I had no idea! Toy Story was a great experience, up there with riding an elephant on your birthday, tasting ice-cream for the first time and learning to play "Stairway to Heaven" on your six string all wrapped into one smile inducing package. Amazingly, Pixar Animation Studios, the then-partner, now subsidiary of Walt Disney Pictures has proven over and over in these past 15 years that Toy Story was no fluke or flash in the proverbial Labyrinth of Pan! No... every subsequent Pixar Flick has been absolutely excellent and worth watching multiple times. This especially includes the wonderful theatrical sequel Toy Story 2
The amazing-as-Mumford thing is that it's not the Animation that makes Pixar movies so great. The Animation IS that great and it's absolutely awe-inspiring to look at, then as now. But what makes Pixar Films so great are the stories. The writing takes something that is incredibly beautiful to the eye and makes it much more beautiful to the heart and mind. Each of their films is funny (often on multiple levels), each is emotional, each is inspiring, each is a treat for the eyes and each leaves you with a really great feeling!
Now it's 2010. My daughter is grown and in College herself and I had her right next to me for the next (and final???) installment of the series that made Pixar what it is! And Toy Story 3 is NO exception to the Pixar streak of really great films... this is one of their very best. It's deep, touching, funny, adventurous, exciting and is as beautifully written as it is animated and rendered.
There is also quite a bit of sadness in this film, necessarily so, as our main human focus (and the friendly owner of all of "Andy's Toys"), Andy (John Morris) is all grown up, like my daughter and is about to be a college student himself!
Yes, yes, the boy we all knew has become a man and is packing for school. And can you guess what is most obviously NOT on a young adult's list of things that to bring to higher education institutions? Toys! This brings us to a whole lot of characters whom we all have known for fifteen years! But at least they're still around.
Taking the lead are best buddies Sherriff Woody (Tom Hanks) and Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), both of whom are still as cool as they come and still as inspiring of great trust among the other stalwart toys in the box! Toys like Sarge (R. Lee Ermey) and the Army Men, Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles) and Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark), Rex the Green Dinosaur (Wallace Shawn), Hamm the Piggy Bank (John Ratzenberger) and, of course, Jessie, the roughest, toughest cowgirl in the whole West (Joan Cusack) along with the loyal steed BULLSEYE (who... doesn't speak)!
After 15 years, all of these toys feel like good friends, more than welcome to the screen once again! And all of them seem nonplussed to be thrown away, stored in the dark, dank attic or donated to the local daycare center (After all, where are Bo Peep and Etch?)! Unfortunately for the Toy Squad, through a series of unfortunate (though oft heroic) events, however, that's exactly what happens! And because Andy's Mom (Laurie Metcalf) is collecting from his little sister Molly (Beatrice Miller) too, the donation box of misfit toys also includes Barbie Doll (Jodi Benson)!
The real question is whether Sunnyside Daycare is nearly as bad as their collective fears suggest. Might Sunnyside actually be a bright and shining beacon of everlasting toy joy where little kids play with them all day long, five days a week? Or are the worst nightmares of the toys the real reality and might Sunnyside Daycare actually be a dark Prison ruled over by a maniacal dictator?
Now would Pixar do that?
To answer these questions, Woody, Buzz and the gang meet up with more groups of great toys like Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty), Chatter Telephone (Teddy Newton), Stretch (Whoopie Goldberg), Chunk (Jack Angel), Twitch the Insectoid Warrior (John Cygan), Bookworm (Richard Kind), the nonspeaking Big Baby and Cymbal Monkey and, of course, Barbie's own Dream Date, Ken Doll (Michael Keaton)!
However, if all of this was just a mistake where does this leave Andy... and where does this leave WOODY? And what about other groups of toys like Trixie the Blue Triceratops (Kristen Schaal), Buttercup (Jeff Garlin), Dolly (Bonnie Hunt) and the serious thespian Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton)?
Sound like a full plot? Trust me, it most assuredly is that! However, amazingly director Lee Unkrich (who wrote this great movie with John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Michael Arndt) ensures that this never becomes a muddled toybox and remains entertaining, never contrived or convoluted, and always worthy of the Pixar name.
There are more thrills and chills in this film than in the best action films of the year. Toy Story 3 has more Romance and heart than in the best chick flicks and more character investment than you're likely to find in any award-winning drama! Pixar has the ability to make grown adults cry with characters they've only known for a few minutes (see Up!). Just imagine how wonderfully they handle these characters that we've known over three movies and a decade and a half (and counting)!
To this end, there are moments of great emotion and even scariness and suspense here and there (don't worry, it never quite breaks out of its G rating). The amazing part of this is found in the characters themselves, the way they move and the way they speak. Admittedly, this could never happen without the incredible, photorealistic animation that Pixar continues to improve upon! They still lead the pack when it comes to Animation. However, while it's true that other companies continue to make great Computer Animation, what is all-too-often missed is that Pixar's movies aren't great because of how they look. They're very good because of how they look... they're GREAT because of the way they're written!
Five Stars out of Five for Toy Story 3, one of the best films from one of the best animation studios out there and one of the best sequels anybody could ever hope for. The Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Western Family feel-good movie is at its best in Disney Digital 3 D, which brings out every bit of the beauty fit to share that big, silver screen with our favorite team of toys. However, this film would be great on an old betamax, recorded from UHF with rabbit-ears and watched on an old black and white tube TV! The true nature of friendship, hope and good feelings isn't something that requires the best animation in the business, or even a great score by Randy Newman to sell... but that doesn't hurt either.
Don't miss the typically excellent attached short film Day & Night that preambles our fun story and don't leave too soon, lest you miss the great credit sequences that ties up every loose end. Any bit of bad feeling or worries you could have about anybody on that screen is tied up before that crazy Pixar lamp smashes down the "I". I'll admit it, kids, I was crying like an infant who lost a toy while sniffing chopped onions during a Leslie Gore heartache song festival... yet I walked out of that theatre feeling like a Billion Bucks! Don't miss it, folks, and don't miss me... when I see you in the Next Reel!
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