It's been fifteen years since Pixar Animation Studios ushered in the age of the CGI movie with Toy Story, a candid look at the secret lives of toys. Are we too old for one last trip inside the toy box?
Toy Story introduced us to a world of living toys that only desire to be loved and played with by their owners. Like children often do, Pixar used the toys to tell a broader story. The first film dealt with themes of jealousy and friendship, as new toy Buzz Lightyear muscles in on old-fashioned cowboy Woody's turf. The second film is a tongue-in-cheek look at the collectible toy market, hinting that one day Buzz and Woody's owner Andy would outgrow his toys and move on.
And now he is.
Andy is heading to college, and the toys that were once his beloved sadly prepare to be relegated to his dusty attic. As usual, things don't go as planned, and the toys find themselves on an epic adventure that will take them to the Sunnyside Daycare Center and beyond. Will it really be their last adventure?
Growing Up Davis: Has it really been 15 years? Andy Davis has grown from imaginative youngster to mature young man, ready to take his first steps into college life, leaving his last bastion of childhood behind in a dusty old toy box. His sister, a baby in the first film and toddler in the second, is now your typical preteen girl. Perhaps the most jarring transformation is Andy's dog, Buster. Full of energy and excitement in Toy Story 2, the faithful hound is now old, grey, and exhausted. It's a natural progression, but one that fills the viewer with a sense of melancholy, which helps us identify with the plight of the forgotten toys.
The Opening Sequence: The movie opens with one of Andy's last adventures with is toy pals. The Potato Heads have robbed a train, and Woody arrives in the nick of time to stop them. They best him, but Buzz Lightyear and Jessie come to the rescue. Things escalate from there. There's a giant mech pig. There's a slinky dog force field. Then comes monkey armageddon. It's a glorious spectacle that serves as stark contrast to the current plight of Andy's toys, which now have to resort to cheap tricks to get him to even look their way.
Old Friends: Like the joy of opening an old cardboard box in the attic and finding it full of childhood memories, Woody, Buzz, and the gang triumphantly return to the big screen as if they never left. The original cast returns, brining characters like Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Hamm the piggy bank, and Rex to life in hilarious fashion, while Blake Clark does a fine job of stepping into the late Jim Varney's shoes as the voice of Slinky Dog . My personal favorites, the Squeeze Toy Aliens, steal the show, finally coming to grips with their obsession over 'The Claw."
New Friends: As much fun as it is to reunite with old friends, the joy of getting new toys cannot be ignored. From Whoopi Goldberg's turn as the sinister plastic glitter octopus Stretch to Timothy Dalton's thespian porcupine Mr. Pricklepants, the new cast is every bit as entertaining as the old. Michael Keaton in particular shines as the Ken doll, who vehemently claims to be "not a girl's toy," while Studio Ghibli's Totoro steals hearts without ever speaking a word.
Sunnyside Up: Toy Story 3 is part prison escape movie. The Sunnyside Daycare Center might seem like toy paradise, but it harbors a dark secret. Fluffy, pink, and smelling like strawberries, Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear (voiced by Ned Beatty) seems like a pleasant enough host, but in reality is a strict prison warden, forcing toys new to the center to do time in a room filled with savage toddlers that aren't "age appropriate." Lots-O' is quite a tragic character, once you know his back story. It's almost enough to justify his sinister actions, but not quite, making him quite possibly the best villain of the trilogy.
And In The End: The ending of Toy Story 3 will have tears rolling down the cheeks of anyone who has ever had a favorite toy. It's just so bittersweet. It had me remembering the toys of my past. Not the ones sitting on my shelves or hanging on my walls, but the ones that I played with until they were too worn to go on, or were passed on to younger family members and over time forgotten. Dammit, I need a hug.
Randy Newman: Some people love Randy Newman. They find his music charming and quirky; his voice warm and cuddly. Others find his music unintentionally goofy and think his voice sounds like someone singing while trying to keep from throwing up at the same time. I am firmly in the latter camp. See for yourself! Try to simulate how your throat constricts when you're about to lose your lunch. Now sing. Oh my god it's Randy Newman! I enjoy disliking his music so much that this is nearly a positive.
In an age where most children's movie sequels go directly to video, Pixar has managed to produce not one but two theater-worthy follow-ups to Toy Story. The series has grown and matured along with its viewers, while remaining entertaining enough to keep younger children laughing while the older children among us savor the bittersweet memories of play sessions long past. Toy Story 3 is a fitting ending to the trilogy, showing us that while we may outgrow our old friends, the urge to play never truly dies.
Toy Story 3 was created by Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed by Lee Unkrich and written by Michael Arndt. Released on June 18, 2010. Attended a special screening of the movie held for video game press at E3 2010.
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