Original Release: June 18, 2010
Directed By: Lee Unkrich
Screenplay By: Michael Arndt
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger and Estelle Harris
Alright guys. We made it through the cry-fest that was Up. It’s all going to be better from here on out. Nothing could possibly make us feel so many feelings as that. Right? (Pause as I watch Toy Story 3.) Oh God! What the crap is wrong with this movie? Toy Story 3 is an excellent movie. Yet other words that could describe it are traumatizing, terrifying and a roller coaster ride of emotions. I hadn’t actually watched this one since seeing it in the theaters, and now I remember why. This movie takes the heartbreak of Up and amps it up to ten. Deep breaths. Everyone hold hands. Let’s get through this together.
Toy Story 3 was nearly a very different kind of movie. Back in 2004 it seemed highly likely that Disney and Pixar were ready to go their separate ways. Disney still owned the rights to Toy Story and the characters so they gave them to a company called Circle 7 in order to make a new film for the series. The story involved Buzz Lightyears being recalled and then destroyed. Fearing Buzz’s destruction, the toys set out to save him. Of course, this was not meant to be. After the final merger of Disney and Pixar, John Lasseter and Edwin Catmull sat down and came up with a new story, never looking at the Circle 7 version as they wanted to start fresh. What came to be from this was a film that was nominated not only for best animated picture but also for best picture. It also became the highest grossing animated film until the release of Frozen.
Toy Story 3 tells a story we can all relate to. At its core, it’s about growing up and the pain of letting go of our childhood in order to embrace the next stage of our life. It’s about the joy of moving on but also the pain of letting go. In order to achieve this, we follow Buzz, Woody and Co. to a Daycare where they must decide to go back to Andy or stay with new children and be played with every day. This of course all takes a dark turn when they find out that the friendly Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear is actually an evil toy master mind who runs the daycare like a prison. Now the toys must devise an Ocean’s 11 style escape plan complete with duping Ken into putting on a fashion show for barbie as well as fighting off an evil symbol slamming monkey.
Unlike the generally more pleasant tone of Toy Story 2, 3 takes on the dark sinister tone of the first film. Many of the toys working for Lots-O are generally scary and watching the abuse these toys get from small children is very upsetting. More than this, there’s a real sense that anyone could go. Bopeep and others are gone from the start, having been thrown away or given away. Immediately, the emotions start to flood into the film. Anyone could go at anytime. Andy is going to college and all the toys are in danger of being thrown out with last week’s trash. Given this want for none of these toys to get trashed or broken, it’s easy to forget that these characters are actually just pieces of plastic and fabric.
Story-wise, we’re on some familiar ground here. The toys get separated from their home and from Andy and must find a way back. We’ve been here and we’ve done that, but much like Woody in Toy Story 2, all the characters are now facing the proverbial question of whether or not going back is worth it. Yes, they want to get home but do they really have a home to go to? That’s the big question haunting every decision in the film. And whereas now Woody is the ever faithful, the rest of the toys are left to figure out just what is worth fighting for.
Before we talk about the darker moments of the film, I want to mention that there are some extremely funny sequences in this film. Ken and Barbie made me laugh the most this time around as their laughs are generally separate from the main story that had me weeping my way to the end. However, Buzz getting turned to ‘Spanish Mode’ is one of the best gags this series has ever had to offer. From the very Latin movements of his body to the way he romances Jessie, everything about this part of the story is a nice reprieve from the darkness that awaits beyond.
Yet nothing can prepare us for the horror that is the trash compactor sequence. When all of the toys get into the furnace and are holding onto each other, I found that I could barely look at the screen. It’s horrifying. It’s upsetting in so many ways. It might just be the most unhappy moment of any Disney film ever. That includes Mufasa and Bambi’s mom. This trumps them all. It physically hurts to watch, but that being said. Wow. Just wow. It’s so magnificently powerful and when they are miraculously saved, I found myself letting out this huge breath of tension that I’d been holding for the entire scene.
All of this leads to a beautiful end when Andy gives his toys to their new owner. He passes them on to be loved anew. To watch him playing with his toys one last time with Bonnie is gratifying and heartbreaking at the same time. Once again, Pixar shows the power of taking love and passing it on. How much more wonderful is it that Andy’s toys can bring happiness to someone else, rather than sit in an attic. I also really love that Bonnie seems ‘worthy’ of the toys. She cares for them and has a wonderful imagination. In a sense, all we really wanted from Andy leaving home is for his toys to go to a good home and I can’t imagine a better one.
Toy Story 3 is superb. No, it’s not a movie I can watch every day. It’s too much. There are way too many feelings, BUT I can appreciate its fantasticness as an end to an era. It’s beautifully scripted and animated and gave all of us who grew up with these characters a fitting goodbye…even if Toy Story 4 is in the works. No matter what Pixar does, Buzz and Woody will always be where it all started and it’s a great feeling to know that every time they come back, they make us feel just as much love and hope as they did the first time around. Until next time cowboys. To infinity and beyond.
Next Up: Cars 2