After a slew of startlingly original work, blighted only by Cars (and even that was an original idea, just not in my opinion a particularly good one), Pixar made their second ever sequel and they decided to finish off what we now see as the Toy Story trilogy.
It began, as the other 2 had, with one of Andy’s original stories with all of his favourite toys having their parts to play, whether they were heroes or villains. The first film had featured an old west jailbreak scenario, the second was a computer game that was largely Buzz’s story and this one went back to the old west, but centred around a train robbery, perpetrated by Mr Potato Head and his wife, being aided and abetted by their three adopted children, the triple eyed aliens from the claw machine at Pizza Planet.
It was however a fakeout. This was a long ago game that Andy had played with the toys. Andy’s now 17 and getting ready to go to college. He hasn’t played with Woody and the gang for a long time. They’ve even lost a few of their number (Bo Peep, Etch and Wheezy, which makes me wonder why they made him such a central part of the previous film to write him out in the next instalment). The toys have been shut in their box for all that time, they’ve got each other, but the future doesn’t look bright. Andy’s sister Molly is too old to be interested in her brother’s old toys, she doesn’t even want her Barbie any more. Buster is still around, but he’s old, fat and gray and doesn’t play much now.
The toys, except for the unfailingly optimistic Woody, believe they are facing a bleak future. The best they can hope for is to be boxed up and stored in the attic, the worst is to be simply thrown out. There is a 3rd option. Andy’s mother supports a local day care centre and they’re always looking for donations of pre loved toys to keep the kids entertained. Woody hits the jackpot, Andy puts him in the college box, indicating that’s one part of his childhood that he simply cannot part with. Through a series of events which almost sees everyone else, Woody aside, be junked, they end up in the box that Andy’s mother is donating to the day care centre. Woody in an effort to save the others, winds up in the same box.
Initially the day care centre looks like heaven on earth for the toys. Kids play with them all day, every day, except for weekends, and then when those kids leave the centre, they get a whole new bunch of kids. This is of course before the true colours of The Lots-O-Huggin Bear (generally called Lotso) come to the fore. Lotso was lost and then replaced by his little girl, and he’s been bitter and twisted about it ever since. He rules the day care centre with an iron fist. New toys wind up in the Caterpillar Room where the very young kids play with them roughly, because they simply don’t understand how to play any other way due to their age. The more favoured toys get older kids, who play with them gently, not dissimilar to how Andy treated his toys. Any dissenters spend the night in the sand box. Lotso’s rules are mostly enforced by his companion in abandonment, a life size baby doll called Big Baby.
Woody escapes in an effort to get back to Andy, but is found by Bonnie (a young girl whose mother works at the centre and lives near to Andy). Initially Woody becomes part of Bonnie’s games with her own toys: a hedgehog called Mr Pricklepants, a classically trained actor, a unicorn (Buttercup) and a triceratops (Trixie). There’s also a rag doll (Dolly) and a clown (Chuckles). Chuckles was one of Lotso’s friends and tells Woody how things really are at the day care centre. Woody returns to save his friends.
The escape is elaborate and filled with adventure and near peril. In fact the toys do give up and believe that they’re all going to be burned to death in the furnace at the junkyard until the three eyed aliens rescue them with the junkyard’s giant CLAW. Buzz provides a lot of the humour, he was reset and until a TV fell on him and knocked the setting loose could only speak in Spanish.
The toys make it back to Andy and he gives them to Bonnie. He even plays with them one last time before Bonnie accepts them and integrates them into her own set of toys and dolls.
The animation was as always excellent and they even seemed to have made advances with real people, they still look a bit plasticky, but they were more realistic than previously.
This to me was the perfect ending for the story that began in Toy Story, being released 25 years after the original. I’m a little disappointed that there are plans for a Toy Story 4 to be honest.
The original cast all returned for this one, with the exceptions of Annie Potts' Bo Peep, who was written out of this for unexplained reasons, and of Jim Varney as Slinky, he had unfortunately passed away in between the making of the two films, Slinky was voiced by actor and Varney’s friend Blake Clark.
Newcomers included: Ned Beatty as the sinister Lotso. Beatty’s a big cuddly guy, but has a growly voice which suited the duplicitous bear who could turn in an instant. Michael Keaton after voicing Chick Hicks in Cars came back and did a great turn as the weaselly, fashion obsessed Ken. Jeff Garlin also came back and provided the voice of Buttercup the unicorn. Richard Kind had a cameo as the Bookworm (he’s almost as much a part of the Pixar films as John Ratzenberger is, he was again wonderful as Hamm), Whoopi Goldberg played the octopus who helps Lotso; Stretch (again it says a lot for Pixar’s power that they can get an actress of Goldberg’s profile for such a minor role). My personal favourite bit of casting former Bond actor Timothy Dalton as the pompous Mr Pricklepants. When the hedgehog lays claim to being classically trained the joke there is that Dalton is a classically trained actor, he was part of the Royal Shakespeare Company before being cast as James Bond.