That difficult third album
Given the huge critical and commercial success of Toy Story 2, it might seem strange that it was eleven years before another sequel was released but the delay was in part due to the complex relationship that existed between Pixar and Disney. Under Pixar’s original deal with Disney, they had to produce five original films and Disney would own the rights to the characters. The reason the films needed to be original and not sequels was because Disney wanted new characters for their theme parks and as such Toy Story 2 was not part of this agreement. The five original films were Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo and The Incredibles and by 2004 the deal was up for re-negotiation. Whilst Disney owned the sequel rights to all the Pixar films, Pixar themselves had right of first refusal to make any sequels. However due to the protracted deal negotiations, a split began to look likely so Disney started pre-production on their own sequel to Toy Story 2.
Disney gave the task of animating Toy Story 3 to their new animation studio, Circle 7 Animation and Jim Herzfeld wrote a script for the film. The story for the Disney version of Toy Story 3 focused on a malfunctioning Buzz being sent back to Taiwan, where he was built, to be fixed. When the other toys realise that other Buzz Lightyears have been malfunctioning and that a massive recall has been issued, they fear he might be destroyed, so they set off to rescue him. At the same time, Buzz meets other toys from around the world, who were once loved but have now been recalled.
The non-Pixar version of Toy Story 3 never made it into production because in January 2006 Disney bought Pixar in a deal that put John Lasseter in charge of all Disney animation. Lasseter immediately shut down Circle 7 Animation and cancelled its version of Toy Story 3. As with Toy Story 2, Lasseter called a summit at the house where Toy Story had originally been pitched and over a weekend he, Andrew Stanton, Pete Doctor and Lee Unkrich came up with a new plot for Toy Story 3. Stanton then wrote a treatment, which Michael Arndt turned into a screenplay. Since Lasseter was busy making Cars 2, Unkrich was appointed director and the release date was moved to 2010. It was also announced that Toy Story 3 would be made in Disney Digital 3D and that it would be the first theatrical film to be released with a 7.1-channel soundtrack.
During the initial development stages of the film, Pixar revisited their work from the original Toy Story and found that although they could open the old computer files for the animated 3D models, error messages prevented them from editing the files. This necessitated recreating the models from scratch. To create the chaotic and complex junkyard scene near the film's end, more than a year and a half was invested on research and development to create the simulation systems required for such a staggeringly intricate sequence. Whilst the original computer files for Toy Story and Toy Story 2 weren’t as useful as Pixar had hoped, they were able to use them to re-render genuine 3D versions of the two earlier films. These new 3D versions of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 were re-released theatrically in late 2009 to help promote Toy Story 3.
The plot of the revised version of Toy Story 3 centered on the theme of a toy’s owner growing up and not playing with them anymore. Whilst these themes had already been explored in Toy Story 2 through the character of Jessie, this time it was Andy himself who is now 18 and going off to college. Andy intends to take Woody to college with him and put the other remaining toys in the attic but due to a series of misadventures they end up a Sunnyside Daycare. Initially the daycare centre seems ideal as it offers the opportunity to be played with all the time. However all is not what it seems and the daycare centre is run by the despotic cuddly bear called Lotso, who forces the new toys to be played with by the younger, more destructive children. As a result, the toys decide to escape Sunnyside and return to Andy’s house before he leaves for college.
As with the previous sequel, the new film introduces a greater emotionally depth, especially when dealing with feelings of loss and abandonment. It is something that is universal and since we all have to grow up eventually, we can relate to the story. There is also an air of sadness about the film, the sense that something is coming to an end. As is often the case with Pixar, they aren’t afraid to go to some fairly dark places, with one particular scene in the junkyard making you wonder if the toys will even survive the film. In the end though, the film wraps up the trilogy brilliantly and if you aren’t quietly sobbing through the final scene then there’s no hope for you.
All the original voice cast return with the exception of Jim Varney who voiced Slinky Dog and sadly died soon after Toy Story 2 was released. Unfortunately the same was true of Joe Ranft who voiced Wheezy in Toy Story 2 and was killed in a car crash whilst actually working on Cars. Of the newcomers, Ned Beatty is suitably threatening as Lotso the cuddly bear but at the same time the character has a tragic backstory that makes him a far more interesting villain. However the real film stealer is Michael Keaton, who delivers an absolutely hysterical performance as Barbie’s beau Ken and his fashion show is a standout scene.
Toy Story 3 was always conceived as a 3D feature and was in fact Pixar’s second 3D movie after the previous year’s Up. As a result, Toy Story 3 benefited from the experience gained on the previous film, as well as the simultaneous process of re-rendering the first two Toy Story films for 3D. The result is an amazing 3D experience that uses the added depth to enhance a shot, creating real depth and solidity to scenes. The level of detail is incredible and every shot seems to be bursting with layers of information, a genuine feast for the eyes. For example, the scenes at the junkyard are breathtaking, with the 3D beautifully rendering the mountains of rubbish, as well as the tiniest detail. Like many modern 3D movies, there appears to be a genuine effort to avoid the use of negative parallax, presumably because the animators fear it might appear gimmicky or gratuitous, which is a shame because you should never be afraid of using the full impact of 3D to enhance the narrative. This is a minor quibble though and the 3D in Toy Story 3 is superb, adding a wonderful sense of solidity and depth to the image and perfectly immersing the viewer in the Toy Story world.
Upon its release, Toy Story 3 was a massive success pulling in $415 million in the US alone and becoming the first animated film to make over a billion dollars worldwide. There is no doubt in the enduring appeal of the Toy Story characters and if Toy Story 3 is the last in the series then gang had an exciting and emotionally fulfilling send off. However it's hard to argue with a billion dollars, so don't be surprised if Woody and the gang return to our screens in the not-too-distant future.
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