Pixar animation studios has done it again.  This time they open up the toybox and take us into the world of animated humor and fun that no other studio can quite do.  Fifteen years after the original, Pixar has been able to keep such classic voices like Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear), and Joan Cusack (Jessie), along with adding a few new voices to the cast such as Ned Beatty who plays our villain as Lotso the bear and Michael Keaton who plays as the Ken doll.

 I was 10 years old when the first Toy Story came out, and I was getting more out of the playing with toys stage, but I remember specifically loving this film as a kid, and I still love it today, but I think this time, Pixar may have outdone itself.  We find ourselves fifteen years into the future, and the loveable child from the beginning, Andy, is on his way to college.  The toys, who haven’t been played with in years, make one last ditch effort to be held of played with.  Early on in the movie after a cell phone call goes awry, T-Rex tells the other toys, “He held me!”  Once Andy’s mother stumbles on the toybox, she asks Andy to keep what he wants, put the rest in the attic, or they are going to be trash.  After Andy singles out Woody seemingly as the only one he wants to take with him, the rest of the toys are put into a trashbag en route to the attic.  After a mix up gets them tossed on the curb outside, Woody runs out to try and save them before they end up in a garbage truck. 

 They end up escaping, and land in the donation box at Sunnyside Day Care.  Not everything is as it seems as the toys are introduced to Lotso (Beatty) the bear, who is the ring leader of the toy world at Sunnyside.  At first, he convinces the toys they will be happy at the day care and that they will always be loved and played with, but after the first day of “playtime” they start to realize not everything is what it seems.  In the meantime, Woody escapes Sunnyside, leaving his friends behind, so he can get back to Andy.

This is where the movie takes a darker turn.  Once we find out everything isn’t quite what it seems at the daycare, the toys are in a race against toy time to get back to Andy’s and take their rightful place in the attic.  But as is the case with all Toy Story flicks, there is always some sort of conflict holding them back.  From escaping to the day care to their ride in the garbage truck, and their scary, yet tearjerking ride at the landfill, the movie hits hard on the scary moments, but never ceases to keep you laughing in every scene.

One of the great parts about this movie is character development.  As with most sequels that try to have so many characters, you never really get to know your characters, but Pixar does a great job of hitting the nail on the head with every single character including backstory for Lotso, and even getting Ken and Barbie together (Michael Keaton steals every scene with his voiceovers).  Pixar knows how to tug at your every emotion when it comes to loving each and every toy.  You can’t help but root for the toys, even though you always know they are going to get through whatever catastrophe stands in their way.

The Pixar guys have found a unique way to make every animated scene remarkably beautiful, and dark.  From the Sunnyside daycare and its different rooms, Ken trying on his outfits for Barbie, and the landfill fire, they just make everything seem so real that you can almost touch it.  I did not catch the flick in 3-D but I would imagine it might be worth the extra couple of bucks to watch it that way.  They keep the comedy fresh, especially the altercation with Buzz, turning him to Spanish mode, and as always with the Potatoheads, but they keep the emotions flying.

In short, I’ll say that Toy Story 3 is a lock to win the best animated film this year, and who knows, maybe they get a nomination for best picture. Take your kids, take your family, and enjoy this masterpiece.  I personally think this is the best installment of the three films, and maybe I am a little biased because I have been able to grow up on the same timeline as these films were released.  Trust me when I say that Toy Story 3 will bring a smile to your face, and even a few tears to your eyes.