Even for a "can't miss" studio like Pixar, the very idea of Toy Story 3 seemed risky when you take into consideration the long standing tradition of part threes in a film series being egregiously unnecessary. And especially considering how beloved Toy Story 2 is, and how that movie left us an emotionally satisfying sense of closure in knowing that "yes, the day will come when Andy outgrows his toys and his will toys be just fine with that because they'll have served their master well."
To continue on from that point is a daring move, and what's even more daring is that Toy Story 3 actually skips ahead years and years and shows us the harsh reality of Andy having outgrown his toys. Not so fine with it now, are you Woody and Buzz? You can say "to infinity and beyond" but your day of reckoning has come! It's a bold move, but one that results in an absolutely thrilling adventure and a joyous payoff that reminds us all that there can be catharsis in letting go of one's past.
Yes, you will watch as our friends, the toys, become attic chum. For anyone who thought the ending to part two felt conveniently optimistic, you're going to have to watch these toys panic as they come face to face with their mortality. I'm not going to spoil anything for you (and yes, the fact that an animated film can be so great as to contain "spoilers" is a feat unto itself), but you should know that this is ultimately a tale about being forgotten.
Toy Story 3 Movie Clip - Meet Ken
Like most Pixar films, it's magical mixture that splits its focus between the themes of loneliness and fitting in. From the clips and trailers you know that Andy is now 17 and headed off to college and Woody and the gang wind up at a place called Sunnyside Daycare where they're ravaged by toddlers. You can probably guess that there's an escape plan involved, but honestly, all of these things are the very basic, least interesting elements of the film. It's a beautiful, vibrant story about memories, the passing of time and how you treat the people in your life.
The symbiotic relationship that the toys have with their owners in the Toy Story-verse has always been a curious thing. In order for toys to truly feel wanted, their owners need to really use their imaginations while playing with them. There almost needs to be a heightened sense of wonder involved in order for the toys to feel complete. Back in Toy Story we saw premeditated toy-abuse in the form of Andy's next door neighbor Sid (who's got a cameo in 3!), and now we're shown a sort of a mantoy-slaughter as young preschoolers, incapable of enlightened imaginative scenarios, rush in and treat their toys like cannon fodder.
Click for more images from Toy Story 3.
As with everything Pixar does, the attention to detail here is incredible. The split-imagery within the daycare/Alcatraz is great. How the slide in the playground becomes a watchtower at night. How the bead mazes double as razor wire. How marker smudges become prison tats. The level of detail, in things like Woody's rounded-down hairline, is astounding. And yes, that's the voice of John Morris, now 23, playing Andy once again. Why get the same actor when only a few might notice? Because everything is everything here.
Sure, there are some great new toys thrown into the mix, but they're never meant to distract us from our legacy crew, and despite the great story here the real draw, still, are the characters that we've grown to love: Woody, Buzz, Rex, Hamm, Slink, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head. Woody (Tom Hanks) is still exploring his somber "gunslinger" storyline; concerned about growing old, lost loves and his legacy. Buzz (Tim Allen) is still turning everything into a "sci-fi" adventure; complete with computer glitches and tech obstacles. It's fun to watch how their worldviews and concerns echo the toy characters that they actually are.
Joining the clique at Sunnyside are some new faces: Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty), a strawberry-smelling patriarchal teddy, and the fabulously groovy Mattel Ken (Michael Keaton). We're also introduced to a little girl named Bonnie, who shows us all that the tradition of whimsical and inspired playtime isn't dead as she delightfully frolics with her group of misfit toys; the lederhosen-wearing porcupine Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), the triceratops Trixie (Kristin Schaal) and the sooty-unicorn Buttercup (Jeff Garlin). Three movies have now shown us that the story of a toy is, overall, a sad one. But not one without pride. And not one without joy.