The “Toy Story” movie characters have a warm, retro feel. For parents and grandparents, one of the many pleasures of the movies is the evocative memory they bring back of the beloved toys of our own childhoods. Woody, Jessie, and Buzz are Pixar creations that fit so well with the real-life Etch-a-Sketch, green soldiers, barrel of monkeys, slinky dog, and many others that we slip easily into their world. This third installment adds some new characters based on real or almost-real toys from the 1960’s, including Lots-o-Huggin Bear (with strawberry scent!), voiced by Ned Beatty.
Those madcaps at Pixar have created a fake 1980’s-style commercial for Lots-o-Huggin that are so perfectly realized those who grew up in that era will almost believe we might have a Lots-o somewhere in our attic.
They even did a “Japanese” version!
Some of the best dads on film appear on television, which allows us to see families in a variety of circumstances over many years. Some of them even start to feel like members of our own families. These dads are not perfect but they always seem to know the right thing to say, whether comforting, guiding, or providing support. And they inspire even more through their own examples of trustworthiness and wisdom. My favorites include:
1. Tom Bosley on “Happy Days”
2. John Goodman on “Roseanne.”
3. Andy Griffith on “The Andy Griffith Show”
4. Danny Thomas on “Make Room for Daddy”
5. Bil Cosby on “The Cosby Show”
6. Bill Bixby on “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”
7. John Amos on “Good Times”
8. Michael Landon on “Little House on the Prairie”
9. Robert Young on “Father Knows Best”
10. Peter Gallagher in “The OC”
Can it really be only 15 years since Pixar first introduced us to Woody and Buzz Lightyear and the world of computer animation? The 1995 release of Toy Story didn’t seem revolutionary at the time. But its impact on not just animation but the movie industry as a whole continues to resonate. Pixar was a start-up and some people thought it was more of a stunt than a studio. But it became the most successful movie studio in history, with the average international gross over half a million dollars and 24 Oscars.
Pixar ultimately merged with Disney and now the Pixar folks are in charge of the premier animation facility. This week, they return to the characters that got them started with a third chapter, this time in 3D. One thing I’ll be watching for is the difference in what has become possible in computer animation. The reason the first movie was about toys was that they were simple, shiny, and plastic, without much movement. Since then, Pixar has developed an astonishingly vivid technology for presenting some of the biggest challenges for computer graphics like water, fur, and facial expressions. They now have 229 different facial movements they can tinker with to create what must be seen as animated performances. But they never lose sight of what matters most — the story and the characters. Wired has a great story this month about how “Toy Story 3” came together.
The other movie opening up this week is a fantasy western, Jonah Hex, starring Josh Brolin and Megan Fox, based on the graphic novel.