(Warning: this article contains spoilers)

Recently I found myself watching fully for the first time the Toy Story films as – although I could recall bits of them – I had never sat down and given them my full attention. Of course, as every self-respecting Pixar fan knows, this trilogy is the foundation upon which the studio has built their reputation as a pioneer of animation. Therefore, I knew I needed to set aside some time to rectify my ignorance.

For the minority of people who haven’t seen them, the Toy Story franchise follows the various shenanigans of Andy’s toys, which come to life as soon as the humans have left the room. Toy Story 3 in particular presents Andy as a teenager about to head off to college, contemplating what to do with the toys that meant so much to him as a child but that he has since outgrown.

Despite the films’ young target audience, we follow these toys – led by Woody (Tom Hanks), a cowboy, and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), an astronaut – as they deal with rather complex and mature emotions and ideas, such as rejection from the people you love, the inevitable fact that life goes on and people change, and even the purpose of their existence and what that means.

But putting all of those hefty themes aside, there is no doubt that – like its predecessors – Toy Story 3 is a lot of fun. From the imagined sequences where Andy plays with the toys, to an expert prison break, it’s impossible not to enjoy yourself.

However, Pixar’s genius is demonstrated in the way they balance these whimsical moments with emotional instances that hit so close to home that the viewer inevitably finds himself reflecting on his own childhood and life. Pixar successfully exploits the universal feeling that you’ve sacrificed something – toys, friends, whatever it is – in order to grow up, to give this film an emotional depth uncommon for its kind. So when Andy decides to give his toys to another child because he understands it’s time to let go of those halcyon days, bawling your eyes out (like I did) is not an abnormal reaction.
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Unlike myself, countless people grew up with Andy and with this franchise, so it’s difficult for me to have that same connection to these characters that so many other people do. In spite of that, a sense of pride and nostalgia can still be garnered when considering the vast improvements in Pixar’s animation from the first film to the last.

Although Toy Story 3, or any of the others in this franchise, fails to crack my top five Pixar films, anyone can acknowledge the advancements that this trilogy initiated – in animation, and children’s movies as a whole.

These films make several points about friendship – it’s creation, it’s demise and everything in between – but the one scene that is still embedded in my mind occurs in Toy Story 3, when the toys realise they cannot escape the incinerator that will lead to their death. Although it was obvious that these characters weren’t going to die – this is a kids film, after all – there is something unequivocally profound about ceasing to fight the immovable obstacle and just joining hands with the people that accept you, love you and know you like no one else could: your best friends.

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Even though this doesn’t mark the end for these characters, I still like to imagine John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich and all the other creatives at Pixar sitting in a circle and holding hands as they, like Woody and like us, bid farewell to their pal, Andy.

Sarah Quraishi

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Media sourced from Huffington Post, Pixar Blog, Pixar, Youtube.

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