Toy Story 3 returned to the toy box after 11 whole years. Creating the most universally acclaimed trilogy of all time. Toy Story 3 won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. And it’s the third (and final) animated film after Up to be nominated for Best Picture. Proving Disney to be the only studio capable of that feat. I was a newborn when Toy Story came out and a 4 year old when Toy Story 2 came out. The toy stories were my favorite animated films growing up. They were just as special and sentimental as the toys they featured. I never thought I’d get to see a Toy Story 3 or that I’d have to wait till I was 15 to see it. The reason behind the delay was the rights issue between Disney & Pixar.
After the obvious success of Toy Story 2, Disney withheld all rights to Pixar sequels. To the point a Disney studio called Circle 7 was created just to make Toy Story 3 and other sequels. I remember first reading about the idea. Which would have featured Woody and the gang rescuing Buzz after he’s been recalled. Disney eventually purchased Pixar and the short lived studio was shut down before it began. Longtime editor Lee Unkrich took on directing duties from John Lasseter and Randy Newman returned to compose. Toy Story 3 asks questions about toys that are deeper than they’ve ever been before. The 2010 threequel was such a big deal that I went to see it with my entire family…
Toy Story 3 was seen with a unique 2D and 3D animated short called Day & Night. A fun concept where a traditionally animated representation of day & night cross paths against a computer animated background. Toy Story 3 wasn’t the only thing to come out of the franchise before its release. Pixar’s only traditionally animated direct-to-video movie Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins and its animated series filled the void in the meantime. I actually found the decade of entirely original Pixar movies to be quite refreshing. The Pixar formula connected them, but they were all free to have their own voice. Still, it was only a matter of time before Pixar revisited their flagship franchise. Rather than pick up after Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 instead plays out in real time. Since toys will stay the same no matter how old they get. The title has a cowboy aesthetic, because Toy Story 2 had a space ranger aesthetic.
Since nostalgia is such a big theme, Toy Story 3 opens with an amalgamation of Andy’s previous play sessions. Which are shown in fantasy form. Woody, Jesse, and Bullseye fight Mr. Potato Head as One-Eyed Bart, Mrs. Potato Head as One-Eyed Betty, and their Little Green accomplices. Buzz Lightyear flies in to rescue the Troll children and help out. Bart brings his attack dog with a built in force field, but Woody brought his dinosaur who eats forcefield dogs. Then Hamm arrives as Evil Doctor Pork Chop to initiate death by monkeys. Andy’s mom videotapes his playing session and we enjoy simpler times set to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” All that fades away when Andy turns 17. RC, Wheezy, Bo Peep, and almost all of his toys are gone. Only the toys that are physically capable to manage the movie’s adventure stuck around. Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bullseye, Slinky, Hamm, Rex, and Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head are left in Andy’s toy chest.
A lot can change in a decade, but luckily the entire cast of respectable stars returned to their beloved roles. Toy Story 3 is Pixar’s best ensemble film. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, and Estelle Harris sound older, but it’s appropriate for the theme of growing up. R. Lee Ermey even voice cameos for the final time as Sarge. As his army men leave as well. Jim Varney sadly passed away, but his friend Blake Clark perfectly replicates his southern drawl. Computer animation had advanced a lot in 15 years. Making Toy Story 3 another visual masterpiece. Yet character designs of the past needed to be replicated. The toys were fortunate to have always been stylized, but humans were a different story. So Pixar compromised by removing minor imperfections. We see more of the older Andy, Molly, and their mom because of it. Along with an elderly Buster.
It turns out Laurie Metcalf was always the voice of Andy’s mom. With Andy off to college, the toys accept they’ll have to stay in the Attic since Molly grew up too fast. Lee Unkrich was determined to get the original voice of Andy and was pleased to hear John Morris’ voice was friendly enough to return to the role. Erik von Detten also returned for Sid. Who seems to have become a well-adjusted garbageman. Things get complicated when Andy decides to take Woody to college and his mom mistakes the other toys for garbage. Woody attempts a rescue, but instead finds them in a box being sent to Sunnyside Daycare. Molly’s aerobic Barbie doll joins them. Easily the best depiction of the famous doll. Since Jodi Benson is able to portray her intelligence. In fact, nearly every kind of classic toy is seen in Toy Story 3. From LEGO to a Fisher-Price Chatter Phone. From a toy’s perspective, a daycare is like a utopia where childhood attention never runs out. Except this daycare is hiding a dark underbelly.
Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear is a purple teddy bear who smells like strawberries and appears friendly at first. Promising the toys a place among them, but turning out to be the most evil Pixar villain ever created. Thanks to Ned Beatty’s performance. The rest of Lotso’s loyal toy followers include his previous owner’s baby doll Big Baby, rubber octopus Stretch, bug action figure Twitch, expressive rock monster Chunk, robot Sparks, a literal toy Bookworm, a terrifying psychotic monkey with cymbals, and Ken himself. Michael Keaton perfectly voices the effeminate girl’s toy. Making for plenty of fun moments between Barbie & Ken. As for the gang, Woody is most concerned with getting back to Andy. When he escapes, an imaginative girl named Bonnie takes him in.
It’s at her house that we meet even more new toys. There’s theatrical porcupine Mr. Pricklepants, stuffed gruff unicorn Buttercup, tech savvy Triceratops Trixie, and ragdoll Dolly. Voiced by Timothy Dalton, Jeff Garlin, Kristen Schaal, and Bonnie Hunt respectively. There’s also the child-like Peas-in-a-Pod and stuffed Totoro toy (meant as a tribute to Miyazaki). Woody has fun playing again, but he still plans to head back to Andy. Until he hears Chuckles the clown’s sad tale of how Lotso lost it. Showing how their owner Daisy lost them and Lotso being too selfish to let Big Baby & Chuckles return. They ride on the back of a Pizza Planet truck and wind up at Sunnyside. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang have their own problems. Specifically the rough younger kids they’re forced to endure. Buzz is still a toy of action, but he also becomes the leader in Woody’s absence. Delusional space ranger Buzz returns once more, because the jokes write themselves. Lotso’s followers reset him to follow their orders. Locking the toys in a basket prison.
Woody returns in time to plan an epic prison escape. Resulting in the toys accidentally switching Buzz to spanish mode. A hilarious outcome filled by Buzz’s spanish voice actor. Jessie is the most outspoken about leaving since she’s already dealt with abandonment. It may have started as a joke, but Buzz & Jessie’s budding relationship is one of my personal favorite Pixar romances. Rex is desperate to get played with, Hamm is still very hammy, and Slinky & Bullseye are still very loyal. Mr. Potato Head gets the best jokes, especially when he swaps bodies with a tortilla and cucumber. Mrs. Potato Head serves as a link between them and Andy. Since her missing eye is back at the house. The toys escape, but Lotso corners them. Woody reminds him of Daisy and everyone starts to see Lotso’s true colors. It was satisfying seeing Big Baby throw him away, but the fun’s just beginning.
The whole junkyard sequence is fraught with danger. The aliens are scooped up and the toys are thrown into a conveyer belt. They unwisely rescue Lotso, but he coldly refuses to save them. In what is easily the darkest moment in Pixar history, the toys face their destruction in an incinerator. Rather than escape, they hold hands, and accept their inevitable death. However did they manage a G rating? I cry everytime, which becomes tears of joy when the aliens use the claw to rescue them. It’s not harsh enough, but Lotso is defeated when attached to a garbage truck. The toys hitch a ride back and Woody is faced with a decision. He sends the toys to Bonnie’s where Andy decides to give the toys away. The individual introductions are touching, but I fall apart everytime Andy gives away Woody. Easily the most tear worthy Pixar moment for me. The trilogy ends flawlessly when the toys say goodbye to Andy and they pan up to the clouds.
Followed by a fun series of vignettes showing the toy’s new life and a flourishing Sunnyside. Set to Randy Newman’s second Oscar winning song “We Belong Together” and a hot latin version of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” Toy Story 3 uses toys to explore ideas some live-action movies wouldn’t even tackle. Making it more than Best Picture worthy. Which made it the only third installment nominated without its other films being nominated. Toy Story 3 was so nostalgic that it became the first animated movie to cross the billion dollar mark. Setting a new standard in Pixar’s winning streak. Toy Story 3 proves it’s important to grow up, but also that remembering childhood things is just as important.