Back in 1995, I was taken to the cinema to see a new type of film. An up-and-coming production company called Pixar had released a film called Toy Story. 3D animation had been used before for special effects in feature-length film as well as some short films, but a feature length computer animation had never been done before.
I instantly fell in love. I can recall that whilst watching that film, a switch went off in my head and I wanted to make this sort of magic myself in the future. The characters were funny and appealing, the animation was breathtaking, and the storyline and script were funny, sharp and entertaining (and are still to this day). It was the perfect film in my eyes, and it took a while for it to be beaten.
Four years later, a sequel was released, Toy Story 2, and I was quite nervous to see how it would fare. I had seen a few Disney sequels by then, such as The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, and The Return of Jafar, and was worried it wasn’t going to live up to the example set by its predecessor. However, I had no reason to be worried, as the film exceeded the first film in my eyes. The characters had already been established, so Pixar could start straight away with the new adventure and introduce new characters along the way.
Along comes 2010, and I sit down with my 3D glasses on to watch Toy Story 3, and within minutes I return to being the 7-year old boy watching toys talk for the first time. This film is magnificent, I cannot express that enough. Maybe it hit a deeper connection with me due to it being the reason I wanted to get into film, or the fact that Andy was pretty much the same age as me in the film, but I was on-board for the entire 103 minutes.
The story revolves around the toys being accidentally donated to a daycare centre after Andy’s Mum thinks he doesn’t want to keep them as he’s leaving for college. They then try to escape the centre and return home, after they find themselves kept prisoner by veteran toys unwilling to be used by the younger patrons at the centre.
I respected the fact that the film’s storyline got darker, as the toys are held prisoner and their lives are put in peril more often than usual, as it showed Pixar gradually catering their films for both the obvious child audience, but also the adults accompanying them to the cinema (An impression I didn’t get with Shrek Forever After). There were little nods to the older audience too, such as the inclusion of a plush doll of Totoro (for fans of the Japanese animation company, Studio Ghibli) and the description of the daycare’s main punishment “The Box” being taken almost word-for-word from The Bridge on the River Kwai.
Whilst a lot of the previous films’ characters are written out, I believe the cast of characters left do an impeccable job of carrying the film, even with Woody involved in his own storyline and Buzz’s all-too-repeated old ‘Space-Ranger’ persona resurfacing.
The new toys introduced also add another level of comedy and malice to the mix, especially Barbie’s style-obsessed soul-mate, Ken, voiced incredibly by Michael Keaton, and Big Baby, possibly the scariest creation in film for a good few years.
By the end of the film, Pixar had tied up all the loose ends and I thought the toys weren’t just saying “Goodbye” to Andy, but also to me. My friends from the past 15 years were moving on and so was I. If I’m perfectly honest, a little tear came to my eye, thankfully hidden by 3D glasses, and the fact that a children’s film can affect a 22-year old like me is a fantastic achievement in my opinion. (Either that or I’m more emotionally invested in this film franchise than Tim Allen’s agent.)
Bravo Pixar, I salute you.
Just please, leave it to retire happily in our memories, and not make an unnecessary Toy Story 4 in 2020 because you can’t think of any new ideas.