Toy Story 3 (2010)
“No toy gets left behind.”
Director: Lee Unkrich
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack
Synopsis: The toys are mistakenly delivered to a day-care center instead of the attic right before Andy leaves for college, and it’s up to Woody to convince the other toys that they weren’t abandoned and to return home.
It’s surprising that this, the third Toy Story movie‘s release, came fifteen years after the first episode in the franchise. Some other lucrative series’ have released more than twice as many episodes in that length of time, and it’s perhaps significant that, while the quality of those other franchises have deteriorated considerably, this one continues to maintain a high quality, even though the basic storyline is similar in all three of the movies.
This time, the familiar toys are suffering a period of anxiety because of their owner Andy’s advancing years. Having reached the grand old age of seventeen, Andy no longer has time for his toys, and his imminent move to college means that the toys’ futures are uncertain. Banishment to the family attic seems bad enough, but when a mix up results in most of the toys being put out for the garbage truck, they make their escape, preferring to risk life in the Sunnyside Day Care Centre. What initially seems like a good move soon proves to be the exact opposite when they find themselves at the cruel mercies of hyperactive toddlers under the malevolent domain of Lotso, an apparently friendly bear who imprisons the gang in the toddlers Caterpillar room where their chances of survival appear to be slim.
A new location gives the Toy Story writers the opportunity to introduce a number of new characters. In addition to Lotso, there’s Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton), a doll made for Barbie (Jodi Benson) but who is initially instrumental in enforcing Lotso’s cruel regime. The writers have fun exploiting Ken’s questionable sexuality (he’s a girl’s doll, after all) and his extensive wardrobe. More memorable than Ken, but with a smaller part to play is a giant baby doll turned bad, with one eye half-closed as he drinks from his milk bottle like some back-alley wino. These fresh characters add impetus to a story that just manages to withstand the drawback of familiarity to those who have seen the previous two movies.
There is poignancy inherent in the theme of children outgrowing their toys which the movie tackles in a heartwarming way without succumbing to the obvious dangers of over-sentimentalising. We all have fond memories of our childhood toys, and most of us probably still have one or two of them tucked away in some dusty corner of our homes. It’s difficult to see where the franchise can go after this without repeating the formula once again but, at the time of writing, rumours of a fourth episode seem too insistent to be untrue, and one can’t help believing that it will spell the franchise’s inevitable decline.