Directed by: Lee Unkrich
Written by:Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Wallace Shawn
Released: June 24, 2010
Grade: A-

The year was 1995.  Toy Story became the first feature film to have ever been created using only computer animation.  It was one of the most significant events in the timeline of movie history.  Gone were the days of traditional, hand drawn animation.  A new era had arrived.

It may have been the first but I think it’s also one of the best.  Both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 set an early benchmark for computer animation which has not yet been surpassed.  I’m not speaking about the quality of the animation (which yes, has improved) but rather the quality of the story being told.  I’ve seen a few films which are just as good (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) but I’ll always have a place in my heart for the Toy Story series.

There are two main reasons.  Firstly, the characters are all so memorable.  Woody and Buzz Lightyear are central to the stories but plenty of screen time goes to the supporting players who are just as funny.  I speak of Rex the dinosaur, Hamm the pig, and my personal favourites, Mr and Mrs Potato Head (voiced impeccably by Don Rickles and Estelle Harris).

Secondly, the stories are laced with a beautiful layer of sentimentality.  Always in the background is the young boy named Andy who owns and plays with these toys.  As he has grown up, his interest in them has slowly faded away.  One part of me wants to get all tear-jerky whilst the other part accepts that this is reality.  These stories are fictional (obviously) but we do experience similar feelings in our real lives.  As times change, so too do our priorities and our friendships.

In this adventure, Andy is on the verge of going to college.  He hasn’t played with his toys in many years and they sit in an old chest in his bedroom.  There’s a cute scene at the start of the film where the toys devise a cunning plan of getting Andy to play with them.  It’s not a success.

Now that he’s leaving home, Andy’s mother asks what he wants done with the toys.  Andy wants them stored in the attic but due to a mix-up, they end up being donated to a nearby child care centre.  There, they meet a bunch of new toys led by a mild-mannered teddy bear named Lotso (Beatty).  He tells them that they’ve come to the right place.  With all the kids who attend the centre, they’re guaranteed to be played with for a long, long time.

Something is amiss however.  Lotso is not as cuddly as he looks.  He forces our beloved toys into the toddlers section of the child care centre.  After just one day of being “played with”, the toys are sore bruised.  It’s only a matter of time before they’ll be broken by these over-excited kids and sent to the scrap heap.  They must find a way of breaking out before it’s too late.

Toy Story 3 is another great chapter in the series.  It’s not quite as good as the first two films but I could easily sit through it multiple times.  With such a rich array of fun characters, there’s seldom a dull moment.  The new toys are all great with special mentions going to a psychotic monkey and a metrosexual Ken doll.  I chuckled at almost every scene shared between Ken and Barbie.

There’s an exciting action finale which highlights the incredible talent of the animations team.  I recently spoke with Australian animator Simon Allen who mentioned that it took roughly a week to come up with just 5 seconds of film!  You’ve only got to look in the background of some shots to understand why.  The level of detail is incredible.  The public keep demanding more from their animated films and somehow, the animators keep delivering.

Above all else though, Toy Story 3 is a fun adventure with plenty of laughs and a strong narrative.  It will undoubtedly capture the attention of both kids and adults.  It’s almost impossible not to like.