Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Toy Story 3's vision of heaven and hell

  • 08 July 2010

Toy Story 3 (G). Director: Lee Unkrich. Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, John Morris, Jodi Benson, Timothy Dalton. 108 minutes

When I went to see Toy Story 3 the audience consisted almost entirely of adults in their 20s and 30s. There was just one infant, who, asleep in her mum's arms, was unaware of the screen in front of her.

I got the feeling, as the film played, that this was its intended audience: people who had grown up with the Toy Story franchise, and yet had never quite grown up.

The Toy Story films have always catered to adults in a way most animated features do not. Even when compared  to the knowing satire and social commentary of The Simpsons, Toy Story surprises with its depth of feeling and its mature exploration of such themes as life and death, love and rejection, friendship and loneliness.

Toy Story 3 may be the most 'grown-up' film in the trilogy. The toys, led by Woody the sheriff (Hanks), come to terms with the fact that their owner, Andy (Morris), has grown up and, at 17, is about to head off to college. Woody is lucky; Andy is still sentimental about his favourite toy and wants to take him along. But that leaves the other toys in a predicament. Will they end up above, in the attic, or below, in the garbage?

By happy accident, all of the toys, including Woody, end up in the purgatory of a children's day care centre, called Sunnyside. Here there are new toys, led by a seemingly loveable bear named Lots-o-Love (Beatty). And the endless rotation of children ensures the toys will never become obsolete.

But Sunnyside is not the resort the toys first imagine; rather, it's a prison, where the toys are bullies presided over by the despotic Lotso, and the children are rapacious, slobbering, unfeeling monsters.

An escape sequence follows, in which Woody and the toys give Steve McQueen a run for his money; The Toy Story films are deeply nostalgic about the history of American cinema, with old westerns and science-fiction embodied by Woody and Buzz Lightyear (Allen) respectively.

But while the toys manage to leave Sunnyside, they are not free of trouble. Instead, they are brought by a garbage truck to a landfill, where they are dragged towards an incinerator. This fiery pit is equivalent to any vision of Hell confected by