What Keeps Me Watching Toy Story

Even as a thirty-something year old, Toy Story remains one of my most absolute favorite movies of all time. And like each Pixar film, it’s riddled with tiny things that keep me coming back to it that most people might not really notice. Here are a few examples that I believe help make Toy Story great:

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-21221. Woody is just hilarious. When Buzz Lightyear is showing off his cool gadgets to the other toys, Woody’s impression of the space guns is just perfect. Sarcasm, jealousy, and frustration all rolled into one.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-8502. “We’re with you, Woody,” says Slinky, which prompts Mr. Potato Head to remove his lips and press them against his butt. I didn’t catch this until I was way older. One of the funniest gags in the franchise.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-82923. Okay, maybe the funniest gag is when Woody throws RV out of the moving truck and the toys freak out, because they already think he’s a murderer.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-30334. The lighting. I am absolutely dazzled by the use of lighting in pretty much this whole movie, but especially in the late afternoon just before Andy and his mom leave for Pizza Planet. It really does remind me of my own childhood as summer days were winding down and the sun was setting behind the hills leaving behind a red tint.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-1505. The opening credits. Even when I saw this in the theaters as an eleven year old, I noticed right away that Toy Story opened up unlike any other animated movie ever had: With on-screen credits during the action so there’s no wasted credit time and the movie moves forward from frame one. To this day I consider it one of the greatest movie openings of all time. It’s artsy, it’s simple, it’s telling, it’s to the point, and vastly charming and entertaining. And Randy Newman’s song just nails the mood. (It was also the first time I’d ever heard a song sung by a performer that wasn’t sung by the characters in an animated movie – I hadn’t seen The Rescuers yet.)

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-36236. Greatest threat line ever: “But we’re not on my planet, are we?”

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-2467. The spinning chair. When the chair spins and Woody is forced over onto Andy’s leg, that one-second shot tells you all you need to know, that Woody and Andy are inseparable, and there is no comfort in the world like belonging to Andy.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-40598. The Pizza Planet truck says “Yo.” Awesome attention to detail. Puts me right back in the ’90s.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-46459. Another great example of detail: Buzz glows in the dark. He’s got to be the only character I’ve ever seen in a film who does this.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-815110. Woody’s run. Woody is the only character I’ve ever seen who can make me literally LOL just by his wobbly, exaggerated run.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-236811. During Andy’s turning point, when his affections shift from cowboys to spacemen, there’s a scene where Andy disappears into the closet as a cowboy and emerges a second later as a spaceman. If you watch carefully, you can see the camera jolt just a tad, giving the impression that the filmmakers were attempting a popular camera trick, but the camera got bumped as though it were a real camera set up on a real stage.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-161312. Adding another sense of utter realism, the Davis’ house is bumped and bruised all across the floorboards and lower doors. There’s scratches in the chairs and wood peeling off the walls. It’s hard to remember you’re in a make-believe world.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-540613. Woody’s voice box waking up Scud is the greatest use of his pull string in the whole franchise. Sheer suspense!

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-7414. I think when we first see Woody, it’s the best character introduction ever, and I can’t explain it. It’s the way the camera is positioned, the perfect tilting of the cowboy doll suggesting that he’s a hero, but also just a plastic toy (but the perfect plastic toy), combined with the music makes is a moment I look forward to reaching every time I turn the movie on.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-869815. The match is blown out! The filmmakers didn’t need to add this scene. The movie would have worked just as well without it. But I’m glad it’s there because it seriously adds a whole layer of suspense and devastation. I love this addition so much that I wrote a post on it a while back. Check it out here.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-371416. The devastation in Woody’s voice and his face is so convincing when he realizes he’s a lost toy. I seriously feel for him each and every time. There’s no Hollywood sappiness here. This is real, raw emotion at his greatest nightmare coming true.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-125617. The Army Men. The whole Army Men sequence could quite possibly be my most favorite scene in the whole movie. It’s playfulness and ingenuity is addicting. Any boy who didn’t immediately start making Army Men movies with their cameras is not a true Toy Story fan.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-209718. The line, “The word I’m thinking of, I can’t say, because there’s preschool children around.”

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-668719. I love Jon Negroni’s theory that this hat proves that Jessie’s Emily could really be Andy’s mom.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-788220. Just like Walt Disney and his crew drew from the popular horror movies of their day as inspiration for Snow White, the Toy Story crew seemed to do the same thing. The kings of animation never intended for animated movies to be just for kids.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-387921. The argument Woody and Buzz have under the truck is a perfect example of two characters not willing to budge on their convictions. And it’s a wonderful sequence, because even though Woody is 100% right, he looses the argument because he can’t control his emotions as Buzz is able to. I think this is such a compelling scene because we’ve all been there (especially us married folk).

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-425222. Everything about Pizza Planet. As a kid (and even now), I’d give anything to go to a restaurant just like this. But it has to be Pizza Planet.

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-607223. Take a close look at this Battleship game between Hamm and Mr. Potato Head. I’d love to play Poker against that spud!

toy-story-disneyscreencaps.com-699424. Woody’s talk seriously makes me want to be a toy. Wait, I am a Toy! And my name’s Andy… Hmmm.

I agree with Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney that there’s literally not a single frame in the entire movie that doesn’t push the story forward. There are certainly dozens of other things that make this film one of my favorites, but then it would be too long of a post. Share some of your favorite Toy Story moments below! And, thank you, DisneyScreenCaps.com for the images.

That Match-Out Moment


You know in Back to the Future, how every opportunity to return Marty to 1985 is thwarted until the last possible minute? Like, the Delorean not starting, and the chord getting unplugged, and the movie just keeps you on the edge of your seat and doesn’t let you go until you finally see those flaming tire marks lead into a bright blue flash.

And then, similarly, in Toy Story, when every hope of Woody and Buzz returning to Andy is completely dashed, with RV’s batteries running out and that ridiculous car putting out the flame on Woody’s match (I’ve always had a strong dislike for whoever’s driving that car). But that moment between the match going out and Woody using Buzz’s space helmet as a magnifier, as devastating as it is, is just so much fun! Right? Because, you know, that somehow everything just has to work out, but – how?

I’ve researched this particular kind of climactic moment that doesn’t seem to get used enough. I’ve asked people in the drama field what this particular arch in the story is called. And I’ve never gotten an answer.

If you watch the commentary for Monsters, University. (I cannot stress how important it is for every writer or story lover to watch these valuable features), you’ll hear them talking about this type of moment. When the door closes on Mike and Sulley, locking them in the human world, the commentators refer to this as a “Match out” moment – referring to Woody’s match going out.

That brilliant moment when all hope not only seems lost, but is lost.

The Delorean could have simply just worked. The match could have lit the fuse to Buzz’s rocket. Mike and Sulley could have just walked back through the door without Dean Hardscrabble unplugging it.

But that’s just too easy.

Authors, writers, don’t make it easy for your protagonists! Set every obstacle you can possibly think of between them and that happy ending we all know is coming. In fact – make it completely impossible for them to get there. And then find a way!

Go into overtime as a storyteller and work out how your protagonist can accomplish the impossible. Make it a “match out” moment.

If you’ve read The Man in the Boxyou’ll recognize several such moments in the third act. It fuels the story, gives it that extra umph, and most of all, it shows the reader that you care about their experience.

You care enough to go that extra mile, to push your character that much further, and to entertain your audience for just a few more moments before handing them that happy ending.

Writers, get good at that “match out” moment. It could be the moment a reader falls in love with your work.

And don’t forget to enter our writing contest for a chance to win $200!!

The Verdict Is In



Every author, every screenwriter, every musician, wants to be the best in their trade.

We all want to produce the best short story, the best song, the best written final. We want to deliver the best graduation speech, publish the best article, make the boldest sale, cook the best egg sandwich on the planet.

And there are always people in our field to look up to and aspire to. People who have gone before us and set the bar.

For me, as a writer, I have a small number of authors I follow. But writing comes in many forms even outside of books and articles and other such mediums.

Writing can also be enjoyed through movies, and my favorite genre to follow is animated movies because they have the tough job of catering to every age of audience members from nearly every walk of life. (Admittably, not even animation studio believes this to be true.)

Movies like Deadpool and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot may be fun films, but the writer’s job is much easier than those writers in animation. Their workload is literally cut in half because they are writing to appease a smaller number of audience members.

It’s the difference between delivering a Thanksgiving speech at the family dinner table and speaking in front of news cameras for a worldwide audience. The risk is higher, the expectation is gargantuan, and the critical feedback is going to be much tougher and bloodier.

There’s not a new kid in town, but apparently the oldest kid on the block picked up some amazing new skills. It’s becoming official from critics everywhere that Disney’s new animated movie, Zootopia, is deemed the greatest animated movie of all time.

That’s taking into consideration that it’s apparently better than Up, Lion King, and even Toy Story. Or at least on the same level.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited to see this movie. And even more so, I’m excited to have a new movie to aspire to, in terms of writing and imagination. I have a feeling that if you’re in the creative profession, it will be in your best interest to see Zootopia when it comes out this Friday.

Always be on the lookout for the greatest in your field to aspire to. And maybe your work will be the next greatest thing.

And don’t forget! I’ll be posting the three finalists for our writing contest this coming Sunday! Check back then to see if you’ve been chosen!

Endever’s First Milestone!

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 6.48.43 AMEndever Publishing Studios, our brand new company, has the goal (among several others) of becoming a business while remaining debt-free from the get-go.

We needed to raise at least $240 to register as a business with the state of Kentucky.

As of midnight last night, over the last thirty days, we reigned in enough money to award the cash prize of $150, register Endever as a business, and then some.

So on behalf of my team and myself, I cannot thank each and everyone of you enough for sharing our writing contest with your friends, spreading the word on social media (over two-hundred Facebook shares), and most of all, for submitting your stories.

My co-owners and I will be spending the next ten days poring over each submission and choosing three finalists to be posted (on March 6) for all to read and vote on for the first place winner, which will be announced on March 13.

So thank you everyone for your support, encouragement, and submissions. Keep checking back for updates and finalists from the competition.

And one more thing. We want to hear from you: What kind of writing contest would you be inclined to enter if we hosted another contest?

What Moves You?


We are each moved by different things. Some people are moved by the mountaintop view, others are emotionally impacted by a rock concert. Maybe it’s a family gathering or witnessing wild animals run free into an untamed horizon, or maybe it’s art, or waterfalls.

For me, it’s Story. I’m a can be a bit of a robot when it comes to real life stuff, but I am deeply impacted by a well-told story.

I’m probably the only person to have actually cried in The Incredibles. There’s nothing sad in the movie, but just the quality of storytelling and the raw, honest character development move me to tears. There is unbridled talent that is at work behind every facet of movies like that.

And if I’m honest about it, it’s because I’m envious of that talent. I strive to reach that level of creativity in my own books.

And you know what? I’m thankful for people that are better than me. They set a ridiculously high bar. And every time I sit down to write, I gladly take on that challenge and push forward to be as great as I possibly can.

What movies you? What do you aspire to be? What skills or challenges do you dream of mastering? How do you use your emotions to propel you toward your goals? If you answer these questions in the comment section below, be sure to answer the next two questions as well:

What’s stopping you from reaching your goals?

If you haven’t yet, what’s stopping you from entering our writing contest? If you want to enter, you have just three days left before we close out submissions. Enter, and you could win $150 plus publication opportunities.

Ticking Clocks and Talking Writing: A Guest Post

I addressed the topic of not having enough time to write a couple of weeks ago, which you can read here. But when I learned my publishing guru had some more advice to share, I couldn’t help but ask her to write a guest post. Meet Ekta Garg, founder and owner of Prairie Sky Publishing

289801_10150378860413131_1075513496_oMy girls take dance lessons at the cultural center connected to our local park district. Families of all students participating in the big recital this spring must volunteer for 10 hours to help prepare for the performance. This includes sewing costumes, building and painting sets, and volunteering to help corral kids on the day of the recital.

Recently I went to the first volunteer meeting. The head of the group, an easy-going woman clearly an expert at this entire venture, suggested that instead of taking time out of the week to work on the set, we come to the basement of the cultural center during dance classes. It’s a good way, she said, to use the time we would normally spend waiting for our children to finish their lessons.

I can’t come down here during dance class, I thought. That’s my writing time.

Welcome to one of the keys to my time management strategy for writing.


A writer who lives alone has the luxury of time and space. He or she answers to no one and only has to worry about one person’s needs and wants. Most of us writers, however, don’t live alone. We have children, spouses/partners, often other jobs. We need to make meals, do laundry, clean homes, and, occasionally, have a social life.

The minute you connect your life with someone else’s, you’re scrambling for time. When those someone elses come in the form of little people who can’t drive yet, you’re really scrambling for time, it becomes the biggest issue, the most precious commodity.

Writing good stories takes time. But how do you find time to write when so many other demands line up for your attention at any given point?

By getting creative and keeping a proactive attitude toward your day. Stay in attack mode. Pounce on any free minutes you have. How do you do that? I’d like to share a few tips that have worked for me.

  1. Take advantage of the mornings. After I drop the kids off at school, I come right back home, make myself a cup of tea, and sit down with my computer. I don’t get up for at least an hour. This first hour of the morning offers me a great deal of clarity because I haven’t cluttered my brain with everything else for the day just yet. I’m coming to my story fresh and with energy. On the days when I don’t get a chance to write at any other time, at least I know I’ve tucked in an hour of time first thing.
  1. Have kids in activities? Write. My daughters take art, dance, and music lessons after school. Because my husband is involved in a demanding career, I get to play chauffeur during the day. My computer goes with me everywhere. Dance moms can be incredibly chatty, but I don’t indulge in social time during class. I even leave the immediate vicinity of the lesson area by going to a coffee shop nearby (and, yes, I’ve taken the time to find coffee shops where I can escape.) These are times when I’m guaranteed freedom; the kids have something to keep them occupied and I am required to sit still. I make time for friends on other occasions. When I’m waiting for kids in lessons, I’m writing.
  1. Don’t underestimate the power of the half-hour. Okay, so I’ll admit that sounds a bit cheesy, but the point is this: Don’t think you need long stretches of time to write well or productively. If you find yourself with an extra half-hour of time, use it. Have leftovers in the fridge you can use for dinner? Use that time you’d normally devote to prepping your evening meal for writing. Did a friend make plans for lunch and then bail at the last minute? Use that bailout for writing. Is it a snow day and the kids are parked in front of a movie? Watch half of it with them and then spend the rest of the time writing. Look for those opportunities for that half-hour or even 10 minutes, and then use them.
  1. Writing doesn’t always mean with a pen or the computer. Agatha Christie said that one of the best times to write was when one was doing the dishes. You can substitute any mundane activity in that spot, and the idea still applies. Often when I’m driving from place to place, I let my mind work on my current work-in-progress. I think about the story, where it is, where I’d like to take it. I consider a variety of scenarios for my characters and use that time to work out story problems. When I sit down at my computer later, I’ve already got the bare bones framework in my mind.

It may take a little practice, but once you go after your day with a proactive “Writing first” mindset, you’ll find yourself with little pockets of time to write every day. Make it a priority, be flexible, and learn to adapt to what your day brings. You’ll finish that manuscript in no time.


With an MSJ in magazine publishing from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern under her belt, Ekta has enjoyed a great deal of diversity in her publishing career. Since 2005 she has written and edited about everything from healthcare to home improvement to Hindi films for a variety of publications. In 2014 Ekta launched Prairie Sky Publishing as the home of her dynamic short story concept, Stories in Pairs. She also manages her professional writing platform, The Write Edge, as well as its three extension blogs on weekly fiction, parenting, and book reviews, and she completes her passion for storytelling by editing the manuscripts of writers who want to prepare their work for publication. When not fulfilling her writing and editing dreams on a regular basis, Ekta maintains her position as a domestic engineer (housewife) and enjoys being a mother to two beautiful daughters.

Check out Ekta’s sites, and connect with her via social media:

Prairie Sky PublishingThe Write EdgeFacebook, GoodreadsTwitter

Email, [for editing questions] egarg0201@gmail.com [for publishing questions] prairieskypublishing@gmail.com

Don’t forget to submit your short story for a chance to win $150! Submissions are due by February 25th. Click here for details.

Your Secret Bucket List


IMG_0655I bet you have two bucket lists.

I used to.

They’re usually labeled, “It Could Happen,” and “Only if I Can Find Where My Dog was Burried in the Backyard On the First Try.” Otherwise known as, “Not On Your Life.”

In the “It Could Happen” bucket, you have things like,

Ride in a hot air balloon

Get a promotion

Live long enough to see Episode IV

Make out with someone by graduation

Read ten books this year

These are things well within our grasp. Well, my high school self had a hard time finding people to make out with, but chances are, if you’re not me, you can make it happen.

These are things most people around you have accomplished and, as long as you don’t mistake an active volcano for a swimming pool, you’ll live long enough to carry out as well.

Now let’s peel the lid off that second bucket, shall we? It’s much darker inside than the first bucket-bucket-bucket. It’s also emptier-emptier-emptier. (See what I’m doing there? With my awesome demonstrative skills, I’m illustrating with lyrically-placed echoes that this bucket is also much larger.)

You shine your phone around (because no one uses flashlights anymore, and if you do, you should add getting an iPhone to your first bucket list), and here’s what we find:

Publish your songs on iTunes

Write a bestseller

Start a blog and get 20,000 followers

Win a gold medal

Start a business

The difference between this list and the first is pretty obvious. It’s likely you don’t know anyone who’s accomplished anything in your “Not On Your Life” bucket. Which means you’re on your own.

Do you think that stopped Cam Newton from putting his dreams in one smaller, more manageable, public bucket?

Do you honestly think J.K. Rowling kept her biggest hopes isolated from her more ‘achievable’ goals?

Did Adele attempt to hide her much bigger bucket list from everyone she knew?

I doubt it, too.

Stop separating your bigger dreams  from your smaller dreams (which are basically items on a to-to list). Because then you’re only focusing on what you think you can accomplish and those bigger dreams only get visited once in a purple moon. I’ve never seen a purple moon, so…

Don’t be ashamed of your dreams, either. There’s nothing wrong with having high hopes. Tell everyone you know. Who knows – they might be tremendous sources of encouragement. Or, they might ask you really difficult questions like my wife did when I told her I wanted to start my own publishing company.

In a way, that’s better than a blanket encourager. Her questions forced me to evaluate whether I can really do this or not.

So combine your to-do-list dreams with your larger dreams. Earning your airplane license should be in the same bucket as dying your hair blue.

No more secret goals. Make them real, make them public, make them happen.

Have you entered the Endever Writing Contest yet? Add that to your bucket list and win $150! Deadline is February 25th.


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