Before Toy Story 3 came out during the summer movie season of 2010, it was not surprising that some that have come out already weren’t anything to be praised about, especially when most of them were mostly disappointments. A lot of us were already expecting the long-awaited third installment in the Pixar franchise to be one of the most memorable films that year, but what we didn’t expect was how incredible it turned out to be, and how it’s a family movie that makes it perfectly fine for adults to cry. Don’t you agree?
What’s the Story: Now that Andy has all grown-up and is about to leave for college at the age of 17, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and the rest of the remaining toys from Andy’s days as a young kid have been stuck in his toy chest for a long time, without being played with. After accidentally being donated to a daycare called Sunnyside instead of going up in the attic, they meet all these wonderful new toys, but it’s not until later they must find a way back before Andy leaves.
As someone who grew up watching 1995’s Toy Story and 1999’s Toy Story 2 constantly on VHS as a kid, being excited about a third installment coming out was an understatement. Before this came out, the first two movies held a prominent position among every movie from Pixar at that point. Sure, it must’ve sounded weird for a then 13 going on 14-year-old to have the appropriate amount of anticipation for a children’s movie dedicated to young kids. That may be true, but those who also watched the original movies around the same age as I thought it was an outstanding idea. This would the last movie I saw before seventh grade was over for me, so I saw it on opening weekend with my parents in an almost sold-out auditorium, eager to be satisfying all the way through. This is what you call a perfect sequel that leaves you feeling great about life in what was the best-animated movie to come out all year.
Let’s start off gushing about the animation because it has vastly improved so much more than the first two movies. Just re-watching last year to prepare for the fourth movie and just recently, it still looks incredible with the attention to detail on the characters. The opening sequence, especially, where it clearly shows how a young child’s imagination works was the first indication of every person who worked their butts off to show off the massive efforts it took to make this happen deserves all the praise in the world.
Director Lee Unkrich and Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine), while Unkrich wrote the story with John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, never skips a beat in successfully containing this story with these characters. Every aspect brought to this is full of energy that’s needed in a kids’ film like this, and there’s never once a dull moment in terms of characters we loved ever since, the humor, and anything amounting to heartwarming. Knowing this came out a decade later after this sequel, they took their time to give audiences a story that didn’t justify being hard to follow. Just like the toys themselves, they haven’t been played with for a long time, and most people have loved other amazing films from the studio, from Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, or Up the year before. That wasn’t the fact this time around since every person young and old needs this series in their lives as they specifically made it for those who’s been this from the beginning. Unimportant, they are not.
What I’ve always loved about all these entries is their storylines are practically different from one another. This unexpectedly turns into a prison break movie where the toys need to get out of Sunnyside before their owner leaves. Not something we all needed to be tied into the plot, but it managed to be so creative at every point. Because when they arrived at the daycare, they were greeted with respect from the other toys, thinking this will be a paradise for them. Then it turns out to be the exact opposite when all the kids in the other room, basically, ruin them in a hilarious way, as opposed to the other room where the kids play with their toys respectfully. We’ve known these guys for so long that they are the kind that needs to be played with safely before being left in the forgotten forever.
The vocal performances are always a pleasure to experience, especially when it sounded like they cared about the script in front of them. At this point in time, there was nobody else to lend the voices of Woody and Buzz than Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. Everybody did a tremendous job at keeping the older, beloved toys we knew from the past likable enough to still care for them, including Jessie (Joan Cusack), Bullseye, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris, respectively), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Slinky (Blake Clark; replacing the late Jim Varney), and Hamm (John Ratzenberger). Since Woody has always been the one who’s always the strong leader of the group in every movie, he’s trying his best to stick everyone together, leaving none of them behind.
The abundance of new toy characters was a lot of not remember some of their names, but they weren’t even annoying for the time they were in this. Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear (voiced brilliantly by Ned Beatty) is the best villain we’ve gotten in this franchise. It’s easy to buy he’s a lovable old pink bear who smells like strawberries, yet when he turns, making him the rotten guy in all of this, you find out why in a flashback that makes you understand his motivation for not letting anybody escape. But my favorite new character goes to Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton). Not because Keaton is one of my favorite actors, it was both weird and funny knowing we need Batman voicing a Ken doll who has fallen head over heels for Barbie (voiced by Jodi Benson). Honestly, he was the perfect choice to voice him.
Just like before, the humor will always make me laugh on repeat viewings at the same moments, even those adult jokes I didn’t figure out back then, but my brain cells as an adult finally understood them now. Where I laughed the most when during the last half when Mr. Potato Head uses a tortilla for his body, or when Buzz switches into Spanish mode accidentally.
Ever since Toy Story 2 and that sad sequence with Jessie and her owner forgetting about her set to “When She Loved Me,” Pixar was making everyone cry either tears of joy or sadness with their skills in the drama department. In here, any moment that makes us cry was rightfully earned. The third act stirs up your emotions on an all-time high when they’re all inside the incinerator and made the choice to hold each other’s hands, accepting their fates. Who didn’t cry during that? I might’ve cried when I first saw it in the theater, and it’s easy to see why it’s tough for fans to watch this again since nobody wants an anxiety attack. Honestly, I couldn’t even dare to think of anything negative to contribute about this since it’s pretty unanimous around the world it’s one of the greatest animated movies of the past decade if not THE best. No arguments here.
If Toy Story 4 never came out and this was the true finale they gave us, this would’ve been the most perfect way to wrap up as a trilogy. The conclusion was something I didn’t expect them to go when Andy gives all his toys to that little girl Bonnie, but it gives us an important message about as we grow older, we can’t forget about the things we loved the most as a child. A lot of people can find this relatable for those who also had to give away the toys they had for a long time. This felt like a proper finale treated the right way. I loved this ending. When this came out, this is right up there with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Return of the Jedi as the third installment in a franchise that’s purely entertaining.
Everybody loves this film, even director Quentin Tarantino, that it was the highest-grossing movie of the year, deservedly so. It also became the third animated movie ever to be nominated for Best Picture following Beauty and the Beast and fellow Pixar film Up. See that? Children’s movies can get that high achievement from the Academy. Nominated for five Oscars, it ended up winning two: Best Animated Feature (of course) and “We Belong Together” for Best Original Song. It was my favorite movie of the year; that was until a little independent masterpiece called Inception came out a month later, and the rest is history.
In the end, Toy Story 3 knew what it wanted to be, and even though it’s made for the younger audience, this is for everyone with a beating heart. Fun, hilarious, and emotional in all its two hours, there’s so much to love about this. Many consider this their favorite, and there are no complaints about that. For me, I love all of them where there isn’t the weakest link as they touch your heart. Like I mentioned in my Top 10 Best Movies of the 2010s, you’re a heartless human being if you don’ love this balance of action, comedy, and drama in one movie.