[This non-review review contains no spoilers.]
We finally got to see Toy Story 3 yesterday. I say finally because we’ve been excited about the release since it was announced last year. We waited three days to see it due to a desire to avoid the crowds of which there were many with an opening day total of $41 million. My whole family loved the movie. No doubt about it.
There are some reasons why this movie worked even though sequels can sometimes flop.
1. The movie is genuine. While Disney has a long history of sequels that fall flat, this movie could stand alone. At the same time, the writers pull just enough from the previous movies as they would with any other trilogy type series. Toys who are no longer a part of Andy’s room are mentioned. There is a wonderful flashback scene from Andy’s Mom’s camcorder. You feel like you know the characters. But, at the same time, the movie stands on its own. The new characters are just as well-written and well-voiced as ones from the past. If your children had not been able to watch the original movies due to Disney placing them in the vault in preparation for the release of this one, they wouldn’t be too confused as to what is happening on screen.
2. It’s funny for kids and it’s funny for adults. Like most cartoon feature films, jokes have been written into the movie to make those accompanying the kids to the theater laugh a little. Even more so, most of the funny stuff is funny no matter your age. Spanish-mode Buzz’s dance? That’s funny whether you’re three or thirty-three or fifty-three. It’s also incredible animation. In fact, my husband says that whoever thought up the idea for Spanish-mode Buzz should be given some kind of award. The hilarity that ensues is simply fantastic. Mr. Potato Head has to take on various shapes during a few scenes in the movie and those are amusing to say the least.
3. The parents care about the characters already. I was a teenager when the first Toy Story was released but, like many of those my age, I had a younger sibling who was all about Buzz and Woody. I fell in love with those characters back in the day when cartoons were supposedly beneath me. In college, I took my then-boyfriend’s cousins to the theater to see Toy Story 2. One of the first feature films I bought for my children was Toy Story, followed shortly behind by the second movie. I wanted them to love the characters. And they did. For a year and a half, we struggled to find toys. The boys actually have my brother’s original Buzz Lightyear from back in the day. BigBrother’s teachers occasionally passed on toys that their children had outgrown. And then, as the end of the year approached in 2009, they began gearing up for the release of Toy Story 3. And the toys were everywhere. (See the next point.) When it came down to it, as an adult who loved these characters, I cared what happened to them as Andy was going off to college. I cared about Andy. I simply had to go to the theater, something we rarely do, and see the end result for myself.
4. Clever, all-encompassing marketing. Toy Story 3 is everywhere. On the front of Ritz crackers, Nutrigrain bars and Sara Lee bread. Fruit snacks and cereals. There are two separate iPhone apps, a two different Wii games and a great Disney website full of games just right for the intended age range. They even made the Avon catalog, notorious for ignoring that there children who might not want to wear pink cupcake shirts. There’s an Aflac commercial. Both Disney and ABC Family ran marathons of the original movies, including the not-well-known straight-to-VHS Buzz Lightyear movie, this past weekend. While mostly overwhelming and somewhat annoying, the marketing has been effective.
5. It’s Toy Story. Plain and simple. Unless the writers really screwed up or they made a complete departure from the storyline like they did with “The Outer Space Movie,” as my sons call it, Toy Story 3 wasn’t going to fail. Toy Story is more than a movie. Buzz Lightyear is more than a space ranger. Woody is more than a Sheriff cowboy. Jessie is more than a cowgirl with bright red hair. Rex is more than a wussy dinosaur. Hamm is more than a big pink pig with a smart mouth. Mr. Potato Head is more than a spud with an grumpy attitude. They are our old friends, come back to play.
As you can tell, I loved the movie. My husband loved the movie. More over, my children adored the movie. They sat quietly, completely absorbed through all but one scene of the movie. During a particularly scary section, BigBrother yelled at the screen in hopes of achieving the outcome he desired. Otherwise, they were completely quiet, something that is a rarity around these parts. The best part about Toy Story 3 is that it did not meet my expectations; it exceeded my expectations.
I have a feeling that the kids will likely be seeing the movie again in the theater with grandparents. I’m hopeful that the DVD will be released before their birthdays in November or, if not then, by Christmas. It will probably be another movie in which I buy two copies in case anything happens to the original. That’s how much we loved it.
All that said, I was weepy for a majority of the movie thinking of what we might someday do with all of our Toy Story toys when our boys head to college. For now, we will play with them until their arms need sewn back on and their colors have faded and the memories are forever imprinted in our minds. These toys are our friends and Toy Story 3 reminded me of the fact that these days won’t last forever.
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