Thursday, July 29, 2021

Reserved Seating Ranks the Pixars: TOY STORY 3

 by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino

The review duo who are toys JB gave away to Patrick.

Rob: Welcome back to Reserved Seating. I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: And I’m Adam Riske.

Rob: Our Pixar series continues with 2010’s Toy Story 3. More than ten years have passed since Toy Story 2, and with seventeen-year-old Andy ready to head off to college, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), and the rest of our favorite toys are bracing for an uncertain future. Will they be going along? Will they be sent to the attic? Will they be thrown away? Actually, it’s the best of all possible options: They’re being donated to nearby Sunnyside Daycare, where Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty) assures them that their years of neglect are over. At Sunnyside, children come in and out every day, providing hours of playtime for all! And when they grow up, new ones come in! It seems like the perfect arrangement, but Lotso and his crew soon reveal a dark side that has Woody and friends staging a daring breakout. Along the way, they’ll face existential catastrophe and search for new purpose in their post-Andy lives.

This was my first viewing of Toy Story 3 in quite a while, but I’ll always remember seeing it in theaters and coming to genuine tears during the incinerator scene. I’d grown up with these characters and had just finished my own college journey, so that moment in particular echoed my struggle to cope with newfound adulthood (itself a kind of death and rebirth). This rewatch was a bit less revelatory — especially since I knew the adventure would continue in Toy Story 4 — and I was a lot more aware of how thematically derivative the film is of its predecessor. The opening “reimagining” of Andy’s playtime is a lot of fun, though, and the whole daycare premise in general is enough to get Toy Story 3 over the finish line. It’s fine! What might be even more interesting than the film, however, is its place at the center of a long feud between Disney and Pixar, one that almost saw Toy Story 3 released by Disney’s short-lived animation studio, Circle 7. Luckily, Disney would purchase Pixar and merge their animation production just in time. It’s a fascinating story that’s worth a bit of research.

Adam, what do you think of Toy Story 3?
Adam: Toy Story 3 has never knocked me out. I still like the movie, but even in 2010 I felt it was repeating many of the same beats as Toy Story 2 with diminished returns. My issue (it’s not really a major one since I enjoy the series overall) is the emotional highs of the Toy Story films are great but the action elements (we gotta escape here to get to there) always feel like filler to me. I remember in 2010 thinking I was dead inside because the incinerator scene didn’t move me at all. I never believed the toys were going to die and knew that they’d be rescued in the nick of time, so that part always felt like false stakes.

Rob: I was never afraid that Woody and his friends were actually going to die, but I was definitely in awe of that look of acceptance that washes over them as they approach the fire. A running theme of the film had been “No matter what happens, at least we’ll be together,” and that moment felt like a silent, mournful refrain. It’s just a great humanizing moment for, you know, pieces of anthropomorphized plastic.

Adam: I agree with that and might have been reading the room wrong. I thought people were upset because they thought Pixar was going to kill off all our heroes to wrap up the trilogy. On this viewing, I most responded to a thread that’s played out more in Toy Story 4 and that’s what is Woody’s role/purpose now that he’s lived out his primary function as Andy’s toy. I’m currently deep into a mid-life crisis (I turn 40 next year) so finding meaning in the next half of my life and separating out what’s important/not important are weighing heavy on my mind. The transitional elements of Woody and Andy’s lives is what most stuck with me this time, especially in the scenes bookending the film. All the shenanigans at Sunnyside (which gave me movie PTSD on this viewing because of how many times people said “Sunnyvale” and “Shadyside” in the Fear Street trilogy) didn’t really do much for me.

Rob: I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here. There’s a lot more connective tissue in Toy Story 3 than there is plot propulsion, more action-y bits than character bits. That’s part of what makes Lotso so underwhelming: If you’re going to do the owner abandonment thing again, you’d better have something new to say.

Adam: I’m coming across a bit grumpier than I intended. Toy Story 3 is perfectly fine. I really like the scene where Andy is giving his toys away to Bonnie (it’s very sweet) even if I never would have done that. It’s a real movie thing to tell audiences they must give up cherished totems from their lives to signify they’re moving on (a prime example is Maverick throwing Goose’s dog tags in the ocean). I don’t agree with that at all. Those toys should be in the attic so Andy could either get them later or (better yet) give them to his own children when he has a family. It looks like it pains Andy when he gives Woody away and I felt bad for him. That was Woody’s call more than anything and while I get Woody wants to stay with the rest of the toys, he’s also probably hurting Andy emotionally. Continue.
Rob: I kept giggling at how anxious Andy’s mom is to get his room packed away. I guess if Molly gets Andy’s room, mom can turn Molly’s old one into that craft brewery she’s always wanted. Maybe it’s a crafting room? Sex dungeon? Who knows. Andy’s family story has always been legendarily hard to pin down, so this just adds to the mystique.

Adam: I remember people at the time were like “Andy grew up to be hot” and that made me uncomfortable for a lot of reasons. What do you think happened to Andy after Toy Story 3? I’ve always wondered that. Would he have joined a frat? What’s his major? What kind of job did he end up with? Does he go to cons? Has he ever heard of the F This Movie! podcast? If so, what episode was the one that hooked him? Ex Machina is my guess.

Rob: It was definitely Any Given Sunday. I hope Andy became a screenwriter. His whole “dinosaur that eats forcefield dogs” bit would be great for Jurassic World 5. Anything else on Toy Story 3?

Adam: One question and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot with movies lately. If a movie has an amazing opening sequence but the rest of the movie is just kind of okay or if a movie has great scenes but the heavy lifting is done by the film’s soundtrack or a lead performance, how much credit do we or don’t we give the movie as a whole? Is a movie “good” if it's exemplary in one area but just kind of meh in most other areas? In the case of Toy Story 3, I love the emotional haymakers but don’t care much about the rest. Which element should supersede the other?
Rob: It’s such a hard question because we both have those movies we make excuses for because we love one or two elements, even if we might know the rest doesn’t work. I think we have to hold back saying a movie is “good” if there are more negative than positive qualities, but we can definitely single out a strong soundtrack or performance as something to celebrate. For some reason, that question made me think of the Man of Steel trailer. I can’t stand that movie, but it might have one of my all-time favorite trailers.

Adam: We’ll be back next week with a return of our baseball series as we revisit the late Bernie Mac in Mr. 3000. Until next time…

Rob: These seats are reserved.


  1. I never got why Lotso was such a bad guy. The really young kids play rough, so the new toys are assigned the rough room so the elders can enjoy a relatively peaceful retirement, and... that make him evil? Lotso isn't making the young kids play rough; that's just who they are, so he's making the most out of a difficult situation.

    Also, I liked the first two when I was a kid and they were new, but, by the time this one rolled around, the whole characters' series-long fixation with hiding their own sentience to act as lifeless playthings for other sentient beings just got too icky to enjoy.