This year Pixar Animation Studios celebrated its fifteenth anniversary as a producer of feature films as one of its original creations – Andy – reached a milestone in his own life. The boy who gave purpose to playthings like Woody Buzz Lightyear and Mr. Potato Head was going off to college and leaving his childhood buddies behind. As the characters that we know and love from the Toy Story universe entered the next stage of their lives so too did the company that conceived them. And boy did they ring in the new decade with a bang.
Toy Story 3 has become a global phenomenon earning over $1 billion worldwide aggregating the strongest reviews of the year and continuing Pixar’s unbelievable commercial winning streak (11 films 11 solid hits). Although it is a textbook Pixar picture it stands out in more than one way. Not only does the movie mark the end of the company’s sole franchise (well at least until next summer) it is also one of the bleakest stories in its canon. The films sense of dire urgency and finality showcases Pixar’s ability to transcend the tropes of mainstream animation and deliver a four-quadrant crowd pleaser that’s both kid friendly and engrossing for adults.
Picking up thematically where 2009’s Up left off Pixar has defied the notion that animated movies are made exclusively for kids by making an enjoyable and accessible film with a strong emotional core and universal themes. Like Pete Doctor’s existential Oscar winner Toy Story 3 touches upon the anxiety of aging and the fear of losing one’s purpose in the world exploring the beauty and terror of the human condition in a unique adventurous and entertaining manner. Fans of the Toy Story legacy will be happy to hear the voices of the entire voice cast (sans the late Jim Varney) back in action with a few new recruits including Ned Beatty’s villainous Lotso and Michael Keaton’s narcissistic Ken. The AV experience has clearly improved since 1999’s Toy Story 2 and in Disney’s three-disc Blu-ray package you’ll be treated to the highest quality HD transfer of the film – the only way it looks and sounds better is if it’s playing on an IMAX 3D screen. But if you want to fully discover the science of cinema Pixar and the Toy Story universe there’s no better way to do it than with this ultimate release.
The three-disc collection takes you further inside the world of Toy Story than ever before. The “Paths To Pixar” featurette’s introduce you to a bunch of the behind-the-scenes players at the motion picture powerhouse while “Studio Stories” allows you to get closer to the filmmaking family as they dish on personal moments trade secrets and inside jokes that take you through the company’s history. Commentaries and sequence breakdowns will give you insight into the lengthy and painstaking process of making an animated blockbuster while interactive trivia games and the ability to take the film on the road with a digital copy will keep your kids enthused for some time. As with all Disney home entertainment releases an animated short is included on the main disc to add to your viewing pleasure. Day and Night is a particularly adorable entry that is inventive and amusing; Pixar should be proud of it as the studio should be proud of its newly minted crown jewel the biggest film in its wildly successful filmography and a highly re-watchable contemporary classic.