Well, it’s been a good run. For 19 years I’ve managed to hold it together. I made it through the heart-wrenching conclusion of Old Yeller, somehow held it together for Where the Red Fern Grows, and even managed to stay composed during that one awful scene in Crash. However, leave it to Pixar to finally end my 19-year tearless streak.
Yes I’m talking about Toy Story 3, and yes, it’s the best film of the year—well, at least for those from my generation. Let me explain. The earliest movie-going experience I can remember was seeing the original Toy Story. As such, I, like many others, witnessed the birth of a new age of animation. Pixar single-handedly established the computer animated genre, and in the process, they launched one of the most iconic franchises of the last 20 years. Just like kids living in the ’70s with Star Wars, we grew up with these movies, and thanks to the incredible story tellers at Pixar, we actually cared about the fate of these toys. So, when Toy Story 3 was announced and was supposed to end the story of Woody, Buzz, and the gang, I knew I would have to see this part of my childhood off.
Toy Story 3 picks up with Andy, now the same age as those who have grown up with these films, about to move off to college. While packing, he is faced with the decision of what to do with his childhood toys. The film wastes no time setting the plot in motion, and right away it feels like being reunited with old friends. Woody, as always, tries to lead the group of toys as they face a life in the attic, assuring them that they need to be there for when Andy needs them, even though everyone else is aware that he doesn’t anymore. However, through a series of accidents, all of the toys wind up being donated to a local day care. At first, it seems like a perfect place for toys to retire; however, they quickly learn that everything is not as nice as they originally thought, and soon they decide that perhaps they would be better off with Andy.
The film then jumps into high gear, as it becomes a prison break film. The comedy is top-notch, proving once again that Pixar can create movies that are fun for adults and children. Visually, this is Pixar’s best-looking film. I don’t understand how they are able to continually top themselves year after year, and I wonder if they will ever reach a visual plateau. The toys all look like themselves, but with upgraded details that weren’t possible 15 years ago. The movie is colorful and vibrant without looking as if a rainbow threw-up on the screen. Every children’s film studio should take a lesson from this movie; there are ways to make films appeal to kids without needing to use bright neon colors or silly looking designs. Everything is believable, and that’s why we are able to connect with these toys.
And it is this connection that Pixar uses to tug on your emotions in a way you didn’t think possible. I won’t spoil it, but expect the last 15 minutes to reduce you to your five-year-old self again. The ending is that powerful. As the toy’s story comes to an end, there is a sense that your childhood is ending with it. And don’t expect only girls to cry; some of the manliest friends I have completely broke down while watching it, and I was right there with them. Perhaps it was because we were able to relate with Andy so closely, since all of us had just experienced the emotional rollercoaster of leaving everything behind and heading off to college, and maybe that’s what Pixar was going for. I’m getting chills right now just thinking about it.
It’s not exactly a sad ending, it’s almost a celebration of a time that has long come and gone for Andy and all of us. It’s time when all we needed was a few plastic toys and our imagination to have any adventure we wanted. Pixar has done a wonderful thing—they gave us closure to one of the most beloved children’s series of all time. So go see Toy Story 3, and give your childhood the proper send-off it deserves.