most kids films. This is balanced with toy problems, with romance being removed almost entirely, and moving around human worlds, outsmarting dogs and being stolen by toy collectors all part of the mix. But it is only Toy Story 3 that can truly be called a mature and sensitive film. With Andy getting older and neglecting his toys, Woody and the gang have to decide what to do next with day care centres, younger kids, the trash and the attic all being possible end games. This heightens the drama of the franchise ten fold and gives the toys a unique and daunting problem that the Pixar team utilise with grace.
The Toy Story franchise is one of the most consistently brilliant franchises of all time and appeals to all ages – not an easy feat. With a fourth film being rumoured it could be that this franchise continues on its upward spiral. But with the ending of the last film it’ll be interesting to see whether another major dramatic toy problem can arise that beats being unwanted. We’ll just have to wait and see.
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