Thursday, July 8, 2010

Toy Story 3

When I was 15, I went to a computer convention in New Orleans. Aside from a crazy stripper trying to pull me into a Bourbon Street burlesque, the highlight of my trip was a convention booth run by Pixar. Little was known of Pixar at the time, but computer animation was the new thing on the horizon. The Pixar people demonstrated a new animation tool called Renderman, with a little movie they were making. That movie was Toy Story and I'd never seen anything like it. I was instantly hooked. I knew what I wanted to do with my life. They let me fill out an application and said they’d keep it on file. I wanted to be a Pixar animator so bad I majored in art (which quickly changed to English, but that’s another story).

Toy Story was eventually released and I loved it. When Toy Story 2 came out, I was a little disappointed. It felt more like a straight-to-video release. So I wasn’t overly excited for Toy Story 3. It looked funny of course, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I was pleasantly surprised. Toy Story 3 is the best movie Pixar has ever made.

Andy is off to college and the toys we remember have been sitting in the toy chest. What’s interesting is that all the voice actors return. Even Andy is played by the same kid all grown up. The toys are dealing with some pretty serious emotions now. They’ve lost some toys over the years, just as people do, and they’re worried about their own fates as well. Through a comedic mix-up, the toys end up in a daycare facility run by Lots O' Huggin' Bear, a disgruntled purple bear that smells like strawberries.

The toys deal with so many emotions over the course of this movie, you easily forget that they are toys. They are actually more convincing than real actors. The toys experience grief, fear, anger, joy, and resentment. You’d assume that in a kid’s movie, the toys would be forever happy and devoted to Andy, but they’re not always. The climax in which the toys come to terms with their fate is so powerful and emotional that the scene stayed with me the rest of the day. I could barely drive home.

The movie is not all sad like most people are saying. There are some pretty destitute moments, but the message is completely positive. The film is so clever and funny, it will just make you happy. The actions sequences are also cleverly devised and would please any action fan. So much so that I would even go as far to say that while this movie is perfect, it’s probably not perfect for kids. Lots O' Huggin' and his chronie, Big Baby, are kind of scary and the climax is pretty intense. A child would not understand the final scene's significance. So it's up to you if you bring them or not, but they won't appreciate it as much as you will, and they'll probably cry but not for the same reasons you're going to.

Toy Story 3 is a wonderful tribute to the characters we all know and love. Pixar could have very easily just come up with a simple story using the same old toys and done just as well at the box office. Instead, they created a masterpiece that exceeds the first and second film. The favorites return along with tons more, and they are all given screen time and funny jokes. You can really tell how much the writers love their characters. The new toys they've created are brilliant too. Ken, voiced by Michael Keaton, is hilarious. Some will say Ken's love of fashion and glitter is homophobic, but I really don't think so - he's just a girl toy, and girl toys get dressed up and play house.

The artistry and animation of Toy Story 3 is amazing. I didn't think I’d ever see computer animation as beautiful as Wall-E, but this one tops them all. There are so many toys at the daycare and all of them are detailed and colorful. Each toy has movements specific to what kind of toy they are. Even the walls of the daycare, you know that painted brick all schools have, are natural. You can see the little bumps and everything. It just fascinates me that it was probably one animator’s job to get the bricks looking just right.

Toy Story 3 is beautiful to look at and a beautiful experience overall. I predict that it will win best animated feature, as well as best picture, if that's allowed. This movie has inspired the artist in me again and I can only hope that one day I'll be involved in something as great. Of course, it receives the highest rating any movie has received on this blog:

5 stickers.

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