Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Toy Story 3/Day & Night (short)


Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 6/28/10 w/ Additional Edits.


When Pixar studios unveiled Toy Story in the fall of 1995, the film changed the face of cinema altogether by being the very first feature-length, computer-animated film.  Toy Story was a revolutionary film as it launched Pixar Animation Studios into the stratosphere with help from distributors in Walt Disney Pictures. Since that landmark film, the studio would release nine more feature films to massive acclaim and box office including a sequel to Toy Story in 1999. Since the release of the widely-acclaimed Toy Story 2, plans for a third film had been in the works going back and forth as Pixar continued to create a string of massive hits. In 2010, Pixar finally unveils the third and final film of the Toy Story trilogy simply titled Toy Story 3.

Toy Story 3 tells the story of cowboy toy Woody, space commander Buzz Lightyear, and other toys dealing with the idea of Andy leaving for college. Realizing that their future is uncertain and fellow toys are no longer around, the toys suddenly find a new home at a daycare only to realize that it's a prison as it's up to Buzz and Woody with their comrades to return to their original owner. Directed by longtime Pixar cohort Lee Unkrich and screenplay by Little Miss Sunshine screenwriter Michael Arndt. The film deals with the idea of growing into adulthood along with the importance of toys to a child. The result is a fitting yet heartfelt end to one of the greatest animated stories ever told.

Day & Night


Directed by Teddy Newton, the short Day & Night is about two personalities called Day & Night meet up as they each show a different background of day and night, respectively. At first, the two don't like each other only to find positive aspects of their respective qualities. The short is truly one of Pixar's best as it combines 2D, hand-drawn animation where inside the 2D figures are 3D, computer-animated backgrounds. With music by longtime Pixar collaborator Michael Giacchino, it is one of the most ingenious and entertaining shorts as it proves that Pixar is still the best when it comes to breaking ground in animation.

Toy Story 3 (Note: Seen in 2D, not in 3D)

After being the toys for Andy (John Morris) for many years, the toys are facing the moment they've been dreading the most. With Andy set to go to college, the toys have no idea about what is next. While Woody (Tom Hanks) is trying to remain optimistic about their future, even in the possibility that they will all go to the attic. The rest including Buzz (Tim Allen) and Jessie (Joan Cusack) are unsure. When Andy decided to put the toys in the attic while keeping Woody for himself to bring to college, a misunderstanding by Andy's mom (Laurie Metcalf) sends the toy to the trash where Woody tries to save the toys.  Fortunately, the rest of the toys including a Barbie doll (Jodie Benson), that belonged to Andy's little sister Molly, managed to escape as they go into a box after overhearing that Andy's mom suggested that Andy should donate the toys to the local daycare.

Woody doesn't believe that going to the Sunnyside daycare center is a good idea as he reluctantly joins them to Sunnyside where they're greeted by lots of toys including the a big bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty) and Ken (Michael Keaton) who is smitten by Barbie.  While Buzz, Jessie, Bulls-Eye, Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Slinky (Blake Clark), Barbie, and the Squeeze Toy Aliens are amazed by Sunnyside.  Woody remains unsure as he decides to leave with the rest of the gang staying at Sunnyside. With Woody escaping, he almost makes it only to be found by a young girl named Bonnie (Emily Hahn). Bonnie takes him home where she plays with him along with her other toys including Trixie the Triceratops (Kristen Schaal), Buttercup the Unicorn (Jeff Garlin), a doll named Dolly (Bonnie Hunt), and a dramatic hedgehog in lederhosen named Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton).

Back at Sunnyside, the toys realize the place is a nightmare as they were abused and mistreated by toddlers. Realizing that Sunnyside is a prison, Buzz and the gang tries to figure out what's going on where Mrs. Potato Head (who now wears one eye) finds her other eye in Andy's room. Seeing Andy upset about the loss of the toys as he intended to put them in the attic, they realized that Woody was right all along.  Buzz attempts a breakout realizing that Ken along with a few other toys including Big Baby and the big purple octopus known as Stretch (Whoopi Goldberg) are part of a dark gang led by Lotso. Lotso and his gang including a glowing bookworm (Richard Kind) capture Buzz as Jessie and the gang are now trapped in cages with Buzz under Lotso's control.

After learning about the story of Lotso from an old toy named Chuckles the Clown (Bud Luckey), Woody decides to return to Sunnyside to bust his friends out only to realize that it's going to be more complicated as he learns from the Chatter Telephone (Teddy Newton) that there's no way out at night.  With Woody, Jessie, and the gang planning the breakout while trying to get Buzz out of Lotso's control, the team make an escape as they're confronted by Lotso and his gang as leads to a climatic battle to return home.

Going back to the original Toy Story in 1995, the film told a story of toys being played while being something more than just a toy to a child. Four years later with the second film, the sense of fear of not being played was being hinted as Woody, Buzz, and their friends try not to deal with it until the moment happens. In Toy Story 3, that fear and sense of dread finally arrives as the third film is the darkest of the trilogy.  Yet, it's balanced by a sense of hope as well as sadness concerning what happens in the end for the toys in which the story of Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the rest of the gang is given a fitting close.

In Toy Story 3, the stakes are much higher than in any of the previous films as the toys not only face the idea of not being played with but also the idea of not being used at all. When they go to Sunnyside, it's a chance for the toys to be played but Woody doesn't like the idea as his loyalty towards Andy forces him to leave the rest of the gang. Woody's devotion to Andy definitely serves as a character flaw of sorts for him while he finds a new world in the arms of a young girl named Bonnie and her toys.  Realizing that there's a future for his friends in this young girl, Woody struggles with his devotion to Andy as well as his friends who are like family to him.

In Sunnyside, the loss of Woody and the danger of Sunnyside has the whole gang realize not only that they need him.  They also learn the truth about Andy's devotion to them even though he might never play with them at all. The first attempt to break out in which the truth about Sunnyside has Buzz be trapped and suddenly reprogrammed by Lotso and his gang. With Jessie and the gang now leaderless and trapped, it's Woody return that brings hope as they all hope to get Buzz out of Lotso's control and escape Sunnyside. The escape of Sunnyside is where the third act begins as it has a great mixture of humor, suspense, and drama like any great prison breakout film has.

Yet, the toys face what is probably the first true villain in any Pixar film in the form of a Strawberry-colored stuffed bear in Lotso. While Lotso starts off as this warm, welcoming kind of a bear. Underneath that sweetness is a dark, angry, manipulative toy who felt abandoned all because of a mistake. This is a toy that doesn't truly believe in love or the idea that toys hold far more value for a child. It is in that conflict that makes the third film truly a complex tale as screenwriter Michael Arndt does a wonderful job in setting up Lotso's back story and how he finds himself challenged by all of these other toys.

While the film's darkness is something new that Pixar is exploring in some respects, notably a climatic scene involving all of the toys that creates what is truly a symbolic, emotional moment. The film is balanced by its humor that is key to the franchise. While a few jokes do come back from previous films, new ones involved Buzz being reprogrammed the second time around as he ends up speaking in Spanish (through the voice of Javier Fernandez-Pena). Another funny moment involves the Ken doll who is convinced he's a boy's toy as he's often ridiculed by members of Lotso's gang while he finds love in Barbie.

If the script maintains the humor, drama, and suspense in all of its complexities of the entire trilogy. A lot of the credit should go for Lee Unkrich in presenting all of those elements in more for this third and final film. Having been involved with the trilogy from the beginning as an editor in the first film and as a co-director and editor in the second. Unkrich makes sure that the film has a sense of familiarity for the audience to feel nostalgic but also explore new worlds. At the same time, he creates new worlds for the Sunnyside sequence while opening the film with an intense, spectacular action scene where Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and Rex battle their fellow toys in an amazing fantasy sequence. When its revealed that it's a young Andy playing with his toys, it establishes the good old days with the other toys that appeared in the past.

When it comes to the main story, Unkrich maintains the film's sense of dread, anxiety, and suspense while balancing it with humor and hope.  For the back story on Lotso, the look of the film starts off light and then becomes very dark along with a lot of the second act. Scenes in the third act including a climatic scene involving a dump and an incinerator becomes one of the most haunting and emotionally intense moments. For the ending, Unkrich creates a moment that audiences knew would be emotional but not overly manipulative.  In that presentation, he creates something that is subtle and heart wrenching as the overall approach for the film becomes fitting.  Even as Unkrich finds a way to light things up for the credits scenes in the film.

The film's technical work in terms of its cinematography and look is truly pristine for many of the film's daytime scenes whether it's in Andy's room or Sunnyside. The nighttime scenes are filled with shades and dark lights to convey the dark mood for some of the scenes including some intense suspenseful moments. A lot of the animation supervised by animation director Michael Stocker is wonderful for the look of the characters and the environments they're surrounded by. Editor Ken Schretzmann does amazing work with the film's editing in terms of creating suspense and spontaneous, comedic moments. The rhythm of the humor along with some well-paced dramatic and subtle moments as the editing overall is superb.

The sound design of Tom Myers along with sound editor Michael Silvers is excellent in terms of the environment the toys are in. Notably Sunnyside for its surroundings and everything else outside of Sunnyside. Particularly the intense and climatic dumpster scene that is wall-to-wall sound design for the machines and objects around them as the sound work is exquisite. The music by Randy Newman, who had previously done work in the previous films, is filled with score pieces to convey the emotions of the film. From orchestral flourishes for the suspenseful and dramatic scenes to some comical scenes that is presented in a flamenco style.  The new original song by Newman in We Belong Together is an upbeat song that recalls the good old days of Andy and the toys while there's an amazing, flamenco-style cover of You've Got A Friend in Me by the Gypsy Kings that get things going.

The voice cast that is assembled is truly one of the film's highlights. Small voice appearances include an archived voice of Hannah Unkrich as Molly when she was a baby plus Erik Von Detten returning as Sid in a cameo role and as the young Andy, Charlie Bright. From the Pixar troupe, there's voice appearances from Bonnie Hunt as Dolly and Jeff Garlin as Buttercup the Unicorn as they are two of Bonnie's toys. Other small voice roles include Whoopi Goldberg as a sleazy octopus named Stretch, Richard Kind as a glowing bookworm, Brianna Maiwand as a peas-in-a-pod toy named Peanelope, Teddy Newton as Chatter Telephone, Bud Lackey as Chuckles the Clown, Jack Angel as a henchmen of Lotso named Chunk, and Kristen Schaal as Trixie the Triceratop.  Supporting standouts include Michael Keaton as clothes-loving Ken who is convinced that he's a boy's toy while falling for Barbie. Yet, the newest voice cast to the series that really makes an impression is Timothy Dalton as the dramatic, thespian-like Mr. Pricklepants.

Returning to the voice as Andy is John Morris who provides all of the anxieties of a teenager trying to move on without his beloved toys while Laurie Metcalf also returns as Andy's mom. Beatrice Miller provides the voice of Andy's young sister Molly as they all do a splendid job in voicing the characters. A new character in a shy little girl named Bonnie is wonderfully voiced by Emily Hahn who provides a warmth and hope Woody didn't expect from another child. Ned Beatty provides a wonderful voice for the character of Lotso where he starts off warm and cuddly only to be a man filled with anger and hate as Beatty hits all the right notes for the voice. Longtime Disney voice actress Jodi Benson brings a lot of spark and wit in the role of Barbie as she has great voice chemistry with Michael Keaton.

For the main roles that have been to the franchise for all three films, the characters are all given great moments to do as provided by the people who voice them. Taking over for the late Jim Varney as Slinky the Dog is comedian Blake Clark who does a fantastic job in providing the voice while making it a tribute to the late Varney. Jeff Pidgeon is excellent as the multi-tracked voices of the Squeeze Toy Aliens while R. Lee Ermey makes a brief appearance as the Sarge of the green soldiers. Don Rickles and Estelle Harris are funny in the respective roles of Mr. & Mrs. Potatohead as they're given some great lines and scenes while John Ratzenberger plays it cool as Hamm the Piggy Bank. Wallace Shawn is fun to hear as Rex while great non-voice roles come from such characters like the horse Bulls-Eye, a scary monkey, and from Hayao Miyazaki's Tonari no Totoro is Totoro as one of Bonnie's toys.

Joan Cusack is superb as the voice of Jessie with her determination and wit to get things going when Woody is out and Buzz is under Lotso's control as Jessie is one of the few female Pixar characters that girls can root for. Tim Allen is in brilliant form as Buzz as he tries to maintain some hope for the other toys at Sunnyside while later being reset into Spanish mode as the voice of Javier Fernandez-Pena adds a lot of great humor. Tom Hanks is also in excellent form as Woody who tries to remain optimistic while providing the sense of internal conflict his character is dealing with.

While it may not be the best of the three films, Toy Story 3 is still a brilliant, complex, and entertaining film that gives the story of Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the rest of the gang a fitting finale. Fans of the franchise will definitely be happy to see the characters return while be given a sequel that lives up to its predecessor. With the previous films, Toy Story 3 creates what is truly one of the best trilogies ever told where there's no weak story or anything to make it feel like it fell short in comparison to the other films. With a great voice cast, a memorable score, a fantastic script, and Lee Unkrich's sprawling direction. Toy Story 3 proves once again that Pixar is one of the best studios to make films that reaches all kinds of people. Even as the film is the first great film of the year and the new decade. In the end, Toy Story 3 is a marvelous film that captures the joy of the first two films while giving these beloved characters a bow worthy of those films.

Pixar Films:  Toy Story - A Bug's Life - Toy Story 2 - (Monsters, Inc.) - (Finding Nemo) - The Incredibles - Cars - Ratatouille - WALL-E - Up - Cars 2 - Brave - Monsters University - Inside Out - The Good Dinosaur - (Finding Dory) - (Cars 3) - (Coco) - (The Incredibles 2) - (Toy Story 4)

(C) thevoid99 2011

4 comments:

Castor said...

Loved Toy Story 3! I don't know where it would place among the trilogy but this gives me the desire to run a Toy Story marathon and watch them back to back to back ;)

thevoid99 said...

It's hard for me to see where it would rank with the other films. All I know is that all of them are great. They all have moments I can love and cherish. Plus, how can anyone beat the duo of Woody and Buzz? That Lotso was a dick.

cinemasights said...

I enjoyed the short Day and Night more than I enjoyed the entirety of Toy Story 3. It's good, but man, I just don't see why people love these characters and films so much. They amuse me, but I find it hard to sympathize with them in any way and the nostalgia angle never works for me.

Still, I liked it a lot, this film is the one I enjoyed the most of the three, probably because John Lasseter didn't direct it.

thevoid99 said...

@Cinemasights

I didn't exactly felt nostalgic about those characters though it was great to see them again. I was able to be into their plight and such. After all, who couldn't be into Woody, Buzz, and the gang?

They're just fun to watch.