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Toon Tuesday: Will “Toy Story 3” will be that rare sequel that equals the original?

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Toon Tuesday: Will “Toy Story 3” will be that rare sequel that equals the original?

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According to John Lasseter, the folks at Pixar Animation Studios have been dying to make “Toy Story 3” for years now.

But – that said – that doesn’t mean that it’s been all that easy to come up with a storyline that was a worthy follow-up to the much-beloved “Toy Story” & “Toy Story 2.” As John recalled earlier this month at the D23 EXPO:

“When we were getting started on this project, a bunch of us – Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Jeff Pigeon, Lee Unkrich, myself and some others – went on retreat in Northern California. We went back to the cabin where we had broken the story for the original ‘Toy Story.’ That place has good mojo.

But before we got started, we sat down and watched ‘Toy Story 1’ & ‘2.’ And then we got depressed, because we realized that those two are really good movies. And we then wondered how we were ever going to top them.”

John Lasseter at Disney's D23 Expo
Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter at the Walt Disney Animation Studios
/ Pixar Animation Studios presentation at Disney's D23 Expo on September
13, 2009 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. (Photo
by Eric Charbonneau/Le Studio/Wireimage)
Copyright 2009
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

But over the next two days, Lasseter and this group of Pixar vets shook off their depression and dug into that storywork. Eventually coming up with a plot that would tie in with the previous “Toy Story” pictures as well as emotionally connect with something John and a lot of his co-workers were currently going through in their lives.

“At the end of ‘Toy Story 2,’ Woody says that he’ll be ready when Andy heads off to college. But it’s one thing to say something like that when that event is still years off,” Lasseter said. “It’s quite another thing when that day is finally here. All the feelings that come flooding over you.”

These days, Lasseter is all-too-familiar with those feelings. Over the past two years, he’s sent his two oldest boys off to college.

“I just dropped my son Ben off at Loyola Marymount,” he remembered. “"Driving away, when you leave your child behind at college, all I could think of was him as a little kid, sliding down the slide. It was very emotional for my wife and I."

John Lasseter at Disney's D23 Expo announcing Toy Story 3
Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter at the Walt Disney Animation Studios/ Pixar
Animation Studios presentation at Disney's D23 Expo on September 13, 2009
at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Eric
Charbonneau/Le Studio/Wireimage)
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

So to give “Toy Story 3” ‘s story a sense of immediacy, some real emotional grounding, that’s where John & the Pixar story team decided to start this sequel.

WARNING !! There be spoilers ahead. If you don’t want to know anything about this upcoming Pixar Animation Studios production, now would be a good time to bail out of today’s JHM article.

Still here? Okay. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

“Toy Story 3” begins three days before Andy heads off to college. With Andy’s Mom standing in her son’s bedroom, telling him that he has to make some tough decisions in regards to his belongings. This now 18-year-old has to decide what he wants to throw out, what he wants to keep / place into storage, and – more importantly – what Andy wants to take with him to college.

In a scene that was screened at the D23 EXPO, Buzz, Woody, Jessie and the gang listen in from deep inside of that old Chuckwagon-shaped toy chest, as Andy’s Mom suggests that some alternatives . Which include selling some of her son’s toys online to donating them to Sunnyside Daycare.

Andy then sighs and tells his Mom “Nobody’s gonna want these toys. They’re junk.”

Disney/Pixar's Toy Stoy 3
Copyright 2009 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

The toys – still listening inside from that toy chest – are taken aback by Andy’s comment. “What’s Daycare?,” Jessie asks.

As they peek out of the toy chest, Woody and Co. can now see into Molly’s room. Where this now 12-year-old girl has gotten into the keep-toss-or-store spirit and has begun combing through her own belongings to find things to heave. As the toys watch Molly rather heartlessly toss one of her dolls in the trash, Jessie exclaims “Poor Barbie!” To which Hamm quickly replies “Dibs on her Corvette.”

But now Andy begins to pack up his room. Grabbing a trash bag, he pulls individual toys out of that chest. First Jessie, then Bullseye. Now Rex, Hamm and Mr. Potatohead. A few of the Little Green Men. As he unceremoniously drops all of these toys into that trash bag, then Andy turns his attention to Woody and Buzz.

At this point, the young man pauses. After a long moment, Andy places Buzz in that trash bag along with the other toys and then puts Woody in the pile of stuff that he’s taking to college. (I guess Bo Peep was right all along. Woody really is Andy's favorite). The cowboy toy is clearly relieved by this decision. But – at the same time – Woody is obviously concerned about what’s going to happen to the rest of the playroom gang.

Disney / Pixar Toy Story 3
Copyright 2009 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

So – when Andy carries that trashbag out of the bedroom – Woody follows. Which is why the cowboy toy is relieved when this college-bound boy stops and pulls down the stairs to the attic. It then becomes apparent that Andy has no intention of throwing away his once-beloved playthings. That he now plans on stashing them in the attic.

But then Andy places this trashbag full of toys on the floor and returns to his bedroom. And then – as Woody looks on – the spring-loaded stairs to the attic slowly retract. And here comes Andy’s Mom with a bag of trash in her hand. She trips over that bag of toys that her son set out in the hallway. And then – thinking that this is just a bag of trash from Andy’s room – she picks the bag up to take it out to the curb.

Inside that trashbag … Well, obviously the toys are panicking. Recalling those bad old days where Al kept her in storage for years at a time, Jessie cries “I can’t breath.” Once Buzz realizes that they’ve actually been out on the curb, he quickly formulates an escape plan. They’ll try and poke a hole in the bag by using Rex’s pointy tail.

Meanwhile, Woody is looking out Andy’s bedroom window and sees that the garbage truck is just a few houses down the street. Since time is of the essence, he whistles for Buster. The only problem is … Well, it’s over a decade since “Toy Story 2.” And Andy’s once-frisky puppy is now a fat, old dog. After he slowly enters the bedroom, panting & wheezing, Woody climbs on Buster’s back. Only to then have this graying canine roll over onto the cowboy toy and fall asleep.

Toy Story 3 characters are back
Copyright 2009 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

After squeezing out from under Buster’s bulk, Woody climbs out Andy’s bedroom window and then slides down the drainpipe. After sneaking across the yard, he makes his way to the trash bags just as the garbage truck arrives. Woody slashes open one bag, only to find … garbage. As he reaches for the second bag, the garbage man picks it up and tosses into the back of his truck. As he starts up the crusher (and Woody looks on with horror), that second bag is flattened with a sickening crunch …

That – in a nutshell – is the scene that Lasseter screened at the D23 EXPO earlier this month. Which proved that “Toy Story 3” will be just as funny & exciting as the two pictures that came before it. More importantly, that this Lee Unkrich movie is obviously making a real effort to connect both emotionally & storywise with “TS1” & “2.”

Now for those of you who are sweating the whole “Did Buzzy & Jessie actually get crushed in the back of that garbage truck” story beat … Know this: Though Lasseter & Unkrich never actually said anything about what happens next, the official “Toy Story 3” trailer (which – as I understand it – will be screened in front of that Disney Digital 3D version of “Toy Story” & “Toy Story 2” that will begin screening around the country on October 2) actually showed Woody and the gang at Sunnyside Daycare. Where life among the toddlers looks like something out of “Lord of the Flies.”

In the short scenes that we get to see in the trailer, Buzz and Co. get absolutely brutalized by these 3-year-olds. Which is why they decide that “We’re busting out of here.” The only problem is – during their initial escape attempt – the Space Ranger gets severely damaged. To the point that Woody & friends are forced to hit Lightyear’s reset button. Which then puts Buzz into Spanish-speaking mode.

Toy Story 3 by Disney / Pixar
Copyright 2009 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

And let me tell you, folks, that – when Buzz is in Spanish-speaking mode – he then becomes this hot-blooded, flamenco-dancing romantic figure prone to grand gestures. Which Jessie (according to a piece of test animation that was screened at the D23 EXPO) winds up being quite taken with.

As for the rest of “Toy Story 3” ‘s storyline … Given that the promotional catchphrase for this new Pixar Animation Studios production is “No Toy Gets Left Behind” … Well, we’ll just have to assume that this upcoming release is more of an epic adventure story than the last two “Toy Story” films.(Which is something that Lee Unkrich actually verified when he and I spoke at Comic-Con back in July. As part of a press roundtable interview, Lee talked about how the “Toy Story 3” story team had actually drawn inspiration from Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. To be specific, how Unkrich and his crew had labored to make “TS3” seem like a continuation of the first two “Toy Story” films. So that – when you were finally able to watch all three of these movies back-to-back – they’d then tell one fairly seamless story.)

Beyond that … You’ve probably already heard all of the other big news associated with “Toy Story 3.” That Michael Keaton has been hired to voice a somewhat villainous take on Barbie’s longtime companion, Ken. And that Timothy Dalton has been signed to voice Mr. Prinklepants. Who is this Stieff-like stuffed hedgehog in dressed lederhosen who fancies himself a thespian.

As for the rest of the new additions to “Toy Story 3” ‘s vocal cast, Lasseter did reveal that Bonnie Hunt, Jeff Garlin, Whoopi Goldberg and Ned Beattie will be voicing roles in this movie. Though John was very careful to not reveal which parts these performers will be playing in the picture.

Toy Story 3
"Toy Story 3" director Lee Unkrich at this year's
Comic-Con International.
Photo by Nancy Stadler

So now comes the big question: Will “Toy Story 3” actually measure up to the first two films in this much-beloved series? Based on what I’ve seen so far of this still-in-production Lee Unkrich movie, I’d have to say that it looks like Pixar’s latest is going to deliver the goods. That the brief vignettes that have been screened to date have all of the wit, charm and excitement that we’ve come to expect from the “Toy Story” series.

Which is why I just can’t wait to see how the rest of “Toy Story 3” plays out. See where Woody, Buzz, Jessie et al wind up as this trilogy draws to a close.

Your thoughts?

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  • PingBack from http://www.slashfilm.com/2009/09/21/toy-story-3-trailer-reveals-new-story-details/

  • A couple of things:

    Ned Beatty is ALSO providing his voice for a character in Toy Story 3.

    And, to clarify one scene you mentioned:

    When Andy is deciding which toys to take and which ones to throw away, he places most of the gang in the trash bag (which at this point, we think is meant to be thrown away). THEN, he holds up both Woody and Buzz.....takes a LONG look at both of them.....and then we are SHOCKED to see him place Buzz in the trash bag while keeping Woody. (Once again, we are led to believe Andy means to throw away the trash bag).

    Just wanted to make sure your readers that decided to look at the spoilers could understand the nuances of this scene. It's powerful stuff.

  • Looks good so far, looking forward to seeing this.  One thing I can't decide though, is it worth a trip to the cinema to see the new 3D versions of Toy Story?

  • Wow! Sounds great! Can't wait for it to come out.

  • I think my biggest question of this movie for voices (as well as Cars 2)...  what are they to do with the characters who no longer have a voice?   Toy Story has lost at least three voices so far (Jim Varney, Joe Ranft, Robert Goulet [though he *was* a pretty minor addition]) and Cars has lost two (George Carlin, Paul Newman).   Slinky Dog is obviously in Toy Story 3, Cars 2 sounds like it doesn't "need" those characters to survive.  

    It seems like Pixar hasn't been a big fan of providing stand-ins for anything, as evidenced by the voice actors providing the voices for the merchandise or things such as the mute Woody of the old Toy Story shorts that played on ABC Saturday mornings.

    So, who will be speaking for these characters now?

  • Slinky is now voiced by a friend of Jim's who sounded quite a bit like him.

    I personally don't know about Weezy, or even Lenny for that matter. I suppose someone has been found to stand in for Ranft. Goulet... really doesn't matter. Somehow I doubt that Toy Story 3 will have a song-and-dance ending.

    On the topic of the story, I will be at the same point in my life as Andy is in his when the film releases in June. I grew up loving Toy Story and Disney in general to death, and the Toy Story films have had a profound impact on how my own toys have been treated in the past. I'm sure that watching Toy Story 3 is in some ways going to be a heart-wrenching experience... nonetheless, I cannot wait.

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  • Lostincrowds, I saw the films at D23. Totally worth it, IMO - if for no other reason than to see these films the way they were meant be seen. As was pointed out by the folks from Pixar at the Toy Story 3 presentation before the moive, the last time these films were  in theatres, many of the kids who've become fans of the characters weren't even born yet, so it'll be a new experience for them. The 3D effects work really well without being overwhelming - I particularly liked the opening sequence from TS2 where Buzz meets Zurg.

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