Fifteen years after the release of the groundbreaking Toy Story (1995) and eleven years after the release of the arguably superior Toy Story 2 (1999), Pixar returned to cinemas this year with the final instalment to the Toy Story trilogy.
Director of both prequels, John Lasseter, handed the reigns to first time director Lee Unkrich, who had been known more for his editorial roles within Pixar. Can Unkrich and the Pixar team follow up both prequels with one of the most anticipated DVD releases of the year?
Toy Story 3 begins with the gang – minus a few familiar faces – attempting to get Andy to play with them after spending many years in dormancy. When this attempt fails, they are left to consider what is going to happen to them when Andy leaves for college. Andy decides to bag them all up – minus Woody, who Andy has chosen to accompany him to college – for the attic. When Andy’s mother mistakes the bag for trash, the toys end up on the street narrowly missing a trip in the garbage truck. The toys jump into a box labelled “Sunnyside” in a hope to get donated and played with for many years to come. When they discover that Sunnyside isn’t sunshine and lollipops, the toys plan an escape in order to get back to Andy’s house before he leaves for college.
One of the main concerns with Toy Story 3 is that it was going to adapt the same formula as the two predecessors, which is along the lines of, toys are happy – toys get taken/are driven away from Andy’s house – toys have to find their way home. Whilst Toy Story 3 does use this formula to an extent, it subverts certain elements of it in order to create something different, but not so different as to lose the essence of its predecessors. Although many of the characters from the first and second films – Bo Peep, Etch, Wheezy – are missing from Toy Story 3, we are introduced to a host of new characters at Sunnyside. These include toys which Pixar have acquired the rights to produce likenesses of, such as a Ken doll and a the Fisher Price Chatter Telephone, which will hold nostalgic qualities for older viewers. Other toy designs take inspiration from popular kids T.V series’, like Twitch, an insectoid warrior who took inspiration from the He-Man serial.
Toy Story 3 deals with the complex emotions of moving on and growing up. As an adult viewing the film, this makes you want to race into the attic and dig out all your childhood toys and promise them you’ll never leave them. Unkrich and the Pixar team capture perfectly the fractured emotions that the toys feel due to the ease of their dismissal from their owners’ lives. This emotional fracture gives the antagonist of the film, Lotso, a grudge against Andy’s toys for wanting to leave Sunnyside and get back to him. However, as an audience it allows us to sympathise with the bear, particularly through the use of flashback and pathetic fallacy. The flashback is almost reminiscent of the Emily flashback from Toy Story 2, although, instead of feeling sorry for Lotso, we are encouraged to see the evil and selfishness within him.
John Lasseter has always been a firm believer in the Walt Disney philosophy, “for every laugh, you must have a tear.” This philosophy sits well within the film. Watching Toy Story 3 as an adult, the film reaches down and tugs at every emotional fibre in your body, particularly in the sense that many people will have grown up with the characters, and just like Andy they will now have to say goodbye to Woody and the gang as the Toy Story franchise comes to an end. It is safe to say that if you don’t shed a tear whilst watching the film, your heart is made of stone. With no hyperbole intended, Toy Story 3 is one of the best films of the past ten years, cementing the Toy Story films as one of the few trilogies that has continued to get better and better into the final instalment. With a heart felt ending and truly outstanding story, Toy Story 3 has ensured that the franchise and all the characters we have known and loved, will be remembered for infinity, and beyond.