(Clips from Disney and Pixar CG animated movies play as "The Egg Travels" from Dinosaur plays in the background)
Doug (vo): Well, seeing how last year went so well at Disneycember, I decided, "You know what? I'm gonna bring it back. But what can I do? I've done most of the 2D animated films." Well, it seemed like there was only one inevitable choice: Let's dive into the CG animated films. And not just the Pixar, I'm talking about the ones that Disney made on its own as well. Thankfully, there's not quite as many as the 2D animated films, but you know what? A good chunk of these films are still pretty awesome, and really had meant a lot to us in our childhoods, as well as our adulthoods. The evolution of the art form has changed so much not just for Disney, but for animation in general. CG animated films are big bucks now, and on top of that, they get a lot of good people and a lot of good talent onboard to make it as good as they can. The stories are unique, the characters original, they're funny, they're emotional, they're heartbreaking. They're everything that Disney stood for, but in a brand-new way, opening up the door for new storytellers, new different kinds of characters, new ways of looking at things. It can't be ignored and it deserves to be acknowledged. So, sit back and enjoy. All throughout the month of December, we're taking a look at Disney's computer-generated movies.
(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing the title of Toy Story. As Doug speaks, various clips of various films from the 90s featuring CGI, including Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, Godzilla, Jurassic Park 3, Mission: Impossible, and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, are shown)
Doug (vo): Well, let’s start with one of the first CG animated movies ever made: Toy Story. Now, for a little background, let me tell you exactly what CG meant in film at the time. With the release of Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 and other big blockbusters, CG was very much connected to, well, action. I mean, true, it was used for other purposes like in Forrest Gump, but for the most part, CG meant new effects for new action scenes, doing stuff that we’d never thought could exist before. Making any sequence, any monster, pretty much anything we wanted to see come to life, and boy, did it get old fast. The film industry really exploited the use of CG. Some uses of it were creative and inventive, but mostly, it was just used as a dodge, a way to save money on much bigger effects, a way to say, "Hey, we don’t actually have to put Tom Cruise on a train. We don’t actually have to put a helicopter in a tunnel. We don’t actually have to have any of this stuff there. We’ll just CG it and the audience will never know the difference." Well, yeah, we did. Even if a lot of people couldn’t explain why, we could tell when something was computer and when something was really there. Oh, we still saw the movies, but everywhere we turn, there was always CG, and it was always for explosions, always for things flying by, always for action, we got tired of it really fast. And the filmmakers seemed to think, "Hey, if we have CG, we don’t need to try that hard on the stories either, because anything we can want to make, it’s just there. So we don’t have to be clever and subtle or anything like that. We’ll just put what we want to show right in front of them." Because of this, films in the mid-to-late 90s suffered pretty heavily.
(Now clips from Toy Story are shown)
Doug (vo): The reason I bring this up is because it’s all the more inspiring to think that the first computer-animated movie was not an action film. It didn’t have any explosions, it didn’t have any big creepy monsters. It was actually a kids’ film, at a time when kids’ films were not doing very well. Heck, even Disney wasn’t doing very well. So when Toy Story first appeared with its bright colors and child-friendly images, an innocent story about a little boy’s playthings and they’re competing for the most attention, yeah, we thought this was gonna crash and burn. But, like any kind of great creative product, this film wasn’t changed by the industry, the industry was changed by this film. Now everybody wants to be like Toy Story, everybody goes for the same formula, a CG animated film with bright colors, a lot of creativity, dialogue that’s very modern, almost like stuff you’d hear on The Simpsons, a simple story that actually manages to rope in some comedy and, surprisingly, even a little drama, and focusing more on the writing than the actual effects themselves. This is everything that makes a great film, and Toy Story is a great film. So, what’s the plot?
Doug (vo): Woody the cowboy, played by Tom Hanks, is the toy of a child named Andy, Andy’s favorite toy, in fact. But when Andy leaves, all the toys come alive and start chatting with each other, and they’re especially concerned because Andy’s birthday party is today, and they’re afraid that the new toys might overshadow them, even to the point of having them be given away. But Woody is there to calm them down because, of course, he’s Andy’s favorite, or, at least, was. A new toy named Buzz Lightyear, played by Tim Allen, has all the latest gizmos and technology. Woody inevitably gets jealous and tries to fight for his spot as alpha dog. One day, one of his plans goes too far and he accidentally knocks Buzz out of the house. Woody gets roped right along with him and the rest of the film is a race to get back home before Andy and his family move.
Doug (vo): The strength in this movie is the writing. These are just great characters, and on top of that, it’s a great setup. Buzz is not the villain, Woody's not the villain, it’s just a form of jealousy that we all know, and that leads to great comedy. In my opinion, some of the best comedy out there is based on competition, and seeing these two constantly try to be good people with their ethics but also get drawn into the childish turmoil of who’s more popular is great to watch. And it’s also really clever that it’s the spaceman that outdoes the cowboy, showing how much fads come and go, and that’s very much what happened, too. As soon as astronauts went into space, cowboys were suddenly seeming very passé and space adventures were suddenly all the rage. You can’t blame Andy for it. He’s just an everyday kid. In fact, the film, for the most part, really doesn’t have much of a villain...
[On the contrary, the film's villain, Sid Phillips, is shown in several clips]
Doug (vo): ...well, except maybe Sid. Sid is the next door neighbor that loves to blow up toys and, yeah, come on. You either knew this kid or even at points was this kid. Again, you can’t look at him as the villain because, let’s face it, he’s just having fun with toys. Every character, even Sid, is identifiable. The writers try hard to make sure that everybody has a motivation and a backstory that, actually, we can relate to and understand. The idea of toys coming to life is absolutely nothing new. We’ve seen it a million times. But it’s the new twist and spin that they can give to it that suddenly makes it wonderful.
[More human characters are shown]
Doug (vo): The CG, I actually think, still holds up pretty well. Eh, in some parts. It’s pretty clever that they made the movie about toys because the plastic textures actually work very well in CG animation. Little details like that spoon, that spoon still looks like it’s really there to me. But then there’s stuff like the humans and the dog. Yeah, they look pretty awkward. Give them credit, it was the first CG movie ever made, but, yeah, at times, the people look more plastic than the toys do and, yeah, that dog suddenly looks like a Dalmatian that swallowed Pac-Man. It doesn’t quite look right. But again, this is really nitpicky.
Doug (vo): The film still works unbelievably well. For a new medium like this to take such a different turn and such an old-fashioned turn, but to still throw all their talent and all their great writing and all their character development into it makes it an animated classic, one that films continued to copy even to this day. This was the game changer, and you can see why. In my opinion, it’s a classic. But this would only be the first in the long line of big hits for both Disney and Pixar, and the animated CG revolution has just begun.
[A scene is shown where Woody and Buzz, having been reunited with Andy, smile and wink at each other]