No one knew what could possibly happen in Toy Story 3 to warrant a new film in the series. Now that the movie is a reality, there’s no other way for the story to end. This is what this final story of Woody and all of our favorite characters actually ends up being: not another adventure to cash in on a major brand, but an honest and beautiful conclusion to a story we’ve loved for years.
Toy Story 3 is Pixar’s uncontested establishment as storytelling masters. After 15 years in the motion-picture business, with some of the best animated stories ever told to their credit, the creative minds at Pixar have given us what is without a doubt the most honest and heartfelt love story told in animation history. The simple fact that we can watch an inanimate toy held in a young man’s hands and be sure we see this floppy cowboy smile is a testament to the brilliant abilities of a studio to breathe life into a bunch of old toys.
While there’s a lot to love with the myriad of characters, this is really Woody’s story. And it feels right that this should be so. Woody was always Andy’s favorite toy, and it’s Woody who is unwavering in his belief in Andy, while everyone else feels they’re being abandoned. It’s also interesting to note how Pixar has chosen to let the characters simultaneously have lived a life during the years we’ve been away and kept them in a static state. The toys are where they were before in their own lives, while in the grander scheme of Andy’s room they’ve aged and grown neglected.
After feeling deserted by their owner, Buzz and the rest of Andy’s toys decide to donate themselves to Sunnyside Daycare. The film is full of these amazing, nuanced moments, but there’s something tragic and heartbreaking about the heated goodbye between Woody and his friends. This section also allows the animators at Pixar to have some of the most fun they’ve ever had in a film. Tons of new toys, wildly detailed scenes, and pure joy are all evident in the Sunnyside moments. Sure, the heart and truth of Toy Story 3 happens elsewhere for the most part, but it’s Sunnyside that finally introduces Lotso to the world, likely Pixar’s most interesting villain ever.
What also makes Toy Story 3 such a wonderful film is that director Lee Unkrich and his fabulous team are not only making a film for themselves, but also for their characters and fans. This is a long goodbye to familiar faces like Rex and Hamm (that's Mr. Dr. Evil Porkchop to you). While a third film in the series could have just been an excuse to be silly and play around, Pixar chose to tell a deep and emotional story. Not content merely to have Andy say goodbye to his toys, the film also explores the relationships between the characters and how connected we all are to our childhood dreams and imagination.
There’s no way around it, the mega, four-disc collection of Toy Story 3 is the way to go. Two Blu-ray discs chock full of goodies, a DVD copy of the film with a minor selection of extras, and the confusing fourth disc for digital copy. I still don’t understand the need for a physical disc in order to have a portable digital copy of the film. Isn’t the point of digital copy to eliminate the need for physical media? For anyone who has ever remotely loved a Toy Story film, much of what’s covered in the extras is must-have.
Two commentary tracks are available, but they’re on the Bonus Disc. I foolishly thought at least the main one would be on the feature disc. Cine-Explore with director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson is a detailed look at the making of Toy Story 3. It’s also a lesson in storytelling and animation as the two discuss the decision to put Sid in the film (see if you can spot him before finding out via commentary track), the juxtaposition of the Sunnyside handshake/goodbye with the ones in the incinerator and Andy’s room at the end. Lee even takes a moment to discuss the mechanics of the deus ex machina in stories, and how they deliberately used the Greek "hand of god" (a physical object used in ancient plays to “save” the hero) in an ironic way via the aliens and the claw at the dump. It’s fascinating stuff, and makes what Pixar did with Toy Story 3 even more impressive as you come to realize how detailed their thought process was. The second commentary is a more technical look at the film with animators and technical directors weighing in.
Featurettes are split between stuff for “Family Play” and those for “Film Fans.” In the family section are featurettes on the behind-the-scenes fun stuff. It focuses mainly on the fluffy, and sometimes interesting, pieces most often associated with big DVD releases. “The Gang’s All Here” looks at the coming together of the original cast, including a brief discussion of Jim Varney’s passing and replacing him for Slinky Dog. The stuff in this section, including an odd theme-park vignette on creating Toy Story sections at Disney parks, is of little interest to film buffs. Even so, there’s care and love behind the making of toys and theme parks when it comes to Toy Story.
The Film Fans section contains the meat of the information. It’s here where you’ll learn of the genesis of the Western opening, including storyboards for the original Sergio Leone-style version that later got changed into the more emotional version we see today. “Bonnie’s Playtime” discusses the difficulty of creating a specific scene in the film in more detail, including the decision to make this the moment the audience comes to trust and care for Bonnie, and how difficult it was to ensure there was clear juxtaposition between the harsh playtime at Sunnyside and the joyous play that Bonnie partakes in with her beloved toys. “Andy’s Goodbye” explores the technique and care involved in animating Andy’s final playtime with his toys. It’s hard to put into words how wonderful Pixar is at giving Woody emotion even in his inanimate state, but this featurette certainly puts forth a good effort in explaining the process. There’s even a lesson on how to map out a good story by screenwriter Michael Arndt, using the original Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles as examples.
Short stories on the goings on at Pixar are amusing, if not relevant to the film itself. Especially “Where’s Gordon?” where an employee discovers a little area through a vent that he furnishes, is discovered by John Lassetter, and then becomes a VIP area when celebrities come through. Or “Cereal Bar,” where Pixar employees have access to just about every cereal you could want. No wonder they can work so tirelessly, these people are fueled by Count Chocula.
Rounding out the extras on the four-disc collection is a Buzz Lightyear-themed documentary with help from NASA on research in space. It’s clearly an edutainment piece designed for young kids, and while not incredible, it does try and make astronauts and space travel cool again. A trivia game about all three films is a bit tacked on as an afterthought, especially when full-blown trivia games already exist about the series.
Of course, the Day & Night short that ran before the film in theaters is also included. While not quite as good as Boundin’, Teddy Newton’s mix of 2D and 3D animation is an innovative silent-film-style story.
The four-disc combo pack comes with two Blu-rays, the DVD, and a digital copy. There’s an insane amount of value here, as you get the entire collection of features from the DVD set, plus tons more with the Blu-ray discs. It’s actually the Blu-ray featurettes that include everything about the making of Toy Story 3. The DVD is really just the short film Day & Night along with some extraneous stuff such as the Buzz Lightyear NASA material, looks at the making of toys, and a theme-park featurette. True film fans will want to ensure they have the Blu-rays to get the most content possible.