My earliest cinema-going memory was seeing Aladdin. It was the first movie I ever saw in theatres and, as the story is told by both my mom and I, my 3-year-old mind could not quite comprehend that my mom was not able to instantly start the movie when we got there like we could with the TV at home. After that point, practically all of my memories about movie theatres were associated with the movies in the Disney Renaissance. So when the original Toy Story movie was released, it was something really special to look back on. Something completely different from anything else I could remember. It was sarcastic, witty, and above all, a new form of animation that had not been seen by the major populous before.
I aged with Andy and his toys, the original movie became part of my VHS rotation, I saw Toy Story 2 on opening weekend, I had figurine versions of all of the characters that I constantly played with, was brought to tears every time “When She Loved Me” was heard, and rode the Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger spin attraction multiple times in each visit to the Magic Kingdom. The Toy Story franchise was a very important one to my childhood and Andy and his toys grew along side me and seemed like they were always there for me, so when I found out that Toy Story 3 would be all about Andy leaving home for college and having to do something with all of his old toys, I felt like I reached a new stage of my life. For me, leaving for college was 2 years ago, so it was a little bit before Andy’s big move, and I never really had to get rid of any of my toys when I left. That is not to say that I hadn’t gotten rid of toys in the past (through both donation and passing them onto kids I babysat), but there was definitely not some massive purge. In fact, I still have many of my toys from the early 90′s and definitely kept all of my LEGO sets.
The movie is both one of the funniest and saddest movies that has ever graced my eyes. Pixar has now shown that they know exactly how to make you cry and are more than pleased to show you their new found power. The film opens on a completely brilliant note, namely what the toys see while being played with. This section is one of the strongest uses of self referential humour ever, with One-Eyed Bart, the Evil Dr. Porkchop, Force Field Dog, the Dinosaur that eats force field dogs, and even death by monkeys (complete with a nuclear explosion formed completely out of monkeys) all making appearances. Shortly after that, the tears start flowing. Andy is packing and Woody and the gang are forced to deal with the ending of their lives and the loss of friends over the years (including my favourite character from the entire series, Wheezy the asthmatic squeeze-toy penguin). I don’t really want to talk to much about the story for the movie, as it is actually something that can be spoiled, but what I will say is that the daycare center that the toys eventually arrive at after almost being thrown out is not quite what it seems and it’s colorful and cheerful walls hide a rather sinister secret and there is a scene close to the end is easily the most intense sequence I have seen since No Country for Old Men. I am not ashamed to admit that the final scene made me cry like a baby both times I saw the movie.
One thing I have to ask, do kids really treat their toys like the way the Sunnyside kids do? I never treated my toys like that! My toys were always very organized and well-kept. Whenever one broke, which was a very rare occurrence, I would always try to get my parents to repair them as soon as possible.
One of the best parts of the Toy Story movies is the well-rounded cast of characters. Unfortunately, a lot of the toys from the first two movies didn’t make it the 11 years between 2 and 3, as I said earlier, but the core cast is still there. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen reprise their rolls as Woody and Buzz, Joan Cusack is back as Jessie, the only change up was the replacing of the late Jim Varney with Blake Clark, but the transition is incredibly seamless. To fill the gaps left by the missing toys, new ones, of course, had to be brought in. My personal favourites being all of Bonnie’s (a new character) toys including the thespian hedgehog, Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), Trixie the Triceratops (wonderfully voiced by Kristen Schaal), Buttercup the Unicorn (Jeff Garlin), and finally… Ken, the preening yet identity confused doll voiced perfectly by Michael Keaton. Some other notable characters are the absolutely terrifying Big Baby, Barbie (voiced by Ariel herself, Jodi Benson), and Whoopi Goldberg in a very small role as Stretch the Octopus.
This movie really does not seem like it was made for children, it seems to have been aimed at the people like me who grew up with the franchise. People who would go into it and get all of the references and would cry (or just be very depressed) when their favourite toy didn’t return. People who would have the crap scared out of them at a scene that happens near the end and most of all, people who would realize how hard it is to part with an item that is so close to them that it feels like it’s actually alive.