For a company that once said it would never do sequels I found it interesting to be sitting in a seat for Toy Story 3. Toy Story 2 only happened when the original artist behind the first film found out that their money-hungry distributor, Disney prior to buying Pixar, had taken it upon themselves to create a sequel without any of their input. This lead to some initial bad blood between Disney and Pixar but much like the films Pixar produces, all turned out well for the heroes, or in this case Pixar, and ultimately the fans with a worthy follow up to 1995′s break out and arguable game changer Toy Story.
Animation and Studio history lesson aside Toy Story 3 works on the same levels its forebears did, though diverges enough to stand on it’s own, much like Andy it feels a little more grown up but can still appeal to the little ones. At times it’s saccharin sweet, adventurous, and down right joy filled. Buzz (Tim Allen), Woody (Tom Hanks), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Ham (Pixar good luck charm, John Ratzengerger), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), are all back. Their owner Andy is now 18 and about to embark for college. Andy is faced with options about the fate of the toys. The Attic (the toys’ main hope), goodwill/day care donation, or the dreaded, end of line trash bin. With the exception of Woody the rest of the toys ultimately find themselves shipped off to Sunnyside Day Care. The toy’s at first think they have found an oasis. Cast aside by their former owner they now have a place to be played with indefinitely free from the heart break that comes when an owner grows too old for them.
Little do they know they have been thrown in to a corrupt world where Lots-o-Huggin Bear (Ned Beatty) is a dictating king pin calling all the shots complete with a creepy big baby thug. Lots-o cast Andy’s former toys into a world for which they were not prepared where infants drag them through limits they didn’t think they had. Toy Story 3 breaks from the previous two films which were about the toys returning to Andy and focuses more heavily on just the toys themselves and sticking together since Andy will soon be out of the equation. With Lots-O calling most of the shots at Sunnyside Toy Story 3 treads into some pretty dark territory at one point toward the end, easily the darkest the series has gone. I was happy to see that the writers Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine), Pixar head John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton (Wall-E) and first time writer/director and Co-Director on Toy Story 2 Lee Unkrich took the story where they did. It feels familiar though not overly so, feeling fresh and standing on it’s own.
Of course all is well that ends well, things eventually and rather quickly come back from the bleak brink that they reach. Being third in the series I had concerns about whether or not there was still an interesting story to tell with Woody, Buzz, and the gang. It seems that they do and for me Toy Story 3 is that rare third in an overall very satisfying series that still has merit and stands on it’s own. It has a heart warming send off at the end that feels like a perfect conclusion not just to the trilogy but to the series and characters that an entire generation has grown up with. In the sequel onslaught of summer 2010, and to quote Buzz, beyond I feel Toy Story 3 easily earns a nod as one of the all time great thirds in a trilogy and easily places the entire Toy Story trilogy into the upper echelons of all time great trilogies. It has rightfully earned it’s place among the Original Star Wars (that is episodes 4-6), Lord of the Rings, and The Godfather.
Pixar is the modern day golden standard. To this point they have yet to produce anything that isn’t enjoyable and as a studio are seemingly bulletproof. They have come close, Cars I am looking at you, but have yet to completely drop the ball. Thankfully their streak continues with Toy Story 3 as they continue with the perfect blend of humor and story that appeals to kids, and adults alike. Toy Story 3 is a heart warming, break out adventure that is well worth taking the final trip with the toys we all now know so well, and love one final time as we wave goodbye.
I give Toy Story 3 4.5 “Death by Monkeys” out of 5
By John Coovert
One other note. I would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention the opening short Day and Night that plays before Toy Story 3. The dialog free short is a fantastic mix of 2D animation with 3D/CGI that is arguably the best Pixar has produced to date. I can’t think of why any one wouldn’t get to the theater early enough to catch it, but be sure to do so.