My husband and I recently saw Toy Story 4 (released June 2019). I think we were the only seniors in a sparsely crowded theater. For me, it was a trip down memory lane. I first saw Toy Story in December 1995. I took my son, Scott, who was 22 months old at the time to a theater in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I have to admit this was an act of pure selfishness on my part. I was a stay-at-home mom. Cheyenne was hosting a freezing cold winter, making me frequently housebound. I had seen the previews on TV and wanted to see the movie. Why wouldn’t a baby at least sit in my lap I reasoned?
I got to the theater and settled Scott into a seat, removing his snow suit. Then I turned around to pull off my winter gear. When I turned back, the seat had folded up on my son. He looked like a collapsed pop-up card. The only thing that showed were his huge eyes,smashed between velvet. I was sure I had broken every bone in his body. Apparently, babies are quite flexible because as soon as I yanked the seat down he seemed fine. I saw another mother arrive carrying a plastic baby booster seat. I raced back to the entrance with Scott in my arms and got him a booster and we settled in for the movie. He does not remember this incident but I remember being absolutely terrified.
Toy Story was the first computerized animated movie and it made the Pixar name famous. Now, the jumping desk lamp and Pixar are synonymous to theater goers. A huge success at the box office, Toy Story groused $373 million worldwide, the highest opening weekend for an animated picture at that time. The movie made household names of Woody, a stuffed cowboy doll with a pull string voice (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Ligthyear, a plastic astronaut action figure, with a push button voice (Tim Allen).
I was totally spellbound from the moment the movie started. The animation was brilliant, the plot warmhearted, and the characters engaging. Unfortunately, Scott was not as taken with the movie as I was. Because of his fussing, we needed to leave early. But not to worry, Toy Story was soon converted into a home video, expensive toys, video games and three sequels. I was treated to seeing Toy Story 1 and 2 over and over again at home.
Toy Story 2 was released in 1999 which is the year we adopted our daughter Kayla from China. The sequel is generally considered better than Toy Story 1 and generated almost $500 million at the box office. More importantly, Scott was in kindergarten and old enough to understand the movie and be captivated by it. That Christmas, Woody and Buzz moved into our house and I would find them lying all around the main living areas when I picked up night. Just like Andy, the boy in the movies, my son loved both characters. When little boys in the neighborhood played in our house, I would hear, Woody’s voice, “There’s a snake in my boot.” Or Buzz shouting, “To infinity and beyond.”
By the time Toy Story 3 (2010) was released, my son, a sage 14, had outgrown Buzz and Woody, just like Andy. My daughter, Kayla, age 8, however, was still into animated pictures and more importantly willing to be seen with her mother in public. She and I saw Buzz and Woody packed up by Andy who was going to college. After a complicated adventure, Andy donates his beloved toys to a younger child, Bonnie. Back at our home, Buzz and Woody had been relegated to Scott’s closet long ago. When we moved to a new house that winter, we donated both toys to the Youth Ranch. I hope some needy family had a fabulous Christmas finding a well-loved Woody and Buzz under the tree.
My son graduated from college in December, 2017. My daughter left for college last fall. Just when I thought I am left with only childhood memories, I pulled a small stuffed Woody without a head out of bureau in the guest room. I think MacDonald’s gave little miniatures away with Happy Meals. I didn’t have the heart to give a headless Woody away so I stuck him back in the drawer.
I decided I wanted to see Toy Story 4 which is probably the last time I will hear Woody’s voice on the big screen. Absent any children to go with, my husband accompanied me. I think it’s the first time he’s seen a Toy Story in a theater. I thought the plot was a little dark though in the end the characters end up in a good place. But if you haven’t followed 24 years of Woody and Buzz, I’m not sure Toy Story 4 would give you the great pleasure created by movies 1,2, and 3.
My son, now 25, was home this weekend. He works at Starbucks Corporate Headquarters in Seattle. The corporate Halloween theme is Disney Characters. While he was in Boise, he used his phone to order a cowhide vest and went out to thrift stores looking for brown cowboy boots. He’s going as his beloved Woody. No matter how old you are, you never really outgrow the things that made you happy when you were young.