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Our stories of 'Toy Story': Revisiting an instant classic

The Dallas Morning News
(MCT)

"Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" opened in theaters Friday as a double feature for a two-week limited engagement. When the first film was released in 1995, it was the first feature to rely entirely on computer-generated imagery, what we now (some affectionately, some not) call CGI.

We take a walk with Disney down memory lane, just before the holiday rush on Woody and Buzz and months before the scheduled release of "Toy Story 3" next June.

—Dawn M. Burkes

———

As "Toy Story" unfolded on the big screen, I was caught up in its realness — so much so that it took awhile before I turned to check on my nephews. They were almost too quiet, and as anyone who's dealt with young children knows, that usually spells trouble. I watched them, too, for a while, turning from the screen, to them, and back again, just in time to see Buzz Lightyear take a tumble into the bushes, and — wait one minute — are those real leaves?!

And that's when it happened.

One of the boys turned to me and said in his best little stage whisper, with a mixture of delight and reproach: "I thought you said this was a cartoon."

I smiled and nodded my head in agreement, laughing at the realization that Pixar's work here was done. And, after seeing "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" again in one sitting with a 10-minute intermission, I now know I was right. Pixar's work there WAS done; this rerelease in 3-D has more to do with gaining new fans in time for the Christmas rush and the release of "Toy Story 3" than any artistic vision of what could be accomplished with the addition of 3-D. The effect didn't add much to an already great movie of any genre — forget the categorization of animation and buddy film.

Maybe that's because it didn't need to add anything. The movie, written by a cast of animated characters including geek god Joss Whedon ("Dollhouse"), was already remarkable in that it enthralled everyone, with a wink to the grown-ups in the audience — no tricks needed.

—Dawn M. Burkes

———

When the original "Toy Story" came out in 1995, I was a 20-something guy with a love of classic animation. I recall thinking, "This changes everything."

As the revamped version arrives in 2009, I am a middle-aged guy with three active kids. I don't recall much.

But I do know that when one of the "Toy Story" movies is on at my house, I find it almost impossible to not sit down and watch with my kids. It's not the technology anymore — what seemed cutting-edge then now seems quaint, in the same way that whatever 3-D effects they add this year will look dull a decade from now. It's not the clever references to the toys of my youth, either, although I do always end up wondering what happened to my big box of little green army men.

What draws me to the movie are the same things that draw anyone back to any genuine classic: Imaginative storytelling. Wonderful characters. Universal themes about friendship and loyalty. Abundant humor, sometimes with an edge.

It's stuff that Walt Disney himself would have understood and respected. And it's what will continue to make people sit down and watch for years to come, in whatever dimension they decide to show it.

—Michael Merschel

———

When "Toy Story" came out, my son Sam was 4 years old, his brother David was 2 and I don't know if the boys were more excited or I was.

I do know that we had to feverishly collect all the "Toy Story" toys we could afterward and how difficult it was to locate a Buzz Lightyear for the holidays. We ordered it from the Disney Store at Disneyland and anxiously eyed the mail, hoping it would arrive in time — and it did. And when Sam opened his gift-wrapped box, it was like reliving Andy's excitement in the movie.

All the emotions of 14 years ago rushed back to me at the new 3-D versions of "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" (which came out four years after the first, to my boys' delight). Back then, much of the attention focused on the stunning CGI animation that made everything seem so real. But I don't think it would have held up as beautifully as it has if it had not so eloquently told the story of a child's relationship to his toys and the transient nature of childhood (with humor to make the medicine go down).

My boys had gotten it on the level that recalls the "Velveteen Rabbit" miracle — that belief that you can love your toys to life and they will love you back. And as a parent? Well, now that Sam is in college and David is in high school, the feeling of transience hits me hard, leaving me as forlorn as Jessie in "Toy Story 2," waiting for her child to play make-believe with her again.

Our "Toy Story" toys were long ago boxed up and given away to younger cousins. I miss them right now the way I miss my own boys being little boys. But I hope they will brighten other lives and that the light they brought to my children will sustain them like a little slice of childhood when they least expect it.

—Nancy Churnin

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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