Toy Story 3
The one inescapable fact of life is we all get older. Although this is an aspect of reality that even children have a rudimentary understanding of the process it is rarely employed in movies targeted towards the younger set. That is until the third installment of the immensely popular ‘Toy Story’ franchise. This film addresses a quagmire that all of us have faced; what becomes of toys when the child grows up. Even in the Bible there is a passage about putting aside childish things upon reaching adulthood but little is discussed about the emotional impact this decision brings and none as far as I recall ever endeavored to approach the issue from the vantage point of the discarded toys. Utilizing the genius of Pixar in combination with the legendary family story telling of Disney Studios ‘Toy Story 3’ ups the original tale into a trilogy as the boy who owns the box full of toys grows up. As usual it is not enough for Pixar/Disney to create a graphical masterpiece they have to keep to the established tradition of weaving a family friendly story containing adventure, action and excitement that will enthrall the kids while simultaneously keeping the parents fully engaged. Many animated movies boast that they are fun for the hold family but like most of the films released by Pixar this one fully lives up to such a claim. Even for someone like myself far removed by two generations from the target demographic I not only greatly anticipated this film but found it completely entertaining to watch. Those of us with a sizable number of Disney animated movies under our belts can see the amazing technical progress that has been coming about since ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in the thirties and while computer graphics moved this art form to unbelievable heights the advances would be empty if not for the way Pixar is able to infuse these toys with relatable personalities and fully developed emotional responses. It is extremely easy to forget you are watching anthropomorphic toys created in the depths of a computer. Once again this studio makes you believe that toys have their own lives when the adults leave the room.
One thing that matters the most in building a franchise is consistency between the installments. A well constructed series of films builds each section of the story upon what came before. Even children can catch on when there is a gap between films. Fortunately in this third installment of the story the writers responsible for parts one and two once again provide the script. Andrew Stanton and John Lasseter previously collaborated so what they offer up here fits smoothly into watch is expected by the fans. Lasseter’s credits include ‘Bug’s Life’ and ‘Cars’ while his partner work on screenplays for some of the best examples of animated movies including ‘Wall-E’ , ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Monster’s Inc.’. This background places this team in the upper tier of story tellers who have chosen the feature length animated movie as their preferred medium. All of their scripts have at least one significant aspect in common; the way they breathe life into normally non-sentient items allowing the not only to act humanly but be accepted by young and old alike as actual characters they can identify with on an emotional level. Whether it’s a little fish, an abandon robot or a toy fallen into disuse their characters manage to invoke a poignant response in the audience that remains with you long after the images fad from the screen. Hand drawn animation always stood apart from CGI by virtue of the inherent warmth of the drawing but Pixar has imbued their characters with life in a unique and wonderful fashion.
Of course a script is only as good as how it is presented. Thankfully the director behind this movie has just the right credits. Lee Unkrich took change of the previous film in this series as well as directing ‘Nemo’ and ‘Monsters, Inc. this provided him with experience only in the format but in collaborating with the writing team. This symbiotic relationship is evident in just how well the movie worked. Sure there are inherent difficulties in directing an animated feature such as the time lag for the artists to redoing scenes as the director tries different approaches to fulfill is vision of the movie. Unkrich treated this movie as if he had real people in front of his camera instead drawings from a computer. His care to bringing out the personalities of the characters makes all the difference here. Without his generation of s true emotion attachment between the toys and the audience we wouldn’t care about the fate that awaits them. If they tossed into an incinerator or shedder we could care less but as the story is presented these are not just old toys, they are individuals who over the course of three films have become our friends.
Andy (voiced by John Morris) is now 17 and heading off to college so his mother tells him to go through his toy box. Most will be donated to charity and a select few will be kept but the fate of the others due to an accident, is the trash. Andy’s long time favorite woody (voiced by Tom Hanks will stay with Andy but most of the toys wind up in the Sunnyside Daycare Center. Woody tries to bring them home but they initially like their new home. Unfortunately the children are too young and not well supervised so the toys, including Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) are terribly abused. Making matters worse the toys are now under the tyrannical reign of the daycare toy room, Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear (voiced by Ned Beatty).
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