When Toy Story came out in 1995 I was 10 years old: around the same age Andy is in the first film. The second, in 1999, saw Andy moving out of childhood and approaching adolescence. The third in the series sees Andy taking his first steps as an adult as he goes to college.
There’s a sense in which my childhood is very much wrapped up around these movies. The sense of having to “leave my childish ways behind” is one I can very much identify with. I can clearly recall my different reactions to that theme watching the series as it has developed over the last fifteen years.
The film opens with CCTV footage of Andy playing with his toys as a child: reminding us of the shared history we have with Woody, Buzz and the gang. This sense of the past is linked into every scene in the movie, as the toys deal with this new era of their lives: losing the owner they have been defined by for as long as they can remember.
The plot itself deals with Andy leaving for college and his dilemma over what to do with his toys now he’s leaving home. Does he bring them with him? Put them in the attic? Or put them in the trash?
If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know the answer is ‘none of the above’ as the toys end up in the Day Care centre, and subsequently decide to plan an escape.
The joy of Toy Story 3 comes not so much from the plot, but rather in things like the type of attention to detail we’ve come to expect from the makers of Wall-E, Up and Finding Nemo. The way each character moves in particular in a joy to behold, each of them expressing real personality through the way they interact with their environment.
Such is the love and affection towards each of the toys in the movie, you get the sense the makers of the movie are all ‘Andys’ – inventing situations and adversaries for their much loved toys to play with. Perhaps this is the reason the series has been so successful – the makers sharing the same love for all these characters as Andy does.
However, if this movie is about anything it is certainly about childhood. About how to move on from it without ever forgetting what you learnt. By the end of this film, there’s a real sense that the lessons Andy learnt from playing with his toys, are the lessons he needs to remember. There’s a sense that the things the toys consider important are the things Andy realises are important to him.
Perhaps the biggest endorsement of this film is that by the end of it I was in tears. Proper big wet tears. Thankfully there was a customary Pixar in-credit sequence to allow me to compose myself before I lost all credibility with the proper professional press people in the room.
For me, however, the Toy Story movies sum up what I love so much about movies. Which is that films go beyond the experience of merely watching them, but being able to look back on movies and know exactly when and where you first saw it, and how it impacted that moment in your life. Toy Story 3 brilliantly utilises that feeling in every frame, and for that, this trilogy will always have a very special place in my life.