“When I became a man, I put away childish things.”
Toy Story 3 is a dazzlingly confident and magical picture that recalls Paul of Tarsus’s quote, but its makers have never forgotten what it feels like to be children. Pixar Animation Studios continue their near unbroken run of animation masterpieces with a colourful and emotional return to the best toy box in moviedom.
In the first emotional sting of the tale, the first scene delves into a loosely-tethered and spectacular imaginary recreation of the time where we all devised our own worlds and stories with toys. But Andy has finally grown up, and is preparing to go off to college. His toys (the gang’s mostly here, though some have left, through age, breakage and yard sales) are devastated with his paucity of playing – going so far as to contrive elaborate schemes to remind Andy of playtime. It doesn’t work. They’re heartbroken, but pragmatic – “Every toy goes through this”.
The week before college, Andy’s mother asks Andy to separate the toys he wants to keep for the attic, those for the trash. In a mixup, Buzz Lightyear, Mr & Mrs Potato Head and the rest barely escape from heading to landfill (under the untouched recycling bin) and head to the local day-care centre. The fluffy teddy-bear Lotso, driven bitter and angry by his owner replacing him, spearheads a chilling and wholly corrupt totalitarian regime within the centre. Our heroes are stuffed into the Caterpillar Room for toddlers and barely escape with their lives, if not their dignity.
Lotso enforces discipline with an iron will, eventually reprogramming Buzz to serve him – the effort to get him back to normal leads to the most inspired animation gags of the movie. The rest of the film is basically a wonderful mashup of Toy Story and Prison Break in the most exciting U-rated action adventure I’ve seen since, well, Pixar’s last. (Some moments may disturb very young children – the all-seeing monkey should be a monster on Doctor Who!)
The character animation has come on leaps and bounds since Toy Story 2. Humans are far less plasticy and better animated. And the performances of all the main characters are richer and more nuanced. This is essential for the drama that is to come. Barbie and Ken (“I’m not a girl’s toy!”, “You’re a purse with legs!”) have their own delightfully amusing strand, and the voicework remains as invisibly wonderful as always. A particular standout is the Fisher Price Classic Chatter Telephone, an old timer in the centre. Teddy Newton’s work combines with magnificent animation (acting by eyebrow has never been so sublime!) to create an incredible world-weary performance.
Pixar have always delivered magnificent scripts, and this is no different – what a delight it would be to be a fly on the wall of their story meetings. The storytelling mixes huge laughs and rich pathos, seemingly without effort, and leads to a finale that will leave few with dry eyes. Pretty much perfect.
And stick around for the credits, the gang all get their closures – including Rex’s ‘dominant predator’ status and videogame addiction.