The other night whilst my dear mother was enjoying some sort of “Snowman Party,” us guys (Dad, Tyler, an I) were at home (boys night in!). I was elated that a couple XLR cables had arrived that day, and after doing a test with my shotgun mic (which, before this, I had been unable to use due to my lack of a cable) which went extremely well, Tyler suggested that we do a “Toy Story” marathon. That means watching Toy Story and Toy Story 2 back to back.
Though I wasn’t particularly excited at the chance to sit in front of a TV for four hours doing practically nothing, I did. But just before we started, I had an idea.
So I got my trusty pad of paper and a pen, and sat poised and ready to write as the first movie began.
Instead of a wasted four hours, it was perhaps a little beneficial, as I was learning about story structure by taking notes (and watching camera moves… BTW, did you ever notice that there’s absolutely no depth-of-field in the first movie, except for where there’s a matte painting behind the 3D animation?) on it.
I thought that I would share my findings with you. So here they are:
Toys are organized
Use of dutch angles to create confusion (okay, so that doesn’t have anything to do with the story…)
Introduction of new character “Buzz,” conflict
Conflict deepened, introduction of the “Sid” plot
— Inciting Event — “Bank Robbery” introduces the setting, main toys (characters), Andy, Andy’s room.
— Introduction of Settings
Woody’ conspiracy against Buzz
The two are lost
Enter Sid’s house
Buzz discovers the truth about himself
Hope rises for escape, is dashed, mistrust in Andy’s room at it’s height
Buzz loses all hope
Victory, but then complications
Buzz is lost
Conflict from dog, traffic, other toys
Small bit of relief
All hope is gone
Hope rises, problems are overcome (“Wait a minute… I just lit a rocket, and rockets explode!”)
Conflict is resolved!
Toy Story 2
NOTE: It’s kinda hard to tell whether or not this movie is in a standard 3-act story structure, or a 5-act. The conflict is different from that which is in the first movie, and there are several “false fronts” that lead into the actual plot. For the sake of simplicity and not exploding or imploding my own brain, I’ve organized this into the 3-act story structure.
Woody going to camp, lost hat
Theme of “belonging” introduced
“Al” introduced (in the TV ad)
Inciting incident (supposed)– Buzz in space, actually a video game
Setup for plot:
Woody is broken, has to stay home, dream sequence
The yard sale, goes to rescue Wheezy, complications
Inciting event (actual) — Woody is stolen (leads into the actual plot)
Toys trying to solve mystery
Al is the culprit, Woody is captive
Backstory to Woody’s value, introduction of the “Prospector,” “Jessy,” “Bulls-eye”
The plot to save Woody
More backstory for the “Roundup Gang,” museum plot
Woody loses his arm, delays Al
Failed attempt to get arm back
Toy’s victorious invasion of Al’s Toy Barn
Video game magazine element (tied back into the supposed inciting incident, tied to other future elements as well)
Introduce second “Buzz,” develop the conflict in Al’s Toy Barn
Theme of “belonging” further developed
Woody’s choice of staying or leaving
Toy’s failure to find Woody at Al’s Toy Barn
Zurg introduced, problems overcome, connection to video game magazine
Roundup Gang preparing to leave / toys getting closer to rescue
Rescue operation going amiss, conflict with the Buzzes, conflict with the Prospector, escape deterred by Al
Conflict with Zurg, exit the Buzz/Zurg/video game plot (these elements simply help the toys get on with the plot)
Problem overcome (“Pizza anyone?”)
Airport conflict, confusion
Conflict with the Prospector (again…)
Problems, attempted rescue by Woody,
Resolution (Woody is fixed, the theme of “belonging” is completed)
And now for a few thoughts on the McGuffins from each movie. If you don’t know what a McGuffin is, read about it here.
Toy Story’s McGuffin
What’s the first movie’s McGuffin? I believe that it’s RC. Yep, the little remote control car. Why?
1) RC is used to enter the main plot in Act II with Woody’s conspiracy
2) RC brings everyone back together again at the resolution (well, except for Mr. Potato Head, who ends up being spread all over the floor of the moving truck by RC)
Toy Story 2’s McGuffin
Woody. He’s the second movie’s McGuffin, at least, that’s what I think. Perhaps I’m wrong (the video game element could be it, but I tend to think of this element as a secondary McGuffin that simply helps the plot along a bit).
But think about it: Woody is what’s stolen (and thus brings in the plot), he’s the one who is crucial to the Roundup Gang (without him, they go back into storage), and he’s crucial to the Andy’s Room toys as well (in their rescue operation, which is the main plot).
Woody brings all the characters together (except for the second Buzz and Zurg; I tend to think that the video game element is a whole different side-story), tears them apart (not literally; only in that the Rounup Gang’s hopes and dreams are torn between Woody’s desire for Andy, and to keep the Gang together), and finally brings the movie to it’s climactic resolution (he rescues Jessie).
So those are my thoughts on the movies. What do you think?
I’ll also say that, for some reason (perhaps it being simply because it’s been so long since I’ve watched them, or perhaps because the Lord opened my eyes to it), there seemed to be a hint of mockery going on at Christianity. It was extremely subtle (and perhaps I’m wrong, don’t take my word for it), but I could see it there. Maybe I’m wrong. I’d have to watch it again and specifically take notes for that (I can’t remember exactly what the elements where at the moment)… So I’ll just leave it at that.
So anyways, I feel like I learned a little bit from charting the story structure!