There was one moment during my viewing of the latest offering from Disney Pixar which defined the true and rightful audience of Toy Story 3. It came at the end of the movie as the customary Pixar credits sequence began to roll. The characters were still on the screen entertaining the audience, yet parents were hoarding out their children (perhaps it was past their bed time). Out of the fairly packed opening night audience, only one row remained until the end credits sequence finished. The row was full of 17 year-olds. And yes, I was one of them. It proved that this movie wasn’t made for the poxy Balamory-generation, but instead for us, the kids of the 90’s. It was made for those of us that grew up with Woody, Buzz and co. For those of us that either had the pleasure of viewing the first installment in cinemas in 1995 or watched the VHS repeatedly upon its release the following year. It was made for those of us that have waited patiently for 11 years since the second installment came out in 1999. But amazing though this film is, it has forced us, kids of the 90’s to come to a realisation that perhaps some of us were shying away from. We have to grow up. We have to leave our childhood and our toys behind. The sense of nostalgia and happy memories I certainly had when watching this movie, though glorious during the film, left a saddening feeling after the movie. Damn you Pixar, you got a hefty emotional response from me.
The story picks up our favourite characters several years since the second one (lets shoot for 11) and things have changed a great deal. Andy is now 17 (coincidence? I think not) and moving on to college. He is left with the decision of what to do with all his old toys, who have been neglected for several years. Andy clearly has a soft spot for this toys still and intends on placing the majority of Buzz and co. in the attic whilst taking Woody to college with him. But after a disastrous misunderstanding, most of the gang feel Andy clearly only thinks of them as trash and they make a break for Sunnyside Daycare Centre. Woody though, is reluctant to give up on their previous owner and decides to leave his friends behind. It soon turns out that Woody was wise to leave, as Sunnycare turns out to be a place of nightmares ruled with an iron-first but the dastardly Lots-O Hugging Bear, who smells like strawberries! It’s up to Woody to bust out his friends and to try to make it back to Andy’s house before he leaves for college.
Toy Story 3 had a lot to live up to, with two predecessors of such amazing quality that this almost seems wrong to be as good as it is. Three-quels have a tendency not to work (see Spiderman 3 and Shrek The Third) and this movie happily breaks this tradition. This is partly do to the stunningly fresh and bright visuals, with our characters maintaining all their charm and looking better than ever. But the key element which makes it work so well, as it is with any movie, is the story. All three Toy Story movies fit expertly into a progressing narrative, each one taking ideas from the previous movies and expanding upon them for maximum emotional effect. In the case of Toy Story 3, it is in the form of the owner out growing and the toys having to move on, which was expressed in the second movie with the beautifully drawn out back story of Jessie, the yodeling Cowgirl. It seems a predictable storyline, yet it seems right, a correct progression, and again fits with my idea that this movie was made for those of us who grew up with these movies. But the real genius behind the story is how it take the expected plotline and form something completely different. The movie perfectly sets up an epic escape movie, expertly playing on the conventions of the genre (CCTV monitors check, watchlight check, final gasp against the main bodyguard check) yet putting its own unique twist on the set up to present it from a toy’s perspective and create some genuinely funny moments (Mr. Tortilla Head anyone?). It also manages to pull off what many live-action movies struggle to do; amongst the action and jokes there is still room for a big heart that doesn’t feel forced. The many emotions portrayed on-screen are vast, yet controlled. It may be partly to do with having grown up with these characters, but there are moments of genuine fear for the fates of these characters, particularly in the final act. This sort of film really should be predictable, but the truly engrossing story and characters put all those thoughts behind and you are sucked back into the world that I know I’ve certainly wanted to return to for 11 years.
Most critics have done nothing but praise every single title that comes out under the Disney Pixar brand. They went nuts for the likes of Ratatouille, Wall-E and Up. Myself? Ratatouille I found very fun and enjoyable to watch and it just about managed to maintain interest for both children and an older audience yet it did seem to be missing a certain charm that made Pixar’s earlier efforts so entertaining. Wall-E I found engrossing and charming for about the first half hour or so and then I lost all interest as the plot fell apart and all that had been skillfully built-in the opening moments just tumbled over. Up I thought was alright but failed to see what all the fuss was about. These efforts did make me worry about the outcome of Toy Story 3. I felt, and still do feel, that Pixar is coming to a point where it is going to have a critical failure (it has to happen sometime surely) but clearly those behind the creation of Toy Story 3 weren’t going to let it happen here. The quality of writing is as good as it ever has been, the animation effortless. But credit has to be given to the voice work of the talented cast as well, as they supply a great deal of the charm that embody the characters. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen slip comfortably back into their roles of Woody and Buzz, maintaining the buddy movie spirit that sparked in the first movie. The stand out of the new additions has to be Michael Keaton as Ken, he perfectly captures the vanity and insecurities of a character who insists he is not a girls toy. We all know he is.
I’m not going to admit I cried watching this movie, because I didn’t. But I certainly got teary-eyed, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Nostalgia can be a cruel thing, it can make you feel happy at the thought of some great memories yet makes you miss them. This was very much the case at the start of this movie when Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend in Me kicked in and the final moments (which for spoilers sake I will not reveal). For those of you that grew up loving Toy Story prepared to be fully satisfied, but expect to feel depressed once those end credits role, as this movie truly marks the end of the 90’s kids’ childhood. Andy is moving to college, many of our generation are doing the same, be it University or work, and this movie highlights that we have to grow up. But then again, we still have these movies to watch whenever we feel the need to digress.