Toy Story 3 is likely to be the last time we'll see Woody and Buzz Lightyear grace the silver-screen, a heartfelt farewell to the lovebly characters in an animated series which has spanned fifteen years, after wowing audiences with the first feature-length animated movie in 1995.
The movie is set eleven years after Pixar's first sequel, Toy Story 2, and Andy - the gangs owner - is all grown up, ready to leave for college. After some confusion, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bullseye, and the rest end up being donated to Sunnyside Daycare Center where they believe they will be endlessly loved by a new set of children. Unfortunately things don't quite go to plan and Woody is left to rescue the gang and get them all back to Andy.
The third movie has a lot of similarities to it's previous installments. Lotso, the main new character, is harbouring a sense of loss, much like Jessie in Toy Story 2. The storyline is also similar to Toy Story 2, but instead of Buzz and the gang rescuing Woody it is the other way around - although that isn't the whole story, which has references to The Great Escape.
As with most sequels there is a need to introduce new characters to keep things refresh and exciting, however, some sequels add too many. There are many problems with adding too many new characters; the story can become stretched, new characters have no depth and the characters you have an existing connection with aren't fully capitalised. But Pixar are pitch perfect giving plenty of time to the existing characters - and there are already quite a few - as well as giving you enough of the new characters to make a connection. Ken and Barbie are well-known toys and add some light-heart fun to the adventure and Lotso is a charismatic but jaded character.
Aside from Woody and Buzz, many of the toys from the previous movies make an appearance and have their own scene. These include the original gang of Slinky, Mr and Mrs Potato Head, Hamm, Rex and Toy Story 2's Jessie and Bullseye. The Green Amry Men make a cameo appearance at the beginning and Bo-Beep is mentioned but we are left wondering about what exactly happened to her. I think like the Squeeze Toy Aliens, the Cymbal-banging monkey, although a very minor character will become a cult hit.
Like every Pixar movie, the heart of the story and characters are for children, but as adults there are hundreds of references and in-jokes to keep us entertained, not to mention the complex themes, such as relationships, fear and loss that are explored, these have more impact on an old viewer who has experienced them.
Towards the end of the movie, the characters are placed in a very frightening scenario, one in which the audience has no idea of how they will escape - inevitably they will, as this is a children's movie at heart - and there is a definite sense of ominous inevitability in the situation. The last thirty minutes are the darkest of any Pixar movie to date - something I think reflects the maturity of the characters and the investment viewers have placed in the trilogy.
However, the darkness of the story goes deeper than what is placed directly in front of the audience. My initial thoughts after leaving the cinema were that of abandonment - something which was touched upon with Jessie's character in Toy Story 2, but was explored more deeply in this final installment. The following quote summarises my thoughts very well;
"What's powerful about Toy Story 3 are the themes that get thrown in, such as that about loss, and the search and fight for things that are worthwhile. It emphasizes the bonds of friendship and courage, while tackling how the lack thereof in abandonment and the feeling of tremendous loss, can someone turn one into a bitter soul, which allowed for the film to take on tragic, darker consequences unseen in the earlier installments, while balancing the light hearted moments. We get to grow with the familiar characters a little more, while having new ones which are just as fun."
IMDB review by Dick Steel
The main reason why Toy Story - and all Pixar movies - have been so successful is because of the attention to the characters. The animation, which is light years ahead of the competition, is superbly beautiful, but it's just the brush used to tell the story. Toy Story succeeds so rarely in two ways, the relationship it has built between the audience and the characters and more importantly, the relationships between the characters themselves. There are conflicts, allegiances, friendships and hints at more, such as between Woody and Bo-Beep. There is a hint of something more between two main characters, something which comes across as awkwardly childish and naïve, but fun and flirtatious - it is only subtly hinted upon, giving enough to be noticed, but too little to keep you guessing.
Toy Story 3 is definitely the maturest of the three and a fitting conclusion for the odd-ball group of friends and features the best ending of the trilogy. Pixar has arguably pulled off the best trilogy in cinema history and with all three movies receiving ten out of ten from me, I would have to agree.