Daughter and I saw Toy Story 4, the annual father-daughter Pixar visit. This trip did not have the bittersweet underscore of the last one, which was the last one while she was still “at home,” and hadn’t left for Brazil, and since it had that “remember me, at least for a while, although we are destined to be forgotten” message the whole thing was a scrape on the heart. But also beautiful and fantastic in all senses of the latter word.

I expected TS4 to be bright and charming, because the characters are guaranteed to delight even if they go through the paces. Why, who wouldn’t love another outing? Mr. Potato Head is cranky, Rex is frightful, Jesse is Whee-Ha, Woody is the moral center and Buzz the headstrong hero. I hear they’re going to the carnival this time! That should be amusing - you know, one of those charming shorts drawn out to feature length, plus the undercurrent of loss and abandonment absent in the shorts.

Well. I was wrong. It was bright and charming, in spots, when it could be. The look of the movie was different from its predecessors - not hard when TS1 looks like an Etch-a-Sketch compared to today’s animation tech, but I mean the heaviness of the world it presented. The school in TS3 was a bright place that wore its years on its face, like most schools of that vintage. The last scenes were hellish, if you recall, and that made it seem like a nightmare, a hallucination. There are two main locations to this one - the carnival, and an antique store. The former is heaven at night, and almost Oz in the day; the latter is the most physically weighty place in the Pixar universe. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s not that it’s overstuffed. It’s the same thing I felt in “Coco” - an unbelievable commitment to unnoticed details, the sense that every object exists completely, and has its own story.

You know, like an actual antique store.

A few notes:

As for the Whole Gang Being There, they were - but relegated to minor roles, and I didn’t miss any of them. Every new character, large and small, improved the story, be it the Canadian stunt cyclist or the Peele-Key duo, or the tiny Carl Weathers action figures. (Three of them, the number providing a few throwaway laughs with a bit that ends up sealing the movie air-tight at the very end, if you stick through the credits.)

The Last Act Problem, where the filmmakers are obliged to provide Action on a scale heretofore unseen, with Everything At Stake, is solved here with ingenuity, simply by tossing out the rule book. The set-piece slams to a halt twice, the first time with a redemption of a character that was one of the more ambiguous antagonists they’ve ever done, and the second time with an unexpected act so freighted with 25 years of emotion it makes Dorothy saying goodbye to the Tin Woodman look like two chums parting after a night in the pubs.

Nightmare fuel: the Bensons. You’ll know what I mean. Again, the winged monkeys are like Smurfs compared to these guys.

As every reviewer has noted, it is the most dark and existential of the TS movies. A) it is not silly to apply those terms to an animated featuer, and B) dark does not equal deep or meaningful. Gritty reboot! Pass. There is literal darkness in the gloom of the antique store, and narrative darkness in Woody’s inability to find a mission in his life beyond his identification with his Kid. By now it’s obvious this isn’t about kids letting go of toys, and moving on - it’s about parents letting go of children, and I’m not just saying that because it mirrors my own situation. It’s all there in the speech Bo gives to Woody.

Forky has a Bride-of-Frankenstein scene that ends with a statement that hangs in the air for a long time and never quite dissipates, even if the obligatory list of the babies born during the production provides an answer.

Finally: the movie was, as usual, preceded by noisy trailers for other animated movies. One was about sled dogs in the Arctic. The other was about Trolls doing some musical Infinity Wars thing. In both cases I’m sure that someone said “let’s do this thing” and also there was a pratfall and then a few beats of silence and then the volume went up to 11 and everyone made Dreamwork faces to save the world. The Trolls movie was so garish, loud, overstimulating, and relentless that you can feel a toddler’s brain being pummeled to jelly.

Then you watch a movie made by masters, in which two toys walk along a highway at night talking about life and love and purpose, and you could watch them walk and talk for an hour.

I went expecting to enjoy the same thing, and got something made by people intent on making something different. It’s very much its own movie, and I suspect as the years go by it’ll be regarded as superior to TS2.

There’s something else, but I’ll save that for another day. It has to do with seeing the castle and logo and Disney theme at the end, and how it’s hit me over the years. I’ll save that for the end of summer, for reasons that will make sense then.




It’s 1914. Here we go.

Well, that’ll be over fast.

Before it starts, it’s already billed as the World’s Greatest Conflict. As if it had been in the works for a long time, a subconscious certainty that had finally erupted. Relief, in a way, that it was finally here.


A century in the works:

“Aflame with enthusiasm.”

He had this right:


But of course life went on as normal in the states. Buy a house, won’t you?

“Read this statement again, until our dense wordy copy makes sense."

Like much of residential DC in certain neighborhoods outside the core and not near the riot-scoured blocks, it stands:

Back to the war. Panic to flee:

Imagine that day.

  “Trust me, people really want this. This is a genuine expression of popular will.”

Does all the war talk make you hungry? Come here and not get ptomaine:

The “White” attribute was a popular way to assert hygienic conditions. Mandes, the owner, took out an ad when he opened the first White Palace, saying “To ensure the greatest sanitation, the walls of the White Palace Lunch are entirely covered and finished in Opalite, a new and costly finishing material.” The tabletops were covered in Opalite.

Our old friend Webby, with one of his earlier works. We’ll enjoy his work next year, when the Tuesday comics feature is devoted entirely to his work. (Darn right I have 150 of them laid out, annotared, and ready to roll.)

Finally: the last entry in this roll has an extra page.

Things moved fast. And then they stopped. And then it was a slaughterhouse for four long horrible years.

That'll do; enjoy the update, and I'll see you around.



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