Sunday, February 26, 2017

MY 16TH FAVORITE DISNEY VILLAIN

LOTSO

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FROM TOY STORY 3

WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!

The "Toy Story" films always had such great and memorable antagonists. You had the kid Sid who loved to either destroy toys, or remodel them into monsters; Buzz's archenemy the evil emperor Zurg; the unsuspected twist villain Stinky Pete; and the fiendish Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear. As unforgettable as these villains are, it wasn't really a challenge picking Lotso out of all the others. Sid maybe a danger to the toy world and is a bully, but in reality he's just a kid playing with his toys who has no clue that he's killing living creatures. Zurg has a cool design and is menacing, but in the long-run he's just a toy who's as comically delusional as Buzz once was. And while Stinky Pete is an actual threat I didn't find him as interesting or dangerous compared to the villain that I chose as my favorite from the franchise. Why is Lotso my favorite villain than all the other "Toy Story" villains that I grew up watching? Let’s take a closer look.

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When we first see Lotso at the Sunnyside Daycare that he runs, much like how no one suspected Stinky Pete to be the villain in "Toy Story 2", you'd never suspect Lotso to be the film's antagonist, or in the very least as nasty as he would later make himself out to be. Right when Andy's toys arrive as all the toys at the daycare are excited and happy for the new arrivals, Lotso appears carrying a wooden toy mallet for a cane as he comes off as a humble and loving grandfather figure that welcomes the toys and helps gets them settled in as he shows them around this bright and colorful daycare, that comes complete with a spa for toys that are in need of repair. Lotso's design also adds to his sweet personality due to his soft purple fur, looking as warm and beautiful as the center is, as this bear is given the scent of strawberry's to emphasize on his sweetness.

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Fun fact by the way, when I saw the first "Toy Story" movie as a kid, one of the cutest toys that I wish I had was the pink teddy bear sitting on Andy's shelf during the staff meeting. And little that I and many audiences knew at the time, that bear is actually Lotso's early design, who doesn't look as cute as I remember, looking back at it now. Originally John Lasseter wanted to use him as an antagonist for the movie, but the studio didn't figure out the computer technology to create fur yet.

Annnnd yeah looking at his design as well as Sid's dog Scud...

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(It looks like his fur is really his skin. He's far from a "hairy fellow" as Buzz described him.)

and comparing it to Lotso, or even Sully from "Monsters INC"...

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(Don't you just want to hug him, and feel how soft his fur is?)

It was best that they decided to wait on making Lotso as the main villain when the technology was perfected, and it was certainly worth the wait!

Lotso also made a cameo in the film that came out before "Toy Story 3", "UP", and well I think this image explains it all...

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Getting back to Lotso in the actual film he appeared in as a villain.

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We begin to realize that there's something wrong with the daycare when Lotso sends Andy's toys to the “Caterpillar Room”, which seems harmless at first until the group of toddlers start rushing in to play with the toys violently. This scene is where the film's darkness officially begins, because the things that the kids do to them are so cruel and intense that it makes Sid's toy abuse look tamed. In nearly every single frame of the sequence, we witness them either being tossed around, torn apart, being smacked against objects, drenched with paint, glitter, and any other materials used for arts and crafts, and doing things to them that are so gross and unpleasant that I'd rather not go into detail. Like Sid's room, this place is every toys worst nightmare, only it's beautiful looking instead of dark and Gothic, and that there's more than one kid who abuses the toys. I don't know who watches these toddlers play with their toys, but clearly that person needs to be fired big time, because these kids are completely out of control! And while Andy's toys in the "Caterpillar Room" are suffering all this torture, Lotso and the toys in the "Butterfly Room" are being played with by kids who are older than the toddlers that play with them how kids are supposed to play and treat their toys.

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When Buzz goes to find Lotso to request for him and the toys to be transferred to the "Butterfly Room" after all the pain and abuse that they went through, the daycare goes from bad to worse. At night time all the colors and happiness is completely sucked out as the place is now infested with darkness and shadows, as the colors are now muted where the colors black, gray, green yellow, and purple begin to take over, where you wonder what happened to all those rainbow colors that you saw earlier. The toys that we saw earlier are no longer as friendly and welcoming as we first met them. They now talk and act like thugs by being tough, mean, and rude, as they spend their free-time playing roulette with an old "See ‘n Say", betting on batteries and toy money. And as for the toys who were acting so jolly in the "Caterpillar Room", in the sequence when we see the Toddler's wreck Andy's toys, the others are shown to be hiding in absolute fear in hopes that they won't be broken or damaged badly enough for them to be thrown away to the dump. The only toy that we discover later on who has survived there for years from the abuse is Chatter Telephone, since he knows how to hide, and if you're expecting him to have a cute or childlike voice just like his design, he in reality talks like an old wise-ass cellmate that's been imprisoned for years from one of those old prison movies.

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After seeing how grim the place is, and learning the toys true nature, when they capture Buzz, you expect Lotso to act as tough and mean as they are for when he shows up? But no, he still keeps his caring grandfather act going, by acting displeased with the toy's behavior to Buzz, listens to his request, and proudly awards his actions of leadership for Andy's toys by giving him access to the "Butterfly Room". We don't see his true colors until Buzz declines his offer and decides to leave, which causes him and the toys to do something cruel to Buzz (which I'll get into later). Right after that scene, we discover that Lotso runs the place as a prison for toys, now acting like a strict warden where you're forced to survive the constant abuse from the "Caterpillar Room" and work your way to the "Butterfly Room". If you ask Lotso about leaving you'll be imprisoned in the toy bins and be watched by one of the toys that work for him, while the other toys patrol the grounds inside and outside where escaping is near impossible. And if you step-out of your place, or break any of the rules, you'll be forced to spend the night in "the box" which is a giant sandbox, a dark and cold place full of nothing but sand and poop. Lotso clearly shows no remorse or care about the toys since he sees them all as trash where he has no problems breaking them himself if the kids or his minions don't do the job for him, and as the film proceeds his personality just gets worse and worse where you begin to wonder what happened to the cute and cuddly bear that we met earlier. The actor voicing him is Ned Beatty and he does a terrific job playing both the warm and cold sides of his character, where his southern accent plays a big part in giving the character his identity.

Lotso is another villain who has tons of minions working for him, and since there's so many of them, just like what I did with Big Boy Caprice, Hades, and Captain Barbarossa's minions, I'm only going to talk about the ones who are important and stand out to me.

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Bookworm is a green toy worm that wears glasses (voiced by Richard Kind who previously voiced Hopper's idiotic brother Molt), who is in charge of multiple toy instruction manuals that are kept inside the closet of the daycare. Outside of his design and position, he's not that memorable of a minion in terms of personality, but what he helps Lotso with in his introduction scene, and his shocked reaction to when he sees Ken in a Spacesuit wearing pink high heel shoes, are good enough to give this minion a mention.

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 Lotso's cunning and quick minion is Stretch the purple and glittery rubber Octopus voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, who gives the character the same low-life personality as she did when she voiced the Hyena Shenzi from "The Lion King". She assists Lotso in keeping Andy's toys in-line by using her long and stretchy rubber tentacles to capture them, or push them in the dumpster where they'll be taken away to the dump to be destroyed if they don't accept Lotso's offer to return to Sunnyside.

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The scariest toy working for Lotso is the Cymbal playing monkey who watches the monitors of the daycare at night. Any toy who has tried to escape the daycare is always caught by this crazy wild eyed Monkey, since he has access to the button that turns on the P.A. system and screeches and bangs his cymbals loudly to alert the other toys. If you were going to ask me which toy in the franchise carries the most nightmare fuel, it’s definitely this deranged monkey. Just how he silently watches the monitors as his eyes wander about, to suddenly having him go bananas when he sees a toy trying to escape which causes his eyes to pop-out is horrifying. When I saw this monkey in 3-D when the film came out, I was in constant suspense and terror given his design, presence, and job, especially in the scene when Woody sneaks inside to tie him up.

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The funniest member of Lotso's crew is Ken, who is voiced by one of my favorite actors of all time, Michael Keaton. When I listen to Keaton's voice as Ken, I never got the impression that I was listening to Michael Keaton trying to sound charming and funny, he sounds and behaves like just like how I would picture the doll to be. But while sounding the role as natural as he pulls off Batman's voice, or Beetlejuice's comical personality where you can separate the actor from the character, there's still plenty of humor surrounding the character's flamboyance and dreamy personality and design to make him come across as comical. He's the butt of all the other toys jokes since he's a doll designed for girls, loves to wear and show off his many different outfits that he can't do without, and the relationship that he has with Barbie (who is by the way voiced by Jodie Benson who voiced Ariel in "The Little Mermaid") is cute while at the same time hysterical for how the two comically play-up their emotions for each other as if they were satirizing the Disney Prince and Princess love stories made back during Walt's time, the same way how the film "Enchanted" did. Ken does assist Lotso and tries to act tough like all the other toys do, but let's be honest, he was a toy that we knew was going to reform from the start, mainly for how poorly he's treated by the others and how devoted he is to Barbie.

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Acting as Lotso's enforcer is the strongest member of his henchmen, Big Baby, who he and Lotso go way back together. Big Baby is a henchman that is cute in so many ways because of his sweet childish innocence. But he's also in many ways very intimidating. Part of that is his strength and how big he is compared to the other toys, but his design contributes plenty to his intimidation as well with his broken eye and scribbles all over his body that look like tattoos. The scariest moment involving him is how he's sitting on a swing at night and turns his head around to see if any of the toys have escaped the daycare. But as misshapen as he is, it’s also pretty sad since he's clearly been abused by either the toys, the kids, or both. The final major part to the threat factor of the character is how he'll go berserk by crying and screaming with his violent behaviors and actions. He is undoubtedly one baby that you do not want to upset.

 

The crazy thing about the toys working for Lotso is even though Big Baby is the strongest one who Lotso has a history with; the most difficult one for Andy's toys is Buzz himself! When Buzz refused to join Lotso's gang, Lotso has the toys pin him down and drill off his screws, as he reads a manual given to him from the Bookworm, of how to re-set Buzz to his demo settings, which makes him think that he's once again a Space-ranger, and is fooled by Lotso to believe that Andy's toys are henchmen working for the evil Emperor Zurg. The scene of Lotso and the toys re-setting him is just as disturbing as seeing Cinderella's dress being torn apart by the Step-Sisters, and to see Buzz back to his old ego only this time for bad and with no memory of his relationship with Andy's toys at all is heartbreaking, and threatening. Unlike in the first film when Buzz was just firing his laser at the other toys that clearly had no effect what-so-ever, here he's shown to be violently beating up the toys, imprisoning them, and being aggressively forceful and demanding when they step-out of line. It does have its funny moments, my personal favorite being how he's still attracted to Jessie even though he thinks she's evil, but for the majority of it, his behaviors and Lotso's success of brainwashing him is despicable, where the toys not only have to fight against Buzz, but must now figure out a way to set him back to normal as they escape.



During the midpoint of the film as we the audience wonder how Lotso came to be so cruel and cold hearted, and yet can make himself out to be a caring and loving soul to perfection, we discover through a flashback told by a depressed Clown named Chuckles owned by a little girl named Bonnie, that he was once the cute and cuddly bear that we saw earlier without faking it. It turns out that Lotso, Big Baby, and Chuckles were loved by a little girl named Daisy, and the one she played with and loved the most was Lotso. But after accidentally being abandon on the country side, where the parents took Daisy when she was asleep and left the toys behind, Lotso and the others went from waiting in the spot for a long period of time, to going on a journey back to her place, only to discover that he had been replaced by another Lotso toy. This heartbreak and feeling of betrayal caused him to become the nasty bear that we would all know him now for, where he and Big Baby would eventually run the daycare center after wandering the streets alone, as Chuckle's would become a victim of Lotso’s “rigged system” only to be found and rescued by Bonnie before he could be destroyed.



The backstory of Lotso's descended into madness is a soul-crushing story that gives you absolute sympathy for this villain. You can tell that he really loved Daisy, and that Daisy really loved him, and if he wasn't accidentally left behind and replaced, he wouldn't be the heartless bear that we know him as. And it's a pity because even though his introduction to when he greets and hugs the toys is an act, I bet his heartwarming personality wouldn't have been different if Daisy had kept him. In many ways he and the hero Woody relate to each other since they were both dearly loved by their owners, only to be replaced by another toy later on for different reasons. The only difference is Woody still stood by Andy, even with the threat of being replaced while Lotso just gave up all together. And who knows, if Woody gave up on Andy, he would more than likely just be as cruel and vicious as Lotso is, which is what makes Lotso such an interesting villain of the franchise. He can easily be looked at as the toy that Woody could've become, and what he probably would do have he just been left behind by Andy and the toys, and replaced by Buzz. I can totally see him running the daycare center just as terrible as Lotso does given how ruthless he treated Buzz in the first film because of his jealousy, and that he was the toy who ran Andy's bedroom. As depressing as Lotso's backstory is, when you really look at it, it wasn't Daisy who replaced Lotso and left him behind, it was her parents. They didn't even so much as return to the spot where they left them behind, so if there's anyone who Lotso or any of us should blame for his cruelty towards toys it’s the parents, and not Daisy herself. And if you want to see a good parody beautifully emphasizing this fact, and giving Lotso a different ending than he gets in the film, then check-out the animated video "How Toy Story 3 Should Have Ended".

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When all the toys stand up to Lotso realizing what he's done to the system at the daycare, and that he's been brainwashing all the other toys to make them believe in his propaganda that they are trash after Woody tells him about Daisy, which causes Lotso to destroy the pendant with her name on it that belonged to Big Baby, Big Baby throws him into the dumpster (that's an obvious reference to when Darth Vader threw Palpatine into the reactor shaft in "Return Of the Jedi", because all the other "Toy Story" films made references to the original "Star Wars Trilogy" so why not this film). But rather than the film just getting rid of him then and there as he's about to be taken away to the dump, he takes Woody with him. Out of all the horrible things that Lotso does, the number 1 thing that made us all despise him and lose all sense of respect and sympathy for him is when he refuses to push the button to prevent the toys from being incinerated in the dump's furnace. The toys risk their lives to save Lotso from being ripped to shreds in the shredder, and yet when the toys need Lotso's help, he just bids them farewell with a dastardly smile, which leads to the most emotional and intense scene of the movie, that ends triumphantly when the aliens save them with a crane! When I saw this scene in theaters, I wanted to strangle Lotso for his betrayal, and as Woody, Buzz, and the gang were about to be burned to a crisp, I can remember a little kid in front of me holding a Woody doll telling his Mom that he "doesn't like the movie", but when they were saved, everyone in the theater applauded as the kid who hated the movie began to tell his Mother that he "loves the movie", which had me and my friends laughing. This scene has got to be one of the most extraordinary experiences that I've ever had in the cinemas, and it’s all thanks to the selfish actions of a heartless teddy bear!

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In the end, rather than the toys beating Lotso up, or him being thrown into the incinerator, he's instead found by a garbage man who ties him to the grill of the truck with a few other toys. As silly and in some ways similar to Stinky Pete's fate in "Toy Story 2", I do find it to be a fitting end to this villain. He feels unloved and that no one will ever want him, but he's found by a garbage man who remembered having a Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear when he was a kid, and wants to keep him for his nostalgia of having one, and his scent of strawberry's. And considering that Lotso thinks toys are trash and nothing more, he now has to spend (for all we know) the rest of his toy-life tied to the grill of a garbage truck giving his fresh strawberry scent as an air-fresher with other broken and dirty toys, as he would have to deal with nothing but mud, bugs, blabbering toys, and the smell of trash. I despise Lotso for his cruelty, but I wouldn't want to see him dead considering the hardships that he's been through, so for me this is the perfect and poetic way for this villain to go. And as for the toy who now runs the daycare with Lotso gone, well who's a better leader that can make a place cool, groovy, and stylish than Ken. Thanks to him, all the toys are back to being friendly and free as they can now enjoy a disco party environment at night time when the place closes, and instead of sending new toys to the infamous "Caterpillar Room" for the little ones to play with, they all take turns as there's always a toy ready to repair them and take their place as they're being fixed up.

The "Toy Story" villains are some of the best villains that Pixar has to offer, but as good as the others are I'm glad that Pixar saved the best one for last. You love him (at first), and you feel bad for him when you learn about his past, but you mostly find yourself downright despising him for how he controls the daycare, brainwashes the other toys (especially Buzz), and how much he could careless about the other toys with having no problem letting them be destroyed by the Toddlers in the "Caterpillar Room" or burned in the incinerator at the dump, which makes him the darkest and ruthless of villains in the "Toy Story Trilogy".

"Sunnyside is a place of ruin and despair, ruled by an evil bear who smells of strawberries"
-Mr. Pricklepants

"The guy may seem plush and huggable on the outside, but inside, he's a monster!"
-Buttercup

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