Eleven years and eight films later, Pixar brought the Toy Story series back for another spin – but as the fans of the previous films have already grown, the Toy Story series encounters its own sense of growth in the same way. But like the toys themselves in this belated third entry, the franchise has already endured having been forgotten in so long despite having been treasured by longtime fans of Pixar. Now with the challenge of having to reintroduce the familiar Toy Story characters to a new generation of audiences, but also keep the best traits around for those who have stuck so closely with two of Pixar’s very first leaps to the screen. With Lee Unkrich (who previously co-directed Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo) now taking over the position of directing from John Lasseter, it’s easy enough to say that a new enough voice has not only managed to reaffirm that the Toy Story films have never lost that touch that made them resonate with audiences back when they came out, but also a sign for what was to come of letting the series grow in our hearts for so long too.
Andy is now about to leave for college, and many of his toys had been sold off in yard sales but the familiar gang still stays intact. As expected from Jessie’s experiences in Toy Story 2, this was a day that was inevitably going to come but now the toys themselves are struggling to come to terms with the unfortunate turn of events as they face being abandoned by their owner. All seems well after they find themselves accidentally having been donated to a day care centre, but Woody has other plans as Andy plans to bring him along as a keepsake of his childhood. With Andy having grown up and moved on to greater ambitions in his life, it’s only fitting that the Toy Story films grow in the same way, but with Woody now realizing his time with Andy must come to an end, yet another journey comes along the way with him figuring out what more he was meant for – and what will all of this eventually mean for the many friends he’s made along the way, for his journey only continues moving forward from here.
The toys themselves might not have aged a day, but it’s clear that their intentions still remain the same as ever, with providing the guidance to their owners wherever they needed it most – like a great parent would. But now, Andy is about to move onto another phase of his life, so the toys also must grow in that same sense. Their new home sounds like it should all go well, being welcomed lovingly by Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty), a strawberry-scented teddy bear who watches over the toys with pride, but the toys themselves are subjected to incredibly rough and destructive play from toddlers. Meanwhile, after trying to find a way back to Andy’s home, Woody finds himself in the care of Bonnie and thus he rethinks his own plans to have had the toys left in storage for good. But over years of having gone without any sort of playtime, Woody’s new experiences soon have him rethinking what more is he meant for now that his owner might not have any place for him anymore. Like Andy, Pixar knows that the characters have carried a sentimental value in their fans and show that even over the years that they might not have been forgotten after all, but they were about to grow in the same way that their longtime fans have – which makes for yet another highly admirable entry into this series.
Once again, there’s a familiar escape film structure that we’re abiding by again as the toys are now about to make their way out of a daycare centre run like a prison, but as Woody continues leading the ways for his friends back to safety, he sees a world much bigger than that he knew of when he was with Andy. He doesn’t ever feel like he’s restricted to stay along with that world if he knows there’s no room for him nor his friends anymore, so he doesn’t want his friends to feel trapped into that space anymore. Even though he still sees himself as being Andy’s beloved pal, and it’s also what motivates him to save his friends from the prison that they’ve trapped themselves within at Sunnyside, there comes a crucial moment in which he realizes that he can’t stick to the old ways anymore. Soon enough, it reaffirms the film’s thematic growth, because there came a point in which Toy Story made us so happy during the prime of our youth but we also must learn to share those joys with the next generation onward. For some toys, it’s clearly turned out bitter (especially in Lotso’s case), but for a well-intentioned Woody, it’s a turning point for him and also his friends, who acknowledge their time with Andy is complete. But as hard as it can be to let go, it’s the only way one’s legacy can continue living on.
As the look of the animation has also improved over the years, it feels nice to see that not only the characters whom we’ve stuck with so long have grown in the same way but also the writing – in a means that can resonate with viewers of many different generations. It still remains as funny as its predecessors have been, but as Pixar had grown towards more melancholic roots over the years through films like Monsters, Inc. or WALL-E, it’s nice to see that they still remain so committed towards creating a film that captures how their legacy has impacted so many over the years. If there’s anything else to be said about that, it’s also what creates a more beautiful film too, which is something that can describe Pixar’s very best films but Toy Story 3 presents a case where it feels like an amalgamation of their legacy and what it means to many. For some, it was like the greatest joys of their childhood and for others, it was a phenomenon unlike any other especially given the style of animation it had influenced. There’s no limit to where it can go, but it’s still capable of bringing out the best in many.
Toy Story 3 also has that distinction of being the third animated film (following Beauty and the Beast and Pixar’s preceding film, Up) to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, but also that of being the first sequel nominated in the category without any of its predecessors being nominated. As a means of capturing the legacy and the importance that the Toy Story franchise has carried for so many over the years, such an honour feels right. But of course when speaking about what the film manages to achieve, Toy Story 3 isn’t only one of the best animated sequels ever made but it feels like the perfect way to pass the baton from one generation of viewers and storytellers to the next. It may not be the best of the series (I still hold it out for the first film), but if anything else can further reaffirm what made Toy Story or Pixar’s films in general so important to many over the years, it’s the way in which they touch viewers over time – by welcoming in as many people as they can. And for someone who’s grown up on these films for as long as I can remember, I can’t help but admit that ending never fails to make me tear up, but feel happy too. It just feels warming to know that the legacy is in good hands, and will be passed on beautifully.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Directed by Lee Unkrich
Screenplay by Michael Arndt
Produced by Darla K. Anderson
Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, Blake Clark, Jeff Pidgeon, Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton, Jodi Benson, John Morris, Laurie Metcalf, Jeff Garlin, Timothy Dalton, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Whoopi Goldberg
Release Date: June 18, 2010
Running Time: 103 minutes