Toy Story 2 (1999)

Toy Story 2
Directed by John Lasseter, Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich
Written by the above and a bunch more people as well. Gotta love these committees of writers.
(number 187)

Unlike the first movie which is about dealing with change and accepting others, Toy Story 2 is about growing older and moving on (or refusing to). At the start Woody has a crisis over a ripped arm and Andy’s mother saying that toys don’t last forever. He imagines Andy giving him up and vanishing into a trash can. The allegory with Wheezy is very close to the whole putting a loved one into an old folks home kind of thing.

When he is stolen by Al for a collection he initially does try to run home all the same, but it’s easy enough for Jessie and Stinky Pete to convince him that there’s another possible life for him, now that he’s past his best. The character study of Jessie and Pete is pretty fascinating actually. She has claustrophobia and something like bipolar as well, she has a very intense grin and very wide eyes. Pete is, of course, extremely disturbed by the years he’s spent sitting in his box, watching other toys get purchased.

Bullseye is a silent toy, which is kind of unusual, all the other animal toys can speak, but I guess it simplifies the script some. The relationship of Woody to Jessie and Bullseye is a little disturbing, because he’s the central character in their mythos and also in the movie it kind of reads like obsessive hero worship. They only exist around him, which… makes sense in terms of them as toys but less so in terms of characters.

It’s a reversal of the first plot of Woody trying to bring Buzz back. Instead Buzz is leading some of the other toys to rescue Woody. I remember seeing this for the first time and loving the sequence when they’re crossing the road under road cones.

I still love the sequence of Woody getting ‘cleaned’, it’s sad – because the name on the bottom of his boot gets removed, but it’s a very satisfying wee bit anyway. Something about watching a job well done, watching something get fixed and cleaned, it’s nice to watch.

There’s a little nightmare moment in the toy store when Buzz is attacked in the Buzz Lightyear aisle and forced into a box. The camera zooms out, showing him just one amongst hundreds of identical toys, screaming for help with no way of getting himself free. If that’s not horror then I dunno what is.

I know Jessie’s song ‘when she loved me’ is about a girl and her doll but the lyrics aren’t specific, it could work very well as a song about a lesbian break up. The song has a horribly sad feel to it, about endings and loving someone even when they’ve moved on. Jessie is left by the side of the road, watching in horror as Emily drives away. It’s a heart tearing moment of guilt, because haven’t we all had precious toys that we have let go of as we grew? What if all of them felt that way?

I feel like they were stretching a bit far when it comes to the scope of the climax and the action sequence with the plane. I mean, it’s a movie about toys which walk and talk but I feel like it stretches credibility to have them driving and diving out of a plane’s cargo hold. It’s a small complaint though, especially when the end is so sweet.

Does it make me love the people?

Bechdel test: In this installment we have Jessie, Bo Peep and Mrs Potato Head, then Tour Guide Barbie but at no point do they talk to each other. There are also human girls and Andy’s mom but they again, only talk to men.

Best line:

It’s gotta be this, right?

Emperor Zurg: Surrender, Buzz Lightyear. *I* have won.
Buzz Lightyear: I’ll never give in. You killed my father!
Emperor Zurg: No, Buzz. I *am* your father!

State of Mind: Lovely movie. Still makes me cry every time. And feel guilty about my old toys. And want to hug them. And my news ones. Emotions. (PS. you’ll have to wait ages for my review of Toy Story 3 due to its spot on the list.)

Toy Story

Watched movie count

Toy Story (1995)

Toy Story
Directed by John Lasseter
Written by John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, Joss Whedon, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow (phew)
(number 105)

– this review has sat in drafts since 2014 –

What the Hell, Joss Whedon? Who knew?

Toy Story was the first all CGI feature film, and the first film to be made by an at the time unheard of studio called Pixar. It’s easy to see why this film has a spot on the list with being those two firsts.

I remember going to see this movie in 1995 when it first came out, at the Hoyts on Manners Mall. It was a big enough event for me and my friends that we also went to KFC for lunch and I got a special edition Toy Story bucket souvenir thing. I remember us all being totally blown away by this movie. In a lot of ways the 90s were a sort of rennaissance for animated films, we had Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King and this.

The story is an excellent buddy film and features awesome voice acting from Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in the two lead roles. Their sincerity sells the characters, it’d be a hard film to buy into. The story is similar to that of the Velveteen Rabbit which made me feel horribly guilty for not treating my toys with an equal amount of love and attention. This movie made it a bit worse I think, since it shows the toys feeling sad if they’re being neglected and Woody is so jealous of Buzz.. The guilt. The supreme guilt.

The animation of the human people is a bit on the ropey side, but the animation of the toys and the landscapes has held up well. I watched this on Blu ray on the new big HD tv that Wayne moved in with and it looked shiny and really good. I haven’t watched any of the Toy Story movies since the third one came out and broke my heart, and y’know, that’s coming on this list… all three of them are on the 500 list, although 3 is in top 100 so I won’t publish the review of that one for a while.

The movie also reminds me of The Brave Little Toaster, which has a similar amount of toy/object guilt and there’s also the whole creepy mutant toys Sid makes which are like the bizarre electrical goods in Brave Little Toaster. There’s a matching level of menace… I don’t know if you’ve ever seen The Brave Little Toaster but it’s fantastically traumatic and good.

Does it make me love the people? Oh yeah. This movie is full of characters with real emotions like jealousy and compassion. It’s hard not to be able to relate to Woody’s fear of losing someone he loves so much, and the fear of the change to his lifestyle. And then there’s Buzz, so sure that he knows exactly who he is but then finding out that what Woody has been saying is true and he’s not what he thought he was.

Buzz’s self esteem dive is pretty relatable too.

The existence of Sid’s experimental toys are a bit of a moral lesson as well. Woody is terrified of them, calling them cannibals, but they are ultimately friendly to them. They demonstrate how you shouldn’t judge people by how they look or their circumstances – which is a great non-xenophobic/non-racist/non-ablieist message depending on how you read them. But this is also problematic because none of them talk at all. They interact with Woody and Buzz but only with noises and gestures, they are entirely without a voice. I guess the rest of the message past ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is deemed to be irrelevant? I don’t know.

Bechdel test: No, there are female characters: Hannah, Bo Peep, ‘Mom’ and Sid’s mom but none of them are in the same scenes as each other.

Best line:

Buzz: You are a sad strange little man.


Woody: There’s a snake in my boot!

and this…

State of Mind: I find it kind of sad making/hard to believe that all the other toys were so convinced Woody was evil. I mean, they did see him push Buzz out the window but the idea that your old friends could just turn on you like that is a bit chilling. On the other hand it’s a really lovely story and a good entertaining movie. Plus happy feels right at the end.

Watched movie count

Finding Nemo (2003)

Finding Nemo
Directed by Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
Written by Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds based on a story by Andrew Stanton.
(number 416)

I first saw this movie in a preview screening at Weta theatre in Miramar with Svend. I remember being very excited that all the drinks, snacks and popcorn were free to take and I ate a lot of candy and popcorn. Afterwards we had a big argument in the car over whether the seagulls were saying ‘mate’ (everyone else’s stance) or ‘mine’ (my stance) and it took ages to get it resolved because it was a pre-release preview and no one else saw the film for ages.

Watching it again on a Sunday night for the first time in quite a while. First of all Pixar is horrible and emotionally manipulative. Like, right at the start of the film we have to deal with the death of Marlin’s wife and 399 of their kids. Then you have the trauma of Marlin being a paranoid father and freaking out over Nemo going to school and trying to fit in. Then Nemo is kidnapped in front of his panicking father. It’s rough!

Dory is not neurotypical, which is kind of really cool. It’s nice to have a non-neurotypical character which isn’t totally played for laughs. I mean, it is sort of a source of jokes, but you also get real emotional depth from Ellen’s performance. Especially when Marlin leaves her behind at the end.

The Nemo part of the film becomes a heist and the Marlin part of the film is a road trip. It’s a parallel which works pretty well given that they both have the same aim – to reunite father and son. Then once they are reunited there’s a pretty scary sequence with a fishing net on a boat and Marlin using Dory’s advice to just keep swimming to save them all.

Does it make me love the people? The fish, yes 🙂
I am a worrier, so I can relate to Marlin, although he does take it rather to extremes. Dory is sweet and funny and sincere, always ready to help someone out, although it is concerning how much poor treatment she just kind of ignores.

Bechdel test: Deb talks to her ‘sister’ Flo, but… that’s both just her? Does that count as a win? Pretty much every fish and marine animal Marlin and Dory encounter are males, which is kind of stupid. I mean, there’s gotta be female sea turtles out there, not sure why we couldn’t have had surfer chick as well as a surfer dude.

Best line: I’m very partial to ‘shark bait, ooh ha ha!’

but I think my absolute favourite is the songs Mr Ray the teacher sing to his class. I can’t easily find the lyrics online but they’re funny and I like them.

Nemo: Are you all right?
Dory: [exasperated] I don’t know where I am… I don’t know what’s going on. I think I lost somebody but I, I can’t remember… and I can’t remember…

State of Mind: Ooooowwwwwch. I do love this film but ooooooouuuch. Ultimately heartwarming yes. Keep swimming…

Watched movie count

Monster Inc (2001)

Monsters Inc
Directed by Pete Doctor, David Silverman and Lee Unkrich
Written by Original story by Pete Docter, Jill Culton, Jeff Pidgeon and Ralph Eggleston. Screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Daniel Gerson. Robert L. Baird, Rhett Reese and Jonathan Roberts are credited with additional screenplay material.
(number 349)

I watched this with Nick while Anna was at NightShade. Can anyone believe that this movie came out 15 years ago?? 15 YEARS. Man. I remember seeing it at the movies and feeling so excited because the Toy Story movies had been so great.

Man that’s a lot of writing credits. Nice to see a woman in there though! But so many writers…

Monsters Inc has a selection of beautifully developed characters and an easy to buy into world that is bright and cheerful. Pixar are basically evil geniuses, they have a straight line into what people care about and feel for. Then, they write scripts where awful things happen to the characters you care about and it’s horrible.

Which monsters wear clothes and which wander around naked seems to be totally random, although Nick and I did realise that none of the ‘scarers’ wear clothes so… there’s that. All of the female characters do wear clothes so… what does that say? That women must cover themselves even when they’re slimy tentacle or slug monsters? Or is it just coincidence? I just don’t know. I obviously have trouble with separating gender issues from movies, after watching so many films where women are relegated to the background it’s hard to put it aside, and I’m not sure that I need to really.

Right at the end of the movie when Boo shows Sully her room she hands him a Jessie cowgirl doll and a plush Nemo. Toy Story 2 came out just before Monsters Inc so that was a treat for eagle eyed viewers at the time, but Nemo was still in development when this movie was made so it’s a cute nod to what was to come.

Does it make me love the people? Mostly I feel bad for George Sanderson, the friendly orange fuzzy monster who gets a sock on him. But yeah, as soon as Boo arrives you adore her and you buy into Sully’s story of having to deal with this little interloper into his world.

The central relationship in the film is really Mike and Sully’s friendship though, which goes through some trials of course. They start as best buds and mutual beneficial workmates, Sully goes to Mike as soon as he has a problem and Mike helps without hesitation even though it endangers his work, relationship with Celia and living situation.

Bechdel test:
Boo, Celia and Roz. Roz is voiced by a man… Boo scares Celia who screams, but I don’t think you can remotely call that a conversation. In fact the women are almost never in the same scenes as each other.

Best line:
Boo: Kitty!

State of Mind: It’s a cute movie and it’s amazing how freaking adorable Boo is. I find it hard to write much of meaning about this film, it’s universally beloved which makes it harder to point out things like ‘why don’t any of the female monsters talk to each other?’ or why are all the leads male? Imagine how great and fun this movie could be if Sully was a girl monster, all big and tough and scary and then showing the tender side with Boo? Or leave Sully male and have Mike be his femme best friend, it really wouldn’t be that hard and I don’t even think it would change the story much at all.

Watched movie count

Ratatouille (2007)

Directed by Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava
Written by Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco and three other ‘additional story’ writers
(number 387)

Food porn, food preparation and huge amounts of detail about how a profession kitchen operates tied into a comedic cartoon about a misfit rat with a dream. Food and rats don’t combine well, it’s a hard sell to start with. I love me some professional food prep though, like, hard core love that stuff. But the rats…..

The opening sequence is somewhat depressing and upsetting, showing how little Remy fits in with the other rats of his community, how misunderstood he is and how he dreams of something he can’t have. The very familiar ‘follow your dream, you misfit’ storyline is tempered with the reality that Remy has to be very lonely by doing so, he continually distances himself from his family and community of rats to be among humans who for the most part would kill him. He deals with this by creating an imaginary friend in the chef Gusteau who talks to him. I like that they show it’s not actually easy.

I like the bit where the other rats have come to help out in the kitchen and Remy puts them all through the dishwasher – they all come out fluffy and clean. Adorable.

The storyline with Linguini being Gusteau’s son is kind of boring to me though, it’s all mostly lacking in actual conflict and things come stupidly easy to Linguini. I find Anton Ego’s arc a lot more interesting. Ego is a man who is used to his word being law. He dismisses a restaurant, then it is no longer considered worth going to. He is always depicted as colourless, a frowning hunched Scrooge type character, which makes the moment when he eats the Ratatouille so magical, because you get to see him smile, and his eyes light up.

I also find Colette and Linguini’s relationship problematic though, not the least because he’s hiding Remy/lying to her for a large part of it, but the moment where Remy makes them kiss (when Linguini is trying to tell her the truth) she literally has a can of mace in her hand, ready to spray him for being a crazy person. She goes from about to mace him to melting into the kiss and that is pretty upsetting really. Like, oh… I guess I don’t have to be worried about his raving because he kisses really well.. um. Yeah, no thanks. I have too much awareness of rape culture to be okay with this scene.

Plus the whole point that she’s the only woman in the kitchen, that’s pretty legit for the culture of professional kitchens as I understand them, but why is there no other named woman character in the entire movie? All the rats even, are male.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, they’ve animated Remy in a very cute way, very big eyes and adorable whiskers, his father is not nearly as cute looking. I find Linguini pretty boring too, and it bugs me that Colette is won over by kissing… but I like Ego and I guess I want them to succeed, but this is really Remy’s movie.

Bechdel test: Nope. There is only one named female character in this movie, Colette :/

Best line:
“If you focus on what you’ve left behind, you’ll never be able to see what lies ahead”

State of Mind: Sure, this movie is pretty cute and all, but I don’t think it’s the best Pixar has to offer and I think there are some huge missteps.

Watched movie count

Wall – E (2008)

Directed by Andrew Stanton
Written by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docker and Jim Reardon
(number 276)

When I first watched this movie not long after it had come out I was overwhelmed with sadness. I found it almost unbearably bleak – a future where there aren’t humans left because there’s literally too much garbage around, there’s a sole clean up robot still working who is acutely aware of his own loneliness and then when we finally see the humans they have become complacent consumers of whatever they’re told to consume without thinking at all.

It’s a horribly dark future! I find that really upsetting! And I still don’t really endorse this as a nice movie, because it’s so very bleak. Then EVE comes down to scan for life and for Wall-E it’s love at first sight, he follows her around, gazing at her as she flies and we’re encouraged to feel the same way he does. When EVE first gets a sign of Wall-E her first response is to blast at the source of the noise with her cannon.

The magic of this film is the way it makes you care for robots with minimal facial expressions and very limited dialogue. It uses familiar tropes to get audience buy in – the love sick boy, the fish out of water who doesn’t understand the world and has to be shown things, the humour that comes from the differences in their technologies and their jobs (directives). Because it’s impossible not to feel for Wall-E which is a pretty huge success for Pixar.

The people on the ship are fed constant adverts which are unsubtle in their message ‘EAT! SHOP! LIVE!’ which is all very predictable/Society going downhill/evolution of intrusive adverts in our everyday lives … it seems like it’s a possible outcome but I honestly don’t think things will ever be allowed to get that bad. There’s a line which advertisers are always pushing and I think there’s always points where people push back, or install ad blockers 🙂

Wall-E, much like the character in an anime (Tohru Honda) changes people’s lives by meeting them. Having caused a man to fall off his hover chair, he helps him up and introduces himself. Then he breaks into a woman’s communication and she gasps at loud because it’s the first time in who knows how long she’s looked past her personal screen. She even comments ‘I didn’t know we had a pool’, a sentiment repeated later when the captain is seeing previously classified videos. ‘I didn’t know we had a running track. He opens people’s eyes… and makes them start to question their way of life.

There are some cute sci fi references, with Sigourney Weaver as the voice of the ship’s computer and the 2001 music playing when the Captain takes his first steps to the evil autopilot having a red glowing light for an ‘eye’ like Hal. I’m sure there are more hat tips in there that I didn’t pick as well.

Does it make me love the people? It does, which is why the movie hurts so much to be honest. It makes me love humanity, and despair for the future that’s shown in the film. I feel I have too sensitive a soul for this film, maybe.

Bechdel test: No, the only two named female characters are Eve and Mary but they never speak to each other.

Best line:
Teacher Robot: A is for Axiom, your home sweet home. B is for Buy N Large, your very best friend.

State of Mind: Yeah… I think I don’t like this movie much. It still hits me emotionally in the ‘abandonment’ and ‘dark depressing future’ triggers, the horror is apparently quite high for me, and I can’t ignore the dark elements even though there are cute bits and a promising ending with the humans excited to rebuild their lives on Earth.

Watched movie count

The Incredibles (2004)

The Incredibles
Written and Directed by Brad Bird
(number 405)

The first Pixar movie on the list that I’ve got around to 🙂

I remember being totally blown away when I first saw this at the movies. It was so unlike any animated movie that had come out of Hollywood in… ever? I’ve seen it many times since then, but it’s one of those movies you can put on and kind of ignore, because you know what’s happening anyway, so I don’t know when I last paid very much attention to it.

The styling all seems very Mad Men now, but of course it came so much before that show. The styling isn’t just super cool but it also emphasises the ‘perfect’ American nuclear family – the housewife, the husband who works in a soul crushing office job and two point five kids – the boy obsessed with sports and the girl who’s shy and in love with a boy.

The fact that they’re all superheroes contrasts well with the expectations of such a stylised setting while also being absolutely part of the same era, which is all very clever. Plus we have neat science, hilarious bad guy (Voiced by Jason Lee) and everyone’s favourite animated fashion icon, Edna Mode.

Does it make me love the people? Oh yes, because Helen is styled like a typical housewife, terrified that her husband is cheating on her but then she also pursues what she wants and will stop at nothing to protect her kids and her husband.

Bechdel test: Yes. First when Helen Parr calls Edna and there’s cross talk about the mended super suit and then when Helen visits her. They talk about costumes, and about going out there and being Elastigirl. There is a lot of talk about Mr Incredible during this exchange, but it still passes on other lines. There’s also a nice conversation between Helen and Violet about Violet’s powers and how she can be brave, trust herself and how Helen was unfair to expect so much of her out of the blue.

We have four main named female characters, and two minor named females which is a great improvement on many of the films on the list I’ve watched so far.

Best line:
“Fine. I will also fix the horrible suit”

State of Mind: Pretty pleased. We chased it up with some episodes of Batman: the brave and the bold