Toy Story 3. In a way this movie doesn’t need an introduction. But in another way, it deserves a good one. Among its unique distinctions, it earned Pixar’s fourth Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film in a row, their second movie in a row to be nominated for Best Feature Film at the Oscars, and it became the first animated movie in history to earn over $1 billion. Although they lost to The King’s Speech, Disney even made a serious campaign to earn Toy Story 3 the win in the Best Feature Film category. It arguably should have at least stood a chance, as deserving as The King’s Speech is. It also earned three other nominations, including best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Editing and winning the award for Best Original Song (“We Belong Together” by Randy Newman).
Toy Story 3 went through two completely different production cycles. Stemming from Disney and Pixar’s dispute that ended in 2006, it was originally the short-lived studio, Circle 7 Animation, that was going to make Toy Story 3. Their story concept revolved around a major recall of Buzz Lightyear toys. It would involve the toys shipping Buzz to Taiwan to be fixed, but then they rush to rescue him when they learn of the recall. In the meantime, Buzz would meet a number of other toys that were once loved, but were sent back in the recall. It’s not a bad idea for a story by any means, but it’s obvious that Pixar went a completely different route after Pixar and Disney merged.
The final film contains no traces of the Circle 7 version of the film. The filmmakers didn’t even read the script. Director Lee Unkrich said of the changes, “Not out of spite, but we wanted to start fresh, and not be influenced by what they’d done … We didn’t look at any of the work they’d done. We didn’t want to know anything about it.” Unkrich, who had previously co-directed Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo, made his solo directorial debut with Toy Story 3, and would later move on to direct Pixar’s most recent release, Coco, as well as assisting Toy Story 4’s writing. That also makes this the first Toy Story movie not directed by John Lasseter, who was busy with Cars 2 at the time.
Unkrich felt a lot of pressure to make sure he didn’t make Pixar’s first dud, the company enjoying critical and commercial success with every single movie up to that point. Early in production, Pixar revisited their work from the original Toy Story and found that they could open the original models, but due to the models being so old and the technology having advanced so far since, error messages prevented them from using them. They needed to recreate all the models from scratch. They also spent a year and a half researching and developing the junkyard for the chaotic climactic sequence. Also unlike most movies where they send potential actors a script, they showed Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear) and John Ratzenberger (Ham) a complete reel of the film with storyboards and pre-recorded voices. They all signed onto the film at its conclusion, so clearly it worked.
Toy Story 3 also became the first film of any kind to feature 7.1 surround sound theatrically. It meant that the Blu-Ray could feature the original sound, instead of sound converted to 7.1 from its original 5.1 sound. That’s something that I feel I should have known before researching for this blog post, but I had no idea.
There aren’t too many more details on the movie’s productions on a quick google search, which I assume means that it went fairly well. That’s a huge contrast from the first two Toy Story movies, which both suffered from numerous difficulties. Toy Story 2 especially. Compared to the earlier films, Toy Story 3 has a similar look with its mostly flat environments, the toys looking like toys, but a lot of the advancements Pixar made over the years are present here.
For example, you’ve got an amusing scene where Mr. Potato Head puts his arms, legs and eyes into a wrap, and he’s flopping around while walking around. There’s no way that would have been possible back when Toy Story 2 came out. There’s a much wider variety of environments, toys, human characters and types of lighting in the movie. Yet it still focuses mostly on a couple of different buildings, keeping a slight semblance of the first movie’s smaller scale. It’s a balance that works well for Toy Story 3 and I hope they keep it like that for the upcoming Toy Story 4.
As I hinted at in the intro, this movie is awesome. The basic plot builds on themes from both of the previous Toy Story movies in a way that also ties into some of the earlier conventions of the series. One major theme in Toy Story 2 is that Andy would eventually grow up and not care so much about toys anymore. Toy Story 3 opens with a young Andy playing with his toys, only to fade to the present, where he’s 17 and about to leave for college. The room that was once filled with Buzz Lightyear paintings and pictures of cowboy settings is now filled with teenaged boy things, including a picture of a character from the Cars movie (Cars 2 is Pixar’s next movie – continuing their trend of putting an Easter Egg for their next release into every movie).
Right away the movie starts more dramatically than the first two movies. Although Woody is trying to keep everyone optimistic, the few toys that remain in Andy’s room are starting to lose hope. Yet it’s also made clear that Andy still feels nostalgic when he looks at his old toys, as if a part of him doesn’t want to grow up. It kind of confirms that Andy is a bit of a weird kid, but from a toy’s perspective, that also makes him special. While Andy decides to take Woody with him to college, through a mishap, the rest of the toys end up in a daycare center.
Unfortunately, the toys at the daycare center are ruled over by gangster toys who force newcomers to play with the overly wild toddlers. Meanwhile, Woody’s own adventure somehow lands him in the home of a little girl who plays with him differently, but she feels special the same way that Andy did. It leads to a movie that is both funnier than Toy Story 2 and arguably more dramatic than the original. The story itself also leads to a Mission Impossible style escape sequence that’s a lot of fun and the previously mentioned climactic sequence in a garbage dump.
There are several moments in Toy Story 3 where I can’t stop myself from tearing up every time I watch it. The first is in that garbage dump when for a moment, all of the toys think it’s the end. I remember thinking it could have been a tragic ending the first time I saw it. The second time I tear up is also a bit of a cheesy moment, but it also feels like the perfect closer to the movie. I won’t spoil it in case you haven’t seen Toy Story 3, but you’ll know it when you see it.
My only real criticism of the movie, and this is relatively minor, is that the main toy villain is very similar to the villain in Toy Story 2. He’s a toy who felt abandoned. He seems very kind and soft spoken at first, but he’s later revealed as a monster. It helps that the source of his feelings are different, but I can’t help but feel that they could have gone a slightly different route without affecting the story.
I love all three of the Toy Story movies, but after re-watching all the Pixar movies up to this point, I really do think that the 3rd is the best. It may even be the best Pixar movie to date. That’s no small feat. And as much as I really like 2010’s other Disney Animated film release, Tangled (I ranked it number 3 out of all 56 Disney Animation Studios movies and I stand by that placement), I agree that of the two, Toy Story 3 deserved the Best Animated Feature award. I do contend that “I See The Light” is the better of the two songs, even if “We Belong Together” is still a great song.
I’m not alone in my praise of Toy story 3. The movie earned near universal critical praise, with a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and an average score of 8.9/10. The consensus read that it’s one of the rare second sequels that really works. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly noted that he, along with a number of other grown men, teared up at the end of the movie. “Even with the bar raised high, Toy Story 3 enchanted and moved me so deeply I was flabbergasted that a digitally animated comedy about plastic playthings could have this effect.”
How To Train Your Dragon also came out in 2010. Wow that was a great movie for animated films.
Next up is Cars 2, which is the only Pixar movie with a Rotten Tomatoes score of less than 50%, making it Pixar’s only critical dud to date. I guess that means Unkrich made his directorial debut just in time. It’s also the first Pixar movie to not be nominated for one single Academy Award. I’m kind of worried about it. After that it’s Brave, and then Monsters University. I’ve previously seen every Pixar movie we’ve looked at so far, and yet I haven’t seen either Cars 2 or Monsters University yet. As much as Cars 2 worries me, I’m glad to finally be getting to the Pixar movies I haven’t seen before.