The Pixar Legacy: How to Make a (almost) Perfect Threequel

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24 years it has been since the creation of Pixar animation studios
24 years of animation
24 years of wisdom
24 years of great stories
24 years of spectacular awesomeness

After returning home from watching Toy Story 3, I went on a shopping spree to complete my collection of Pixar movies. The second to last one was Monsters, Inc., which I had to search through three stores to attain. I had to do it. The passion compels me so. Toy Story 3 was the first threequel (sequel to a sequel) I have seen in recent years that have made me feel something, the first threequel in recent years to make me say, "Now that's quality filmmaking."

As we all know, (most) sequels suck. There are the rare gems amongst the movie society, such as Aliens, The Godfather 2, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Evil Dead 2, Superman 2, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, The Dark Knight, and of course, Toy Story 2. Thus, whenever a rare quality sequel such as Toy Story 3 comes around, it is always significant to not only praise it for the great creativity put into the making of the film, but to recognize it for its important existence in reminding us that good movies are not dead. Yet.

To commemorate such an occasion, I am going to put myself through a movie marathon of Pixar movies, from the one I just finished watching few minutes ago, Toy Story, all the way to the recent brilliancy that are WALL•E, Up, and of course, Toy Story 3, which I am going to be rewatching again at the end of this marathon.

Throughout this crazed obsession, I am going to review (or rather, reflect on my personal journey with each of the films) in this thread each of the film at the end of each viewing, starting with Toy Story, all the way until I make it back up to near-perfect threequel again at the theater.

So sit back and get a coffee or something, because this is going to be quite a read. Also leave your thoughts on Toy Story 3 and the other Pixar films here, be it you hate them (for reasons I couldn't comprehend - ever) or love them. Enjoy.


Toy Story (1995)

What began the series of winning streaks was a story spawned from a Pixar short film titled Tin-Toy. As a seemingly cheap cartoon that would otherwise be compared to a typical Dreamworks animated film today, it revolutionized the 3-D technology back in '95, bringing new heights to the world of animation. Like a puny caterpillar, Pixar sprouted its wings of 15-years success.

I was only 5 when this came out, but I still remembered watching this some time during my childhood, so I probably either:
1. watched it in the theater without understanding much of the movie, but still retained memories of scenes from the movie, or

2. watched it on TV when I grew to be a bit older.

This wondrous gift to the cinematic world meant nothing to me back then other than being just another 'cartoon.' Ironic. I knew not of the smart adult humor cunningly sneaked into the movie by the naughty producers, nor the employee vs. employee subtext crafted into the story, or even the creative fun of seeing our human world through the eyes of a toy.

It was a nice idea, a toy being in a boss and worker system, where we are the boss, deciding whether if we want to 'fire' or abandon the employees or toys. Of course, there's the whole notion of kids being tired of toys eventually, and that is reflected upon by having the toys acting as sort of a guardian to Andy, the child owner of the main toy characters in the movie. Lots of questions and discussions could be raised from the subtext applied in Pixar movies, so much so that it would take years to go through all of them.

A good story has very extensive character development, I think that's a clear fact. And in Toy Story, we see the kind and friendly, 'let's give whoever up there a big Andy's room welcome' Sheriff Woody turn green with vengeful jealousy when his spot in the career game is replaced by the cool, high technology Buzz Lightyear, and he is, thus, outranked and (for a while) outcast. This also signifies the coming of higher technology into our world, too, by the way, a subtext that's very well present in the modern world, especially since the arrival of extensive CGI movies.


You got to root for the guy, though. I mean, being replaced by an employee that works more efficiently is one thing, but having your friends (and the spud head, especially) making a mockery out of your misery and distress, that's just plain asking directly to paint a red revenge target over 'the new guy.' Nothing feels worse than being outcast in your social cycle. Except, maybe being knocked out of the window and landing in bushes one storey below, I guess.

Now, with Buzz, his character development here is naturally the most extensive. He is such a fun character to watch at the beginning, being the epitome of the toy in human world we want to see, because nothing is cooler for a kid than watching your toys come alive. An action figure, too.

But then, when it got to the sad parts, such as Buzz's gained knowledge of his true identity. I don't know about you guys, but that scene just compelled me to no end, bringing tears to me each time. I felt so much emotions from Buzz in that scene, how he suddenly woke up from a fantasy dream of being powerful, being significant, to realize he's just a seemingly insignificant piece of plastic meant to be toyed around, meant to be played with.

Of course, as the movie moved on, as we see Andy's distraught and disappointment when he lost Woody and Buzz, we learned, through the opposite party's perspectives, the true meaning of playtime, the true meaning of having someone to be by your side in your childhood. All in the name of innocence and the disposal of cynical (and perverse) thoughts, of course. :)

And upon learning that new world, learning about his significance in that world through compelling character interactions with Woody that's very nicely written, Buzz was ready to travel to infinity and beyond once more, with a new pal this time.

And even though all of these were portrayed in a very out-of-the-box creative manner, the animation genre - no, animated films regardless of any genre, even up to date, have received little recognition by the mainstream movie fans as good movies. Sure, many critics could write what they want about the top-notch writing of the story in Toy Story, but it is what the average movie lover thinks that's truly significant in the cinematic world. After all, they were made for you, the average movie audience.

Subtext: Technology is going to replace the good and wholesome 'cowboy dolls' of our society.
Character Development: Extensive.
Emotional Drama: Plenty to make you cry.

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With Toy Story's success, Pixar was ready to move on to their next project, the one which was renowned for being overshadowed by Dreamworks' dastardly tricks.
A Bug's Life (1998)

I don't like A Bug's Life. I mean, I don't have any reason to hate it, the movie has plenty of reasons to make me laugh. But it wasn't Toy Story.

What made Toy Story so great is that it has emotional drama with lovable characters that are very unique, non stereotypes. Flik, the main protagonist of A Bug's Life, however, was like one of those annoying adult-made characters that keep on telling kids not to give up, and have empty hopes that they will someday become one big tree. I hate that. It's not only impractical and boring, it's getting cliche.

Maybe in the '90s, it wasn't as commonplace. If so, I'll disregard that, because A Bug's Life still out-beats the blatant copycat of Dreamworks in every fucking way. Yes, I have to swear, because that company had the audacity to create the reason I hold my hatred towards that company till today: Antz

Not only was it proven to be a blatant copycat (its production date was started AFTER A Bug's Life was announced), it was released BEFORE A Bug's Life got to its release, making everyone thought that A Bug's Life was the copycat. This utterly repulsive act is the very reason I detest Dreamworks and their dirty, filthy, animalistic tactics till today.

Sure, they made ONE good hit in the past with Prince of Egypt, which I still praise greatly till today, but I couldn't ignore the fact that they took away the chance for A Bug's Life to shine at the box office by using such a low-down technique.

*calms down* But let's get to the good bits of A Bug's Life.

Kevin Stacey was awesome, especially when he said that line, "I hate it when someone gives away the ending," making possible notion to his role as Kaiser Soze, whose true identity everyone constantly revealed when it was first known. Kevin totally bought the entire movie. That's the thing about villains; they have more exploration of the characters, the human in us. After all, humans are the biggest villains of all. And for Hopper, it is the exploration of Hopper's struggle to keep a system that works for him, a system that keeps him powerful in the circle of life. But when that struggle went out of control... well, too bad for Hopper. I guess I'm slightly rooting for him. :3

Another thing is the comparison of the grasshoppers to bike gangs (you could obviously tell from the way the beating of their wings sounding like bike engines). It's the symbol of oppression against a weaker society, which is pretty cool for a kids movie. Though it's just a 'big bullies vs. the hopeful younglings' notion, it's quite well done. Instead of just leaving it as cliche, making the whole gang just mindlessly oppress the ants, the members questioned themselves, about the oppression they are setting - with much displeasure to Hopper, of course.

Overall, it was a fun journey to experience a bug's life. The city bugs were fun to watch, Francis was so much fun to watch as a male ladybug, and there were lots of bug-jokes and references made in this film. Not as great as future classics, but definitely better than most of Dreamworks' capitalizing crap.

Subtext: Standing up against the oppression, having hope in being stronger; nothing you've never heard of in a kids' movie.
Character Development: Limited. I only see small development in Princess Atta.
Emotional Drama: Not much. This movie is more developed on the villains, and is an overall fun experience rather than an emotional one.

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The toys are back in town!
Toy Story 2 (1999)

It was just another sequel. That was probably my thought when I first watched it at 9. Heck, I probably didn't even take it seriously. Asian kids mature slower. It was just another cartoon that I had lots of fun with. About 5 to 6 years later, it became known to me that it was one of the most (if not the most) awesome animated movie sequels ever created.

Everytime I watched this movie, everytime I walked down this memory lane, there was always a tearful scene that made me cry each time I watched it - for various reasons. And for those of you who have watched it, you should know perfectly about the scene I am referring to - Jessie's backstory.


For RPers and storytellers here, I'm pretty sure you all know that nothing is as significant or emotional as a good backstory. The first time when I came across Jessie's tale, the song was just so captivating and filled with such an emotional rhythm that no words were needed to move me to tears. The idea of being abandoned by someone you love, of being deemed not significant anymore is so powerful, that images reflecting the theme alone could make your heart shudder with compassion. Jessie was such a great creation by the Pixar team that even boys would find entertaining today. In fact, I am kind of concocting a little fan fic just dedicated to her right now, so be sure to watch out for that. ;)

It's just a shame that she had a smaller role to play in Toy Story 3.

When I first watched Toy Story 3, the feeling was phenomenon, not because the entire movie was a perfect creation, but because the ending to the movie was such a perfect epilogue to the toy story. But more on that when I rewatch it again.

Alright, enough about Jessie. She did steal the whole show, of course, but the main story on its own, in Toy Story 2, still leaves such a major impact, discussing quite a great theme.


Andy is obviously growing up, as a kid. We are all growing up. TV Shows we love get canceled. Movies we love get remade. The things we love, our parents, our friends, soon disappear, eventually. But would that stop us from loving them in the first place?

Initially, when I first learned about Toy Story 2 being so high in the Rotten Tomatoes Best Movie List, I loved the movie even more and tried to find out the reason why it was so awesome. When I listened to the audio commentary by John Lasseter, co-writer Andrew Stanton, and co-directors Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon, I learned of that reason and loved it even more.

Toy Story 2 talks about life. In an innocent, filled with subtext kind of way.

Life moves on, and we got to live with that, enjoying the little moments in it as much as we can while staying decent, honoring our values and responsibility, and hold dear the ones we love. Being a toy was Woody's responsibility, but it was easier for him, and for humans, to pick the easy path. Heck, Woody will get to live forever - behind a glass box. "Immortality," as quoted from Lasseter. To live life to the fullest while it lasts, or not to live it at all but living forever. That was something The Prospector failed to learn.


Still, I don't want to use the term, 'bad guy,' here. He's crafted after our human emotions. Anger. Hatred. Jealousy. More importantly - fear. The fear of the future. The selfishness we all have, to defend ourselves, to hold dear what we want, what we think we need in order to survive. The fittest survives. The rules of the jungle. Just like Hopper, he was weak.

Not a bad thing, but because he was not strong enough to endure the hardship of doing the right thing, he didn't survive. It's the flip side of the rulebook, the one not applied in the Sciencey, cynical aspect of our reality, but is more recognized in the aspect of our reality that talks about fate, karma, and good will. Survival of the kindest.

Woody was reminded of the benefits of upholding his responsibilities. He was reminded, by Buzz, ironically, of Andy's love, which, even till Toy Story 3, is still portrayed quite real, quite emotional, but more on that next time.

This whole theme takes me back to the idea of modern movies. Remakes, to be specific. Remakes are like toys being displayed in a glass case, being watched again and again in a different format, in a different version - without the love and soul of the original. Nothing, no amount of child visitors in the museum could replace the love of a toy's original owner, just as no amount of box office profit or movie audience being capable of replacing the original movie's idea, the gem, the love the filmmaker originally crafted into.

You see the amount of subtext I could pull out just from one Pixar movie?

And don't get me started on the movie references Toy Story 2 made, and I'm not just talking about animated/Pixar movie references here. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, is the obvious movie referenced here. But there were a few others mentioned in the commentary, but I could not really remember the titles. There was one reference made when Buzz was hanging from beneath the elevator. Another was 2001: A Space Odyssey, of course, when Buzz leapt across the floating platforms at the beginning of the movie. And then there were a chunk of Sci-Fi movie references made in the entire opening sequence of the movie, when videogame Buzz was shown, including the title sequence of the Superman movies.

All this entertainment value wrapped up in a feel-good profound story that makes us think. THAT is what a movie is all about. To entertain us yet informing us. To educate us yet making us laugh. To relate to us, as one human to another, as we share our human journey in the dark theater, gathered around the screen, guided by the projection light, watching the movie as cavemen had gathered round the wall, painting their story on it while guided by the light of the fire.

Toy Story 2 could very well be the perfect sequel. But what of Toy Story 3? Is it truly, as I had boasted, a perfect threequel?


Subtext: Abandonment by your loved one, unknown dark future awaiting you, surviving the harsh world that doesn't wait for you as it evolves/grows up, immortality vs. short-lived meaningful life, and much, much more.

Character Development: Only on Woody and the new characters, but their development is so extensive it makes up for the rest of the old characters.

Emotional Drama: Two words: Jessie's Backstory. Not to mention Woody's dilemma and worries.

Next Off
With Pixar's mega superstar success, they visit the bogeyman behind your closet.
Monsters, Inc. (2001)

It took two years after Toy Story 2's big release before Monsters, Inc. came out, and it was all worth it. It became one of the classic Pixar movies that was finally an original story again and not in the form of a sequel. After A Bug's Life's not-so-successful release, Toy Story 2 managed to boot up Pixar's rep, just enough to allow the company to bring us to another world, this time, the one behind our closet doors.

And this is one of those classic Pixar films with a theme I don't really care about - energy shortage. Around the time of its creation, I presume that we were facing a similar crisis in the human world as well. (Too bad we didn't know our very own screams could supply as energy, huh? lol) Even till now, I still have little concerns about this. lol I mean, c'mon, I'm a teenager slacking away on junk food and videogames. Sure, I love Toy Story 2's idea about the humanity and the internal struggles, but that's about life, and human emotions, and philosophical stuff, not about some energy shortage.

And that brings me to what I like about the film.

For Toy Story 1, it was the one that started the creativity run. For A Bug's Life, it was Hopper. Toy Story 2, it was an awesome animated sequel, and it has deep emotional subtext and story. For Monsters, Inc., there were also two things: Billy Crystal, and the friendship between Mike and Sully.


I see a lot of Mike Wazowski in me. I wise-crack. I'm bad-tempered. I argued with my ex-bestfriends (all of them) a lot because I felt they didn't understand me, that they didn't relate with me. But still, I would very much like to say I'm an overall nice and decent guy... at times. :)

Also, I always seem to go for the wise-cracker in a movie. Johnny Cage, Spider-Man, Rick O'Connell, James Edwards, etc. That's why Mike couldn't have been a much more entertaining guy to me.


Aside from the laughs, there was also the tight friendship between Mike and Sully, of course. For Monsters, Inc., it was like Toy Story 1. The good thing about both of these movies is not the existence of a profound theme, but the emotional character interactions the Pixar team portrayed between the characters. Whether it's Woody and Buzz or Mike and Sully, it is always interesting to see these very human characters go on some kind of journey to rediscover themselves while we, the audience, relate ourselves to them and, while doing so, rediscover ourselves, too.

I haven't got the fortune to attain a good copy of the original 2-Disc Collector's Edition of the DVD yet, so I can't get to the director's commentary, and thus, unable to know about the other subtext applied here. But of course, there are a few I could guess, like not being afraid of the mysterious and unknown, not being a jackass that kidnaps children for your own selfish purpose. Also, a friendship requires conflict to grow, that's one thing I had learned from my previous friendships. And the conflict here between Mike and Sully is strong enough to make them grow, but their brother love for each other is also powerful enough not for them to break apart.

These subtexts here are nothing impressive, but who knows? I have only watched the movie, in total, 5 to 6 times my whole life, after all. :P

About Waternoose, he's another of those villains who struggle for his own survival under harsh circumstances by sacrificing others. Again, survival of the fittest. I've discussed about this when I talked about The Prospector in Toy Story 2, and it seems like a reoccurring theme in the villains of Pixar, all desperate fellows just trying to save themselves rather than care about others. Again, it's not 'bad.' It's a choice. A selfish one, no shit, but still, an individual choice. Whether Boo would've been better off kidnapped by Waternoose and be used in his plan, well, that's a sinister vision we might never find out from Pixar. At least not until Monsters, Inc. 2, perhaps. ;)

Subtext: Energy shortage, desperate measures with lack of resources, growth of friendship through conflict.

Character Development: Enough between Mike and Sully to last the whole movie.

Emotional Drama: Lots between Sully and Boo. Tearful departure at the end of movie.

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