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Thoughts

Toy Story 3

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Toy Story 3 is the best of the trilogy. Toy Story 3 is on par with its two predecessors. Toy Story 3 is weaker than the first two films.

Those are the three general opinions of TS3. I’ve read nearly every review that was listed on rottentomatoes.com and although there are a couple of reviews which don’t sing high praises of it, not a single one calls it a “bad movie”. (My personal opinion is that it is at least on par with Toy Story and Toy Story 2. I can’t quite say it’s better than they are, but I don’t know if I can truly say it’s not as good as they are either.)

If you haven’t seen the film and you don’t want spoilers, then just stop now and don’t continue reading. I don’t know if I can discuss this film without babbling about significant plot points or scenes. Hahah
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Story and Scenes

So the basic premise is that Andy is all grown-up now and about to head off to college: what happens to the toys now? They have been languishing in his toy box for years, and many friends “lost” through yard sales or otherwise (casualties include Wheezy the penguin and, sadly, Woody’s lady love, Bo-Peep). They are faced with several possible fates: be tucked away in the attic, be thrown away, or be donated to a daycare centre. Andy chooses to take only Woody to college with him, and decides to store the rest in the attic but mistakes and misunderstandings result in the toys’ relocation to Sunnyside Daycare Centre (Woody included).

Sunnyside’s toy community is run by Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear a.k.a. Lotso, a large fluffy red-purple teddy that smells of strawberries (although how he retained that strawberry scent after so many years I really don’t know), and together with Ken (who, up until that point had never met a Barbie before – not sure how this is possible either. Would anyone buy a Ken doll without having a Barbie doll? lol.), gives Woody, Buzz and co. a tour of Sunnyside that convinces them that a daycare centre just might be heaven – you’ll be played with all day, every day, and there is a constant stream of kids as one group replaces another as they grow up.

Woody, ever loyal to Andy, chooses to leave and head for home whereas the others opt to stay. But this toy utopia quickly turns out to be something more akin to hell as they discover that they’ve been relegated to the toddlers’ room, an “age-inappropriate” section for them. An attempt to appeal for their removal to the room with older kids only results in a literal prison sentence for them, and Buzz is brainwashed (read: reset to Demo mode) into becoming the jailer.

Meanwhile Woody ends up at the home of a little girl called Bonnie with a vivid imagination quite the match of Andy’s, and there he discovers the dark truth about Sunnyside and Lotso. He returns to Sunnyside and plots a jailbreak with his friends, thanks to information provided by a Chatter Telephone (who speaks, as one reviewer put it, “like a film noir informant”). The plan results in plenty of ingenious, exciting and hilarious scenes – such as Mr Potato Head becoming Mr Tortilla and having to deal with an inconvenient pigeon, Buzz getting reset to Spanish mode, a really close call with Lotso’s baby doll-enforcer with a droopy eye, Barbie dragging information out of Ken by threatening his vintage wardrobe, and Woody and Slinky Dog taking on a toy monkey guard who watches the CCTV feeds with unblinking eyes and raises the alarm with a terrifying screech and clanging cymbals if anyone tries to escape. (The monkey and baby doll might have come out of horror films – almost.)

When the gang almost gains freedom they find themselves in a worse situation, quite literally going from the frying pan and into the fire. The garbage disposal machine sequences are pretty darn terrifying; the tension is increased by Lotso’s false return to goodness and his subsequent betrayal, which leaves the toys to face a fiery inferno. And there is nothing they can do to save themselves. That scene where they prepare themselves for the inevitable is riveting – I was very nearly convinced that that would be the ending which reduced preview audiences to tears, and was close to tears myself.

But fate intervenes and the toys are plucked out of the jaws of death at the very last minute. They make their way back to Andy, who is surprised to find his apparently-lost-for-good toys sitting in a box. A little intervention from Woody sees Andy taking the box of toys and giving them to Bonnie before leaving for college. The scene when Andy takes out his toys one by one and introduces them to little Bonnie is probably one of the most heartwarming and heart wrenching scenes in recent cinema.

Although there are a few plot holes and little mysteries here and there (e.g. How did Woody’s lost hat end up with Lotso? How is it at all possible that Ken had never met a Barbie before this? Why is there no staff member at Sunnyside who makes sure that all the toys in the toddlers’ room are safe for toddlers? It’s a little surprising that no kid accidentally swallowed Mr Potato Head’s eye or something), there is still a lot to like about TS3.

  • The prologue of Woody, Jessie and Buzz chasing the bad Potato Heads and then rescuing Troll doll-children from a runaway train before being confronted by the evil pig mastermind (good ol’ Hamm) and nearly being engulfed by an atom bomb of howling red monkeys really does seem like something out of a child’s imagination – random, extreme and fun.
  • The scene where the toys make a last-ditch attempt at getting Andy’s attention again by kidnapping his phone is funny and at the same time sad – the image of Woody holding the other phone and listening forlornly as Andy goes “Hello? Hello?” is just… Touching and sad. I almost wanted to cry for Woody then and there.
  • The jailbreak sequence is brilliant – and many critics say that it’s at that point that TS3 really comes into its own. I haven’t seen very many prison break films but I can tell that this is totally inspired by that type of film.
  • Ken meeting Barbie was hilarious (though I don’t know if the implied innuendo of “Nice as-cot” was really needed) – complete with hearts (in the background, paper cut-outs stuck on the door) and romantic soft focus. Hahaha!
  • The parallel between the toys coming to terms with Andy’s growing up and leaving home and Andy’s mother’s realisation of the same thing was a nice touch – that scene where she starts sobbing when she sees his empty room is pretty touching on its own too, I thought.
  • Little details like how Woody stops to put a sheet of toilet paper on the toilet seat before he climbs on it were hilarious.
  • Also, Spanish Buzz! I laughed so hard when they held his reset button down too long and he started speaking in Spanish, then called Jessie a “desert flower” and pranced around her pasodoble-style and all that.

And that final scene… Oh man, that scene. It was amazing. Sweet and sad all at the same time. I had tears rolling down my cheeks even before Andy got to the last toy. When that last toy turned out to be Woody, and Andy hesitated with that look on his face… You’d have to be heartless to not feel at least prompted to tear up! (Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Maybe. haha) As I said before, if you’ve ever had the feeling of being abandoned, of leaving someone behind or being left behind, of loving and wanting to be loved, TS3 will get to you.

My only minor quibble with TS3 is that Bonnie’s toys were a little bit underused as characters and a couple of scenes seemed unnecessary. But to give Bonnie’s toys more screen time might have detracted from the overall story and the few superfluous scenes were quite amusing in their own way so I’m not too bothered about it.

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Characters

The old favourites were their old selves – Woody the brave and true, spunky and slightly-prone-to-panic-attacks Jessie, high-tech and efficient Buzz (who steals the scene whenever he’s in Spanish mode), sarcastic Hamm, frantic Rex, laidback Slinky, affectionate Bullseye (it choked me up when Bullseye tried to follow Woody home to Andy but Woody insisted that Bullseye stay with the rest because he didn’t want Bullseye to be alone in the attic) and the comedic Potato Heads with their devoted adopted alien children (one review pondered the question of where exactly does a Potato Head’s essence reside – in which part of its body? A good question!).
The new characters were intriguing but Ken probably stands out the most for his vanity and insistence he “is not a girl’s toy!” In a behind-the-scenes clip that I watched before the movie came out, director Lee Unkrich said that Ken is essentially a Barbie accessory so “how does that make him feel?” I thought that was a really good way to approach the character. So Ken’s a preening peacock with a prized vintage wardrobe and maybe also a suppressed inferiority complex (due to being an accessory to Barbie) – and he’s downright hilarious. (Hmm, maybe I prefer Spanish Buzz though…)

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Technical Talk

There’s nothing to say about this except that Pixar’s technique is flawless. I have no criticisms whatsoever about the designs, the animation, the rendering… Oh wait, I do. The 3D effect was useless. As many reviewers noted, using the 3D glasses actually detracted a little from the film because the tinted glasses dull the colours on screen. I took off the 3D glasses a few times throughout the film and there was definitely a difference in brightness.

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The Short: Day & Night

Day & Night was the accompanying short film for TS3 and I’d been looking forward to it as it sounded really interesting and the whole idea of opposites amused me based on some conversations with a friend lately. Hahah Anyway, I liked it! It was clever and so visual that I don’t really know how to describe it in words. The mixture of 3D animation in 2D animation was cute. If you go to see TS3, don’t be late – do try to catch this!

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Last Words…

I’ve said it before, and I hope to say it many times again in years to come: Pixar makes grown-up movies you can take the kids to, not kids’ movies the grown-ups might happen to like. (Source.)

I agree wholeheartedly. TS3 deals so much with existential questions and themes of loss, aging and purpose that I find it hard to call it a kids’ movie. In fact, most of Pixar’s films revolve around themes that are way more complex than they seem. (Many of my film studies classmates love to dissect films and pick out tiny little details and meanings in everything. They should try uncovering the philosophical aspects of Pixar’s work. There’d be layers and layers of that especially in the Toy Story trilogy, WALL-E, Up, and The Incredibles.)

“We don’t make movies for kids,” Unkrich says emphatically. “Our mission statement is to make films for everybody.” (Source.)

I really think that’s why Pixar’s films succeed. They don’t aim their work at a specific segment of the population. They make films for everyone, and films that they themselves would want to see. They invest such a huge amount of love and care in their films and it shows. It’s easy to shock an audience with violence, horror, sex and other controversial elements, but it’s far more difficult to reach into the audience’s hearts and draw the deepest, sweetest emotions out of them. Yet Pixar manage to do that on a fairly regular basis. It’s amazing really. (And I’ve kind of forgotten what the point of this paragraph was, but never mind.)

Nearly all the reviews I’ve read talk about how Pixar makes you feel for mere toys, for plastic objects. But in truth, they aren’t even plastic. They’re computer pixels. Intangible. They make you feel for a set of characters that is really just all in the mind. In the classical Disney tradition, they’ve created characters that come to life in your mind and nestle in your heart.

The characters of Toy Story were pretty much instant classics from Day One, and TS3 is a fitting farewell to them. I have to say that I hope that there are no more Toy Story movies because this was just about the best ending possible. I feel rather like Andy did at the end of the film: Woody, Buzz, everyone – thanks for all the fun times.

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One Comment

  1. Yea, I was teary at the end too. Agree with you that the 3D effect wasn’t really obvious…

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