The Forgotten Toys (1995)
The Forgotten Toys (1995)

Genre: Fairy Tale and Short Running Time: 30 min.

Release Date: December 26th, 1995 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Graham Ralph Actors: Bob Hoskins, Joanna Lumley, Bob Sessions, Andrew Sachs, Kate Sachs, Shelley Thompson

 


 

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hough it runs a mere 30 minutes, “The Forgotten Toys” offers plenty of style and even greater poignancy. The notion of discarded playthings may not feel entirely new – thanks to the popular “Toy Story” films – but this movie, based on the book “The Night After Christmas” by James Stevenson, was not only written first (this short coincidentally premiered just a month after “Toy Story” [1995]), but it also approaches the concept with an unusually somber, melancholy outlook. Everything from the voice work to the rough sketch-style artwork and its domineering watercolor grays blankets the picture in striking sadness. Even the music and songs evoke gloom, though it’s the unforgettable images of abandoned toys crying in the confines of a cold alleyway that trump all other efforts.

Teddy Bear (Bob Hoskins) rouses on the morning after Christmas Day to find himself in a trashcan by the side of the road. Astonished by his new surroundings, he yells belligerently for his owner to come retrieve him. This incites Annie (Joanna Lumley), a doll jettisoned into an adjacent bin, to inform him that he has been thrown away to make room for all the fresh toys the children received as gifts. The disgruntled old bear refuses to believe her at first, but after a garbage truck whisks the two away, almost crushing them in the process, he comes to realize the truth. Determined not to give up, Teddy and Annie embark on a perilous quest through the city to find a replacement home.

The toys don’t have official names, but they definitely have unique personalities. Teddy possesses a somewhat gruff voice and a strong English accent – appropriate for a bellyaching bear awaking in a dumpster, but certainly not the voice expected from such a “lovely, cuddly” critter. He can’t get any respect or sympathy and his struggles to be something he’s not are thwarted by Annie’s insistence at accepting realism – they are nothing more than broken down, disposed knickknacks. Oddly, though a point is made that these talking toys don’t eat, they do feel the sting of cold and must seek a warm shelter. Their strife is actually rather thrilling, with constant adventures lined up one right after another, from abandonment to flooding to an upset chef to a dogfight in a garbage dump.

It’s heartwarming to see two lost, neglected individuals working together to overcome a tragic situation. And Annie uses a pleasant little song to convey her message of friendship as their cooperation strengthens. Despite a very brief running time, “The Forgotten Toys” also takes the opportunity to squeeze in a montage as accompaniment for the tune. Their eventual new companion, an ownerless old dog, has far more control over his emotions (never resorting to the mushy stuff), as he’s accustomed to taking care of himself and living in solitude.

Following the theme of moral and visual minimalism, the animation is simplistic, with basic line work, flat colors, and no shadows. The backgrounds are similarly devoid of details, displayed in muted, pastel watercolors (the kind that barely stays within the pale lines) that are beautifully subdued and perfectly complementary. Though the film has a very simple message, it also possesses a moving premise, making for a splendid little Christmas featurette for children – one that has remained relatively obscure since its release, perhaps due to its arguably depressing outlook and mildly harrowing misadventures. This standalone special would be followed by a television series in the late ‘90s, retaining the vocal talents of Hoskins and Lumley.

– The Massie Twins

  • 4/10