Six Times Toy Story Went Too Far

Six Times Toy Story Went Too Far

In 1995, Pixar released Toy Story, and it couldn't have dropped at a better time.

The Disney Renaissance had peaked the year prior with the Lion King, and although no one knew it yet, the Eisner era had already begun its slow decay and collapse. Toy Story had a hellish developmental cycle -- the script went through several rewrites, Disney shut down the production at one point, and even late into its production cycle, there were several key Disney executives who were not on board. But it emerged, finally, as a groundbreaking, acclaimed film -- it ushered in a new era of CGI animation and was proof that something other than a princess musical could be a crossover hit.

With the following Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, the trilogy has become a beloved touchstone for a generation's childhood -- the same moviegoers who saw 1 as kids were the same moviegoers who cried as adults during 3. Those moviegoers saw their innocence thrive, and then die onscreen, in the most heart wrenching manner possible.

Here are six times that Pixar went too far with the Toy Story trilogy. And let's pray that the upcoming Toy Story 4 won't constitute number seven.


6. Sid Isn't Really Evil

Six Times Toy Story Went Too Far

At least for younger Toy Story fans, Sid is the de facto villain of the first film -- a destroyer and torture expert of innocent toys. He even has a cliched, 'moustache twirling' scene at the beginning, when he blows up a toy and does a little happy dance. But as we grow older and stop taking what we see at face value, we begin to view Sid in a different light. The viewer receives evidence, both implicit and explicit, that Sid is really just an unhappy kid -- his house is unkempt and messy, and his parents seem neglectful and hands-off in their childrearing.

But Pixar buried Sid's complexity too deeply. All of the other Toy Story villains' traumas were made explicit beyond background context clues, and Lotso was even given a shot at redemption (though he didn't take it). Instead, Sid runs away from Woody traumatized, and we're supposed to cheer.

Most importantly, Sid didn't know his toys were alive. Had he known, then yes, Sid would be a monstrous sociopath. But let's be real: what child hasn't played rough with his or her toys? One might even consider it creative to do what Sid did, which was to combine his toys into something of his own imagining. Sid is only cruel because of what the audience knows; plastic is a far cry from flesh, and it's not like the kid was blowing up small animals in his spare time.


5. The Climactic RC Car Chase Defies Logic

Six Times Toy Story Went Too Far

RC is an underrated, key character in the first film. He actually sets the entire "Lost Toy" plot in motion, when Woody inadvertently uses him to knock Buzz out the window.

At the close, RC also resolves the film's conflict, in a way that's thrilling, but illogical. RC manages to not only outrun a healthy, angry dog, but also manages to keep pace with a massive, moving truck. It made for a great chase scene, but it was definitely a bit much, even for an animated film.

A common counterargument to this is that the RC Car, as an autonomous thing, simply pushed itself harder -- that the top speed that accessed by the remote control isn't its actual top speed. Fine. But if that's the case, then why is it so dependent on batteries? All the other toys, after all, are able to run and flip without the benefit of a power source.


4. Every Compelling Character In The Entire Trilogy Is Male

Six Times Toy Story Went Too Far

There is no three-dimensional, well-realised female character (with the possible exception of Jessie, and even she's sort of a stereotype). Bo Peep is essentially a trophy to be fought over, and Barbie is a one note joke. If Pixar must make a Toy Story 4, they should consider incorporating a well-realised female toy to give the cast some needed balance and perspective.

They could also characterise Jessie a bit better. She began Toy Story with some real promise, as a character who struggled with abandonment issues and allowing herself to be loved. She even got her own song in the form of Sarah Mclachlan's "When She Loved Me."

But in Toy Story 3, she has become just another sidekick to Woody and Buzz's shenanigans. Pixar missed a key chance to make the dynamic duo into a trio.

Lots of times, Jessie is just moping around or going with the flow, rather than taking definitive actions to pursue her goals. She doesn't even get her own action scene in the final film, even though she's Buzz's physical equal at the end of Toy Story 2.


3. Buzz Becomes A Plot Device

Six Times Toy Story Went Too Far

It's getting to be routine and cliched; Buzz isn't himself, and the gang has to flip his switch, or spot his decoy, or snap him out of it to reach their goals. It's the problem of multiple sequels -- eventually, entire plotlines get recycled, and the protagonist learns the same lesson, all over again.

It's reminiscent of bad Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes; whenever the writers got lazy, they just had Data malfunction and nearly kill everyone. Or how about the Shrek franchise, where Shrek learns at the end of every movie that he's more than just an ogre? Ogres may not be vicious, mean creatures, but they're certainly forgetful.

Surely, Buzz isn't the only toy that could malfunction in humorous ways.


2. Lotso's Punishment Was Excessively Cruel

Six Times Toy Story Went Too Far

In the past, the Toy Story creators let the antagonists off pretty easily. Sid will probably need therapy, but at least he's alive (and later becomes a gainfully employed sanitation worker). Prospector Pete might not like makeup and lipstick, but he'll be loved by his new owner, for better or for worse. This is, after all, a kids' franchise.

But Lotso? He gets tied to the front of a truck to be dragged through bugs and the elements, along whatever journeys the truck is scheduled to make. Eventually, if he doesn't get tossed into the trash at a truck stop, he'll probably just break apart and scatter across the highway.

As evil as he was (and he was definitely evil; he left the gang to burn in the incinerator), Lotso was also a damaged soul. And it's hard not to feel sorry for a bear who smells like strawberries -- especially when he's about to smell like truck exhaust and mould instead.


1. Buzz Shouldn't Be Able To Actually Fly

Six Times Toy Story Went Too Far

When Buzz detaches from the firework at the end of the movie, he flies. No, he doesn't 'fall with style.' He actually freaking flies, and does a parabola right under the telephone wires. It completely undoes a prior scene's poignancy. It's that scene when Buzz attempts to fly out Sid's window and breaks his arm, because wishing for something doesn't make it come true; a person has to be satisfied with what he or she is.

But by having Buzz actually fly in the end, Pixar took that very adult, poignant lesson, and threw it in the garbage. The audience is thus left to assume that he didn't fly the first time not because he had limitations he had to accept, but because he didn't want it badly enough. Or because of some sort of 'miracle,' which is even lamer.

It might seem silly to demand logic in a movie where toys are secretly coming to life, but that's sort of missing the point; a movie should adhere to its own internal logic and rules, and this particular scene did not.

Kevin is an AP English Language teacher and freelance writer from Queens, NY. His focus is on video games, American pop culture, and Asian American issues. Kevin has also been published in VIBE, Complex, Joystiq, Salon, PopMatters, WhatCulture, and Racialicious. You can email him at kevinjameswong[email protected], and follow him on Twitter @kevinjameswong.


Comments

    Every Compelling Character In The Entire Trilogy Is Male (Other than, you know, the girl who is the star of two of the movies and a icon of the series along with Buzz and Woody)

    What a load of crap.

      Thought I was reading a Polygon article for a moment after reading this one.

      dont forget that these are a boys toys, so there arent that many girl toys in his room - cry out whatever -ism you would like about it, but thats the way it is

      Last edited 17/08/15 10:57 am

      Only thing this article did was make me want to rewatch the Toy story trilogy again the normal way.. as in enjoy it, not nit pick how unreal it is.

      Last edited 19/08/15 10:14 am

    Don't talk about logic in a movie where Toy are sentient beings. It's stupid.

    5. The Climactic RC Car Chase Defies Logic - Yeah, I believed I was watching a documentary up until that stage.

      That scene didn't defy logic any more than any other part of the movie. There is really no breach of logic that hasn't already been defined in the pretense of the movie.

    I don't get the whole 'decline of Disney'argument. I think people just became too jaded in the 90s.

    I mean, what movies are we actually calling bad here? Pocahontas and Hunchback were fine. Hercules, Mulan, and Tarzan were all pretty great. And so on.

    Meanwhile their TV group was going gangbusters. For the first time ever people were actually putting real effort into animated TV. What kid didn't look forward to Saturday Disney?

    And they also had some serious competition. WB put out some great TV animation, including the incredible Batman series and its movie. Plus the all time classic Iron Giant. Dreamworks got in on the action with the very respectable Sinbad, and Road to ElDorado. Even Fox threw their hat in the ring with the overlooked Titan A.E.

    Basically the mid to late '90s were incredible for animation.

      I bloody love The Iron Giant. Pity it tanked... It deserved success. At least Brad Bird was able to use it as a launch pad to bigger things.

        You are who you choose to be... Superman...

        Damnit bro, just wanted to get through one day without being smacked right in the feels.

        Including Mission Impossible. Can't say that I saw that coming. He's a damned fine director.

    i thought this was a Disney Pixar animated film based on toys coming alive when Andy leaves the room... i think that is fairly logical coming from DISNEY PIXAR

    Monday morning feels :)

    He's not flying.... He's falling.... with style!

    But by having Buzz actually fly in the end, Pixar took that very adult, poignant lesson, and threw it in the garbage. The audience is thus left to assume that he didn’t fly the first time not because he had limitations he had to accept, but because he didn’t want it badly enough. Or because of some sort of ‘miracle,’ which is even lamer.

    He didn't fly the first time because he didn't know the secret. You need to throw yourself at the ground and miss, but it must be done accidentally, so you must have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment so you are not thinking about impacting the ground.

    This is a lesson Buzz learned in the movie. It wasn't shown on screen, but it should be pretty obvious.

      Tongue-in-cheek response aside, Pixar was clearly showing that Buzz had learned something important in between his failed out-the-window flight and the successful flight into Andy's lap.

      He'd finally accepted and embraced who he was. It's a moment that allegorises the intense empowerment of self-actualisation.

      Like Luke switching off his targeting computer in the Death Star trenches - no one believes it's realistic, but it's a vital character moment that closes out his arc.

    Methinks Wong doesn't understand suspension of disbelief. Less BuzzFeed and more Kotaku would be nice.

    Also, I'd consider a kid needing to go to a psychiatrist a pretty unhappy ending for him. But at least he's alive.

    Wow that was some forced nitpicking. Jessie is a great female character on her own and if she falls eventually to be a sidekick is not because she's been lazily characterised but because Toy Story is about Woody and Buzz. That's why Bo Peep disappeared (and she was never a trophy, no one actually fought over her or anything of the sort); for the stories we're being told about Woody and Buzz's relationship, their love interests are actually a distraction. Sometimes it is okay for two men just to be bros and not need forcedly inserted female protagonists into their tales just to satisfy some representation quota.

    Only point in the article I agree with is 3. I did roll my eyes a bit in TS3 when he went all Spaniard.

    Christ what was the point of this article? It's an animated kids movie, a cross-analysis is something it doesn't bloody need.

    Over analyse much?

    Reminds me of an episode of Stargate then there's a shot of an out-of-control death glider passing in front of the sun. Fandom went berserk saying how the shot wasn't possible because of the trajectory of the craft exiting the solar systems etc. The producers response was "We just thought it was a cool shot!" :)

    Go back to buzzfeed, your kind isn't welcome here. How did this bs even get past QA?

    In today's news : Toy Story wasn't realistic enough, and you're all morons for having fun and not noticing.

    Feel kind of horrible an actual teacher wrote this. Reads like a moron's film review that doesn't acknowledge anything but perceived "plot holes".

    RC too fast to be believable? He clearly doesn't remember the Tamiya Super Hornet
    https://youtu.be/HjA_ywtepOM

    Come on, Kotaku. You're better than this.

    This is a fictional, beloved children's film franchise which is about toys that come to life when humans aren't around, and you're over analyzing and criticizing said story? What about the suspension of disbelief, man?

    Not gonna lie, but I think Kotaku needs to seriously reconsider what articles are published on its site. I think a lot of the comments really speak for themselves. I hope this gives Kotaku a hint?

    So, does this mean Kotaku has officially made the shift from "Japanese Culture and Video Games" to "Pop Culture and Cracked.com"?

    Sooo... RC catching up to a truck gets a mention, but a tiny toy horse catching and matching speed with a passenger airliner on take-off is perfectly logical? (TS2)

    So much butthurt in the comments. It's a criticism of a children's movie. You'd think the author had pissed all over the Koran the way people are carrying on.

      It's weak criticism. I'd rate "the series repeats the same plot every movie" a bigger flaw than "the show-stealing character from TS2 is only the 3rd most important character", especially since that ignores how the original cast get almost nothing to do, compared to Jesse... but the first complaint's not even on the list.

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