Welcome back! Wait, you’d be at Newsarama anyway, and I’m always here for something. Maybe we should just welcome Getting Animated back after a brief hiatus. What’s that? No, Lucas, I’m not arguing semantics just to pad the word count (good idea, though). At any rate...
Toy Story 3: This one hit video since our last installment, and compared to the literal mountain of things that have been written on it leading up to its theatrical release and after, I think that I ultimately have little new to offer. However, I’ll lay any doubt to rest and say, that for my part, I consider Toy Story 3 to be an absolute classic. Not only does it provide a fitting ending to the original story, its very inclusion adds a previously unforeseen dimension of weight and wistfulness to the entire series. At this point, spoilers on.
Granted, TS3 is primarily a comedy, and it excels at that. Sight gags abound (as always), and as the middle third of the movie becomes a parody of prison-break thrillers, it once again reveals the uncanny base of knowledge and unabashed love of movies in general that the creators at Pixar express. One of my personal favorite elements was the Fisher-Price phone; not only did Woody have to pick up the receiver to hear him, he speaks in a film-noir tough-guy parlance (as does Chuckles; more on him later). This spirals into a deliriously choreographed break from the day-care, including the requisite overly elaborate plan that all movie escapes demand (the whole bit with the cymbal monkey as the surveillance tech killed me).
I also loved the Lotso origin sequence, given its dark visuals and the elegiac reading delivered by Chuckles. It also sets up the great Big-Baby-as-Darth-Vader-vs.Lotso-as-The-Emperor moment above the garbage bin. A bit past that, there’s a great deal of emotion that comes out when the cast believes that they’re about to be incinerated. It’s a scene that’s rife with real tension, especially for younger viewers. I enjoyed that the scene climaxes with a rescue engineered by one of the series’ longest running gags: the aliens and their devotion to The Claw.
Of course, the most effective passage for me remains the final sequence wherein Andy passes his beloved toys on to Bonnie. There’s a lot of heft in that scene as it allows the adult viewer a distinct moment to mourn their own childhood. Think about this way: we mark the passage of time and innocence in distinct ways, like the death of family members or the moments that mark a relationship, but do you remember the last time that you played? That final time that you pulled out your toys, that final time that you ran carefree around the playground? For most of us, childhood in that regard just stops. One day you’re playing as kids do, and then, one day . . . you aren’t. TS3 allows Andy to put a distinct coda on his childhood by indulging in one last playtime with Woody, Buzz and the rest. It’s a terrific scene and gives the series a lovely grace note upon which to end.
On the technical side, TS3 is another rock-solid Pixar release. My edition contains the two Blu-Ray discs (loaded with extras), the DVD (also with extras), and the disc for the digital copy. Among the extras you’ll find the “Day and Night” theatrical short and features on the voice talent and the design progression of the toys. It’s a great package, and well worth having.
Now, from something you’ve probably seen to something you probably haven’t . . .
Young Justice: Debuting Friday night in the States, Young Justice marks the latest DC animated series. Set apart in its own continuity (Earth-16, if I recall correctly), the series gets to exist with familiar character, but on its own terms. All I can say is . . . get ready. Why?The hour-long pilot episode hits it out of the park on every conceivable level. This is a great, great start for a new entry into the animated canon. Terrifically, dynamically animated, Young Justice sets a new visual standard; it’s at (or above) the animation quality of the best of the direct-to-DVD DC releases. That’s quite a feat, especially considering that you have literally dozens of characters appearing in this episode alone (that includes around two dozen Justice Leaguers, seven or so young heroes, several cold-themed villains, and a variety of other characters that either a) are surprises or b) demanded new designs for the series).
In terms of the voice-cast, it’s extremely solid. Though my wife cracked me up when she said, “Isn’t Aquaman Green Lantern?” (yes, it’s Phil Lamarr as the King of the Seven Seas), it’s a well-considered group of actors handling the various vocal chores. One voice note that impressed me was less a bit of casting (though actor/teen-pop-singer Jessie McCartney is a fine Robin) as it was a choice; when Robin disappears into the shadows or out of view of a villain, he utters a high, thin laugh, suitable for the way that the Dick Grayson Boy Wonder would crack wise and undermine villains.
Much of the plot of “Independence Day” revolves around ongoing series set-up (the sidekicks come together, they ignore orders, they find a new ally in a strange place, etc.) but it’s all engagingly done and action-packed. I found myself enjoying the character design tweaks here and there, and I was interested by particular angles (both Hal and John Stewart in the League? Zatara with an Italian accent? Never considered it, but it’s sensible.)
In my estimation, YJ is well worth your time. With the wrap-up of Batman: The Brave and the Bold already in sight (they promised 65, and next week’s episode is 51), Young Justice will be the only DC game in town for a bit. And based on the first episode, it’s gonna be a good one.