The origin of Toy Story 3 is important for one simple reason. It almost wasn’t a Pixar movie at all. In 2004, in the middle of heated arguments between Disney and Pixar, then Disney chairman Michael Eisner decided to make a third movie based on the Toy Story franchise it owned, without Pixar. Instead he was going to give it to a new Disney studio, Circle 7 Animation. The story would have seen a defective Buzz recalled to the Taiwanese factory that made him, and the other toys set off in hot pursuit fearing from Buzz’s life. Thankfully when Disney and Pixar merged in 2006 this project was shelved. Speculation contained over whether a 3rd adventure for our favourite toys would ever be released and in February 2007 Lee Unkrich, co-director on Toy Story 2, stepped forward to take responsibilty for this mammoth task. some 3 years later we finally see the fruits of his creative teams labour and by golly if it wasn’t worth the wait.
Gone is Eisner’s ridiculous Buzz recall story and in comes something a lot more real, relatable and ultimately emotional. Andy’s now all grown-up, an adventurous 17 year-old set for horizons new and about to embark on the adventure known as college. A young man heading to college can’t be bringing his toys with him, and as we can see it’s been years since he has played with most of them, leaving them to suffer the circle of neglect of the forgotten, rotting away in a chest rarely to see the light of day. So desperate are the toys for attention that they concoct a plan to snatch Andy’s phone so that he will have to rummage to chest to get it back. Unfortunately the plan fails. Meanwhile Andy’s mom has plans for his room and gives him an ultimatum everything in there must be donated, trashed or archived in the attic. Through a serious of unfortunate events the toys find themselves donated to a local day-care centre. Here they face the option of returning to a home that they have been discarded from or making the best of a new life and a new opportunity to be played with. But is everything at Sunnyside as perfect as it appears…
The original Toy Story movie had something special, that interplay, that banter between Woody and Buzz was so natural, so believable. The sequel kept that and expanded on it with new characters coming in, adding their own styles and character without upsetting the balance. That was always going to be a tough trick to repeat but Pixar have managed to pull it off again. Woody and Buzz and just as important, just as good as ever and Tim Allen and Tom Hanks have a ball reprising the roles. Allen in particular with Spanish Buzz, easily one of the funniest sequences in the movie. What’s particularly brilliant here is that most of the new characters are allowed ample screen-time to prove their worth, with the high-lights being Michael Keaton’s utterly ludicrous Ken (pretty sure he loves himself more than Barbie) and Ned Beatty’s Lotso. A special mention then for Timothy Dalton’s Mr. Pricklepants who is cruelly denied the opportunity to show his stuff, as he takes complete control of the limited scenes in which he appears.
The animation is once again of the highest quality, and even if the 3D feels slightly redundant, it never gets in the way of the story. The human characters, who are relegated to mere background status, are much better portrayed than before, even if they are still slightly cartoony in nature. The opening sequence, a completely unexpected and welcome look at the toys in fantasy action, is sheer genius. The action-packed end chase is also exceptionally realised. Never have toys in peril been more terrifying. Randy Newman’s score again is top-notch, with the opening strings of You’ve Got a Friend in Me still resonating strongly.
It’s a sad reality that all childish things become neglected once adulthood is attained, but sometimes that inner imagination, creativity and wonder of the inner-child can be awoken. No-one is better at finding that inner-child and setting it free than Pixar and for adults Toy Story 3 may be their most relatable movie. We all have locked away toys in our attic, cupboards and presses, some to save for our own kids, others because we can’t bare to part with that part of our youth. Pixar finds these memories, these emotional triggers and sets about pushing and prodding, but with love not ill-content. The story here is all designed to evoke an emotional response and if you’re not in tears by the end then you’ve a heart of stone.
Toy Story 3 has some minor faults but nothing detracts from this being one of Pixar’s strongest movies and the perfect end to an almost perfect trilogy.
Day & Night
Fittingly the best animated movie of the year is not the one above but rather the short that precedes it. Day & Night is magnificent, using 3D in a completely new and imaginative way and offering something completely different. It’s a simple premise, Night’s body reflects the world behind at night, while Day’s shows it during the day, but from this is conjured a whirlwind of captivating and glorious imaginary scenes. Wordless but evocative Teddy Newton’s short, which is expertly scored by Michael Giacchino, is worthy of the admission price alone.