DVD Review: Toy Story 3



Bobby Waddle and Bobby Waddle

Grade | A


What Bobby Waddle thinks:

While most of us may have seen “Toy Story 3” in theaters in the summer, the film still packs an emotional punch on DVD, making it the perfect gift during the Christmas season for the child in us all.

Lee Unkrich succeeds John Lasseter as director, and his passion for capturing the feelings of the characters drives the product, not only through the film but also through the featurettes and the filmmakers’ commentary.

The film itself deals with growing up from a number of perspectives.

When the toys’ owner, Andy (voiced by John Morris), is heading off to college, they have to adjust to the possibility of retirement in the attic. When a packing mix-up nearly sends them to the landfill, they decide to move to Sunnyside Day Care, where the constant flow of children seemingly offers immortality. When Sunnyside turns out to be a prison camp run by the plush Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty), Woody (Tom Hanks) launches an escape plan that rivals the best heist films in their intensity.

Most of the intensity is achieved through the characters’ facial expressions. As Andy is putting toys in the garbage bag that is to go in the attic, Woody is spared and gets packed in the college box. Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is not.

The opening scene proves to be a situation that allows Pixar to deliver its best animation at the very start of the film. It weaves nostalgia from the first film (including the force-field dog) and the second film (Buzz’s anti-gravity belt) into an epic scene from the old west that utilizes all of Andy’s toys.

The scene boasts bright colors that appear beautifully on either a high resolution television or a laptop computer.

Visually, the film is easily the best in the series. Unkrich said in the audio commentary, featured on the DVD, that the animation team redesigned several characters, including completely rebuilding Woody and Buzz to allow more natural looking movement.

The film maintains Pixar’s attention to detail, vividly illustrating the walls of Andy’s room with posters and pictures that came from intense research on a typical teenager’s bedroom.

While these are only in the background of the scenes for a few seconds, Unkrich quotes Lasseter on Pixar’s philosophy for spending lots of time on details that may go unnoticed by viewers.

“We like to sand the underside of the drawers,” Lasseter said.

While anecdotes like these make the commentary a valuable special feature, the best feature offered on the disc is the featurette “The Gang’s All Here–A Look At Returning Voice Talent.” Every major cast member is shown giving character recordings and gives the best glimpse at the fun the cast had making the film.

Tremendous credit is to be given to the crew, particularly Unkrich, because most of the actors recorded their lines separately, with only special selections from the script available to them. This left Unkrich with the responsibility of getting the actors to react to other people who were not actually there.

Series newcomer Michael Keaton was particularly fun to watch as he gave an uproarious performance as Ken, whose newfound attraction to Barbie is conflicted with his desire not to be seen as a “girl’s toy” by Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear and his thugs.

Ned Beatty deserves mention for his performance as the sinister Lotso, as his deep voice can be frightening and calming, leading the toys into the false paradise of Sunnyside with his welcoming demeanor before revealing a stern warden with a tragic past.

The film’s most surprising performance comes from John Morris’ third portrayal of Andy. In the first two films, his role served as a simple plot device, and Morris captured the enthusiastic owner every toy would dream of.

This time, however, Andy is faced with the decision of giving up the possessions that helped him through his childhood, and Morris gives a heart-wrenching monologue at the end of the film about how much they meant to him. With equal hints of sadness as well as happy reminiscing, the speech allows Andy and the audience to revisit childhood while moving into the next stage of life.

This reflects the entire history of the franchise as well. An entire generation of children grew up with the first film, which was also Pixar’s first full-length feature. As the animation improved, so did the possibilities for storytelling. Unkrich said that he did not think the humans looked particularly good in the first film. Here, Andy’s facial expressions are fantastic, adding another layer of human connection to a series where the toys used to be the only characters the audience could truly identify with.

It is only fitting that Pixar saved the most emotionally resonant part of the trilogy for last, and as a college student who occasionally breaks out his old Lego collections, the message I take away from this film is clear: I need to grow up.

But not entirely.