Saturday, 17 September 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 90 - Toy Story 3

#11 - Toy Story 3

Making a sequel to a very popular and critically-acclaimed film is tricky business. If the same team is on board then chances are you can get lucky and make one that’s at least as good as the first one. A lot of the time there’s too many new people involved and they miss the point of what made the first one so special instead going for cheap thrills and stock clich├ęs, often just repeating the same ideas of the first film as well. There’s also the very rare species of films that are sequels that manage to be even better than their predecessors. And how about the even rare species of a trilogy made up of nothing but good films? Spiderman, Terminator, Pirates of the Caribbean and many other franchises failed where this one in particular succeeded – creating a perfect trilogy.

Everyone by now knows the story of the world of Toy Story – when the humans aren’t around the toys themselves come to life and have all kinds of adventures that the humans couldn’t even imagine. In the first two films we were introduced to the toys of a young and imaginative boy called Andy – the cowboy Woody, the spaceman Buzz, the cowgirl Jessie, the dinosaur Rex, the Slinky Dog, the piggy bank Ham and Mr and Mrs Potato-Heads. As we know, Andy loved his toys and played with them all the time. 
However when this film starts Andy is all grown up at the age of seventeen and is preparing to move away to college. The toys have been shut up in the chest for years, collecting dust and itching to be played with. A few days before Andy is ready to move his mother demands that he either dump the toys in the garbage or put them in the attic. After a misunderstanding, the toys find themselves mixed in with a box of things to be donated to the Sunnyside Daycare Centre. At first the place seems nice, run by the jovial teddy bear Lotso who claims that the toys will be played with every day. However the toys soon realise they’ve been trapped in a room with a group of over-excited toddlers who are far too young to play with them properly and instead do all sorts of damage to them. It turns out the entire place is a dictatorship and Lotso is bitter and cruel, so the toys try to plot their escape.


It’s no doubt that the first two Toy Story films were made and created with kids in mind as the target audience, though of course keeping that extra bonus in there for adults. However I think that this film was aimed primarily at the kids who had watched the first Toy Story films but had grown up now so of course this one is a lot more mature than the first two. I’m not saying the first two were kiddie films but they were more along the lines of fun family films with a small bit of drama put in there. 
This one on the other hand...you know right from the first ten minutes that things are going to be a lot different when you find out Andy has grown up, the toys haven’t been played with in ages and many of our old favourites have already been given away. There really is a strong feeling about the loss of childhood and leaving that part of life behind and how hard it can be on other people. I’m sure a lot of teenagers have had to face the prospect of giving away their old toys and not being able to let go. By showing us an idea of what it would be like from the toys’ perspectives the filmmakers really touched on a sore spot for a lot of us. If the second film gave us a taste of some themes of abandonment then this one takes that and goes mad with it while not being too heavy-handed. Chances are you will get a little misty-eyed at more than a few parts of the film.

Now of course there is the drama and the tear-jerking stuff in the film but don’t worry, Pixar fans, it still has that perfect blend of action and comedy that we’ve all come to expect from the top CGI film studio in the world. This film really becomes a combination of The Great Escape, Mission Impossible and The Brave Little Toaster...in the best way possible. It’s probably a lot more action-oriented than the first two films were, as evidenced by the opening scene. We obviously remember that in the first two films we opened with Andy playing a make believe scenario with all his toys. In this film we actually see the scenario as he imagines it, rather than just seeing him playing with the toys. The result is a combination of a train robbery, car chase and space invasion that makes us all wonder if Andy is going to go into the film business after he finishes college (after all we never find out exactly what he’s going to do there). It pretty much serves as a retelling of the games Andy played in the first two films’ openings blended together. On the softer side of things we also get a nice little romance between Barbie and Ken...no seriously. The poor guy is as camp as can be since he’s a male character but he’s a girls’ toy. Barbie is actually one of the more entertaining characters – and she’s voiced by Ariel too. It seems Buzz reverting to his original state from the first film is meant to be a plot point in the whole trilogy only this time he gets reprogrammed to Demo Mode and then they accidentally make him Spanish, which does lead for some pretty hilarious moments. And a fun bit of trivia for fans – the garbage man we see near the start and again at the end? Sid from the first film, all grown up.

I said earlier how awesome the opening scene is and it does bring back memories of being a kid and creating elaborate fantasies and adventures for your toys to have, doing mad improvisations on the spot and thinking up wild and crazy stories that wouldn’t be out of place in a Michael Bay film...unless of course you were one of those boring kids who just fiddled around with your toys and didn’t do anything else. The big complex escape plan the toys come up with to break out of the Daycare Centre is pretty cleverly thought up and has shades of The Great Escape and (for me anyway) a few Rugrats episodes. It’s pretty much a standard prison escape scene except it’s with toys in a normal environment. The big scene everyone knows about is the one in the dumpster. I wasn’t expecting a scene as dramatic as that in a Toy Story film. We know those films for being fun family adventures but that is definitely the scene that sets this film apart from a lot of other Pixar films. I won’t spoil it for you but it is pretty gripping and I’m sure a lot of kids were crying their eyes out or at least sitting terrified on the edge of their seats when this came out. As for the ending, it is one of the saddest movie moments there ever was. I had to include a clip of it in the video and I was able to not spoil too much of it. I think Andy’s line “they mean a lot to me” was where I officially started to tear up. And FYI, I had a friend who is an 18-year-old rocker with piercings and a Mohawk who curses like a sailor tell me he bawled his eyes out at the ending too so there’s no shame in it at all. But make sure to watch the epilogue during the credits. It’s not a collection of outtakes like the first two films but it’s a nice little “where are they now?” sequence.

I guess you’re wondering right now why the first two Toy Story films weren’t on my list or if they are on their way in the top ten. The truth is this is the only Toy Story film and also the last animated film on the list. I originally did have all three on the list but there were others I felt I liked a lot more than those ones and I slowly dropped them, deciding I had to represent just one. Obviously I thought this was the best out of all three but to each their own, if you preferred one or two. I’m very happy to hear that this was the third film to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Film. That’s right, this along with Up got into the Best Film line-up even when the Academy created the Best Animated Film category to lump all the cartoons into. Of course it walked away with that Oscar but it didn’t get Best Film. Honestly I’m okay with that since it definitely gets the recognition it deserves. Well, Bobby-verse, there is officially only ten days left in this challenge and the following ten films I’m going to show you are all my personal picks for some of the best ever made. You’ll agree with some and disagree with others but ain’t that the beauty of free speech? Follow me on Twitter.


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