Toy Story set the bar for animation back in 1995– it was the first feature length computer generated movie. But while it could quite have easily ridden on the coat tails of new technology, what Pixar delivered was a masterpiece – a film as poignant and heart-warming as any that Disney had ever produced and one worthy of ushering in a new age for animation.
It’s a marvel that Toy Story 2 didn’t fall foul of its own marketing – it would have been easy for Pixar to have cashed in its chips and made a by-the-numbers sequel that would have made back its budget in merchandise alone. Instead they made a film as good, if not better than its predecessor.
When Toy Story 3 was announced, 12 years on from the first sequel, it was initially a bit of a worry. Were Pixar finally selling out? Disney have been leaking new characters for months, and so many were released that it was difficult not to be concerned that they might be watering down their genius. Thankfully that’s not the case as Toy Story 3 is a constant delight – a magical, sweeping and heartily brilliant end to a glorious series.
Andy is off to college and the remaining toys (Woody, Buzz, Slinky, Rex, Jessie, Hamm, Mr and Mrs Potato Head, the three-eyed aliens and Bullseye) are making one last ditch bid for his attention. They’re well aware that when Andy leaves, they’ll either be bundled into the attic, donated to the day-care or horror of horrors be thrown away completely.
Narrowly avoiding the trash, the collective end up at the blandly sinister Sunnyside Day-Care centre run by Lotso Hugging bear and a motley assortment of other toys, including Ken (brilliantly voiced by Michael Keaton)and Big Baby (a terrifying baby doll with a lazy eye).
If there were any worries about Toy Story 3 then they’re unfounded; it still delivers exactly what you’d expect from some of Disney’s best loved characters. One could nitpick at the seemingly similar plot set up to Toy Story 2 – Woody and Co’s escape from the garbage truck echoes the attempted rescue of Wheezy the penguin from the first sequel; Lotso, a seemingly genial toy gone bad is almost interchangeable with the disillusioned Stinky Pete.
Any nitpicks are easily shoved aside by the sheer amount of great stuff crammed into 100 minutes. The toys’ attempted escape from a trash compactor is among one of the most exciting and gut wrenching in animation. It’s testament to how well drawn the characters are that you not only fear their demise but you actually suspect for one horrible moment that not all of them will make it; it’s a triumph of storytelling.
That playful emotional jab is nothing compared to the devastating haymaker of the finale – a satisfying but tender ending that will melt even the hardest of hearts. If you don’t shed at least one tear, you’re made of stone.
But for all its yanking of heartstrings, it’s still extremely funny. The toys’ escape from Sunnyside is inventively and intricately planned is as tense as it is hilarious, Ken’s insistence that he’s not a girl’s toy despite all evidence to the contrary and Buzz Lightyear in his maraca snapping, flamenco dancing Spanish setting are only a few of the highlights in a film choc-full of fun and imagination.
While the visuals of the original film may have set the world alight back in 1995, high-quality animation is now taken for granted as Pixar’s stock in trade. Toy Story 3’s attention to detail is impressive if not remarkable, whether it be in a reflection in a puddle or each fine hair on Lotso’s fluffy body.
The 3D is unobtrusive – but for the blur of the screen if you remove your glasses, you could hardly tell it was there but that’s no hardship. Toy Story was always more than the sum of its parts and this third instalment will be remembered, if not for its visual sensibilities, then certainly for its emotion, its superb characterisation and a satisfying and worthy conclusion to a wonderful series.