My Turn: Whether it streams or plays on VHS, ‘Toy Story’ offers timeless lessons

Frame grab from Toy Story 2 Credit Disney/Pixar
Frame grab from Toy Story 2 Credit Disney/Pixar
Joe Franklin
Joe Franklin

“Toy Story, Gampa.” It was about the 15th time during a 10-day stay with us that our 3-year-old granddaughter, Maci, had asked to see her now favorite movies.

No longer able to tolerate “Trolls,” “Frozen,” and “Moana,” we ordered all three “Toy Story” movies for Maci’s entertainment. We had all three movies in perfectly working VHS format sitting in a closet that we purchased for Maci’s father and aunt some 25 years ago. The only thing is we no longer had was a VHS player. I unwisely ditched it when we upgraded our entertainment system several years ago.

“C’mon,” our adult kids exhorted us at the time, “get with it, Dad. Streaming is where it’s at.” So easy for them to find yet more ways to spend our money.

Our newly purchased movies are somewhere in the “cloud,” accessed through an electronic gate called a universal remote. It’s more of a universal Rubik’s Cube. First, you have to remember where you purchased these movies. Let’s say you bought them from Apple. You need to push the right buttons to get your TV into Apple TV mode.

Now you have to find the “Movies” tab and then the “Purchased Movies” tab. Icons appear for all your purchased movies, which the astute 3-year-old picks over like we used to pick over candy at the Five and Dime. “All right, Maci, do you want to see ‘Toy Story 1,’ ‘Toy Story 2,’ or ‘Toy Story 3’?”

“Fire,” she says. Which I now know to mean “Toy Story 3” because there is a scene (spoiler alert) where the toys end up in a recycling plant about to be melted — to be repurposed into universal remotes, no doubt. Several more clicks get me to the correct movie icon, another click to “Play from Start.”

I’ve counted about 19 clicks to get to a desired program. So, you really save no more time than if you went “old school” and got up off the couch, went to the bookcase, picked what you wanted to see, loaded it into the old VHS player and hit play. You just don’t have to deal with the blinking clock constantly showing “12:00.”

It takes me several minutes to negotiate this Rube Goldberg labyrinth of technology. Our impatient daughter often grabs the remote and gets to the movie in half the time, including the 10 seconds it takes to mock the old man and roll her eyes. I hurl my trusty retort, reminding her that she will be completely lost when the satellites go down, her cellphone no longer works and she doesn’t know how to read maps.

With the movie finally playing, we can sit back, relax and relive the clever writing of the “Toy Story” movies, which helped us maintain a shred of parental sanity 25 year ago. Lost to Maci and even her dad is the subtext of humor in the characters. The voice and characterization of Woody is the very popular Tom Hanks, star of our date-night favorite, “Sleepless in Seattle.” John Ratzenberger — Cliff from the “Cheers” sitcom series, playing the piggy bank — maintained his screen persona as the resident know-it-all.

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Tim Allen, the macho man of the day, is perfectly cast as Buzz Lightyear. Estelle Parsons, George Costanza’s nagging mom on the hit show “Seinfeld,” is wonderfully cast as Mrs. Potatohead. And my perennial favorite, Don Rickles, is hilarious as Mr. Potatohead. We are first introduced to him amidst Andy’s other toys when he encounters a hockey puck. He, of course, delivers his famous line: “What are you looking at, ya hockey puck?” As toddlers, our kids couldn’t understand why Nancy and I were laughing so hard!

We enjoy sharing these fun movies with our granddaughter and it’s touching to think about the stories of these characters 25 years later with more perspective and gray hair. Back then we used the movies for a moment’s respite from a hectic day. We now better appreciate the life lessons — the value of friendship and looking out for one another, the happiness and purpose when you belong to someone who cherishes you, the pain of loss, the life force love gives to one another.

As Jessie the cowgirl in “Toy Story 2” poignantly recounts to Woody, “When Andy plays with you, it’s like … even though you’re not moving, you feel like you’re alive, because that’s how he sees you.” She then sings a beautiful song about the first child who long ago played with her:

“When somebody loved me

“Everything was beautiful

“Every hour spent together

“Lives within my heart

“And when she was sad

“I was there to dry her tears

“And when she was happy, so was I

“When she loved me.”

Joe Franklin is a longtime Manhattan Beach resident who sells commercial real estate. He can be reached at joe2001@earthlink.net.

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