toy-story

With Pixar’s Up out this weekend we all got a well deserved gift – the teaser trailer for next summer’s Toy Story 3. Like most Pixar teasers it didn’t show us much in the way of actual plot, but it showed us all the characters we’re familiar with back on screen together. However, this prompted one FSR writer, Michelle Graham, to exclaim “What is the fuss about?” Resident Devil’s Advocate Josh Radde defends Pixar’s first film franchise.

Opening Argument (Josh):

Michelle,

Word from your parole officer has it that you think Toy Story is overrated. I have two questions for you: 1. Are you joking? 2. What kind of crime did you commit so that I’d have to e-mail your parole officer just to get a hold of you? Now, we’re talking about 1995’s Toy Story, you know, Pixar’s first feature starring Woody the cowboy and the popular Buzz Lightyear doll, voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, respectively – just in case you thought we were talking about something else. Overrated? Really?

Is it because critics and audiences alike fawn all over Toy Story as if its one of the best children’s movies of all-time? Does that rub you the wrong way like your father’s friend who insists you call him “Uncle Carl?” Well, here’s the cold-hard truth: Toy Story IS one of the best children’s movies of all-time (and no, Carl is not your Uncle). Toy Story is the Citizen Kane of CG-animated features – not only was it ahead of its time technically, but it has a grand story that connects with all ages and will still be great for generations to come. Despite how raw the technology was, Toy Story still looked beautiful. Have the graphics gotten better since? Absolutely. But do we not owe it to Toy Story as the pioneer that paved the way for other great Pixar productions like Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Wall-E or other CG-animated films that have connected with audiences like the Shrek franchise, Kung Fu Panda, or some propaganda-fun like Happy Feet?

Borat is overrated. Fight Club is overrated. Toy Story is as evenly rated as you could ask.

I’m going to allow you to state your argument now, before I reveal to the internet just how ridiculous you really are. How, pray tell, is Toy Story overrated?

Rebuttal (Michelle):

Oh, Josh.

Incredulous in the face of hype.Before I get around to dealing with your little opinion, I must stop and marvel at the true courage you’re showing here. Not many people would be so flippant to someone with a parole officer, especially when they don’t have a clue what crime was committed to warrant one! Bravo, my good man, you are either fearless or truly dense. Based on the stance you seem to hold on this particular issue, I know which one of those I’d pick. However, before I end up being required to check in for a second offense, I’ll get back on topic. Yes, I really do mean Toy Story, with the crazy cast of adorable characters. I even remember all that merchandise that was around when the movie came out, it was like Pixar vomited all over the toy stores. The Christmas Buzz Lightyear rush can only be rivaled by the craze that was the Furby, and we all remember how great they were, don’t we?

Despite the strange reference to memories of uncles and inappropriate touching (are you projecting a little, here? I’m sure that one of the Rejects has a therapist you could try), your main point is pretty accurate. It does bother me that people cite this as one of the best movies for children ever made, because there’s absolutely no basis for the claim. Toy Story is a good little movie, sure, but what makes it stand out above all the other good movies that Pixar and Disney have produced? The fact that it was the first CG animated movie that pulled off the effects? Just because something was first doesn’t mean it was best – a fact you ought to remember next time you’re fiddling away in the bedroom. A truly great movie, a movie worthy of all the hype Toy Story has garnered, is more than just a pretty face. The characters in Toy Story aren’t fantastic, they’re irritating! It took until Toy Story 2 for those characters to become palatable and not make me want to reach into the screen and wrap Woody’s cord around Buzz’s neck whilst shooting Hamm, Rex and Slink with one of the green army guns.

You mention Finding Nemo and Wall-E up in your little propaganda piece, two studies in movies with true heart. Have you compared the content of these two movies to that of Toy Story? How about Monsters Inc, a movie you carelessly forgot, despite including tripe like any Shrek movie beyond the first one. Go do that and get back to me. You might learn what a truly great movie feels like while you’re at it. If your argument really does boil down to is “first is the best,” you better hope the jury is a troop of six year-olds since that only works in the schoolyard.

Closing Argument (Josh):

Michelle!

You’ve responded as if I’ve said something negative about the Twilight series or something. Put the knife down, baby. Cole Abaius has an incredible therapist that he hooked me up with (and talk about inappropriate touching…), I’ll pass the number on to you if you like.

First off, let me be absolutely clear in what I’m talking about. I called Toy Story the “Citizen Kane of CG-animated features” because it was innovative, not because the story or the content are the best. And yes, I did call it one of the best children’s stories of all-time, and I stick by that. Those “annoying” characters you talk about don’t really bug anybody that much, least of all kids. You’re calling the late great Jim Varney’s Slink annoying? You were disturbed by John Ratzenberger’s best performance in a Pixar movie as Hamm? I bet you didn’t like it every time Don Rickles’ Mr. Potato Head got the features knocked off his face, either.

Are you forgetting how the characters grow in the film? Did you not understand Toy Story‘s message about acceptance and friendship? You must be forgetting brilliant moments of clever writing mixed with great character development like the scene where Sid’s sister invites Buzz Lightyear to a tea party or when the toy soldiers do recon at the birthday party. You must be neglecting the complexity of Woody’s guilt and fear over losing his relationship with Andy and Buzz’s existential crisis when finding out he’s not the “person” he thought he was. I’m not alone in saying that Toy Story is a great film and shattered every expectation at the time.

findingnemoAs far as “best,” I think that Finding Nemo and Wall-E have more heart, Monsters, Inc has more laughs, The Incredibles and even Toy Story 2 are more re-watchable – but guess what – those are all in the upper tier of top notch children’s films right alongside Toy Story! No one can accurately state just how great and consistent Pixar has been over the last 15 years. The quality to commercial viability ratio cannot be matched by any studio popping out movies. There may be better “films” than Toy Story, but to call it overrated? That’s the crux of this argument that we seem to be forgetting. You can’t call a film as (dare I say) important as Toy Story “overrated.”

A college professor once told me “There are no wrong opinions – only assholes” (I think what he meant to say was “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one,” but I like the other way better), and I’ll be the asshole to tell you that you’re just flat wrong. Wrong like the Holocaust. Wrong like a woman breast-feeding in public. Wrong like Freddy Got Fingered.

Go back and watch Toy Story, like I did yesterday to prepare for this Shouting Match. You’ll find that it is still as endearing as it ever was, and just as good, if not better than, anything else you can match it up against.

Final Word (Michelle):

Hey hey hey, don’t go throwing down the Twilight card, you know you hide under your bedsheets with a flashlight and some Edward Cullen slashfic late at night. Sure, Toy Story was innovative. However, innovation alone doesn’t warrant a place in the animated movie pantheon, the movie also needs to be of a higher quality than its competition. It can’t be just as good as anything else, it has to outstrip it and go the extra mile. Toy Story was okay, but don’t go thinking it’s all that. You say you rewatched it just the other day? Next time try looking past the flash. Just like in life, it ain’t all about looks.

Lucky for you, eh?

We could go back and forth discussing this matter all day and eventually just strap each other to Sid’s rocket. What really matters is what do you think: Is Toy Story overrated?


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