Toy Story (1995) was only the second feature-length movie Cora watched in its entirety. I put it on for her one cold, dreary afternoon a few weeks ago, without any prompting. I chose it because it is only 81 minutes long and because I love it. The music. The animation. The characters. The story. The way it models imaginative play. Unlike so many other movies intended for kids, I find it hard to find anything about this one that gets under my skin – personally or politically. I wanted her to see it, to share it with her.
She fell in love immediately. For the past two weeks, our days have been filled with talk of Buzz and Woody. Buzz flying down the stairs. Woody sleeping on the couch. The pair making off in a Playmobil police car. So I was primed when, this afternoon, I read about two young guys who also fell in love with Woody, Buzz, and the rest of Andy’s toys. So in love, that they spent the past 2 years creating their own live-action version of the film frame-for-frame. There are a few things about this story that really hit home for me as an art educator.
Jonason Pauley and Jesse Perrotta were 17 and 18 respectively when they started the film, as a hobby project. If they had been my students, I would have happily granted them high school credit for this, excused them from classes, and advised them to complete it as a senior project. It’s is a fine example of self-directed, project-based learning that is now being seen and evaluated by people all over the world, including the animators at Pixar.
Pauley and Perrotta’s remake may remind some of the Jack Black/Mos Def film, Be Kind, Rewind (2008). This is another low-budget affair complete with visible strings and wires. Evidence of the artists’ hands is visible in every scene. And that’s what gives the film its charm. As one YouTube commenter suggested, it’s magical. This project is evidence that kids, even teenagers, can find ways to loose themselves in acts of creative play.
When the team posted their film on YouTube this past weekend, they entered into the participatory culture enabled by Web 2.0. They shifted from being consumers to producers of media. And now the cycle will start over again. I have no doubt this project will launch a thousand like it, though I’m not sure how many teens will have the perseverance to take it this far.