Toy Story 3 by now, either in the theater this summer or on DVD since its recent release. (In the latter case, you've doubtless seen it…countless times.) Our family is no exception—Dash went with his mom when it first came out, and we've owned the DVD since a few seconds after it was available—but I myself had missed out on actually seeing it until this past weekend.
Anyway, no surprise: It's the usual Pixar masterpiece—funny, moving, playing simultaneously to kids and parents on a bunch of levels. Or at least it shouldn't have been a surprise to me, since the animation studio has been spoiling us all into such expectations for years now. But somehow, I hadn't been expecting as much this time around. My line of thinking when I first heard about the movie went something like: A second follow-up to a 15-year-old movie? Man, I'd really rather see Pixar break new ground. I guess Disney's just cashing in on the massively successful franchise. If Pixar is ever going to disappoint, this would be the one.
Well, I was wrong. Toy Story 3 offers up the same brand of ultrasmart writing, directing, and animation we've seen recently in WALL-E and Ratatouille. Once more, live-action studios could take lessons from Pixar's brain trust in matters like exposition, here provided in slightly-dark-yet-humorous form by a grizzled Chatter Telephone (playing the Elisha Cook, Jr. role) and, for the vital villain backstory, a burnt-out toy clown named Chuckles (voiced by the always brilliant Bud Luckey). And yet the bonds among the core group of toys, and between them and their now-grown owner, are realistic enough to make the film's deeper explorations of love and loss genuinely moving; Pixar's remain the only animated films at which kids often are called upon to comfort their parents, rather than the other way around.
So, Pixar: I can't believe I ever doubted you. I am so sorry. It will never happen again. Not even with your toughest test of my expectations yet, the upcoming Cars 2.
[Image: Courtesy of © Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.]