A few years ago when Disney and Pixar were in contract talks to extend their partnership, Disney decided to come up with their own idea for Toy Story 3. The storyline involved Buzz Lightyear getting shipped off to Taiwan and the other toys trying to rescue him. After Disney bought Pixar and made John Lasseter the CCO, Lasseter famously went and scrapped all development. Pixar took over and started from scratch. And oh boy, we should be thankful because the Toy Story 3 that was directed by Lee Unkrich and released on June 18th, 2010 is nothing short of magnificent.
When we last left Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang, the toys came to a decision to be there for Andy as long as the youngster needed them. Well, Andy’s all grown up now and departing for college. This brings up the dreaded question of what Andy will do with the toys now that he will not be living at home anymore. Through some freak accident, the toys eventually end up at Sunnyside Daycare, a place that may look too good to be true.
With the new setting for the film, there comes an introduction of a brand new cast of toys, including Lotso (who smells like strawberries), Ken (yes, Barbie’s Ken), and the creepy Big Baby. There are a dizzying amount of new characters that many films would not be able to manage well, but this is Pixar. The cast of the film is juggled amazingly well, which is astounding considering how many characters are on the screen.
Screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) was invited by Pixar Animation Studios to put together the script for the film. Arndt, along with the rest of the Pixar brain trust, produced a wonderful storyline, brilliantly paced with a heart-tugging conclusion. Those who have followed Pixar know how important the creation of an excellent storyline is to them. The studio is famous for their constant re-working of their films in order to approach a state they are satisfied with, stating that they never finish their movies; they just release them. One of the mottos of Pixar is “story, story, story”, and it is readily apparent.
The voice talent from the first two films is back, with many new additions. Tim Allen and Tom Hanks reprise their roles of Buzz and Woody, and expertly voice their characters. They are hilarious and put forth a believability that only makes you care about these characters more. Along with the rest of the returning cast (who all did a superb job once again), one of the new voices joining the group is Michael Keaton, who voices the Ken doll. Keaton is a scene-stealer, with many of the lines coming out of his mouth being some of the most humorous lines in the film. Another new character, Mr. Pricklepants (voiced by former James Bond, Timothy Dalton) only has a few lines but you may want to avoid drinking a beverage while he is speaking, as he is laugh-out-loud hysterical.
If I had any caveats with the film, it would involve wanting more. It would have been great to see more of the new characters. While the storyline is edited extremely well, many of the new toys (whose design showcases the imagination that Pixar possesses) are not given enough time in the spotlight. Though, asking for more is a good thing. The desire to want more comes from something that you already enjoy, so this may not be a caveat at all.
Lee Unkrich, who previously co-directed Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo, is the solo director here for Toy Story 3. In interviews he did for the film, I read how he spoke about the pressure on him to replicate not only the success of the Toy Story franchise, but the continuous string of hits that Pixar has produced. He does a masterful job here, directing a film that many could make the argument is the best in the franchise. Part of the reason for that is likely the mentality that Unkrich approached it with. He has said that when the studio was in the process of coming up with the story, they had in their minds the Lord of the Rings films, which some may refer to a trilogy made up of separate stories. That thinking may be incorrect, because as Unkrich says (and I agree with), the Lord of the Rings was one story told across three films. With that in mind here, he excellently directs a possible conclusion to the whole Toy Story storyline. And what an end. The last portion of the film is directed perfectly, and you may very well shed tears, as I did. To this day, I am surprised that Pixar has not formed a partnership with Kleenex.
This film (as with every other Pixar film) will be enjoyed by the young and the old. The kids will laugh, while the adults sitting next to them will join in, catching all of the subtle references that the little ones will not fully comprehend. The film is also beautiful, displaying the large jump technology has made since the release of Toy Story 2. The animators at Pixar are to be commended.
There are a plethora of people at Pixar who deserve recognition for the breathtaking Toy Story 3, as the film was worked on by hundreds, and they each deserve our gratitude. Bravo Lee Unkrich! You and your team surpassed the already-high expectations and continued a strong story that will stand the test of time and will be watched and re-watched for generations.
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