Should I Watch..? 'Toy Story 3'
What's the big deal?
Toy Story 3 is an animated family film released in 2010 and is obviously the third instalment in the Toy Story franchise. Directed by Lee Unkrich instead of series regular John Lasseter, the film sees young Andy now grown up and heading to college which means that his collection of toys face an uncertain future. The film stars Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn and Michael Keaton. Like its predecessors, the film received universal praise from critics when it was released and it became only the third animated film in history to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It was also a colossal success at the box office, becoming the first animated film to earn more than $1 billion worldwide and is still Pixar's most successful film to date. Originally intended to be the climax to a sequel, the film's success inevitably would lead to a fourth film due for release in 2019.
What's it about?
Andy is now seventeen and preparing to go to college. Having not played with his toys for some time, he bags them up and puts them into the loft although he intends to take Woody with him for sentimental reasons. Unfortunately, Andy's mum mistakes the bag for rubbish and takes them to the curb to be collected alongside the usual garbage. Distraught that Andy would discard so carelessly, the toys manage to escape the bag and smuggle themselves into a donation bag for Sunnyside Daycare. Woody, struggling to convince them of the truth, tags along.
Once at Sunnyside, they are welcomed by Lotso - a cuddly pink bear - and his fellow toys who show them around the facility and ensures that they will be played with once again. Woody, however, doesn't buy it and abandons Buzz and the others in an attempt to reunite with Andy. Meanwhile, the rest of Andy's toys discover that life at Sunnyside isn't as wonderful as they believed and soon begin plotting an elaborate escape...
Mr Potato Head
Mrs Potato Head
Michael Arndt *
Release Date (UK)
19th July, 2010
Action, Comedy, Drama, Family
Best Animated Film, Best Original Song
Academy Award Nominations
Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Editing
What's to like?
I admit to being sceptical about a third Toy Story film, especially given how long had passed between Toy Story 2 and this effort. But I really shouldn't have worried - Pixar knew exactly what they were doing and have delivered a film that has grown up with the rest of us. The story is probably the best in any Pixar film, working as both a family film for children to enjoy while giving older viewers a deep and surprisingly emotional experience as it deals with themes of growing older, the loss of childhood innocence and what happens when your reason for being is taken away. It's powerful stuff and if you're not crying by the end, you're either dead inside or still playing with your toys.
As good as it is to hear Hanks and Allen reprising their roles, they are all upstaged by the brilliant Keaton as Ken who is every bit as camp as you'd hope. He is easily the funniest thing in the film which is a good thing because the film embraces the dark side somewhat. There is a scene where all the toys are facing a certain doom and realising the hopelessness of their situation, they hold hands and resign themselves to their fate. These are characters we've grown up with and possibly loved and here they are, bereft of strength and life on the verge of death itself. For a Disney film, this is incredibly bleak and as powerful a moment in any Pixar film as I can recall.
- The character Big Baby has only one line in the movie - "Mama." The producers auditioned lots of babies until they got the right one, a baby coincidentally called Woody.
- Blake Clark played Slinky Dog, replacing the original actor Jim Varney who died in 2000. Clark and Varney became good friends after appearing in the 1989 film Fast Food, making the transition much easier.
- During development, the animators tried to look back at the original animation models from Toy Story but were unable to as technology had rendered them unusable. Therefore, each of the film's 302 characters had to be animated from scratch.
What's not to like?
Perhaps not unsurprising for the first grown-up Toy Story film, the film isn't quite as entertaining or fun as the two previous movies. There is still plenty for younger viewers to enjoy - the escape sequence has more than an element of The Great Escape about it with cymbal-wielding monkeys used at CCTV, which I thought was a nice touch - but on the whole, the film feels as though it's made more for an adult audience as opposed to a younger one. Most of the philosophising about growing up and moving on will fly over the heads of younger viewers so the film's message will get lost.
My only other gripe is with so many characters in the film, not everybody gets a look-in. Whoopi Goldberg's villainous Stretch and Dalton's hilariously theatrical Mr Pricklepants feel underused compared to others and I could watch a whole film featuring Ken. Buzz, once again, has his personality scrambled and we've already seen this before - why weren't the newer characters given more screen-time? Aside from these minor complaints, I really can't find fault with Toy Story 3. It feels more satisfying as a whole, keeping my inner child amused before pulling my heartstrings with every ounce of effort. It is a phenomenal film.
Should I watch it?
If this really was going to be the final entry in the series, I can think of no finer way to go out in style. Toy Story 3 works on each and every level, as entertaining as only Pixar can but also offering older viewers a more deep and meaningful experience than almost anything Pixar have released. Combining goofy humour with a wonderfully intelligent and emotional screenplay, this film manages the rarefied trick of being all things to all viewers.
Great For: families, fans of the other films, POWs, Kleenex
Not So Great For: the easily upset, the very young
What else should I watch?
It goes without saying that part of my reluctance for a fourth film stems from just how good the first three were. Toy Story will always be Genesis as far as computer animated feature films go, being the first example ever seen. While other studios were playing catch-up, Pixar did it again with Toy Story 2 which was even more ambitious and enjoyable. Other efforts worth watching include the brilliant The Incredibles and one of my all-time favourite films, the magical WALL·E.
It's only recently that other studios have finally caught up, coinciding with a downturn in Pixar's fortunes. Despicable Me and its sequels are great fun while The Lego Movie also manages to handle the revival of childhood memories alongside a decent and entertaining story. But Pixar aren't resting too much on their laurels with films like Inside Out and Coco proving that they are still the masters of the medium. At least, for the time being.
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© 2018 Benjamin Cox