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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pixargust: Toy Story 3 (2010)

Back in 1995, a relatively new animation studio named Pixar released a movie that rocked the whole world: Toy Story. It was not only hugely popular, but also revolutionized animation by being the very first computer-animated film. It mostly was concerned about a toy's role in a child's life as always being there for them and the possibility of there being a new favorite and being replaced. The movie spawned a sequel some 3 years later: Toy Story 2. That movie turned out more successful than its predecessor and is to this day arguably better than the first. It further explored the life of a toy with the possibility of abandonment altogether and the inevitability of your kid growing up. Things have come full circle with a third and currently final sequel around 11 years afterward and was even more successful than the first two combined: Toy Story 3. This film now holds the record for the highest-grossing animated film in history, making back over $1 billion at the box office as well as the third animated film in history to be nominated for Best Picture from the Academy Awards and the second film in a row from Pixar to accomplish this. Even two years after I first saw it, I hold it in high regards as one of Pixar's finest accomplishments. But is it perfect? It's time to gather up the old gang for one final adventure to find out in Toy Story 3.

As you'd expect, all our favorite toys are back! Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bulleye, Slinky, Hamm, Rex, the Potato Heads, and the LGM's. But the film takes place 11 years after the second film and most of the old toys are gone, like Wheezy, RC, and even Bo Peep. Andy is now preparing to leave for college and there's panic over if the toys will be thrown out or placed in the attic. As Andy packs, he's given some trash bags for either garbage or stuff he wants to leave in the attic. All of the toys but Woody are put in the bag and Mom accidentally throws them out. They make it out of the bag as Woody tries to save them, but the gang sees a box headed for a daycare and suggest they all go. Woody is reluctant, still loyal to Andy and reassuring the others that they were meant to be put in the attic. The toys are welcomed to Sunnyside Daycare by a pink teddy bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty) and a Ken doll (Michael Keaton), who instantly falls for Molly's Barbie doll from the second film, and make it seem like paradise. While Woody is still unsure about all of this, the others are excited about being played with again. After Woody once again tries to talk them into going back home, Buzz decides that maybe day care is the best way to go. Woody leaves but is found by a little girl named Bonnie while the other toys are played with rather roughly by the kids in their room. Buzz tries to relocate them to an older kids room, he is caught by some of Lotso's assistants and is made one of them. It's when Lotso realizes that Buzz needs to stick with the others like a familt, he resets him to demo mode and shows his true colors as a malicious, bitter old toy that runs the daycare as if it's a prison. After a day with some of Bonnie's toys, Woody hears of the horrors of Sunnyside and Lotso and realizes he has to go back to save them. He returns to Sunnyside in Bonnie's backpack, gets tips from an old talk phone toy, meets with the others, and devices an escape plan. They partake in a suspenseful prison escape scene mixed with the toys kind of restoring Buzz (they accidentally activate his Spanish mode), but Lotso catches up to them and Woody exposes him for the monster he really is. Lotso is tossed in the garbage by his assistant, Big Baby, but catches and pulls Woody in. The others go after him but wind up in the garbage too. After a really intense scene in the dump's trash burner and Lotso ditching them to die after they saved his stuffed ass, they are mercifully spared from death by a giant claw from the LGM's. They make it back to Andy's thinking the attic isn't so bad after all. Before leaving, Andy finds a note to instead donate the toys to Bonnie with Woody inside. After one last day of play with his old toys and Bonnie, Andy says his goodbyes as if they were old friends and the toys live a happy life with Bonnie.

Somehow or another, the Toy Story films constantly top each other. I'm not kidding here. This one really is the best one. Even after eleven years after its predecessor, this is a rare second sequel that feels fresh. It doesn't feel alienated from the other two but instead adds to the continuing saga of Andy's toys without ever running out of steam. I find it interesting that this movie is in relation to the time that it was first released since most of us were around four or five when the first movie came out and I was in my first year of college when this came out. Toy Story 3 does exactly what the first two did, delivered on all cylinders, all aspects of film-making and entertainment. The humor is back, the heart is back, the delightful cast of characters is back. This time, thanks to an incredible script, there's more suspense, more drama, and many more surprises. Like any spectacular trilogy, it wraps up all loose ends. The predictability factor in this movie is low, and the payoff to all the suspense is extremely high and well worth it. It's excellently directed and written with a great soundtrack, animation, and voice-acting to boot. I especially love the beginning scene where we see what play time is like to a toy. This was one of the most creative scenes in the movie.

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Even most of the original cast is back! Well, except for Jim Varney who sadly passed away after the second film was released. They instead hired Blake Clark to voice Slinky and he actually does sound a lot like the late Varney. He did a fine job voicing the character. Aside from all the toys being more or less themselves, Andy has matured a lot too. As a college bound student he's also rather nostalgic for his old toys and after all they've been through together, he does want those memories for the future which is why he wanted his old toys in the attic. In itself, this was a clever idea to make us identify with Andy a little bit.

Don't worry. We're all nostalgic in one way or another.
The new characters are also really enjoyable. You have Bonnie's toys, which are fun. There's a lot to keep track of, but the film gives the right amount of screen time to them, they never distract from the main characters and story, and the film interestingly portrays them as improv actors. There's a thespian hedgehog named Mr. Pricklepants, a sarcastic unicorn named Buttercup, a triceratops that's handy with computers named Trixie, a triplet of peas in a pod, and a doll named... well, Dolly. Oh and before someone kills me over this, she does indeed have a Totoro doll! Squee! And yes, I'll review that movie when the time is right.


Totoro! :D
Lotso as a villain is easily the best one in a Pixar film since Syndrome. As a sweet teddy bear that apparently smells of strawberries on the outside, he's a twisted, bitter, heartless monster that acts more like the prison warden from Sawshank Redemption on the inside. His story is a pretty sad one too. He was lost by his original kid and never exactly lets it go once he found out he was replaced. He later bumped into Sunnyside with Big Baby and a clown doll named Chuckles and turned it into Alcatraz. He's a really dark character for a movie about toys.

It's a little hard to connect my character description with this image .
Speaking of dark, this film gets pretty damn depressing around the last third. Toy Story 3 repeats the abandonment and moving on angle from Toy Story 2, but adds pathos to it that was unseen before in the other two films or any Pixar film for that matter. I specifically want to talk about this pivotal juncture in the final act, there was a moment in the movie that only last a minute or two, but felt very, very, very real. I can't stress this enough, I have never felt anything like this from a movie. The first time I cried in a move was with Up's "Ellie" sequence but for some reason I didn't do it here. My emotions went beyond crying, I don't know if it was the swirling bright ember colors contrasting with the stark images or the expressiveness of the toys in that very moment, but I sat there in disbelief and was affected in a way that has not existed before. As engaging as the film is, I do kind of wish it pushed the drama all throughout the film. It has it's serious moments here and there, but it's not until the last third that the powerful stuff happens. What I mean is an emotional equilibrium would have made this a little bit stronger.

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As is, Toy Story 3 is honestly the most poignant, mature, and suspenseful of all the Toy Story films. Even if it's emotionally unbalanced, that last third was probably hook, line, and sinker for the Academy. Again, it's a rare second sequel that feels fresh and doesn't quite distance itself from the other two. It's still as charming, magical, and timeless as the last two films and will likely stay that way to infinity and beyond. Lee Unrick's direction is fantastic as well as the animation quality and music by Randy Newman. It's the perfect end to a prefect trilogy of movies. And I honestly hate to jinx it, but it seems like nothing could stop Pixar from climbing to the top. Maybe the next film will break box-office records and be as recognized by the Academy for the third time in a row! Maybe the next film will push the limits of how mature animated films can be! Maybe...

...Dammit...

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