Toy Story 3 Plays it Safe (Post 2 of 2)

Let’s consider the commercial artistry of this two minute, multi-part film.  Structurally, the trailer for Toy Story 3 has 8 distinct movements, with three separate music cues. It uses cards, diegetic dialogue, lyrics and melody to promise a happy ending, lay out the conflict, evoke nostalgia and arouse excitement.  A blow-by-blow may prove useful:

:00 –:38 The MPAA Rating slates the trailer, followed by Pixar and Walt Disney logos which frame our expectations for the very finest in family animation.  Strings and guitar cue the opening of the door to Andy’s room (home of the toys), and the presentation of grainy, home-video-camera shots of Andy interacting with his toys at various stages of his development. Randy Neuman’s familiar voice and plangent lyrics speak of adversity crowned by temporary success and ultimate desertion and loss. (“I’ve been cold/I’ve been hungry/Now for a while/most of my dreams have come true/With all–lyric indecipherable beneath dialogue–…)

:39 –1:00 Andy’s mother’s dialogue takes up the burden of Neuman’s lyric, which continues beneath her pronouncement (to an unnamed interlocuter, presumably a neighbor or friend) “Andy’s going to College. Can you believe it,” before she addresses her son as he prepares for departure with the question that initiates the script’s conflict: “What are you going to do with these old toys?” as the screen fills with a trunk containing all our Toy Story veterans.  Andy reflects, removes Buzz and Woody from the trunk as he decides their fate, while Neuman’s lyric concludes on the heart-breaking line, “But I’ll never get over losing you.”

1:00—1:23 The music drops out as the toys debate their future: clear eyed pessimism about their obsolescence and bleak future, is resisted by Woody’s bottomless reserve of optimistic certainty, punctuated by Hamm’s pragmatic and topical suggestion that they research their value on Ebay!

1:23 – 1:35 A new, upbeat music cue is introduced by a card reading “This Summer,” in the brand-evoking Toy Story font and graphic style.  Without explaining how exactly they have come to this new place, the trailer shows Andy’s toys nervously awaiting the advent of young children to play with them. Their excitement gives way to dismay as they find themselves overwhelmed by a pre-school hoard of children who play with savage intensity.  The scenes of rough play conclude with the approach of a toddler’s tongue against the plexi-glass bubble of Buzz’s helmet and a tongue-smacking/slurping foley effect.  Clearly, too much of a good thing and too close for comfort.

(Ideologically, the message is clear: unlike Andy, with his devoted, stay-at home mom and valuable collection of desirable toys, these children attend daycare where their “collective” access to communal toys means that none are treated with respect, care or as revered personal property.  In this place, the toys are merely disposable commodities; not cherished possessions. This is a workhouse, not a retirement home.)

1:36 – 1:40  The music drops out, as Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head trade limbs and facial features in an effort reconstitute themselves after having their parts scattered by the day’s hard play.

1:41-1:49   The upbeat music returns, as a card opens this short next act.  “No Toy Gets Left Behind,” insists the graphic, as Woody tells Jessie “we’re busting out.”  We’re in the realm of adventure, following the toys under the intrepid leadership of Woody, as they launch Buzz into the air, whether in search of help or to alert Andy to their situation.  But Buzz, despite getting his wings open, crashes into an inflatable globe and falls to the playroom floor.

1:50-1:58 The music cue drops out, as Hamm and others discuss “resetting” Buzz’s operating system with a paper clip, after his damaging fall.   Woody instructs Rex to use his finger, whereupon Buzz turns on with a flourish of mechanical motion and spreading wings. He assumes a most uncharacteristic position.  Jessie asks, “Did you fix Buzz?”

1:59—2:19 A third music cue opens this final segment. It’s a flamenco tune for guitar, drums and castanets, a dramatic piece of music which backs Buzz’s rebirth as a Spanish language speaking “astronut,” in Hamm’s memorable putdown.  The Toy Story branded Logo drops down onto a black frame as the Flamenco cue arrives at its thrilling  crescendo.  Buzz says something unintelligible in Spanish to which Woody responds by  dropping his head into his hands, muttering “oh, No!”  Another card follows, with the release date, June 18th, onto which additional copy lands with a literal bounce, alerting viewers to the 3D presentation.

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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