Now That’s What I Call Quite Good: Toy Story 3

toy story 3 indexThe franchise keeps topping itself (and that’s from someone who’s already watched the fourth instalment).

A section of the opening montage during Act 1 caught my eye: Andy’s height measurements. This is one of the reasons you would want to see this at the cinema (or at least not a 5 inch screen). Thankfully the screen I was using was big enough for me to catch something I didn’t notice before: Slinky’s measurements. Apparently the front and back section of the dog gets equal representation on the height chart. Before I got a closer look my mind went: Huh? A butt? That doesn’t make sense. And indeed there was the word ‘butt’ in there when I jumped back to watch closely. Now I wonder if Andy did all of them with his mother (who I now realise is raising a son and daughter on her own), and who suggested to treat Slink’s ‘behind’ as separate to him.

The Setup: Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Slinky (Blake Clark) and Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris) make one last effort to get more ‘Andy Time’, by literally ringing him. For a moment, I thought that Rex was actually clinging to the mobile phone then realised that he is just ‘frozen’ that way because a human is around. However, Andy is more concerned about other pursuits (he’s picked up guitar among others) as is reflected by the things up on his wall. The army men call it and parachute to their new location but Woody feels like its not right to leave Andy and outlines the kind of things that they could do while in the attic.

The Inciting Incident: The toys (except Woody) decide the next best option would be to head to Sunnyside, a daycare centre. Andy’s mother (Laurie Metcalf) mistakenly takes the toys to the bin since Andy used a garbage bag to put the toys he wanted in the attic. If only scores of kids watched the film to learn that they should listen to the details before agreeing to something as it could prevent all sorts of strife in the future. The challenge is Andy’s an adolescent, so he’s probably not in the best frame of mind to agree to things. Woody gets spared as the rest of the toys watch sadly as he gets put by Andy in the box labelled ‘College’. After escaping the trash compacting machine (I quite like the set-up of how we know that this particular truck is the one that comes by Andy’s street), the toys agree that their next life would be best served there and wouldn’t believe when Woody tries to convince them that they were headed towards the attic (and leaving them by the kerb to be ‘binned’ was an oversight).

Probably the most challenging thing to determine in this one was the protagonist and the antagonist. It could be Woody and Buzz or even Buzz and Lotso (I got my answer when I watched the climax). Some might even say that Andy is the antagonist. But I would say that Andy technically is the ‘love interest‘ (which could be the protagonist’s mother, spouse, child, or even friend) so that puts him out of the running (technically) of being in that category. That is not a jab about the film’s structure though, its solid as is the set-ups and payoffs (and like I mentioned in my review for #2 — we get Buzz’s ‘Spanish Mode’ pay-off here…even if we weren’t expecting it).

Since I usually watch films with captions, I noticed something interesting in the audio options: there was choice for ‘UK’ aside from ‘English’. After ignoring it for awhile and wanting to watch the original and assuming that the voice actors would change, they didn’t. It was still Tom Hanks speaking out of Woody. I may find out the big difference soon. The lack of language options (compared to other titles on the Disney+ platform) makes me wonder if this one ended up as a ‘we will get to that later’ title. ‘Soul’ has 15 caption options compared to 2 for ‘Toy Story 3’. I also probably should mention that ‘Ratatouille’ has 3. So it could come down to newer releases getting more attention (particularly ones that are specifically queued for the streaming service).

Comedic Moments:

  • Hamm is a fan of Corvettes

  • Buzz serenading Jessie

  • Totoro juggling the Little Green Men

  • “The claw!”

Visually, the design for the humans is the biggest improvement. So improved that Andy looks like a different person. The first one made Sid and Andy look like brothers. Is it the bone structure? Cheeks? As for the performers, the surprise for me is finding out that Ken is voiced by the one and only Michael Keaton. So far his top performance for me was him playing Ray Kroc in ‘The Founder’ (I wanted so much for him to be ‘the guy who championed others’), and yet now…I think I’m going to pick Ken.

There have been comments about Woody being insufferable. I’m seeing it quite clearly now: Woody struggles to make others ‘feel’ heard. When Jessie and Mr. Potato Head tells him what happened with the garbage bag, he gets increasingly agitated that they wouldn’t believe that it was Andy’s intention to put the bag in the attic. This is probably the thing that Woody needs to learn the most: patience. We can’t expect to be heard when we aren’t capable of listening to others first. Again, the magic of animation. I doubt that Tom Hanks would be able to pull off (or if he did, it might not ‘sell’ to the viewers — because that’s how he comes across on screen: a good guy) being insufferable. Yet as Woody, we lap up that concept quite easily.

Speaking of Andy (John Morris), even being a teen, he’s pretty thoughtful and kind. How about him helping Molly (Bea Miller) with her box to donate? This led me to remember that I have a trove of information from Reddit. Usually there is an official discussion thread when a film gets released, but somehow there isn’t anything for this one but there is one for the fourth. So, I am left with reading through responses in threads that are quite scattered (but some still have significant number of responses). I did come away with something pretty close to the situation of Andy: a viewer saw all three with mum.

I’m not sure I would skip watching films because their predecessor ended ‘perfectly’. That’s like skipping on ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ and ‘The Matrix Revolutions’ because the first of the (then) trilogy was perfect (yes, that means I’m also hinting that I’m excited for ‘The Matrix: Legacy‘). Maybe I’m just open to giving films a chance (even if it’s a 2 or 10 minute one — at least it’s something…rather than skipping it automatically). Interestingly a lot of viewers think that the next one (which I liked more — probably because it was newer but still managed to offer something fresh) is really unnecessary. If only I can find out who these people are. Yes, I could reach out to a subsection of those who had been commenting along those lines. But will I get to the truth? In this case, it’s really up to the person to open up and not be (unconsciously) defensive. It would be quite easy to just assume that these people who were hissing towards the latest ‘Toy Story’ instalment because they got Bonnie and not another Andy. Though that would definitely confirm the representation necessity in terms of female characters on screen. I mean if boys have that kind of reaction to the franchise precious to them then I could see the need to have the conversation not only about respectful discourse (“I have my view, but it doesn’t mean yours is not valid”), but also about avenues of empathy (further investing time to listen to why other viewers appreciate Bonnie’s presence in both 3 and 4).

Why am I not having a similar kind of reaction when relating to gender? I think Poh Ling Yeow managed to word this very well when she appeared in an episode of ‘One Plus One’. She mentions that she identifies as a human rather than a woman. I don’t think I was as connected to my musician self as early as the pianist I read about (I couldn’t find the reference — so she would have to remain nameless) who admitted she knew she was a musician before realising she was a girl, but I definitely understand the desire not to be labelled. So for me, I just need to see (or read about) a human achieving something inspiring, and that is enough for me to be inspired myself. However I understand for others it is different as they see their identity differently. For example, some people identify as mothers and get inspired when they see other mothers achieve their heart’s desire.

If you haven’t seen any of the ‘Toy Story’ films, this might be a good one to start on. Best enjoyed with those who like to include narratives when playing with their toys. So if you have a 12-year-old nephew you’d like to spend time with during his birthday (and give his parents a bit of a break for the whole weekend), this may be a good conversation piece (plus you can pause if the kid goes on a tangent). To lend to that cinema feel, include the short ‘Day & Night’ before clicking play on the main feature.

Leigh Lim.
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