Toy Story 3 Review

Toy Story 3 is the third and apparently final film in Disney/ Pixar's Toy Story series. Interestingly the editor of the first Toy Story, Lee Unkrich, stepped up as co-director of the second movie and is the director of this one.


We meet the usual team during an exciting imagination/playing sequence with their young owner Andy. Soon enough, we discover that Andy is now 17, and has neglected playing with his toys for years, instead choosing to leave them in his toy-trunk. Whilst packing up his belongings before moving on to college, Andy separates his toy collection by choosing to bring Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) to college with him, packing up his other toys into a plastic bag to be taken to the attic to go into storage,. In the shenanigans however, Andy's mother makes the mistake of throwing the bag of toys out with the other trash, where literal death-defying wackiness ensues.


Disney is best known for their fairy-tale/princess stories (starting with Snow White in 1937) and their journey home stories. The Toy Story series have done much with themes of abandonment, the journey home and growing up.

In 1942 Disney introduced the film Bambi which is famous for its ‘Bambi moment’ – Bambi and his mother are racing from a hunter to the safe and secure surrounds of the forest. After making the distance, Bambi turns to see where his mother is only to be informed by his father that “your mother can't be with you anymore". Finding Nemo was chock-full of these moments, with the main character’s mother and entire family being wiped out in the first few minutes of the movie, and going so far as to giving Nemo a physical disability along with the requisite large, emotive ‘Disney eyes’. Toy Story 3 takes all of this contrived, sad and sorrowful elements and ramps it all up to factor 10.

I do not like to be emotionally manipulated in this way and therefore did not connect with the movie at all. Where there is an inherent sadness to the beauty of the Shrek series as they deal with themes of discrimination, prejudice and love, simply taking a character away from its family to explore child abandonment issues is upsetting and ultimately lazy. To the detriment of characterization the toys are given several arbitrary obstacles to overcome while on their journey home, which we have seen countless times before from Disney, let alone the Toy Story series themselves.

As in the basic story structure, there is the introduction of the stories’ characters and storyline. The second act deals with the characters arcs while adding in obstacles and plot complexity with the third act bringing all of these story threads to a resolution. Quite literally, the structure can be seen as birth, life and death. Most movie trilogies based on the arche-typical hero’s journey follow this, none more so than The Matrix trilogy that explores the literal birth, life and death of its protagonist Neo, and...I guess...the Bible as well.

Toy Story 3 then explores the theme of death head on: the toys make their preparations as they head ‘up to the attic’, their choices between certain death during their many trials along the way, up to a very upsetting scene reminiscent of Bosch’s and Dante’s hell. The toys, like Nemo, are constantly in harm’s way or are under oppressive authority like the patients in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, complete with a child-friendly lobotomy scene. It is as if the writers of the Final Destination film series have gotten their fatalistic hands on the script at some point. The toys are only having a good time when the credits are rolling. The only reprieve from all of this misery, sadness and facing one’s mortality is a Spanish dance sequence that rips of Shrek’s superior Puss in Boots.


Whereas Shrek has a great time whilst dealing with his issues, Toy Story will have you feeling like rubbish and your children screaming.

It is a shame that the company that brought us the beautiful and genuinely moving Up and The Incredibles, a children’s movie with a classic 50’s cool look that dealt with strong themes of family and personal sacrifice better then the Fantastic Four movies, would serve up Toy Story 3.0. Following the adventures of Buzz Lightyear or having a bit more play-time reminiscent of the opening sequence would have been a much more enjoyable way to go.

It has been 15 years since the original Toy Story and the animation, 3d model rigging and texture have come a long way. To watch the original after this is almost an assault on the eyes as the stock-colour looks garish in comparison. The same expertise and attention to detail is given to live-action movies and for this technical marvel I give TS3 2 monkeys-in-a-barrel out of 5.

It should be noted that currently the movie is highest-grossing film of 2010. It has surpassed Finding Nemo to become Pixar's highest ever grossing film, and also has surpassed Shrek 2 as the highest-grossing animated film of all-time worldwide. It is also the first ever Pixar film and animated film in history to make over $1 billion worldwide. It is currently the 5th highest-grossing film worldwide of all time. Not surprisingly, it is rumoured that there are new adventures to be had with Woody and his fellow immortals.

Check out the movie at Rotten Tomatoes and watch the trailer!

Luke McWilliams December 2010

How to Train Your Dragon review

How to Train Your Dragon is a Dreamworks Animation fantasy movie based on the book of the same name. The movie is DreamWorks Animation's fifth most successful film behind the Shrek film series.




We are immediately introduced to the Viking island of Berk and its inhabitants, including the Viking chief (voiced by Gerard Butler) and his awkard son named Hiccup (played by Jay Baruchel), during a siege by dragons that raid the villagers animal stock.


Hiccup is desperate to win his Father’s approval and the acceptance of the village, by attempting to become a dragon slayer like most other villagers his age. Hiccup soon captures a Night Fury, a rare and greatly feared dragon that has never been seen before. However, Hiccup finds that he cannot go through with the deed of dispatching the dragon. Risking the wrath from his father and the rejection of the village, Hiccup chooses instead to train his dragon in secret, where wackiness ensues…………..




The best thing about Dreamworks Animation pictures are their adult oriented storylines. This doubles the movie’s audience while also allowing viewers to see as much, or as little as they want. Opposed to the usual sickly sweet and simplistic Disney films of old, Dreamworks Animation have offered movies with layered mature themes, reaching their audience through the use of metaphor. Shrek served as a fantastic metaphor for the commercialization of fairy tales to the detriment of quality, whilst also delving into themes of prejudice and honest love.


How to Train Your Dragon holds host to themes of destiny, self-confidence, father issues, empathy for your enemy and surprisingly, people dealing with disabilities.

Hiccup’s hero’s journey is given a bit of a jolt as he is trying to live up to his father’s expectations in their island village, turning instead to a discovery of self. Nature overcomes nurture and Hiccup finds his greatest failure, in not being able to kill a dragon, give rise to his inherent strength: his ability to train them instead. The qualities he sees in himself as being negative when compared with others, such as his introverted, sensitive studious habits, actually soon become his tools of his eventual trade.


The theme of empathy has been explored recently with Avatar, which drew from the legend of Pocahontas. In  Dragon however, we are treated to the strengths of stylized cartoon imagery. Whereas Avatar boarded on photo-realistic images of a fantastical land, Dragon’s hyper-stylised characters use extremely simple expressions and characteristics to viscerally communicate emotions extremely effectively. This is a lesson the box-office bomb Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within learned and corrected with their release of Final Fantasy: Advent Children. For this reason, I felt more for Hiccup and his Dragon, both in the dramatic and the amazing flying sequences then Jake Scully in Avatar.




How to Train Your Dragon is an amazing visual experience. Its style is well selected, the geography well established, the dragon construction and the animation detail is amazing. I would have loved to have seen it in 3D just for the flying sequences alone!


Apart from the speedily resolved love interest and the commercial audio-tuned song at film’s end, which also irritated me with the horrible Alice in Wonderland, I actually will be seeing this again. Right up there with the original Shrek, I give this Dragon 4 out of 5 fireballs!


Check out the trailer, and see what Margaret and David have to say!


Luke McWilliams November 2010