The third notable short from everyone's favourite 3D animation studio (or fourth, if you're generous to 'Andre and Wally B'), 'Tin Toy' came about when Pixar were clearly gaining more confidence and expertise in their technical field, following 'Luxo Jr' and 'Red's Dream', two very simple but effective shorts revolving around inanimate object characters. Usually credited as the forerunner to the excellent 'Toy Story', 'Tin Toy' is a worthy predecessor even if it has long since been surpassed by the likes of Woody, Buzz and Mr Potato Head, and very enjoyable as a stand-alone film.
Unlike the following year's 'Knick Knack' (made famous once again by its recent theatrical coupling with 'Finding Nemo'), the animation isn't quite so timeless in all regards that it could easily pass as an animated short made in this day and age, but it's not too far off. There are many aspects which sport real flair and improvement over their previous efforts, but others which are only too telling of the limitations the studio was currently facing.
No complaints with Tinny, the 'tin toy' of the title - he's a very charismatic creation indeed, and extremely well-animated. This being a non-dialogue film, it's up to his facial expressions to do the talking, and they do it well awe, confusion, pleasure, terror, empathy rendering him another very memorable and sympathetic character in Pixar's canon, and at the same time setting the ball rolling for the wider range of emotions that would later immortalise the heroes of 'Toy Story'. The human baby, on the other hand, is the short's biggest visual weakness - a bold attempt to combine 3D animation with real human mannerisms, something which it isn't entirely successful in (compared to the vivid realism of all his inorganic co-stars, this chunky little infant can't help but stick out like a sore thumb). Some of his actions are nicely rendered, particularly the drooling and sneezing (pure gold), but on the whole he does look and move rather awkwardly - so, while a good effort, the end result there is a little patchy.
Once again, it's the original and surprisingly powerful story that we can really thank for still making this short such stellar viewing today - proving very thoroughly that plot and character are always the wisest investments. 'Tin Toy' presents us with a toy's eye-view of a curious new world that initially seems very inviting, but soon reveals a much more unsettling reality that all local toys live in fear of. Even something as benign and innocent as a human baby from our usual POV can seem positively terrifying from the perspective of a small toy, as this short deftly captures. Its overall air, however, is very sweet, gentle and endearing, and has enough basic charm to be a real winner in the feel-good field.
And I got the message well enough too - sometimes there better solutions to our problems than just running and hiding from them.
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