Lately there has been a glut of 3-D films. While none in the live-action arena have given cause for hope, the cinematic gimmick of yesteryear now has legs to stand on. If we are to have hope for the future of 3-D animation, it lies in the hands of Pixar. While Up didn’t manage to inspire my faith, my hopes have been buoyed by their re-release of the original Toy Story films.
This isn’t saying Pixar is the only production company capable of producing fine 3-D films in either format. Simply put, live-action films have characters and props looking like they’re placed in front of cardboard cutout sets while CG animation manages to fully immerse the viewer with added depth and clarity.
When the decision was made to make Up Pixar’s first film to use the now standard 3-D effect, a lot of the money was allocated to the “depth budget.” This aspect of the production tackled the use of 3-D to enhance the viewing experience rather than to be used simply as a gimmick. Personally, I did not think the added use of 3-D made the film any more enjoyable. It made a few of the scenes a little more exciting but overall still didn’t fully immerse me in a world I had already seen a month earlier in standard 2-D. The fun and joy of watching a CG animated film is that these already have a 3-D quality to them when made by a major studio.
Surprisingly, all my early opinions were squashed by the use of 3-D in this re-release. Scenes that have been watched repeatedly now feel completely fresh. Originally released in 1995 and 1999, there was obviously never any intent by the filmmakers for an eventual 3-D release 10 years later but you’d never know. Objects fly at the audience and point of view shots feel more realistic than ever. If you thought the toys looked lifelike before, prepare to be amazed as you wait for one to leap off the screen and beg to be taken home and be played with.
Toy Story was directed by John Lasseter but written and storied with some very familiar names — Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, and even Joss Whedon (yes, that Joss Whedon). It’s a simple story about toys that come to life when humans leave the room. They have an owner named Andy (voice of John Morris) who loves his Sheriff Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) more than the rest but still plays with all in elaborate set pieces. Along comes Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen) who inadvertently replaces Woody. Woody, sporting a case of “laser envy,” accidentally knocks Buzz out of the bedroom window prompting a rescue mission to bring Buzz home.