Since the new trailer for Pixar’s Toy Story 4 is already released, it is perhaps time to talk again about the trilogy and its dubious origin and inventiveness. Since the release of the first Toy Story animation in 1995, there have been comparisons made between it and The Jim Henson Company’s television puppet film for children of 1986 – The Christmas Toy. I will again revisit and comment on this comparison, taking into account the ideas presented in the new Toy Story 4 trailer. The point is that Toy Story is The Christmas Toy in a nutshell – creators of Toy Story surely must have thought about The Christmas Toy when they were creating Toy Story.
**SPOILER ALERT** for both the Toy Story trilogy and The Christmas Toy; the main similarities are:
- Main Themes:
– In both animations, toys become alive when people are not observing them, pretending to be mere objects or hiding when people are present;
– A child has a very special relationship with one toy – his/her favourite. A situation emerges whereby the favourite toy is replaced by one new and cooler toy;
– Both animations emphasise the tense relationship between the “old” toy (one that got replaced) and the new, cooler toy; the “old” toy becomes jealous of the new toy, and does not want to let go of its status as the child’s favourite toy;
– The Toy Story trilogy and The Christmas Toy focus on the theme of an “insecure” toy: it is not only Woody and Rugby respectively that feel insecure and unwanted when new toys take their places, the subsequent Toy Story films and the new Toy Story 4 trailer also emphasise this message. In Toy Story 2, these insecure toys are Jessie, a cowgirl, and Wheezy, a little penguin, and, in Toy Story 3, such role of a dejected toy is played by Big Baby, among others. These toys feel like they are not wanted anymore and are made believe again that they are when the story ends. In the Toy Story 4 trailer, this insecure toy is Forky, though he does not maybe admit to it. In The Christmas Toy, this insecure toy is also Mew, a cat’s toy mouse. In that film, other toys tease Mew, saying that he is not people’s toy, but a cat’s toy – having a lesser status as a result. He proves his capabilities.
– Friendship conquers all: in both Toy Story and The Christmas Toy, toys realise the importance of friendship and cooperation – they let their self-interest and self-absorption go.
- Plot Points:
– Toy Story (1995) and The Christmas Toy start with excitement about a certain important event coming to the household. In Toy Story, that is Andy’s birthday party, and in The Christmas Toy – that event is Christmas. That means new toys are coming and toys make important announcements to others to let them know that this event will require some thought, and, possibly, preparation and action.
– The important event makes it essential that toy(s) go downstairs in the house and investigate. In The Christmas Toy and Toy Story, toys (Rugby and toy soldiers respectively) risk being seen and go downstairs to see what new present(s) have arrived. While going downstairs, toys in both films use “professionals” to help them achieve that goal. Toys in The Christmas Toy “hire” the services of a toy taxi driver to get them downstairs, and toys in Toy Story “hire” the services of toy soldiers who are considered to be “professionals” in these type of operations.
– Toys in both movies discover that the new toy gifted to the child is absolutely amazing and is also full of character. At this point, there is the theme of (the fear) a replacement of the “old” toy by the new one; there are also hurt and jealousy experienced by the “old” toys since they are not favourite anymore (see above). Rugby in The Christmas Toy has fear of such replacement, but, in that movie, Apple, a doll, already experienced that replacement and hurt. In Toy Story, it is Woody that went through the horrid experience of being sidelined by his owner.
– “Old” toys reminisce about their past relationship with their owners – think about good times they had with them. Woody and Jessie in Toy Story 1, 2 do just that, and both Rugby and Apple in The Christmas Toy go back in their imagination to happier times when they were loved by their owner.
– The toy that got replaced (or about to) takes some action to vent his jealousy and “punish” the new toy. In Toy Story, Woody has “evil” intentions regarding Buzz and wishes that Buzz is forgotten by Andy. Woody tries to get Buzz stuck between the window and the table. In The Christmas Toy, Rugby forcefully removes Meteora from her Christmas box and takes her place.
– The “old” toy convinces the new toy that he or she is, in fact, a toy and not only a toy, but a very special toy that is the object of admiration and friendly jealousy. Rugby and Woody convince Meteora and Buzz respectively that they are toys and that they are special to their child owners, saying how they desire to be in their place.
– At some point both The Christmas Toy and Toy Story feature toys that are presumed dead (Buzz and Mew), but turn out to be alive.
– “Rescue” missions”; both movies feature “rescue” operations devised by toys to rescue other toys that are in trouble. In The Christmas Toy, toys in the playroom organise a “rescue” mission after they find out that Rugby is in danger – he went downstairs to look for Christmas presents. In Toy Story films, there are many such missions, for example, when Woody is looking for Buzz (original Toy Story), when toys look for disappeared Woody (Toy Story 2), and when toys are trying to get back to Andy (Toy Story 3). It appears that this theme continues since Toy Story 4 seems to be about toys looking for Forky to get him back to Bonnie.
– Rugby and Woody
Rugby, a cuddly tiger, and Woody, a toy cowboy, share characteristics. Both are favourite toys of their owners and both feel they deserve to have special privileges. Rugby is quite self-centred and arrogant, and Woody also seems to be egocentric and a toy that others should listen to. Woody even goes so far as to try “to get rid” of Buzz intentionally. Initially, Woody as a character was envisaged to be even more of a bully than the final version (see interesting trivia here). Incidentally, both characters are similarly coloured: orange and white with black stripes or spots.
– Meteora and Buzz Lightyear
There are staggering similarities between these two characters. Both are toys that are self-important space travellers that come from another galaxy. Buzz Lightyear and Meteora, Queen of the Asteroids, both allegedly have “special powers” that they believe in and are seen flying. They both impress other toys who deem them amazing. They are also eccentric and think they are not toys but real space travellers on the mission to save others. They both have their respective nemeses (some robot and Emperor Zurg respectively). Upon being presented for the first time, both also share similar lines: Meteora and Buzz are amazed by the new surroundings in their respective films, thinking they have landed on a bizarre new planet, commenting on its strangeness. Buzz says of Andy’s bed that it is “unstable terrain“, and Meteora says that the Christmas tree is “strange vegetation“. Meteora also asks to be shown to the leader of a tribe she has just encountered, and Buzz is relieved to have found in Woody law enforcement, with Woody being a sheriff.
– Mew and Slinky
Mew, a cat’s toy mouse and Slinky, a helical spring toy dog, play similar roles in their films: they are loyal friends to Rugby/Woody respectively. Even when other toys are against the main characters, Mew and Slinky stand by their friends. They do argue or fall apart (for example, Woody with Slinky when Slinky sees the hand of Buzz), but, eventually, make-up and get back to being close friends.
– Bo Peep and Bo Peep
Both dolls are sweet-natured, blond, dressed in pink and carry their traditional shepherd’s crooks. They both play passive roles in the stories and stay largely in the background of all the action, not getting involved. What we know so far about Toy Story 4 is that Bo Peep will play a more active “warrior” role there, which is interesting because this was exactly the intention of Bo Peep in The Christmas Toy (1986). Bo Beep in The Christmas Toy wanted to participate in the “rescue” mission with other toys and even prepared and dressed in military-style clothing to realise that goal. Another interesting thing is that Ken in Toy Story 3 is obsessed with his looks and clothes and that is exactly the behaviour of Bo Peep in The Christmas Toy – Bo Peep in that film cannot decide what to wear to any occasion because she has so much clothing to choose from.
– Balthazar and Lotso
These two worn and cane-holding toy bears may have different looks and personalities, but there are still characteristics they share: they are both old and experienced toys that have seen better days. They are supposed to be “wise” and in charge of other toys. “Friendly” Lotso is in charge of the kindergarten rooms in Toy Story 3, and friendly Balthazar is in charge of the child’s playroom in the Christmas Toy. They are both so important that they make important official announcements to other toys, for example, Lotso explains the ways of Sunnyside to new toys, and Balthazar explains the meaning of Christmas to others.
– Belmont and Rex
These toys are different types of animals – Belmont being a horse (rocking horse) and Rex being a toy dinosaur, but they also have similar characteristics – both are insecure, nervous and always sceptical of the future – “what if”? they ask, fearing a bad outcome. Other toys have to tell them that everything is going to be alright.
Ding-a-ling in The Christmas Toy and Chatter telephone in Toy Story 3 are toy telephones on wheels.
- “Ending” similarities:
Both Toy Story and The Christmas Toy end on Christmas Day, and both films end on one of the male toys getting his female counterpart. By the end of Toy Story, Mr Potato Head gets Mrs Potato Head as Andy’s Christmas present, and in The Christmas Toy it seems that Mew gets a girl mouse to make a pair.
I love Toy Story – all three films, and The Christmas Toy cannot even dream about competing with the Toy Story movies which are so much more than the plot outlined above. However, it is also fair to say that there are some evident and worrying similarities between the two films, especially in the basic concepts on which everything else is then built.
What do you think about the above similarities? Are you looking forward to Toy Story 4?