Over the past 15 years Disney Pixar has taken animated film to realms few could possibly have predicted. No longer can we use the word “children’s film” to describe animation, as Pixar have created worlds and characters that get to the heart of complex human emotions, irrespective of age. Pixar appreciates the power of a child’s imagination and it’s this that makes their films perfect for kids, yet they also reignite the child in us “grownups”.
The studio’s latest venture takes us back to where it all began; Pixar’s first feature length film, Toy Story. Of course, this is now the third instalment in the franchise, but this is not a film churned out purely for corporate gain. Although it has already broken box office records in the US, the film is as lovingly put together as you would expect from anything baring the Pixar stamp. Woody, Buzz and the gang are back, this time coming to terms with Andy (now 17 years old) moving to college. After their desperate attempts to be played with fall short, the toys are donated to the seemingly idyllic daycare centre, Sunnyside.
Inevitably things are not what they seem as the toys are imprisoned by a group of soured Sunnyside veterens, led by the twisted and mentally scarred Lots O’ Huggin Bear. Among the best of the new characters are Ken (brilliantly voiced by Michael Keaton), Trixie (Kristen Schaal) and Mr Pricklepants (a porcupine voiced by Timothy Dalton), who play varied and beautifully detailed roles. The ensemble voice cast is brought together purposefully, not as a showcase of wacky cameos (see the Night of the Museum films), but as characters which all add depth and colour to the film. The world of toys is brilliantly observed and explored, down to the materialistic instincts of Barbie and Ken and the loving relationship between Mr and Mrs Potato Head. Just as there are extended scenes of children creating their own toy narratives within the film, its creators are essentially playing with their own set of toys in the characters they have so carefully sculpted.
It was widely commented that Pixar’s last two films Up and Wall-E had been unexpectedly sad for films primarily aimed at kids, and you can expect more of the same from Toy Story 3. During its 108 minute duration you may well need a box of tissues close by, whether it be from sadness or laughing yourself to tears at a Buzz Lightyear stuck in Spanish mode. I had my reservations about the making of a third Toy Story film (the only Pixar film to date to have gone so far as a sequel), but these doubts have been cast aside by a film that completes and enhances the series in every way. Pixar perfection as usual then, I should never have suspected anything but.