In 1988, John Lasseter wrote and directed the Pixar short Tin Toy. It was a very crude short film that won an Oscar, as well as the admiration of the animation and filmmaking world. Quickly after the then-revolutionary short was released, Pixar was commissioned by Disney to produce a feature film. Ed Catmull recommended a one-hour TV special to the Mouse instead of a film, but Disney quickly replied that: "If you can make a one-hour special, you can make an hour-and-a-half long picture."
Lasseter was still the big-wig creative at Pixar then (and, some might debate that he still is), and he loved the idea of toys coming to life. So, Pixar set out to turn the short Tin Toy into the world's first CG-animated movie. From this notion, Toy Story was born.
It's been over two decades since Tin Toy debuted, and here we are still enjoying Pixar's anthropomorphic toys. And, let me tell you, we are really enjoying them.
Toy Story 3 is the best film of the Toy Story trilogy. I know that it may be considered bad etiquette to begin a review so blatantly with my straight opinion, but, it's the truth. Toy Story 3 was that good. But, without further ado, if you want to know why it was so good, here's my review (Spoiler Alert!):
Toy Story explodes onto the screen in an epic scene jam-packed with train crashes, explosions, chases, and the familiar "Death by Monkeys" and "forcefield dog." Woody and Mr. Potato Head (er, One-Eyed Bart) have a thrilling fight on top of a speeding train. The tracks running over a bridge explode, and Woody plunges into oblivion. But who is there to save him? Buzz Lightyear of course! The scene continues, getting more and more ridiculous and funny. Then after the over-the-top action sequence that might as well have come out of a Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer picture, we find out that the whole scene is taking place in Andy's imagination. Cue the classic Randy Newman tune "You've Got a Friend in Me" as we get treated to more footage filmed by Andy's Mom of him playing lovingly with his toys.
But, everybody grows up. Once Mr. Newman is done singing and the VHS-quality video fades out, we find out that Andy has grown up and is moving off to college. His mom makes him decide what to do with his old toys, and gives him three options: donate them, put them out for the garbage man, or store them in the attic. Andy decides on the latter for all of his toys except Woody, who's going off to college with him. But after some confusion and excitement, the toys, including Woody, are all sent off to the Sunnyside Daycare Center.
Upon arriving at the new, strange place, Lotso the Strawberry-Scented Bear greets the toys with a big grin and lots of hugs. All of the center's toys are friendly, and the place seems almost heavenly for a toy. Andy's toys are excited that they will finally be played with after so many years. Woody, however, insists that they all have to do their jobs: "be there for Andy when he needs us, no matter what."
Despite his best efforts, Woody has to make his way back to Andy's alone. After an exhilarating scene involving a lot of toy-acrobatics and kite-flying, however, he is found and brought home by a little girl named Bonnie, and is lovingly played with again, just like Andy used to play with him. The other toys in Bonnie's room are very funny, especially the hedgehog Mr. Pricklepants (pictured above), who is a very well-versed thespian.
Meanwhile, the other toys learn that the daycare is not all that it's cracked up to be. They get put in the "Caterpillar Room," which is for the toddlers. And, trust me, being played with by toddlers from a toy's perspective is horrifying, as Buzz, Rex, Hamm, Jessie, and the others quickly find out in a rather darkly humorous scene.
Once the daycare closes and the toys decide they'd much rather be in the pleasant "Butterfly Room" for the older kids, Buzz escapes from the Caterpillar Room to seek out the cheerful leader, Lotso. What he finds, however, is that all of the toys at Sunnyside are being held captive.
Lotso finds Buzz's manual and resets him, turning him into one of the strawberry-scented villain's many henchman. The other toys are all put in cages and given a very stern speech from the new Buzz about "the box"--a scene that is humorously lifted from the classic film Cool Hand Luke. (Click here to see the scene I'm talking about--it's the first minute or so.)
Bonnie's Mom works at Sunnyside, so many of her toys move freely between her house and the daycare (that is, if they can avoid detection). Therefore, Woody quickly finds out what Sunnyside really is: a place of darkness and despair. He gets told the tragic story of Lotso by Chuckles, a depressed clown voiced by Pixar's own Bud Luckey. Lotso, Chuckles, and the Big Baby were all Daisy's favorite toys. One day, Daisy took them to the park but forgot them there. After the trio of toys had waited for weeks and weeks and traveled far to find her again, they discovered that she had replaced them with new toys. "Something snapped inside Lotso that day." They then found Sunnyside, and Lotso slowly gained power, eventually becoming the dictator of the daycare center.
The majority of the rest of the movie is an elaborate, The Great Escape-esque escape sequence that consists of a lot of humor and a bunch of action. The escape ends with Woody, Buzz, Hamm, Rex, the Potato Heads, Slink, Jessie, and Bullseye slowly slipping into the dump's enormous incinerator. Jessie turns to Buzz and asks "What do we do now?" Buzz slowly looks up and takes her hand in his. The rest of the gang follows suit and all join hands, forming a circle of friends as they all slip slowly to their imminent doom. This scene is so intensely emotional, that I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.
After the audience has used up all of their Kleenex however, they're gonna need to find some more. Pixar has constructed an emotional one-two punch for the last twenty minutes of Toy Story 3. After the gang escapes the dump and makes it back to Andy's, Woody decides that the best place for them to be is at Bonnie's house; a toy should have a proper owner that knows about playtime. Thus, the final scene is almost equally-emotional, consisting of a seventeen-year-old Andy sitting in the grass, giving all of his toys to the young Bonnie. He fondly introduces each toy, then plays with them for one last time. He drives off to college, leaving Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the toys we all love to a brand new owner who will love the toys just as much as Andy did, to infinity and beyond.
(End Spoiler Alert!)
Toy Story 3 is a superb film. It combines classic lines for us die hard fans, comedy, romance, action, Hollywood's best animation, and a wonderful score to create something that I still can't believe I saw.
Storytelling is at the heart of what Pixar does, and should be at the heart of every film. That's why their films just work: they focus on story over everything else. Story is king. And, let me tell you, story is definitely the king of Toy Story 3. From the outset, you are thrown on an emotional journey that you never thought you could have with a bunch of talking toys. How is it that Pixar can tell us all so much about the human heart through simple pixels assembled into some toys? I don't have an answer for you, but I don't think that I want an answer. I'd prefer not to know. But whatever it is, I hope they never change it. Toy Story 3's practically flawless story is such an intensely emotional roller coaster that it is really difficult to convey through words in this single post. You really do have to go out and see it for yourself. You won't be disappointed--I promise.
Pixar is the world's best animation studio. While they didn't earn this title by devoting all of their energy to developing new animation techniques, it certainly hasn't stopped them from doing so. Toy Story 3 is gorgeously animated with brand new, well-designed characters, visually-stunning backgrounds and action scenes, and such clarity and flawlessness that it's so obvious how much the technology has advanced since the first Toy Story. I know I said the same thing about Up, but you could take any given frame from Toy Story 3 and have it stand alone as its own true piece of art. The characters and objects really are animated that well.
I don't have much to say about the score, except for the fact that it successfully heightened every emotion of the movie, which is exactly what a score should do. Randy Newman has done it again! I especially enjoyed the Latin music-inspired score when Buzz was reset to Spanish mode, as well as the new song "We Belong Together." Oh, and the awesome Gipsy Kings cover of "You've Got a Friend in Me" is already my ringtone. It's great. Check out the whole soundtrack at Amazon here.
I grew up with Woody and Buzz and the other toys. I feel like I know each and every one of them like they were my best friends. That may sound geeky, or even creepy, but it's true. That's how powerful films can be if you have creative people like those at Pixar helming them. Many were doubtful that a third film could live up to the first two Toy Stories, but 3's loyalty to the themes of friendship and the fact that everybody grows up gives the movie so much heart that you are forced to look at it as the perfect ending to the world's greatest trilogy of films.
If you loved the first two Toy Story films (and, really, who couldn't?), you will laugh harder, cry harder, and be even more entertained in this final installation when you see the last of Rex, Hamm, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Slink, Buzz, and Sheriff Woody.
I (easily) give Toy Story 3 a 10 out of 10.