The Flickcast Five: Best Toy Movie Franchises

Who doesn’t love toys? Whether they’re for kids or adults, most fans of film, TV, comics, or video games also become fans of toys. The cool part about being fans of film is that we have gotten some pretty cool toys inspired by films.

With this week’s major release of Toy Story 3 in both 3D, IMAX, and regular theaters, we felt it would be necessary to reminisce about some of our favorite toys from films, or even films inspired by toys.

Take a look at the staff’s picks after the jump, and be sure to look back at our other Flickcast Fives from the past few weeks.

Chris Ullrich: Transformers

Sure, it may seem like an obvious choice, but something about Transformers is very appealing — mostly to the ten year old boy that still lives inside me. I’m all grown up now but I still love the idea of toys that transform from vehicles like cars and trucks into robots that kick considerable butt. Even as an actual child the Transformers toys were among my favorites.

Even the first movie wasn’t as awful as many people seem to think it is. Nobody is as good at sacrificing substance over style as Michael Bay and his vision of the robots that transform fully appealed to that inner child of mine. If you stop being concerned about things like plot, character development and acting you are left with a movie that looks fantastic, features cutting-edge visual effects and shows exactly what Transformers should look like when translated to the big screen.

The Transformers were so well done you felt you could almost reach out and play with them as you did when you were a child. I will be the first to admit Bay’s films are not exactly what you would call “art.” Still, there’s an artistry to them that cannot be denied — especially when it comes to how they look and his realization of the robots.

I have to admit I’m a bit jealous and would have a chance to go over to Michael Bay’s house sometime to check out his toy collection. I’ll bet it’s pretty impressive. In the words of Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman: “Where does he get such wonderful toys?”

John Carle: A Christmas Story – “The Red Rider BB Gun”

For some, Christmas is about joy, love and giving gifts. For Ralphie in A Christmas Story, it was more about survival. All he had to do was get through the torturous holiday season so Santa could get him the infamous Red Rider BB Gun. The poor kid wants it so bad that he can recite its marketing tag without hesitation of “an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.”

No matter how many times he asks for it, Ralphie is told “No, it’ll shoot your eye out.” On Christmas morning (spoilers), it looks like Ralphie doesn’t get the BB gun until the last minute when his father points out one partially hidden present. Ralphie gets the gun he has wanted and hilarity ensues with Ralphie actually almost losing an eye by shooting at a target above a metal sign.

Growing up, this was the movie that made kids want a BB gun. War movies made guns seem so unrealistic and over the top. But A Christmas Story showed just what excitement and danger that could be had with an air rifle. Inevitable, it’s likely that this movie led to a few kids actually shooting their eye out but that’s just natural selection at work right? It was still one of the coolest movie toys ever that didn’t gain sentience and try to kill off the main character (see Child’s Play).

Shannon Hood: Nightmares and Dreamscapes –  “Battalion”

As soon as I found out we would be recommending movies based on toys, I kept thinking about some movie in which little army toys attack their owner.  I thought that movie was Small Soldiers, but as soon as I started researching it, I realized Small Soldiers was not what I was thinking of.

After obsessively checking around, I discovered what I remembered was actually the first episode of a miniseries called Nightmares and Dreamscapes (2006), which consisted of eight self-contained one hour movies based on short stories from the Stephen King anthology of the same name.

The particular episode I remember was the first in the series that aired on TNT, and it was called “Battleground.”  It starred the always wonderful William Hurt, who plays an assassin who kills the CEO of a toy company.  Shortly thereafter, he receives a package containing a box of green toy soldiers.

The soldiers literally wage war against the man who killed their creator, and employ a variety of nasty implements for their assault.  Hurt’s character is bloodied, beaten and defeated by the ghastly battalion.  Fun fact: there is no dialogue in the entire episode.  This was definitely the standout episode of that series.  Nightmares and Dreamscapes is available on Netflix.

Matt Raub: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York – “The Talkboy”

Ever since I first saw Home Alone 2, I was blown away by two things. One was the fact that these parents managed to lose their kid yet another time. And two, that said kid had this awesome device that could record people’s voices and run them back at different speeds, making for hours of fun. Mind you, this was before the days of the digital recorder, or even much of the DiscMan, so the general public was still fascinated by simple things.

It’s weird robotic design, and the things that Macaulay Culkin was able to do to fool Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern were pretty awesome to a kid, so owning one of these “futuristic” devices was a must. It wasn’t until I actually got to play with it, did I realize that it was pretty lame, and thus began the disbelief in cool gadgets I saw on film. The batmobile was later taken off of my Christmas list.

Jennifer Tomooka: Toy Story/Toy Story 2

When I first saw Toy Story back in 1995, I initially watched it with some skepticism. At that time, I was a Disney purist and wasn’t sure how I felt about CGI (I know, it seems ridiculous now, but remember, this was the first feature film using that tech), and just how interesting would a movie about a roomful of toys actually be? Well, turns out that I was very wrong on both counts. Watching Toy Story was magic. Seeing all the different toys that made appearances was like going to visit friends you hadn’t seen since the third grade. It was emotional. It was sentimental. It made me want to open up the boxes of packed up toys at my parent’s home and hug every one of them. It also confirmed what I had secretly been thinking for years as a child: my toys really did come to life when I wasn’t in the room.

Since one of Pixar’s strengths is their ability to place very human emotions and experiences on objects that clearly aren’t, there are several scenes from both movies that have felt like they were pulled from my own life: the eventual graduation from “baby” toys to “kid” toys (ala Woody and Buzz); Jessie’s memory of being twirled around outside by Emily; Emperor Zurg confessing that he was Buzz’s father (ok, that has nothing to do with my life, BUT it is a riff on Star Wars, which is); and probably the moment that got the biggest laugh from me in either movie was the treatment of toys in mint condition. Well played, Pixar.

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