Pixar is not, as many say, the new "golden age of Disney".
Pixar is much, much more.
Sure, Disney’s tales were nice enough: the “Little Mermaid”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Aladdin” – healthy doses of escapism with pat moral truths, often leaning on the Brothers Grimm catalog and twisting those stories into more palatable entertainment fodder for the masses. This, they did well – but that’s about it. They gave us nice, feel good fun. When I think back through a haze of nostalgia to my childhood days of revelling in the splendour of Disney, I find its often just that – nostalgia.
And Pixar? Pixar movies are often, simply put, casually transcendent. Its about time we stopped comparing cheerful fluff that other animation studios churn out with any given Pixar outing; its simply unfair to the others. At any rate, let’s see where this particular offering stands.
“Toy Story 3” does not, at first glance, have a lot going for it. The fact that it’s a sequel is crippling enough, but that it’s the third part of a trilogy puts in the potential company of, oh, “The Godfather – III“; “Spiderman 3“; or “X-Men:The Last Stand“. Notice the pattern? All third instalments of once great franchises that were astonishingly underwhelming – and that’s being kind. The plot itself, when I saw the first trailer, threatened to be a rehash of “Toy Story 2″, so really, TS3 has no right to work, let alone scale the stellar heights we now take for granted from this studio.
But folks – this is Pixar. And so, against all odds, the wizards of animation have fashioned the strongest instalment in the Toy Story franchise, and arguably one of the better films in a very impressive oeuvre.
Our plastic heroes remain timeless – unfortunately, their owner Andy is growing up and now gets ready to head down to college. Fun and games come to a stop as the toys wonder about their fate: Woody is picked by Andy to accompany him to college, the rest land up at a day care centre. All seems well … a little too well actually. Before the toys know it, they’ve entered a darkly dystopian existence, and must get away before, well, their parts fall off or something.
Out of this barebones premise is fashioned a movie that is frequently hilarious and inventive: the great escape scene is one of the most inventive of its ilk that you will encounter in cinema, and Buzz-the-toy-astrounaut-spouting-flirtatious-Spanish is simply inspired. But what makes the movie truly wonderful are the moments when it reaches for the gut. Two incredible scenes towards the end form this movie’s one-two punch, as the characters are confronted with mortality and adulthood. In a moment that serves as a re-introduction as well as a fond farewell, Andy tenderly bequeaths his prized possessions to a little kid. I can give no greater praise for this movie, or for the universality of Pixar’s magic, than point out that both my 11 year old sister and I had strongly emotional reactions based on completely different reasons at the conclusion of the film. She sat in rapture at the little kid getting a new treasure trove of toys – and I reacted to Andy’s final goodbye to his childhood, and to the toys themselves resigning to the idea of mortality with barely controlled tears.
So what’ll happen Oscar night? “Toy Story 3″ will definitely lose out on the best picture award: not because it isn’t on the same level of craft as, say, a “Black Swan” or a “King’s Speech“, but because this is the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences that we’re talking about, with its usual abject refusal to look too much beyond well manufactured high pedigree drama. As far as they’re concerned, this nomination is enough of an award for the animated film. Similar, I think, will be its fate in the adapted screenplay category. That leaves us with the perplexing category of best animated film. I’m glad it exists simply because I think this reliably entertaining medium (not genre) of film deserves that kind of recognition. But how is it in any way a race this year, when, like last year’s “Up“, a best picture nominee, finds itself in competition with an obviously lesser lot ?