Looking back on… Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 (2010)
Directed by: Lee Unkrich
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty
Written by Helen
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Toy Story is a trilogy very close to my own heart. It was my first introduction to Pixar and I guess, I’ve grown up along with the films, like so many others have. When the first one came out, I was six years old. I appreciated it as a child should, utterly charmed and captivated by it. Luckily, Pixar care about their audience and they’d added enough bits to ensure that my parents also enjoyed it. By the time the sequel dropped, I was ten. I understood it all slightly more and there were toys I’d had since the first film that I still loved. When the third one came out, I was twenty. I was living independently, away from home, at university. I feel closely connected to this trilogy.

To do a third instalment, nearly eleven years after the second was risky, maybe not for Pixar, arguably the best, and most loved, animation studio out there. But the question remained, would the audience who grew up enchanted by these films, still want more? Would it be able to charm a new generation while ticking the boxes and drawing back the original audience. These were concerns I had before going to the cinema. I needn’t have worried though. From the minute it starts (the lovely short ‘Day and Night’ preluded it), you almost let out a sigh of relief, you know you’re in safe hands. It was well received and sits nicely alongside its brilliant predecessors.

It’s got a great opening sequence, and I’d forgotten just how good it was. It puts on screen the joyful, creative imagination that a child has when playing with inanimate objects in their bedroom but shows it from a child’s brain. So we get Woody and friends fighting off evil Mr and Mrs Potato Head, who are trying to make a getaway on a train in the desert and put orphan trolls in danger by blowing up a bridge, with throwbacks to westerns and even a Bond style villain introduction as Ham appears in a huge pig-shaped blimp. Then there’s the aliens driving a bright pink getaway car and well, you’re back in that world. With characters you know and love.

We’re then brought up to speed and the current day through a compilation of home videos showing Andy first getting the toys, to growing up with them and then to not needing them so much. As we reach present day, we realise it’s time for Andy to go to college. He’s seventeen; things have changed and while he still adores the toys, he no longer needs them. It’s another tick in the box for great openings by Pixar who rarely put a step out of line with them. We get the ideas and themes to follow from this too; the idea of children becoming adults, of change, fear of being left behind and abandoned. If the question from the original was ‘what do toys do when their owners are out of the room?’, the question here is ‘what do toys do when their owners no longer need them?’. Read it however you like, but I took away an understanding, albeit in a similar way. One year into my university years when watching this, my version of toys was my friends that I moved away from and unfortunately grew apart from.

There’s something magical in the little details of Pixar films and ‘Toy Story 3’ is no exception. The major change with this third instalment was the level of the animation. Ten years in technology is a long time and it’s flawlessly beautiful to look at. They’ve kept the key things though. The manic, flailing limbs of the toys when they’re running for example, and the inventive, practical ways the toys solve their size issues too.

It’s a briskly paced film, quickly introducing new characters when the toys wind up in Sunnyside Day Care. It’s a good set-up, similar to school with its cliques and the more powerful toys having control. I couldn’t go further without mentioning Lotso, the cute, strawberry scented bear and his great, gravelly, old voice. He’s voiced by Neal Beatty, whose voice was meant to be heard and fits perfectly, particularly when Lotso changes from cute bear to (spoiler if you’ve somehow never seen this) crazed dictator. There’s a love story in the making too (a genius one!), as Ken and Barbie lock eyes from across the playroom floor! Some great scenes follow throughout the film, a particular high being the fashion show sequence towards the end and Ken’s gullible, feminine traits that make for some amusing one-liners.

As has become the norm, there’s plenty of humour for all ages. From the slapstick stuff that kids can enjoy to some more adult-level humour. It easily passes any laugh test you want to inflict on it, my favourite line/s probably being the ‘Who’s YDNA’ sequence. Although Ham gets some great lines too.

It has all of the tropes that you’d find in a heist, thriller movie. From the interrogation and torture scenes, to the scheming and action sequences. It draws influence from the greats of cinema history and puts its own twist on them in a way that kids grin at and parents wonder if it is that they film they adore that influenced that little moment.

It’s pretty dark in places too. There’s hints of this early on as the toys start to think they’re being thrown out, being abandoned and also the pang of jealousy when they think Woody is being saved but Andy no longer cares for them. Bullseye pining for Woody almost brought a tear to my eye and this in no way prepared me for the ending. Now, remember that this is a kids film, and then consider the fact that all of our favourite characters end up in a tip, helplessly heading towards an inferno. There was definitely something in my eye when they all held hands and quietly accepted that the end was coming. Part of me genuinely feared that Pixar were going to break hearts worldwide and kill them off, so it was a ‘phew’ moment when a big metal hand swooped in and rescued them, controlled by, who else but the claw loving aliens! Which was pretty perfect to be fair.

The ending is pretty perfect and almost set me off again. Then there’s the credits, showing what happened next with Sunnyside and the new toys. The revival of Spanish Buzz gets the loudest laugh out loud moment.

So, what’s the verdict? It’s brilliant, and I’m holding out hope that the 4th can reach the same heights.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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