Alex on Twitter mentioned Toy Story 2 the other evening. He just said how his young daughter was loving it. That got me thinking about when I went to see it and what it means to me.
My life and the movies I see are always inextricably tied up together. If I want to evoke a certain era or a place, the best thing I can do is think back to the films I saw around that time. This is like a tiny key to my memory casket. The film comes back and other things come back too.
When Toy Story 2 hit the cinemas, Trish was heading off to London for a day or two and so it was just John and me whiling away the weekend together. I’ve checked online and, apparently, the film was released here in Ireland in February 2000. That would mean that John was very nearly four years old.
He really liked his Toy Story video and we had watched it many times over so I figured that this was as good an opportunity as any to give the local cinema another try. John had only been once before, with his Mum and some other Mums and pals. It hadn’t gone well. The film was called ‘Doug’s First Movie’. It didn’t make a major splash with the general public and it made less of a splash with my son John who, afterward, expressed the firm wish to never attend the cinema again.
This was hard on me. I never saw myself as the Dad who would be at the sidelines of the soccer match or the Dad who… did anything, really. Except go to the movies. I was Movie Dad and to have a young feller who was not keen to go… It was hard.
So, with Trish in London and some level of anticipation for this particular show, we steeled ourselves, John and me and we rolled off to see Toy Story 2.
This is the first of the two memories that stay with me from that early afternoon viewing.
Memory One – The Usher’s Seat
We went in to the cinema after the lights went off because the going off of the lights was one of the controversial issues. But, as it turned out, the lack of lights was also a similarly-rated controversial issue. We were nearly gone home before we even got in the door.
There was a single seat, just inside the door. It was the seat where the usher would sit, back in the days when there would be an usher in the cinema. It was a solitary fold down seat, all on its lonesome.
“Let’s just try this seat here,” I whispered, in some desperation, because John was not for staying, “it’s right beside the door so we can leave anytime.”
So we both perched in the little seat in the awkward spot. John heavy on my lap. Both equally nervous, for slightly different reasons.
Then the movie began and everything was okay.
After a while we moved from the usher’s seat, down to two more comfortable ones beside the aisle so we could still get out quickly if required.
We were okay for the whole movie. I watched it swallow little John up and sweep away all his fears and anxieties. It was a wonderful metaphor for Cinema itself and what it can do for us all when it is done right.
Memory two was a teeny tiny thing that I really should have forgotten by now but I haven’t and it still makes me smile to think of it.
Memory Two – The Floor Popcorn Girl
When the movies are over, here in my town as in most towns, people move in to clear up the stuff before the next show begins. The soft drink cups, the sweet packets, the floor popcorn. They generally don’t wait until the credits finish because Multiplex time is of the essence.
At Toy Story 2 that afternoon, there weren’t many people in for the early show. The teenage girl who came in to do the floor popcorn really didn’t have anything to do except watch the credits with John and me.
And the credits scene in Toy Story 2 is funny.
And, because the film had been showing for a week or two already, the Floor Popcorn Girl knew the credits scene. She knew it off by heart.
That’s my memory. The Floor Popcorn Girl stood in the aisle beside our seat and she spoke the credits scene along with the movie. She wasn’t doing it for us, she was doing it for herself. And she was very good.
I particularly remember her doing Mrs, Potato Head’s monologue to Mr Potato Head as she packed him up with provisions.
“I’m packing your extra pair of shoes, and your angry eyes just in case.”
She did the voice and everything. Here’s a YouTube clip of that scene. It’s only a minute long and it’s good for a smile.
After that, John and me saw many movies together and, when Sam came along, we saw even more.
Our cinema-going is one of my delights and it has provided many fond memories. Just like the two I mentioned above.
(Happy 25th Birthday, John)