Thursday, January 27, 2011
Until very recently, I'd not seen any of the Toy Story films (though I'd watched and loved later Pixar releases). Through the magic of Netflix the Mrs. and I caught up on them quickly, and finished the trilogy last night.
I didn't see many films this year. I liked the immersion experience of Avatar, but if you peel aside its astonishing technological veneer there lurks a truly crappy movie. I enjoyed Inception. I adored the dark fairy tale Black Swan, and thought True Grit was a rousing entertainment. But Toy Story 3 might be better than all of them.
I remember destroying many of my toys one summer when I was 12 or 13. I lit Star Wars figures on fire with a BIC lighter and watched flaming sparkler drips of petroleum goo sizzle onto the stone driveway. I put Steve Austin into his rocket ship and launched him off the balcony with an M-80 along for the ride. (After that accident, NO ONE had the technology to rebuild him.) I also blew up the Oscar Goldman figure with an exploding brief case and Maskatron attachments, and the Bionic Bigfoot doll was pounded to dust by a cement block dropped from the same balcony. My Matchbox cars were reduced quickly and mercilessly by a standard claw hammer--if this destruction wasn't satisfactory, into the vice they went for compaction.
Many of these toys, in the condition they were and with all the attachments, fetch big bucks on eBay. Some of my Matchbox cars are now worth hundreds of dollars individually. I was fastidious with toys as a youth until I went beserk. Sure, there were times in my life where I could have used a few thousand bucks from that old crap. But Toy Story 3 is about the true value of toys, and reminded me of the imaginative and magical fantasy I imbued these objects with as a small child. Screw the crappy '70s TV scripts several of my toys were based on: kids write their own delicious narratives. I wonder how I'd react seeing these toys today? (Rosebud) Would I, as many do, try to re-capture the magic by paying exhorbitant amounts to have them again? What would I do if I saw a Steve Austin doll with the weird rubber skin you could roll back and get at the removable bionic components? Would I play with it? Do I remember how to play?
I'm glad to say that many of my toys escaped destruction to be used by cousins and nieces or nephews. Some of my old books, too. I'd like to see if those books still exist, in particular the Childcraft encyclopedia.
Why did I destroy those toys? I wanted to forge a new me, I suppose. I disavowed the intolerant religious and political views I'd grown up with. I decided to disavow the use of violence as a means of getting one's way. I wanted to move away from attachment to possessions. Who knows if any of this is true, or simply the imagination of an old man looking back at a time which no longer has much to do with himself at all.
That's the magic of Toy Story 3. It brings back a rush of stuff if you let it. Not all of the memories are joyous, but that's ok. Not all of Toy Story 3 is joyous either. It hurts, it's bittersweet, but that's why it's more than a flashy cartoon.