It was in 1995 that Toy Story signaled the arrival of Pixar, and the rest was history. To date, I have personally always found myself to have enjoyed all of their outputs, and it does seem that Pixar has indeed grown from strength to strength with sophistication in its graphics and attention to detail, but more so that their creative teams have always come out with solid stories to tell, which is always the key beneath all the glossy bells and whistles visuals.
And I simply love this installment, not only because it reunites us with the characters whom we have taken to heart as old friends, welcoming them back to yet another big screen outing, but because it has a moving story to tell, and has various elements from action-adventure, comedy and drama all rolled into one, allowing an outpour of a kaleidoscope of emotions as we journey for close to 2 hours with Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr and Mrs Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Res (Wallace Shawn), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark) and the aliens (Jeff Pidgeon) for one last hurrah.
The storyline for all three Toy Story films may share some similar plot lines in having the constant fear of being discarded and unwanted when one turns old, or to obsess with the thought of being forgotten and unappreciated, and almost always comes with a distance to conquer. That continues here in stronger terms given that it's been some 11 years since the last Toy Story film, and that the toys' owner Andy has already outgrown the toys and have chucked whatever's left all into a treasure chest. Making things worst, he's about to relocate to attend college, and thus the anxieties that Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang has to come to terms with, being provided 4 options of heading for the trash, the attic, being given away or being that rare toy that gets to accompany Andy to his new environment.
New toys get introduced by way of how the story got crafted involving a children's day care centre, where we get to meet up with the over-emphasized, metrosexual Ken (Michael Keaton!) from Barbie (Jodi Benson), and others such as the Lotso bear (Ned Beatty), together with those belonging to a new human character called Bonnie (Emily Hahn) who owns a cool plush Totoro (which doesn't speak of course)! Sequels tend to overcrowd their stories with plenty of characters, but it worked perfectly for this installment as other than those which get lines, there are plenty in the background that you may just spot a few that you too may have owned at some point in time. Things also aren't quite what they seem at the day care being the paradise for toys in constantly being played with and loved but never to suffer a heartbreak or to be left feeling unwanted, and provides the basis upon which the story develops, providing plenty of challenges for the gang to overcome (gotta love that Monkey!)
What's powerful about Toy Story 3 are the themes that get thrown in, such as that about loss, and the search and fight for things that are worthwhile. It emphasizes the bonds of friendship and courage, while tackling how the lack thereof in abandonment and the feeling of tremendous loss, can someone turn one into a bitter soul, which allowed for the film to take on tragic, darker consequences unseen in the earlier installments, while balancing the light hearted moments. We get to grow with the familiar characters a little more, while having new ones which are just as fun. Just ask Ken!
And a word of caution - prepare those tissues and hankies! Parting is such sweet sorrow, and the manner in which director Lee Unkrich deals with will definitely tug at your heartstrings. At least two scenes got to me, one involving facing a consequence of inevitable hopelessness that is a definite edge of your seat stuff only to remind you of how much you really care for the characters, while the other was what I deem as the perfect send off, an au revoir fit for closing the chapter on this Toy Story arc, while leaving room for another to happen (if it does). It moved, and shows how valuable it is to be loved again, and I thought it was pitch perfect. It would be interesting to know how the creators had intended to end the story, but it was brilliant to have chosen with what was.
Toy Story 3 is a must watch, and it's a contender for a space in my top 10 for the year. It's a sequel done right, a tale with a lot of heart, with elements encompassing what essentially is a fitting tribute and farewell to beloved characters that have blazed the trail for computer generated animation to take centerstage. As with all PIxar feature films, a short precedes the main feature, and Day and Night, like the one offered in Up, comes without dialogue, but with plenty of imagination and again, a solid story for a well animated short film that only Pixar can.