Man, I feel so old when I think about how much has happened in the time between the release of the original Toy Story and the arrival of the third film in theaters. I mean, I’m a young guy. I’m not even twenty-five yet. But the fact that it’s been fifteen years since the first film hit theaters weighs heavy on me. Mainly because I can’t remember much about that portion of my childhood. I was transitioning into middle school a year down the line and priorities seemed to shift. I do remember that Toy Story was an inspiring movie for me. It was so new and I hadn’t ever seen anything like it. 3D prior to that point had been mostly hideous. Looking back on it now, it’s amazing how far we’ve come in the quality of animation. It’s the same sort of gulf that there was between the 3D at the time and what Pixar brought us with Toy Story the first time around.
Toy Story 3 feels like something just as new and fresh as the original was fifteen years ago. Not because of the story or the characters, but because the first time around Pixar was clearly aiming the film at the hearts of the young. It worked. I still count the first film as one of my childhood favorites. This time around, they’re aiming at the same demographic but fifteen years older. This film is made, undoubtedly, for the kids who are no longer kids. The themes of growing up and transitioning into a world where we have to leave our childhood behind is one that everybody who saw the original has now gone through. Just as we could relate back in 1995 to the wonder of getting that cool new toy, in 2010 we can relate to wondering if we can bring ourselves to part with them.
The majority of the film takes place at the Sunnyside Daycare center, where the toys are donated in the wake of Andy leaving for college. And they soon come to realise that it’s not enough to just be played with, there has to be a connection. A special bond between the toy and the child. I know I had a favorite toy when I was a kid. I can easily relate to what’s put up on the screen here. I’m not so sure that younger kids will entirely embrace the message because the nature of kids toys have changed. Electronic gaming is skewing younger and younger and the imaginative world-building on display in the film’s intro where the toys interact in an elaborate scenario dreampt up in the mind of an innocent child might not be as widespread as it was when I was younger. I don’t know for sure, as I have yet to take the plunge of breeding my own offspring yet.
Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of my friends get married and have kids. I’m all too familiar with the message Pixar is sending with this one. I think it connects with me emotionally because of it. The kids will like the film because it’s got amazingly crafted action scenes and it plays out, like all of Pixar’s films, as a legitimitely good film in addition to being an animated feature. It’s how they manage to get films like Up! nominated for best picture awards. They know how to make a good film. The daycare being treated like a prison, and the detail taken to play with well established “escape film” tropes serves to make the film enjoyable in what can almost be seen as a reversal of the second film. Only, with the third film, the action and the pacing is done, in my opinion at least, with much more skill and finesse.
A good deal of chatter has gone on as to whether the film is necessary. Sequels by nature are a bit of a beast. They’re really only there for financial gain in the eyes of most. Here, at least we get a little bit of emotional closure for those of us who grew up with this as a childhood gem. And in that closure, we get a sort of passing of the torch to a new generation who, should Pixar choose to make another film down the line, can look back to this film with the same reverence that I do for the original.
Pixar doesn’t do bad movies, folks. Unless you count Cars, but let’s not mince words here. Just go with it.