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TRCH - Caitlin Moran

10 Years Later: Toy Story 3

24 July 20 words: George White

A decade on, Screen Co-Editor George White thinks it's time for people to finally admit that this is the best film in the Toy Story quadrilogy...

Director: Lee Unkrich
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack
Running time: 103 minutes

The Toy Story franchise has been around for 25 years now, with the original film revolutionising animated storytelling, the second instalment arguably improving on its predecessor and the fourth film, erm, making a lot of money at the box office. Yet, a decade after its release, it is finally time for everyone to admit that Toy Story 3 is the best in the series. Yes, I said it. And I meant it. 

Coming eleven years after the second film, and following one of Pixar’s best-received productions of all time, there was a lot of pressure on director Lee Unkrich to get Toy Story 3 right - and he unquestionably does. By choosing to navigate Andy’s decision to finally give up his toys, the writer-director sets up a deeply emotional, impactful storyline that could bring even the most cold-hearted viewer to tears. 

A prominent trademark of the Pixar brand is their unrivalled ability to underpin action-packed, fantasy-based storytelling with relatable, human sentiment - and this is one of their finest examples. Focusing on Woody’s desperation to be reunited with his former owner, Unkrich and his writing team expertly tackle issues of separation, the need to belong and every parent’s most dreaded moment - seeing their kid grow up. Considering all of this takes place in a film in which Michael Keaton plays an actual Ken doll, that is no mean feat. 

This story ends with one of the most heart-breaking bits of dialogue in modern movie history, as Woody says goodbye to his beloved owner with that tear-jerking, “So long, partner.” Oof. As well-received as Toy Story 4 was, it is disappointing that Disney decided to follow the series up with another release. That line was the moment that summed up the power of the franchise, and sadly it’s been slightly undermined since. 

Alongside the touching storytelling, Unkrich and co create arguably the funniest, most enjoyable Toy Story film of the lot. Whether it is Buzz Lightyear accidentally switching his speech setting to Spanish or Barbie helping Ken with a classic movie makeover, this movie provides a constant stream of ridiculous laughs. What makes Pixar such an effective money-making machine is its ability to entertain parents as well as children, and this is another prime example of the company creating a movie that is fun for the whole family.

While the third film in the Toy Story saga may not be everyone’s favourite, it really should be

As well as being chocked full of both emotional and hilarious moments, though, Toy Story 3 also provides a genuinely thrilling, twist-filled adventure. Through the introduction of Lotso, a seemingly snuggly pink teddy bear, the film delivers a chillingly intimidating antagonist, with voice actor Ned Beatty creating a character that is actually pretty terrifying. Getting the chance to see a Care Bear knock-off essentially play the role of a preschool mob boss is both amusing and unnerving, and this raises the stakes for our characters in a remarkably engaging way. 

Lotso’s bloodthirsty antics set up a number of thoroughly enjoyable set pieces, culminating in the iconic furnace scene that has the audience wrestling with the idea of losing these incredible characters for good. It is family-friendly blockbuster filmmaking at its absolute peak, providing edge-of-the-seat entertainment from start to finish. 

While the third film in the Toy Story saga may not be everyone’s favourite, it really should be. In many ways, it is the pinnacle of Pixar’s work, providing a delightfully effective combination of comedy, action and emotion that appeals to a mass audience. It is the best movie in the quadrilogy, and it is time for more people to accept that. Otherwise Lotso will be mad - and, trust me, nobody wants that.

Did you know? This was the first sequel to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar without any of its predecessors being nominated.

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