Toy Story’s Cloudy Bookends

When I saw Toy Story 3 a few weeks ago, I immediately recognized that the last shot of the film mimics the opening shot of Toy Story, bookending the three films with a kind of visual closure. (I have to be vague here for the sake of those who’ve yet to see Chapter 3 in the saga of Woody & Buzz.) It was a fitting ending. Perfect, really. I strongly suspected that even the clouds were in identical formation as on Andy’s wall in Toy Story.

A couple of weeks later, I took Harry to see it, Harry being my 3-and-a-half-year-old son and fellow Pixar junkie. Even though by the end of the film I was an emotional wreck (you could have picked me up with a blotter), I had enough composure to pull out my phone and snap a picture of the closing shot so I could do a handy-dandy comparison in Photoshop. Turns out I was right about the cloud formations:

As cool as it is, however, I didn’t think this qualified as “blog post” material. This was so obvious an allusion that it would be silly to devote too many words to it. My prior Pixar posts dig deeper than just comparing shots between their own films1

So I put the comparison up on Facebook, which is a great place for things light, airy and fleeting. Moments later, my wife was the first to comment:

Since she was in her corporeal form only 20 feet from me, I continued our conversation in person (call me old fashioned): “It’s so obvious it isn’t even blog-worthy.”

“Oh, come on,” she said. “You could write something about that. Trust me: most people didn’t notice that clouds/wallpaper reference.”

“Really?…I betcha Harry noticed it,” I said.

“Right. Yeah. I’m sure that’s the case.”

I smelled a dare.

Let me explain a little about my son. He’s good at shit like this. He’s got a steel trap of a memory. For example, when he was 2 years old, if WALL•E were playing in another room, he could tell us what scene it was just by listening to the sound effects and music cues. OK, OK, I know I’m just a proud Dad and everyone thinks their kids are geniuses or Mozart-esque, blah blah blah, but trust me: when it comes to this kind of thing, he’s got the goods.

So, I put the Toy Story 3 still on my computer screen and called Harry into my office…

So either my kid is way too much like me or I’m onto something. But, hey, at least I got a post out of it!

By the way…when you saw Toy Story 3, did you notice the allusion?
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BACK TO POST 1 Shoot, I’ve blogged about Pixar films in relation to John Ford, Nichols & May, Schwarzenegger violence and obscure sound effects from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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16 Comments

Filed under Family, Film

16 responses to “Toy Story’s Cloudy Bookends

  1. Pingback: Attempt at a Friday round-up thingie. Here we go. « We Who Are About To Die

  2. MW

    Man, I wish I had parents like you, Stephen.

  3. I admit defeat. He’s all yours.

  4. Dave A

    Well, I didn’t notice this. Then again, I’ve seen Toy Story a bunch of times, but I don’t really count it as being among Pixar’s better work (feel the same way about Cars, for that matter.) I think there’s a subtext of materialism in Toy Story that bothers me a bit, and perhaps a bigger problem for me is anything that uses Tom Hanks can’t be that good. (Don’t even get me started about the cloying middle-america small-town conservatism in Cars!) One thing I really like about Pixar is their use of character actors (Albert Brooks, Ed Asner, etc) for voices, which I think adds a huge dimension to films of theirs I really like.
    However, having said all this, I thought Toy Story 3 kicked ass, even with Hanks!

    • Wow, I was unaware of your stance on Toy Story.

      As for their use of character actors, I think just using those guys is a nice change of pace, whether its Albert Brooks, Asner or Craig Nelson. It gets a little boring seeing all this big animated films capitalizing on the latest Big Names. That can be so tiresome.

  5. Mom

    OMG! He lives! Don Altobell is alive within my grandson.

  6. Nick

    You are good, Sma. When I saw TS3 last weekend, the final shot got me — it seemed to be lingering just a little too long on the clouds, and there was something about it that just screamed ‘homage.’ But I wasn’t sure – my mind briefly flitted on ‘The Simpsons’, but I doubted it. (It reminded me of the final lines in the last Seinfeld episode – Jerry and George arguing about buttons as the camera pulled back. I knew something was being referenced, but I didn’t know exactly what (though I did suspect the truth: an earlier Seinfeld episode).).

    This one eluded me till reading your post. Thanks.

    (By the way, am I the only one even slightly underwhelmed by this movie? Having seen it last weekend, I already forget most of it.)

  7. chiyoon

    that is hilarious! Like father like son!!!

    i have to say, my 4 year old nephew would be the halfie version of Harry Mose. He is also a movie fiend and the other day while scrolling through our instant queue on netflix, he yelled “beetlejuice” because it had flashed by on a queue. I hadn’t even seen it. what’s with kids these days?!

  8. Matthew B

    I noticed the clouds immediately; I also noticed that the playing Andy did in the beginning of the film that was depicted literally was a conjoining of the two “play-time” scenes at the beginning of both of the previous two “Toy Story” movies… and it put a BIG smile on my face. 🙂

    • Technically, the cloud shot opens Toy Story 3 as well (the film is bookended by the same shot, one in Andy’s imagination, the other of the real sky), but I think it’s even more interesting that it bookends the series of films.

      I’m glad you agree with me about noticing it immediately. Few others have–at least adults I’ve spoken to–but I thought it was actually very logical.

      “I also noticed that the playing…was a conjoining of the two “play-time.””
      Me, too! There’s a lot of phrases in the this story that is also those others. It’s really cool!

  9. melissa ducote

    i am so glad i stumbled upon this. i noticed it right away. when my husband saw it he noticed it too. not exactly the way you did. (we didn’t realize it was the beginning and the end, we just knew the clouds were just like the ones on Andy’s wallpaper in the first film). I actually found this looking for pics of the clouds because I am putting them on my sons birthday cupcakes 🙂 take care, have a great weekend, your son is precious!
    Melissa Ducote

  10. I’ve been wanting to do this for months – here it is.
    Then and Now – The Clouds at the Beginning of TOY STORY and the end of TOY STORY 3
    http://fxrant.blogspot.com/2011/10/then-and-now.html

    Hope you like it.
    Todd Vaziri – tvaziri@gmail.com

  11. Jacob

    Wow! I never noticed this, Keep up these posts I like them!

  12. Sandra

    I noticed it too and keep telling my friends about it 🙂 (because we are art students) and I really find it perfect 🙂 i google searched if anyone might have notice too and saw your blog 🙂

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