This week, I decided to look at films that aim to grow as its audience does, whether that just by the characters aging, or raising the age ratings to go with the audience, or to try and relate to the lives of the audience on some level.
I shall be looking at three prime examples: Toy Story, Harry Potter and Monsters Inc.
The first Toy Story film was released in 1995, and the basic premise of the plot is that Andy, a young boy, gets a new toy for his birthday, and his most favourite toy, Woody (a cowboy) gets chucked aside and replaced by Buzz Lightyear. Though they both get taken by Sid, the hateful boy next door, who mutilates toys as a pastime. The pair work together to escape from his evil clutches. The film was aimed at young children and given a PG rating. It was a film about toys coming to life, what child wouldn’t love that to happen?
The second Toy Story film is set a few years later when Andy is chucking out his old stuff. The aim is for the audience to grow up alongside Andy and for them to relate to what is occurring in his life. We all go through that stage of emptying out all of that old, childish junk and replacing it with things we think is much cooler. In this film we meet Jesse and Bulls-eye, who are added to the gang after a run in with the Prospector.
In Toy Story 3, Andy is jetting off to University. The toys are mistakenly delivered to a nursery instead of the attic before Andy leaves and have to escape the clutches of Lotso, a very angry pink bear with a grudge. At this point, 15 years had passed since the release of the first movie, and it’s highly likely that the viewers that had originally seen the first film had aged fifteen years since and were, too, going to university.
Now, there is a lot to say about this in the space of a few paragraphs. But the focus on here is the raise in age ratings for the Harry Potter movies. The first three films in the series were rated PG. However, the further into the series you get, the higher the age rating. Goblet of Fire received a 12 in the UK and PG-13 in America, as did the rest of the series. The filmmakers would have known that fans would have been infuriated if they could watch the first few films and not the last half and so must have assumed that their target audience had aged with the films. Although covering seven years of school in a release span of ten years does not allow the audience to grow exactly in time with the characters, a huge proportion of the audience would relate to the school experience and would learn a lot of morals and life lessons from three magical students.
We waited 12 years for the Monsters Inc sequel. In those 12 years, Pixar had been lying in wait, for the exact right time when they just KNEW that their audience would be just about to go to/are already at university, and were in vital need for an animation film they related to. So queue every teenager’s/young adults dream: Monsters University, the Monsters Inc sequel.
Like Toy Story, the audience were meant to relate to the characters. Except this time, we go back in time to when the main protagonists of Monsters Inc, Sully and Mike, were just starting out. The message being that with enough hard work, you could work your way up from the bottom, and that even though higher education may not be the thing for you, you still had the chance of going places.