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I'm not really sure what I'm allowed to tell you about what I saw in Toy Story 3 this morning at ShoWest-- we were explicitly told not to publish full reviews, and director Lee Unkrich pleaded that we not reveal any of the plot. Then again, he also encouraged everyone in the room to spread the word on the film (producer Darla Anderson emphasized that we should say nice things about her in particular). So at the risk of Disney's wrath, I'll tell you this: Toy Story 3 fits perfectly in line with the Pixar legacy, and almost definitely represents the 11th hit in a row for the remarkable studio.
The movie we saw was not finished-- there was lots of rendering work to be done, probably a few scenes to be tweaked, and only a temp score in place, which meant-- sob!-- no Randy Newman. But the movie was definitely in its basic shape. As you surely know by now from the trailer, the movie finds Woody, Buzz and friends nearly 10 years after Toy Story 3, with Andy bound for college and their fates unknown. Will they wind up in the attic? Will they be sent to the garbage? Through fate and accident they all go to the local daycare, where they are welcomed by the other toys in residence there and just a little terrorized by the toddlers who play with them. There's also over a dozen new characters, from the imposing pink bear Lotso to the buff Mantis Man and the silent and imposing Big Baby. Michael Keaton is hilarious as Ken, and Timothy Dalton's Mr. Pricklepants Kristen Schaal's Trixie the Triceratops make big impressions in very short scenes-- I would have really loved to see more of both of them.
But the main reason anyone is seeing Toy Story 3 is to catch up with old friends, and Buzz, Woody, the Potato Heads, Rex, Jessie, the three-eyed Martians Slinky-Dog and Hamm are all back in perfect form, griping with each other and getting into disasters and, as always, relying on each other for help. It's surprising how wonderful it is to see all of them again, 15 years after we first met them, and find Rex still overenthusiastic or Mrs. Potato Head constantly trying to keep her husband in line. Unkrich and his animation team really take advantage of our love for the characters, jumping right into the action while taking the time to give us moments with each of them. Watching the Potato Heads lose their parts or Slinky Dog get tangled in himself is just as fun as it always was.
The print of the film we saw was not finished, and it's likely that there will be some tweaks before the June 18 release. But when we get there I think we'll be having a conversation about the Pixar legacy, about how groundbreaking their work has become in the last few years and whether or not revisiting the movie where it all began was the right step for a company that, at its best, can legitimately be called avant garde. As much as I loved seeing all the toys again, I'm not 100% sure that this adventure-- as entertaining and lovely as it was-- was the right one for Pixar at this moment. Toy Story 3 takes many big risks, and twists your heart around as much as Wall-E and Up, but at times it felt far safer than what we've come to expect from them.
And yet, I guarantee you will enjoy this film. Same goes for the short that preceded it, "Day and Night," which is yet another gem from the shorts department at the studio. Abstract and experimental in a way, while sweet and funny at the same time, it's in a way an artistic leap even though it boasts some of their simplest animation. I won't say anything more so you can see it all for yourself come June 18.
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