Toy Story 3
Time/place: 11:40 showing at Ocean Ranch 7
Fifteen years ago I went to see the first Toy Story movie with my family. I was 12. Today I saw the finale, and I tell ya, folks… Pixar couldn’t have created a more fitting conclusion.
I enjoyed the first movie. It was entertaining, but as I grew up and matured, so did Pixar. The sequel continued to deal with the same issues of the first, and I was a cool teenager when that one came out, but still… “When Somebody Loved Me” got me weepy. The inclusion of such a beautiful, sad, and haunting song was very reminiscent of one of the best “kids” movies made, one I was fortunate enough to grow up with – The Brave Little Toaster. Basically, Pixar was improving their ability to portray the difficulties and triumphs of life in a way that was entertaining, funny, and heartbreaking all at once – just like life, itself. With Toy Story 3, they have culminated all of their talent to covering one of my most cherished topics… growing up.
What really makes Pixar movies so amazing is that they don’t speak down to kids. They are a movie house that deals with reality, and the fact that life can be hard sometimes. Their previous movie, Up, portrayed this in the first 10 minutes… with barely a dry eye in the house. I’d heard that Toy Story 3 was reducing even the manliest men to blubbery messes, and it was no different in my theater. During the last moments of the movie, I couldn’t help it, myself. You know that quivering breath you get when you’re really crying? Yep, that was me. I shook my head, as tears were rolling down my face, at the fact that freaking Toy Story 3 had done this to me. It wasn’t just the ending, though. The movie opens up by defining the themes in play immediately.
Oh, and a quick break to talk about the short they play before the feature. It’s stylistically fantastic, but, for as clever as it was, my interest kind of waned until it really explains itself near the end… then it became amazing :).
I’d like to just talk about the movie, itself, but I really can’t. It’s part of a trilogy. As I said in the beginning, this is the perfect cap to the journey, and one that adds so much more to the previous movies. That, in my opinion, is what makes a sequel (of any number) great – when it makes the movie before it even stronger. I’ll talk about details below, but beyond the nostalgia and emotion of the “growing up” theme, I thought the movie was great in other ways. First, the freaking baby – one of my favorite animated characters ever :). It was really tragic and horrifying – but completely mesmerizing. Haha, and, speaking of Baby… the Star Wars allusions continue in this movie, but I’ll let you discover them on your own ;). There is a scene in the movie that I really, really want to talk about, but I’ll have to save it for the spoiler section below.. and if you’ve seen it, I think you’ll know what I’m referring to. All of this talk of emotional depth and sadness, though, doesn’t make it seem like a very entertaining movie, but it is. Pixar knows, very well, the greatest key to emotional movie-making: follow the sadness with a laugh. Even through a tear-stained face, a laugh is the perfect release. They brilliantly ended the tear-inducing ending with some fun scenes during the credits, but besides that – the movie was just plain hilarious.
There were character cameos throughout the entire movie, spanning the whole Toy Story series, and unlike some finale movies.. it always felt right. The most immediate one that pops into my head had the entire theater laughing, including myself. As garish as Ken might’ve come across to me in the ads, he really did provide some entertaining moments – much to my delight. Another thing that really threw me off, when I first heard about this movie, was the inclusion of the character Slinky Dog. His voice for the first two movies was the late Jim Varney, and I was a little disappointed to see him being replaced. I realized, though, midway through the movie, that Slinky Dog was barely talking – and I could tell that it was on purpose, almost out of a respect to his original voice… I thought it was really endearing. There were so many reasons to love this movie, though… a sweet little love story that blossomed, characters became buddies who never were before, the daycare telephone was a great character, and much more.
I’m sure you don’t need my recommendation to see Toy Story 3. If you’re on the fence, though, let me give you this encouragement. While the trailers don’t show it, Pixar has brought to this story their ever-increasing level of mature storytelling, so much so that this one is almost more for the 20-something year olds who grew up with the series than the little kids. It’s great fun for all ages, but the running themes will no doubt hit a lot of folks rather hard. Whether it’s parents dealing with their children growing up, or young adults growing up themselves, there are a great many things to take away from this movie. I came home wanting to give some of my old stuffed animals a hug – just in case ;). So, to you, Pixar for a beautiful series ending that I wasn’t expecting, and a wonderful tale about growing up – “Thanks, guys.”
Warning – There be spoilers below…
You’ve seen the movie or don’t care about my ruining moments, I take it. Right? Good. In that case…
Incinerator. That freaking incinerator scene, man! Oh, holy CRAP. That started it for me. The themes were all great, the movie had its ups and downs, and my eyes had moistened a few times prior, but when Buzz calms down and takes Jessie’s hand, I couldn’t hold back the tears any more. That’s what I was talking about above – part of the great emotional pull of this movie was that we’d been with these toy characters for a very long time. As this core group of characters all held hands, quietly accepting their potential demise (knowing full well that they had given Andy a great time, and that he really did care about them), it was gut-wrenching. Haha, my eyes just got a little damp even writing that sentence. The end moment in WALL-E had me in the same way – where I honestly believed that they could actually end one of these movies on a semi-tragic note. It doesn’t matter, though, because the fact that the CHARACTERS were so without hope, and that these Pixar folks are just so darn good, made it a very, very sad and horrifying scene. When the claw came down to save them, controlled by the little alien toys (a wonderful arc in its own right), folks in my theater clapped. I felt the same way :).
Mentioning the character arcs, though, that’s what I loved about it. Everyone had their conclusion. Haha, heck… even seeing that the once-terrifying Buster was now an old, fat dog was hilarious and real – everything changes. The kids grew up, toys had been given away over the years (the casual mention of Bo Peep was an especially great moment for Woody), and everyone wrapped up the story in ways that I found supremely satisfying.
Even Baby :). From Baby’s introduction, I thought it was a really cool and interesting character. The fact that it was outside sitting on a swing at night, admiring the stars, was just another subtle and fantastic element. This is a side character, one that has no bearing on the story, one that probably won’t get its own toy in the kid aisle at Target – but that doesn’t mean that it was given any less respect. Its Darth Vader/Emperor moment made me smile so hard. I KNEW it was coming, and exactly what the reference was, but it was so satisfying.
Honestly, I was semi-expecting that the ending would be kind of sad, with Andy tucking his toys away in storage, and then a young child opening them years later – Andy’s kid, but when Woody mentioned this in the beginning, I realized that they weren’t going that way. In fact, I’m sure they put that there as a wink to the audience, saying , “Nope… guess again.” Near the very end, though, when Andy and his mom walk into his empty room and she gets emotional, I realized something amazing… what if this entire series just became about parents and kids? Yes, it’s obviously about growing up AS kids, and leaving childhood behind, and all of that… but there is another subtext in play as soon as Woody makes the connection of the fact that Andy, as a kid, has to grow up and leave behind his mom and his toys… but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t both do their jobs or that they will ever be forgotten. The final scene, with Andy playing with his toys one final time as a goodbye, and his sigh before getting into his car with a “Thanks, guys” somehow meant so much more with this newly added level to it. By this point, I was an embarrassing mess of quivered breathing and tears. I tried to keep myself quiet, but for the first time in a theater, I kind of wasn’t able to. For how much I’m one who contains emotions… I had little control over these :).
Finally, for those of you who loved this movie as I did, check out Pogo’s latest movie-remix of Toy Story. Especially after seeing this final movie, it was really touching for me to go back and remember where it all started – both in terms of Pixar and their feature-length animation (and how far they’ve come, technically and story-ically) and in terms of this particular story and its cast of characters, itself…