Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Pixar Edition. Toy Story 3

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: Toy Story 3

Year: 2010

Budget: $200 million

Box office: $1.067 billion

Plot: Andy is headed to college, and his toys have not been played with for years. He has sold most of them except Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Bullseye, Rex, Slinky, Hamm, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, the Aliens, and the Green Army Men. He intends to take Woody with him to college and puts the other toys in a trash bag to be stored in the attic, except for the Army Men, who leave.

Andy’s mother mistakenly throws the bag out. The toys escape and climb into her car, into the donation box with Molly’s discarded Barbie, bound for Sunnyside Daycare. Woody follows but is unable to convince them Andy meant to keep them before Mrs. Davis donates them.

The toys are welcomed by Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear and the other toys. They are delighted to learn that Sunnyside never runs out of children to play with, and Barbie is enamored of Ken. Woody slips out, but is found by Sunnyside student Bonnie, who brings Woody home and plays with him with her other toys.

Woody meets Chuckles who explains that he, Lotso, and Big Baby once had a beloved owner named Daisy, but were lost during a family trip. They made it home, but Lotso discovered he’d been replaced. Lotso lied to Big Baby, saying Daisy had replaced all of them. When the three of them found Sunnyside, Lotso took it over. Chuckles only escaped because Bonnie took him home for repair. 1

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At Sunnyside, the toys are overwhelmed bythe toddlers’ rough play. Buzz asks Lotso to move the toys to the older children’s room, but Lotso turns on Buzz and restores him to his original factory setting, erasing his memory. Mrs. Potato Head, through an eye she lost in Andy’s room, sees Andy searching for them. Realizing that Woody was telling the truth, they try to leave. They are imprisoned by Lotso’s henchmen using the reset Buzz as a prison guard.

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Woody returns to Sunnyside and learns from a Chatter Telephone that the only way out is through the trash. As part of an elaborate plan to escape, which involves Mr. Potato head, a torilla, and silencing a monkey, they accidentally reset Buzz to Spanish-language mode instead of his old persona. Spanish Buzz promptly allies himself with Woody and falls in love with Jessie. The toys reach a dumpster, but are cornered by Lotso’s gang.

Woody reveals Lotso’s deception to Big Baby, who throws Lotso into the dumpster. 2 As the toys try to leave, Lotso’s henchmen retreat and Lotso drags Woody into the dumpster as the truck collects the trash. The rest of the toys fall into the truck while trying to rescue him, except Barbie, Ken and Big Baby. A falling television lands on Buzz, restoring his memory and personality.

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The truck brings the toys to a landfill, where the Aliens are swept away by spotting “The Claw.” The other toys are deposited on a conveyor belt that leads to an incinerator. Woody and Buzz help Lotso reach an emergency stop button, only for Lotso to abandon them and escape. Seeing no way to escape, they resign themselves to their fate and prepare to die together holding hands.

At the last minute, they are rescued by the Aliens operating the industrial claw. Lotso is found by a garbage truck driver, who ties him to his truck’s radiator grille and drives away. 3 Woody and the other toys board another garbage truck back to Andy’s house.

Once back in Andy’s room, Woody climbs into the box going to college, while the other toys prepare for the attic. Woody leaves a note for Andy, who, thinking the note is from his mother, takes the toys to Bonnie’s house. He introduces the toys to Bonnie and to his surprise, finds Woody at the bottom of the box and Bonnie recognizes him. Though hesitant at first, Andy passes Woody on to Bonnie, and they play together before he leaves. Woody and the other toys watch Andy leave as they begin their new lives.

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Later, Barbie, Ken, and Big Baby have made improvements to Sunnyside and maintain contact with the other toys through letters. Sarge and the Army Men are welcomed to Sunnyside.

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Lasseter and company were ready to proceed with the film right after Toy Story 2 was completed. Michael Eisner put his foot down, stating that the original contract with Pixar did not include sequels, with Toy Story 2 being the exception. Eisner wanted Cars to be the last film under contract. 4 As negotiations between the increasingly erratic Eisner and Pixar’s Steve Jobs began to deteriorate, Eisner created a new division called Circle 7 Animation 5 specifically for the purpose of creating sequels to Pixar properties. They started working on Toy Story 3. 6

After a messy coup by the board of directors, Michael Eisner was out. New CEO Bob Iger started doing what would be his MO: buying properties. 7 In January 2006, Disney bought Pixar in a deal that put Pixar chiefs Edwin Catmull and John Lasseter in charge of all Disney Animation. Circle 7 Animation was shut down and its version of Toy Story 3 was cancelled. 8

John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, and Lee Unkrich visited the house where they first pitched Toy Story and came up with the story for the film over a weekend. Stanton then wrote a treatment. Unkrich was named as director.

Animation: 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.

The Art of Toy Story 3

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 the sequence.

Songs: The film score for Toy Story 3 was composed and conducted by Randy Newman, his sixth for Pixar after Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Cars.

Voice Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, John Morris, Don Rickles, 9Wallace Shawn, Estelle Harris, Jodi Benson, Laurie Metcalf, and R. Lee Ermey 10 reprise their roles from the previous films. Pixar invited actors they had worked with before to fill out the cast including Michael Keaton as Ken, Bonnie Hunt as Dolly, Jeff Garlin as Buttercup, Whoopi Goldberg 11 as Stretch, Richard Kind as Bookworm, Teddy Newton as the Chatter Telephone, and Bud Luckey 12 as Chuckles.

Ned Beatty as Lotso. He is known for roles in Network, 13 Friendly Fire, 14 Hear My Song, 15 Deliverance, Nashville, All the President’s Men, Silver Streak, Exorcist II: The Heretic, Superman, Superman II, The Toy, The Fourth Protocol, Repossessed, Rudy, Just Cause, Life, Where the Red Fern Grows, Shooter, and Charlie Wilson’s War. He provided the voice of Tortoise John in Rango. Blake Clark as Slinky Dog. 16 He appeared in the television shows Boy Meets World, Home Improvement, and Remington Steele. He has also appeared in films including The Waterboy, Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds, Eight Crazy Nights, 50 First Dates, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Bedtime Stories, Grown Ups, and That’s My Boy.

Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants. He is best known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill. He made his film debut as Philip II of France in The Lion in Winter. He played Prince Barin in Flash Gordon and played Mr. Rochester in a BBC serial of Jane Eyre. He appeared in The Rocketeer, Scarlett, and Hot Fuzz. He had a guest role as Rassilon on Doctor Who, and played Malcolm Murray on Penny Dreadful. Kristen Schaal as Trixie. She is best known for voicing Louise Belcher on Bob’s Burgers, as well as for playing Mel on Flight of the Conchords, Carol on The Last Man on Earth, and Mabel Pines on Gravity Falls. She also provides several voices for BoJack Horseman.

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Emily Hahn as Bonnie. Since playing Bonnie, Hahn has leant her voice to ParaNorman, Wreck-it-Ralph appeared in the film Cool Kids.

Javier Fernández Peña plays Spanish Buzz. 17

Where in the World is John Ratzenberger? : John reprises his role as Hamm

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Pizza Planet Truck: Lotso, Chuckles, and Big Baby ride on the bumper after they are lost.

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A 113: The license plate on Mrs. Davis’ car

Critical Reception: Toy Story 3 was not only nominated for Best Animated Feature, but also for Best Picture. This makes Toy Story 3 not only the first animated sequel in history to be nominated for Best Picture, but also just the third animated film to ever be so nominated (following Beauty and the Beast and Up ), with Toy Story 3 becoming the second Pixar film to be nominated for both awards. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly gave the film an “A” saying “Even with the bar raised high, Toy Story 3 enchanted and moved me so deeply I was flabbergasted that a digitally animated comedy about plastic playthings could have this effect.” Gleiberman also wrote in the next issue that he, along with many other grown men, cried at the end of the film.

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Video games: Disney Interactive Studios also produced a video game based on the film Toy Story 3: The Video Game, which was released for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, and PSP on June 15, 2010. A PlayStation 2 version was released on October 30, 2010 as part of a PS2 bundle and separately on November 2, 2010.

 

Legacy: Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened earlier this year.

A sequel, Toy Story 4, will be released on June 21, 2019. The film will focus on the toys helping Woody to reunite with Bo Peep. 18 There have been a number of shorts released following the adventures of the toys in their new lives with Bonnie.

My take: We will talk about the sad stuff in a minute…

The opening sequence is amazing. I have to think this is the Pixar crew showing off what they can do. The amount of detail throughout the film, such as within Sunnyside, is amazing.

Belle and I have made the conclusion that the character of Buzz Lightyear works best when he’s clueless. It’s a well they keep going back to. After all the Astro-nut is pretty funny. I love that it’s an escape movie in the vein of The Great Escape and Cool Hand Luke.

So many great moments:

  • Hamm playing the harmonica always makes me laugh
  • Ken’s fashion show
  • Spanish Buzz… just. Man that’s hysterical.

Okay, so you know in your head that Pixar is not going to incinerate their most popular characters. They’re just not. But… for a moment there. When they’re facing their end, and they reach for each other, just like in the opening sequence.

The theatre guy in me sees the moment when Andy is introducing his toys as a curtain call. And then…

Andy sees Woody in the box. Bonnie recognizes him. He flinches, pulling Woody closer to him. He looks at the old doll. Now Woody, he’s been my pal for as long as I can remember. He’s brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special, is he’ll never give up on you… ever. He’ll be there for you, no matter what. OH MY GOD! I JUST CAN’T EVEN!

Ok, give me a minute…

Belle mentioned that the time between the sequels plays a big part. Woody and company have been in our collective consciousness since 1995. There were some who grew up along with Andy. No wonder we can’t let them go. As much I will be first in line to see Toy Story 4, there is a part of me that thinks it’s perfect just the way it is.

So long, partner.

Next Week: Mother knows best