‘Toy Story 4’ Finds Closure in Unexpected Places

Pixar’s sequelitis phase comes to an end with Toy Story 4, possibly the most worrisome sequel of all. Not only do you have the pressure of following up Toy Story 3, the most respected bookend to a nearly-perfect animated trilogy, but it is the newest sequel in a chain of “generally enjoyed but lacking long term impact” sequels from a studio that is lauded for its originality. It also marks the feature-length debut of director Josh Cooley. Greenlighting this film was like opening Pandora’s box, for once you create another addition to this story, the reputation and concept of creative integrity of the brand hangs in the film’s response. It’s a scary, extremely tall order to fill. Luckily, while Toy Story 4 will never quite shake off the label of “the sequel we never asked for,” it still manages to charm, delight, but most importantly, find a way to take its concept to infinity and beyond. And in this summer movie slump, I’ll gladly accept it as a knockout.

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Toy Story 4 kicks off with a cold open: the formerly off-screen separation of Woody (Tom Hanks) and Bo-Peep (Annie Potts) right before moving onto where we left off at the last film—Bonnie and the toys playing throughout the years until her student orientation at kindergarten. Woody, feeling not as relevant with his new owner as he did with Andy, decides to keep a watch on Bonnie on her first day. She creates Forky, a spork with googly eyes and a young mind haunted with existential terror, and Woody is determined to keep him safe through Bonnie’s summer road-trip. When a stop is made in a small town with a carnival and an old antique store, some old friends and flames come back to offer a new perspective of the past, of toy responsibilities, and when to move on. The Toy Story franchise has never been a stranger to themes of identity, but this is a deeper and even bigger step in interrogating what greater purpose toys (and/or, we) have in life.

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‘Bao’ is a Tribute to Motherhood and the Daily Life of Asian Immigrants

When your family rushes to the cinema to see Incredibles 2 this weekend, be sure you head there on time and bring a box of tissues while you’re at it. Pixar’s newest short film, Bao, plays right before every screening of the new animated sequel, and in my opinion, it might be their best short yet. It follows the story of a Chinese-Canadian mother adjusting to her empty nest, who one day creates a little dumpling child to take care of. This eight-minute animated short is home to some of the best high-grade animation, a beautiful score, and delicious animated food. But Bao is so much more than just a technical demo for Pixar – it also serves as a cultural piece! Told through visual storytelling, Bao captures the essence of a 1st and 2nd generation Chinese immigrant household and their family dynamics, as well as paying tribute to the love of Asian mothers.

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There are tears in my eyes from how cute this is.

There’s a lot to love about this short if you come from a family of Asian immigrants. The immediate thing I noted was the expressive, chibi-like art style that manages to successfully cartoonize Asian features, but doesn’t do so in a racist, caricaturist fashion. But thinking about the short since I saw it last Friday, I realized that it made me feel so much more validated and represented than most times I see myself in Western, Asian-targeted media. I then found out that the film was actually directed by a Chinese-Canadian woman, Domee Shi. Bao is the first Pixar short ever to be directed by a woman of any ethnicity, so already this short has made history and garnered lots of praise. I particularly want to highlight the successful way it captured the experiences of coming from a family of Chinese immigrants.

Continue reading “‘Bao’ is a Tribute to Motherhood and the Daily Life of Asian Immigrants”