If you know me at all well, you know how present my inner child is and how much room she takes up in my house. She’s a hoarder, and I indulge her whims more than I probably should. My daughters too tend to save and preserve and curate more than most; all our childhoods are celebrated in the kind of comprehensive photography and detail usually reserved for heads of state, the documentation and nostalgia extensive and almost creepily thorough. We are all natural born collectors, and the resultant much of a muchness terrifies some visitors. Needless to say, the concepts of moving on, of growing up and letting go, of thinning the herd, strike fear into our hearts. I offer up this snippet of autobiographical psychobabble in explanation; suffice it to say that the Toy Story franchise hits me where I live, and hits me hard.
Andy is headed off to college, and his mother wants his room emptied of childhood things before he leaves. He’s offered four sorting options only — attic, college, trash, and donation. His childhood
toys are attic-bound with the exception of Woody, who’s set aside, selected for dorm decoration, touchstone, and talisman. Through a series of heartbreakingly unfortunate events, the beloved toys are mistakenly discarded, then donated. Forced to make yet another Great Escape, this one is their finest hour; their rivalries have mostly been resolved, leaving only trust and seamless cooperation thrilling to behold. Along the way, the film wrestles with many of life’s heavy-duty issues colorfully disguised and handled with a feather light touch. Sentimental in the very best sense of the word, nostalgic and fresh, this funny, beautiful, evocative and moving rumination on usefulness and need, dependency and freedom, love and loyalty, had me in tears throughout.
The Defending Champion
Leave it to Pixar to bring a fresh take to their breakthrough first entry in the franchise; the second outing explored the origin story and indulged in a worldly wise exploration and expose of the dark side of nostalgia and commerce, adult toy collecting and dealing. Daring escapes and rescues are the linchpin of the series; the boundless imagination of children inspires the animators and screenwriters to expand the possibilities of play. The organic extension of pretend and our willingness to suspend any disbelief provide endless delights. As a child, I believed my toys shared a completely full and separate life that occurred in my absence or during my sleep. Perhaps the film’s true magic lies not in suspending disbelief but rather in extending that simple and universal childhood belief that our toys are alive, that the toys we call our own love us back.
The bad guys in both films are the least interesting part; they raise the stakes and provide the incentive for most of the action. That said, the infinite ingenuity (To Infinity and Beyond Indeed) and genuine teamwork are the real points of the exercise. Love abides, and selfless devotion overrides risk.
In TS2‘s emotional highlight, Sarah McLachlan sings of Jessie’s abandonment by her owner Emily; just hearing the first few notes of that song instantly reduces me to a puddle. Toy Story 3 fulfills, sustains, and tops the promise of that peak moment for most of its running time; all toys outlive their usefulness, and the question of what happens next keeps us absolutely spellbound and ferklempt. In my day, I’ve seen plenty of action movies; with the exception of The Great Escape, few sequences have gripped me in suspense as tightly as did the landfill section of TS3. I really cared
about the characters and their uncertain fates, an unusual feeling for me in any action movie, made even more unusual given the fact that the characters are animated and toys.
They took eleven years to come up with an entry worthy of the “Toy Story 3” title. Eleven years well spent, Pixar. Another instant classic: Toy Story 3. Run. Don’t walk. And bring Kleenex.