Sunday, August 19, 2018

Don't Make a Scene: Toy Story 3

The Story: More than most scenes from most movies in the last few years, this one stayed with me the longest, and still affects me to this day. I'm about to go through something that is scary. Really scary, and that I've worried about most of my life. And I'm going to go through a surgical procedure to fix it. I'm hopeful. Very hopeful.

But, the consequences of it not going well has been on my mind. And it ties in with my love of movies and appreciating them. My eyesight has been worsening ever-increasingly since I was a kid. When I first got glasses, I started putting the change in my pockets in specific ways—quarters in the little pocket, pennies in a different pocket from dimes and nickels (which I could tell the difference between in size, and the different feel of the edges). I started doing that at the age of six, and I've always done it. Just in case, I go blind. The surgery will replace the lenses in my eyes, first the right one, then the left. If it works, I'll have great sight...for the first time in decades. But, if it doesn't...

But, I'm hopeful. And it needs to be done. But, it's scary. All the "what-if's..."  And, I was thinking on the eve of my surgery, what's a scary scene to put up here. Well, this one is really scary.

And it's from Toy Story 3.

But man, is it brutal. And beautiful. And tragic. And weak. And brave. This one sticks like Bambi's mother. Or E.T. It has the poignancy of doom of the final looks exchanged between Bonnie and Clyde. And The Wild Bunch. It crashes through the Five Stages of Grief in a very brief period of time. And does so—which I particularly love—with almost no dialogue. It's all pictures and expressions.

And it's in a freaking KID's movie. ABOUT TOYS!

Yes. Yes. All true. These Pixar folks do NOT mess around.

So many elements combine to make this scene memorable—the potential finality of it, and the eventual realization by Our Hero Toys that "this is it," no matter how much collaboration they can muster, how much plastic brio can be displayed, the Inevitable can not be prevented. They've been busted up, individually and as a group, becoming repaired one way or another. But not this time. This is extinction. There is no way out, just an inexorable slide to nothingness in a fiery pit that would have Satan reaching for the sunscreen.*  

And the only solution—the ONLY solution—is to face it together. If they're going out, they will give each other their last measure of comfort, and the last shot here is a collection of tableaux that reminds one of the clustered gatherings in a Renaissance painting—a Pixar version of Brueghel. Another example of how the studio excels, pushes the envelope, and break expectations—if never (really) hearts.

The Set-Up:  Altercations and alliances have conspired to separate and pull the toys together during their temporary banishment to the Sunnyside Daycare facility.  Now, back together, they have banded together to help the crusty teddy bear Lotso escape a shredder at the dump, but they find themselves on another conveyor leading to an incinerator. Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and Woody (Tom Hanks) help Lotso (Ned Beatty) get to the all-important "Stop" switch, but the duplicitous bear, leaves their Fate.


The Toys YELL as they tumble off the belt...
The Toys land in a giant vortex of trash being sucked down into the glowing eye of an incinerator.
It’s chaos -- trash tumbles over itself as sparks and ashes fly through the air.  The ROAR is overwhelming.
Woody stands and starts trying to climb out. 
The Toys do the same, climbing desperately, fighting against the trash tumbling into the vortex of fire. 
They slip, fall, get up and slip again. 
It’s a nightmare -- no matter how fast they climb, they inexorably slide backwards. 
Rex slides past Woody, towards the incinerator.
REX Ahhhhhh!
WOODY Rex!!!
Woody grabs Rex’s hand, slides further toward the inferno.
They are all being pulled inescapably downward.
There’s no way out.  Jessie looks at Buzz.
JESSIE Buzz...!  What do we do?
 Buzz looks at her.
He reaches out, takes her hand.
Jessie grabs Bullseye’s hoof. 
Slinky takes Hamm’s hand. 
Hamm reaches out to Rex. 
The Potato Heads hold each other.
Mr. Potato Head grabs Rex.
Buzz reaches out to Woody...
Woody takes Buzz’s hand, and the circle is complete.
As they approach the vortex, heat waves blast their faces.
The Toys close their eyes, turn away. 
Woody stares at the fire, shuts his eyes.  

This is the end.

Toy Story 3

Words by Michael Arndt (and John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton)

Pictures by Lee Unkrich (and hundreds of Pixar animators)

Toy Story 3 is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Disney Home Video.

* Speaking of reaching, it is one of the truly nifty things about this movie that (being in 3-D) the most effective use of that trick is the shot here where Buzz reaches out to Woody.

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