Outside Cineworld Edinburgh, Woody and Jessie dance around entertaining the kids who’ve come to the Sunnyside Daycare Centre. Then Sunnyside falls over. Most kids hold their composure, but the stewards and organisers at the Edinburgh International Film Festival race around trying to fix the back-drop. The Woody and the Jessie are giant Disneyland entertainers, here to greet kids to one of the first UK screenings of Toy Story 3.
Naturally, I had to be there too. I’m not best placed for press screenings, and so shelled out to travel a good few hundred miles to Edinburgh for the screening. I was ecstatic to see Toy Story when I was five years old, and the first film is still one of my favourites of all time. While Toy Story 2 is just as good, nothing holds the same nostalgia value for me as that first film.
Does Toy Story 3 come close? Damn close. Make no mistake as you read any reviews of this thing, Toy Story 3 is the first Must-See film of 2010. Capital M, Capital S, because it is also a film that the entire family can see. And must.
Not wanting to labour the point, let’s move along. Although the film opens with an ingenious and hilarious callback to the playtime sequences of the first two (One-Eyed Bart, One-Eyed Betty and their two-eyed offspring was a particular treat), mortality soon looms large. The day anticipated at the end of the first sequel has finally arrived, and the toys’ owner, Andy, is setting off to college without his old playthings.
The somewhat depleted gang end up donated to the Sunnyside Daycare Centre. Woody, marvellously voiced once again by Tom Hanks, has more great development to his character through his complete and utter devotion to his grown-up master. The other toys are more pessimistic, and relish the chance to play with kids in daycare, here represented as a retirement home or resort for toys.
This image quickly falls away, and it’s here that the film really surprised me. For the younger viewer, this is a scary, scary film. Not that any of the erstwhile children in the Edinburgh screening seemed distressed, but I think that’s more to do with the fact that kids enjoy being scared. The horror homage is not as overt as in Coraline, but the same sensibilities are on show. The darker elements are as richly and compellingly rendered as the bright comedic parts, and it’s doubtful that I’ll ever look at those blinking baby dolls or clapping monkeys with cymbals ever again.
To look at WALL-E or Up, you could be forgiven for thinking Pixar had outgrown their original success story. You’d still be wrong, because this third instalment captures the same emotional resonance as either of those films. Michael Arndt has written a screenplay to wrench at your heart, and Lee Unkrich has mustered some beautiful and groundbreaking visuals to match. And thus, just like Up, it’s a dead cert for the expanded Best Picture nominations at the Oscars next year.
With Sunnyside comes a wealth of new characters, with enough introductions to unbalance any less competent films. Instead we get just as much from Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear, Ken, Mr. Pricklepants, Chuckles and Trixie as we do from Woody, Buzz and the gang. And with the characters we know, there’s more than enough development, i.e. Mr. Tortilla Head and Buzz Lightyear’s Spanish mode, to prevent them from feeling familiar and tired.
And with the development of the old characters, the trilogy comes to an absolutely fantastic conclusion. Where the horror elements didn’t faze most kids, an apocalyptic sequence near the end had some kids near me clutching their parents’ arms and had me holding back tears too. You will know it when you see it because I haven’t seen anything so simultaneously epic and emotional since the Mount Doom scenes in The Lord Of The Rings, and if it can’t get a response out of you, you’re probably Emperor Zurg or something.
If I had one quibble with the film, it’d be that it was a 3D screening. I’m no fan of 3D in any case, and while I admit it was used just as well as in the recent re-releases of the first two films, it just didn’t have any extra effect. It was so subtle that, aside from one moment where Woody kicks the lid of a felt tip pen off screen towards the exit of the cinema, it was barely any different to 2D. There’s enough emotional and visual depth on show here without paying up for a pair of glasses.
Whether you see it in 2D or 3D, just make sure you do see it when it comes to the UK properly on July 19th. Hollywood is doing the rest of the world a huge disservice with the platform release of this one, because excitement is going to reach fever pitch. I already can’t wait to see Toy Story 3 again.
I said in the Summer Blockbuster Preview I wrote for this site that these were the best loved characters of a generation, and it’s still true. Now that I’ve seen Toy Story 3, the story of those characters is revealed instead to be the story of Andy, the kid who owns them. People who’ve grown up with the series as I have will have aged with him and watched his toys scramble around trying to keep him happy for fifteen years.
It’s the end of his story as much as his toys’, and try as you might, you will seriously struggle to find a more moving and satisfying sequel than this in cinemas this summer. Certainly it’s one of those films where you want to stand up and applaud it at the end.
Luckily for me, it was a festival screening, so I was allowed to do just that, along with a full house of highly entertained viewers of all ages. I’d really recommend you see this in peak time, when a load of younger viewers will be around, because it probably enhances the experience more than 3D ever could.
What a marvellous little trilogy of films, and what an astounding run of animated films from Pixar.