By the time the conclusion to the Toy Story franchise rolled around in 2010, many of its target audience who were kids back in the 90s, were reaching adulthood. How fitting then that Toy Story 3 keeps pace and deals with the fate of our favourite group of play-things now that Andy is all grown up. This film once again showcases Pixar’s honed ability to blend comedy and drama, even throwing in a few legitimate scares.
The film begins with a fast-paced ride in the world of Andy’s imagination, but we quickly learn that this was a long time ago. Andy is about to leave for college and his neglected toys still yearn to be played with. Through a mishap they believe they are about to be thrown in the trash instead of being safely tucked away in the attic. All except the ever-faithful Woody become convinced the best place for them is Sunnyside Daycare, but this idyllic place turns out to be far more sinister than its name suggests, forcing our heroes to stage an elaborate escape to make it back home.
Toy Story 3 delivers a clever, well-paced story, raising the stakes higher so that the emotional resonance is far greater. There are definitely some darker elements this time around; the sad tale of the tyrannical Lotso (a brilliant Ned Beatty), the regime at Sunnyside, and that CCTV-operating monkey *shivers*. However, all the brief scares are nothing compared to a scene later on involving waste-disposal which had my pulse racing as I feared for the very existence of the toys. It tugs remorselessly at the heart-strings too, so much that a bit of moisture started to appear in my eye (just a little). Pixar’s balancing act is still alive and well; for every moment of peril there are plenty of nuggets of comedy. The disillusioned Buzz gag returns with vigour, this time introducing a Spanish variant, and a scene with Mr. Potato Head and a tortilla had me cracking up. It would be exhaustive to go into the many more aspects that are of the highest quality in this movie, but suffice to say it is only the third animation to receive a nomination for a Best Picture Oscar. And well deserved it is.
The heart of the Toy Story franchise is apparent in its final scene – bittersweet and tear-jerking – showing us the catharsis that it can offer. Andy, now reunited with his beloved toys, is persuaded to pass them on to a little girl named Bonnie (possibly the cutest kid in CGI). In the scene where he introduces each one to her as she listens intently, we are both Andy and Bonnie. We are Andy as he reminisces about his childhood and cherished toys, saying farewell to them as he moves on with his life, just as we say goodbye to the Toy Story trilogy. But thanks to the pure escapism of great cinema, we can always come back and relive a slice of childhood through these films, rediscovering the imaginative adventures with each viewing. In that way, we can be Bonnie also, wide-eyed with excitement, every time we choose to indulge in these films – recapturing some of the wonder of childhood.