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OC LIVE! : Animation Puts Viewers Where the Toys Are (but Beware of the Bully!)

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the computer animated “Toy Story,” a cowboy doll named Woody accidentally knocks his rival, a new space action figure named Buzz Lightyear, out the window and ventures into the real world to bring him back before their owner, Andy, moves away. (Rated G)

Welcome to a child’s room from the toys’ point of view: a world where the gods are unpredictable, where Christmases and birthdays mean a revolution in the social order and where the citizens live by the watchwords “ages 3 and up.”

The movie enthralled most kids, not only by its turnabout premise, but also by the detailed computer animation that made the toys, notably Mr. Potato Head, seem real and three-dimensional.

It may be animated, but “Toy Story” is like a cartoon only in the way the Ritz-Carlton is like a motel.

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“It was cute, and it had, like, really good graphics,” said Lauren Sear, 15, of Los Alamitos, who went to see the movie with friends at the just-opened 21-cinema complex in Irvine. “The toys were realistic. It was really like a potato man, with the parts falling off and stuff.”

Not everyone was thrilled with the animation.

“The people didn’t look that real,” said Casey Sear, 12, of Los Alamitos. “They looked more like toys than people. They looked like clay or something.”

A 14-year-old said he was skeptical at first, thinking the movie would be too young for him. But the humor proved him wrong.

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“I was cracking up,” said Ryan Carr of Irvine. He and his brother Jason, 10, both laughed when Mr. Potato Head rearranges his ears and eyes and calls himself a Picasso.

Grown-ups were also amused at fleeting visual jokes, such as the For Sale sign on Andy’s house put up by Virtual Realty. Those who remember waxy green toy soldiers got a nostalgic laugh at the sight of them waddling on their ovals downstairs to report on potential invaders arriving in Andy’s birthday gifts.

The movie bored some 3-year-olds who left early, and some 5-year-olds were frightened by scenes of dismembered toys rearranged by Andy’s neighbor Sid--a sadistic boy with a reputation for torturing toys.

Trying to hook up with Andy, Buzz and Woody hitch a ride to a pizza parlor, where they inadvertently become game prizes for Sid and wind up in his room--a dark and creepy horror chamber where bits of dolls are held together with Erector set pieces. At first, Buzz and Woody mistake them for cannibals.

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Tommy Milne, 5, of Tustin, said his favorite part was when the toys finally turned the tables on the vicious Sid.

Jason Carr said he liked how Buzz and Woody resolved their rivalry. “They always hated each other, but they listened to how each other was feeling, and they got together,” he said. Ryan said Buzz and Woody (the voices of Tim Allen and Tom Hanks), had the perfect contrasting personalities for a good movie pair.

“They were like a team,” he said, “like Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson.”


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