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For those of you that saw Toy Story 3 already you’re probably thinking that I stole that title from the movie itself. But the truth of the matter is that I named this article in my head last week before the movie was ever released. I knew then that the only way the Toy Story franchise could survive a third movie would be for it to be just that, Beyond Infinity. To surpass all that had come before, and yet to pay homage to it all in the best possible way. To tell a new story, and to finish the old one. To remind us about what it means to have great friends that are there for us always, no matter how strange the things that are happening around us are. To make us laugh. To make us cry. To remind us of the past…
November 1995 was the month my wife, Cheryl, and I celebrated our engagement. There was really only one place for us to go, Walt Disney World. It was our first big trip together anywhere. We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort in this great little corner room near the river where we could watch fireworks in two different directions. But we weren’t in Florida just to go to Disney World, it was also the first time Cheryl was going to meet my father and my stepmother. So, before we even went to the World, we took a short trip down to Delray Beach. One night while driving around, I convinced them to go to the movies, and despite protests from my stepmother, who thought it looked childish, we went to see Toy Story. And we all loved it.
I went to college in Boston, and I’d been to plenty of animated film festivals there, sometimes several times a year. And Pixar shorts were often prominently featured at these festivals, as they were a cult phenomenon. So by the time Toy Story was coming out I was already quite familiar with their great works such as Luxo Jr., Knick Knack, and Tin Toy. And I knew all about Toy Story even before it came out, at least as much as you could manage to back then. As a Software Engineer, a huge movie buff, and having both a Silicon Graphics and a Sun Workstations on my desktop at work (the types of computers used to make the original Toy Story), I was amped to see the movie. And I was not disappointed.
Okay, okay, I know this is supposed to be about Toy Story 3, not Toy Story. But trust me it all matters.
The opening sequence to movie, while really just a big advertisement for the video game tie in, is fantastic. It has several references back to the very first play session with Andy and his toys from Toy Story right down to one-eyed Bart, force field dogs, and force field eating dinosaurs. This play session we find occurs not long after the events of Toy Story 2. Afterward, Pixar takes the time to bring us up to speed on everything that’s happened between that time and the present. Most importantly, we learn that Andy is heading off to college – which is the catalyst for the entire plot of the movie. This transition is very smooth and, for me, it worked well. I don’t feel that I needed a movie to cover all of this. I took it to mean that since Toy Story 2 all the great adventures of Andy’s toys have come from Andy rather than the arrival of new toys or a yard sale mishap.
Something clever that Toy Story 3 does is that, while making you nostalgic about the past, it paints the future. There is a point early on in the movie where Buzz, Woody, and the rest are planning for their impending attic storage. They take the time to acknowledge those who are no longer with them, and I remember that look on Woody’s face regarding Bo Peep. In the time since the first Toy Story, my father has passed, and I completely understand that feeling. Even though “I’m a Buzz”, I can always relate to the more emotional Woody. That look was of genuine loss. Woody had experienced it already with Bo Peep, and he knew that his friends were all about to experience it when Andy went off to college. He was concerned for them.
Then suddenly the situation changes, and the adventure starts. All the toys end up in a box destined for Sunnyside Daycare. Everything seems magical there at first, and the toys are anxious to be played with for the first time in years. All that is except for Woody. He wants to get back to and go to college with Andy. He’s once again exhibiting his selfish, self-centered, and insecure tendencies that were a large part of the plots of the first two Toy Story movies. This time however, those tendencies end up working in the favor of the toys when they learn that Lotso (Ned Beatty) is not the nice “hugger” of a bear he’s presenting himself to be. All this leads to a brilliant prison break, led by Woody, that is reminiscent of great prison break movies like The Great Escape, followed by a spine tingling end game sequence that is sure to make you gasp once or twice.
Along the way there are a few new characters outside of Lotso, the most memorable of which is Ken (Michael Keaton). He’s just portrayed so remarkably, and the way he interacts with Barbie (Jodi Benson) is simply a lot of fun. This couple goes through a smorgasbord of interactions that covers a wide range of couple related dynamics that we often see in movies and on television. It’s quite brilliant. Also notable are Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton) – still trying to figure out if this is a JoCo reference – and the mostly silent Big Baby who, to me, was actually far more creepy and scary than Lotso (though its nods to Iron Giant were great).
You may have missed it, but the last scene of the movie (besides the stuff during the credits), is a picture of clouds in the sky. This is not a reference to Up, but rather, its a reference to the very first thing you see in the original Toy Story – clouds on the wallpaper in Andy’s room. They are the same sizes, shapes, and patterns. Despite all the crying I had done up until this point in the movie, this was the most emotional moment of the movie for me because I realized this wasn’t just the end of the movie – it was the end. For all his genius, Lee Unkrich had done something very important – he book ended the movie. By doing this he and Pixar are saying to us that while their may be other Toy Stories to be had, this is the end of this Toy Story. Andy’s all grown up, and he’s gone off to college.
Not that this would stop us park goers from seeing Buzz and Woody, as they’re still featured in both the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We have rides like Toy Story Mania and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin to keep us entertained. There’s also the fun of the Block Party Bash as you get to sing, scream, and dance with many Pixar characters including those from Toy Story. You can also meet with Buzz in Tomorrowland while Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye can be found in Frontierland. I think our Toy Story fix is covered for years to come.
Like the first two Toy Story movies, this movie did not disappoint me in the least. In fact it moved me, and I’m quite happy and thankful for that. I think that if you’re a fan Toy Story you’ll want to see this movie now, in the theaters, if you can. As for 2D vs 3D, Cheryl and I saw the movie in 3D, and I’m not sure that this movie needs to be seen in 3D. So if you can’t get to a 3D showing, or don’t enjoy seeing things in 3D, don’t feel that you’re missing anything – go see the movie in 2D and you’ll enjoy it just as much. What I’m most thankful for is that this series that has been with us for so long has gone out on such an amazingly high note. A fan could not ask for more.
Have you seen Toy Story 3 yet? What did you think? What was your favorite moment? Your favorite new character? If not, what are you looking forward to the most when you do see it? I look forward to reading your comments, thanks for stopping by.