For the last fifteen years, Pixar Studios has been making wonderful and entertaining films that are adored by all ages. Even though their films have different plots, settings, themes, characters, and overall feeling, all of them have managed to fill the hearts of critics and audiences alike.
It all started in 1995, with “Toy Story”, a clever and original story about toys coming to life and displaying unique personalities. Jealously, teamwork, and unexpected friendships were skillfully woven into the tale. Despite the stiff GCI that made humans look lifeless and Zombie-like, “Toy Story” managed to stand the test of time and entertain people from all generations. Thanks to the success of “Toy Story”, Pixar has managed to move on to more progressive storytelling and complex themes. Yet despite this growth, future Pixar films have managed to keep the childlike, carefree spark that “Toy Story” possessed while also demonstrating their own identity.
With the release of “Wall E” in 2008 and “Up” in 2009, Pixar films started to gain a new reputation. “Wall E” and “Up” have been described as “heartwarming”, “tearfully bitter sweet” and “completely heart wrenching.” Pixar’s new movie, “Toy Story 3”, the final chapter in the Toy Story saga, has many movie goers saying that it is the most heart tugging Pixar movie to date.
As a child of the 90s, I was an obligatory “Toy Story” fan. I had a Woody doll like many others of my generation. I joyfully anticipated the release of “Toy Story 2” and after I saw it viewed it as the ultimate summer treat of 1999. But when I first heard of plans of a “Toy Story 3” as a young teenager, my first reaction was “Why would you want to ruin something so good?” It didn’t matter that Pixar had established their excellence at movie making and they already handled one sequel fantastically. I was skeptical and wished that Pixar would leave well enough alone. I guess I was being pessimistic, thinking that Toy Story would fail to join the pattern of “Good Things Come in Threes”, along with the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or Lord of the Rings trilogies.
But over time, as I caught sneak peeks of the production of the third movie, I found myself getting excited and nostalgic about the upcoming sequel. “Maybe I was wrong” I thought to myself. Finally, in June 2009, a year before it was to come out, I, a now seventeen-year-old girl (almost an adult) was convinced that I was in for something very special.
The plot of “Toy Story 3” is actually pretty standard and simple. But do not, under any circumstances, confuse it for being “predicable.” Andy, Woody’s, Buzz’s, and all the other beloved toys owner, has gone from a cheerful and energetic little boy to a serious, but nevertheless warm young man who is bound for college. As you can imagine, he doesn’t play with his toys anymore. Despite this, he still holds a special place in his heart for his toys and has no interest in throwing them away or donating them, much to his mother’s chagrin. As his days before college are numbered, he finally gives into his mother’s wishes –well, sort of. He plans to take Woody to college while Buzz, Jessie, and the other toys are being put in the attic in storage. While doing that, he gets distracted and leaves the soon to be stored toys in a garbage bag in the middle of the hallway. Andy’s mom, using her motherly instincts, assumes it is trash and puts the bag outside to be picked up by the garbage truck which is just a block away. Woody, who has been watching this whole time, panics and immediately tries to rescue his friends. Although his attempt is successful, Woody now has to deal with the other toys that are now bitter and resentful towards Andy due to a simple, but unfortunate misunderstanding. To make matters worse, while Woody is trying to explain to Buzz, Jessie and the rest of the gang that they were storage, not trash, all of the toys end up in the box for donation – to Sunnyside, a local preschool.
The toys see that Sunnyside is a bright and colorful place full of diverse toys, ranging from a dingy non-speaking baby doll to an pink fluffy bear (who smells like strawberries!) to an actual Ken doll, who all appear to be very friendly. Andy’s toys, sans Woody, all love Sunnyside and want to stay. Woody is more interested in getting back to Andy’s house before he leaves for college in a few days. Realizing that his friends don’t want to go with him, he is forced to venture alone. However, as soon as Woody leaves Sunnyside, the remaining toys realize that Sunnyside is not toy heaven, but in fact, toy hell. Now it’s up to them to try and escape Sunnyside while also recognizing that Andy has grown up. Has their ultimate purpose been fulfilled?
While the film definitely plays up the nostalgia, it also takes note of the present and future. No matter how much you don’t want it, change is bound to happen. Everything, in a sense, comes to an end. This can cause stress and horror to many. But what people tend to forget is that an end or a change can give birth to something good. Every end starts a new beginning. Maybe Andy won’t be there to play with his toys everyday like he did ten years ago, but that doesn’t mean life for Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the rest becomes meaningless. In fact, a different but nevertheless new adventure starts for them. Not spoiling anything, but the ending was one of the most touching things I have ever seen on film. And to be frank, you don’t have to be Andy’s age to fully appreciate the film’s significance. Adults will recognize the message that as we navigate through life things grow more complicated, stressful and in many cases, boring. But we’ll always have the times when we were young not only in our minds, but in our hearts. We cherish the things that brought us joy, even if they don’t exist anymore, such as family, friends, events, and yes, even toys. Children may be too young to fully understand the development that Andy is going through, but the implication won’t be lost on them.
On the internet, there has been mass speculation on symbolism within the film. Is this whole ordeal like the Holocaust and is Sunnyside Auschwitz? Are there subtle Catholic themes that include the toys on a metaphorical road to hell? Such speculation ranges from mildly interesting to confirmation that people on the internet really do have too much time on their hands. I’m not insulting these theories, but I don’t think “Toy Story 3” is the type of film to really go deep into symbolization with. Overall, when you strip it to the bone, “Toy Story 3” is a just story about growing up and moving on. Yes, change might be scary, unsettling and depressing, but sometimes, something good, maybe even something better, is waiting around the corner. That’s the main moral. And what a wonderful moral it is.
Overall, I highly recommend “Toy Story 3” for all ages. Especially if you, like me, have grown up with Woody, Andy, Jessie, Buzz, and the rest of the gang since early childhood. It manages to be heartbreaking, heartwarming, action packed, and hilarious all-in-one. Using the old movie review cliché, it will “keep you on the edge of your seat.” This film isn’t just for the young at heart, but also the ones who are generally serious, enjoy adult life, but sometimes reminisce of a simpler time.
Natasha is the daughter of a (very) imperfect woman. She recently graduated high school and will be attending college full-time in the fall.