This was written shortly after seeing the film (in Japanese) and was originally published on a blog I stopped using around 2011.
Toy Story 3 took so long to be announced that I actually gave up ever seeing it about five years ago. By about, this time, some cast members had died and it had been so long that many of the children, who saw the first two as kids, had grown up. I was twelve years old when I saw the original movie and a teenager when I saw the sequel. To perfectly illustrate how much has changed, when I saw Toy Story 3 the other day, it was in Japanese and I was sitting next to my wife. I wasn’t sure that even Pixar could do it again. The challenge to make a sequel after more than 10 years seemed far too difficult. Toy Story 2 didn’t necessarily need a sequel but then I could say the same thing about Toy Story and indeed, had Toy Story 2 not been such a phenomenal film, many would still be saying so today.
In my lessened enthusiasm for a sequel I forgot about what Toy Story was what it was essentially about. Toy Story was never just about toys, it was about growing up through the eyes of toys. It was about change and as so much has changed, revisiting Woody and the gang many years later was always going to be interesting, despite my scepticism. Andy has grown up but it is clear that the kind little boy is very much still there. His ever loyal toys are still there too but are starting to experience the reality of what they learned in Toy Story 2 was always bound to happen to them. Toy Story 3 starts with a simple mistake from Andy and his mum which gets all the toys sent to Sunnyside Day-care.
The change of location is welcome as it brings some new toys and a vibrant and colourful environment for the toys to enjoy, or so they hope. The most interesting new character is the Lotso the bear who is the leader of the new toys. He is also the most developed of the few new characters and I won’t spoil anything by going into why. There is also Ken who in English is voiced by Michael Keaton. Watching in Japanese, I didn’t quite enjoy this character as much as I think I would have. Many other toys make an appearance but they are usually just there for a quick laugh if not standing around in the background.
The animation itself is wonderful although seeing it in 3D doesn’t add much to it. What is more amazing is just how well the original movies have held up after all these years. The animation is noticeably better but not by so much that it makes the technology used in the originals look dated. As I saw it in Japanese, I found myself focusing on the expressions and gestures to fill in some of my language gaps. It was amazing just how expressive they have made even the least humanlike toys.
One thing I did miss was hearing the voices I had come to relate to each character. All of the voice actors have made the characters their own. This is so much the case that they didn’t feel the same at first and it took me a while to get used to them. I am now really looking forward to seeing the movie again in English.
We always knew that Andy would grow up and after the sad experience shared by Jessie in Toy Story 2, it was not clear that watching the same thing happen to Andy’s toys would make for an enjoyable kids film. Despite this Pixar has indeed done it and given the audience a wonderful sequel that actually had me in tears by the end. Even if they decide that this is not the end, it felt like closure to me.