It’s interesting to discover that the idea of toys coming to life isn’t anything new. But then you start taking a look around and you can see that the idea has been there for quite a while. In fact you can take it all the way back to 1949 with the Toys Will Be Toys animated short. This short animated feature isn’t that long but it’s just enough to show that concept of toys coming to life has been around for longer than a lot of people realize.
So what’s really different between the two eras?
Well to be obvious the technology surrounding the idea has changed quite a bit. CGI has almost entirely replaced the old school animation. The toys are obviously more updated in many cases and they’ve gone beyond the toy store to encompass the wider world that lies just outside the doors. They’re not relegated to coming to life just after closing time, as they’re now up and moving about whenever no one is around. They still won’t come to life in front of people, with Sid as the obvious exception in the first Toy Story.
If you want to get technical about it the movie Small Soldiers allowed the toys to come to life in front of humans. The big difference there however is that those toys were programmed to act in certain ways, and other toy movies aren’t hampered or enabled by similar programming. In the clip below the toys follow their own purpose for the most part. The tin soldier with the trumpet is seeking out the doll, who cries “mama” before he gives her a kiss on the cheek, essentially waking her up and allowing her to join in the fun.
Building off of this is the 1986 production by Jim Henson that features Rugby the Tiger and Meteora Queen of the Asteroids. Rugby is afraid of being replaced by Meteora, who is unaware of the fact that she is a toy and thinks she has landed upon an alien world. Sound familiar?
Ever since 1949 the idea of toys coming to life and acting in a way that is contrary to their creation has been building and building to the current era. The very idea is enchanting in a way that easily captures the imagination and can propel new and exciting ideas forward.
In 1949 most of the toys performed their function and that was it. The wind up toys, of which there were many, would operate just as they were supposed and could seem to do nothing else. There were a few exceptions, but at that point many things were fixed and could not be altered in any way. As time went on however and the idea was refined and left alone for so long the chance to create a different look at the toys as they came to life began to emerge.
In 1986 Henson had the idea to make the toys able to actually discern that they were not real, that they were in fact the playthings of children. This gave rise to the fact that some toys do not know they are playthings and are bound to follow their programming, or back story, without any knowledge that the world around them is not the fantasy that they’ve been given.
With that in mind you should easily be able to make the jump to Toy Story and the way things are now. It’s impressive really to think about it.
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