Sunday, May 15, 2011

If you cry at the end of Toy Story 3 you really should grow up

I didn't take notice of the reviews of Toy Story 3 when it came out. I knew I'd see it, just like I saw and enjoyed the previous two. And The Incredibles. And Shrek. And lots of other kidult hits. Finally got round to watching it last night after sending forth a daughter to buy it in a shop - for £20, which is a ridiculous amount of money, whoever's setting that price.

Really enjoyed it. How could you not? Approaching the end I was dimly aware that there had been much talk about how the ending made grown men and women cry. There had been widespread debates about whether this was OK. I was waiting for it. Right until the end I was braced for it, particularly since the theme was sacrifice, which always makes men cry.

How was it? Well, it didn't come close to making me cry. In the ranks of tear jerkers I have watched it ranks as no more than touching. So why the fuss?

Is Toy Story one of those juvenile things that we never grow out of? There's nothing wrong with that but we don't have to build it up into something it isn't just to make ourselves feel comfortable with our inner child. Instead of admitting that it's we who are child-like we pretend that the child-like thing has somehow become more adult because, you know, it works on so many levels? Like Doctor Who? And Kylie? And the Eurovision Song Contest? And, it seems, an increasing number of things which are pitched at juvenile adults.


  1. I shall let Mr Roger Lewis speak for me here:

  2. But didn't the scene inside the furnace get you?

    I feel the same way about comics, I stopped reading them in my early 20s and cringe a little when I see a grown man on the bus reading one, even a so-called "graphic novel" (probably more so)

  3. I cried at TS3 (and I read graphic novels. Grow up!) but I don't follow you argument. Do we pretend that TS3, or Doctor Who, or Eurovision are somehow adult?

    Your last statement is sadly true, not least when it comes to movies. But isn't that precisely why a lot of people are thankful for Pixar? Was there a more affecting scene in cinema over the last few years than the marriage montage in Up? And this in a film ostensibly for kids? (I recommend Anthony Lane's piece on Pixar in the latest New Yorker).

    As for the end of Toy Story 3, can I quote the Slate film critic:

    "Stories about the waning of childhood fantasy, the process by which our earliest playthings are divested of their once-magical aura, touch on an experience of loss that's familiar to everyone but that's seldom depicted in art."

  4. Interesting question for me here David - would have had the same response if there wasn't the hype refer to? Does the hype not in some way shape your expectations?

    I saw the film Source Code after being told for weeks that it was 'really clever' and that I'd love it. I spent the film thinking 'this isn't so clever' and left the cinema dissapointed. In hindsight, it was a fairly good film. I think without that hype I would have enjoyed it for what it was rather than overthink it.

    I cried twice in Toy Story 3 - the montage at the start and the when he gives the toys away at the end. But I cry at the drop of a hat...

  5. I was talking to my eldest daughter last night who said she'd cried in the cinema. It may be something to do with the dark. I'm not being facetious. In David Thomson's book "The Whole Equation" he argues that we go into the dark to surrender to feelings we couldn't allow ourselves in the light. May be something in it.

  6. I remained dry-eyed throughout, which is more than I can say for Toy Story 2. The song in the middle about Jessie being abandoned by the little girl who grew up still gets me, even when watching at home with the lights on.

    In this case I can blame a combination of Randy Newman and the fact I'd recently become the Dad of a little girl, for the reaction when I first saw it. Not sure now, although having two teenage daughters fast growing up might have something to do with it.

    None of that explains why I was in floods when Phil Archer passed silently last year, however.

  7. TS3 didn't have me in tears, but they welled up at the beginning of Up.
    I think I am feeling post mature adult at the moment. So much is so grim at the moment (with the happy exception of family life) that I want escapism and juvenilia. Many people are attracted to nostalgia. Last thing I want is more realism.

  8. I didn't cry at the end of Toy Story 3, but it certainly got to me. My daughter was born in 1995, the year that Toy Story was released. I resisted seeing it for a couple of years, but she persuaded me when she was about two; and I was won over. It was warm, profound; everything that I'd assumed couldn't exist in a film made by computers.

    In 2000 I took her to see the sequel, which I still think is the best children's film ever made. She was 5, and still very much captured by the whole thing.

    I took my son to see Toy Story 3 last summer. He'd not been born to see the release of the first two at the cinema, so he was pretty excited. I asked my daughter along, but she didn't join us. She wasn't that bothered. She'd moved on. Grown up. It's in that context that I found the ending as moving as I did.

    I think your/David Thomson's point is right on the money. We allow ourselves to feel things in the dark that are a bit more of a leap in the light of the sitting room. I think, actually, that's why we go to the cinema and the theatre, whether we know it or not.

    Many years ago, when I was studying drama, we had weekly classes with Michael Billington. He said something then that has stayed with me ever since. He said that the reason he goes to the theatre was to be "quietly manipulated in the dark". I still think that this is drama's purpose: to take us away from ourselves, make us feel things that we wouldn't normally feel, to emotionally manipulate us; and to do it in a large, darkened room where we are simultaneously at our most private and most public.

  9. David, there's nothing juvenile about tears. As others have noted, there are a complex series of switches being flicked by TS3, which is why it's so brilliant. The fact that it's a cartoon is a red herring. The furnace scene hit me like a shovel.

    Yes, kids cry at the loss of toys. Adults cry at the loss of kids. Or at the passing of those years of doubt, wonder and fear when their kids were small, which I'm still going through with a 5 year old. Parental ambivalence about the loss of innocence is a powerful trigger point in the film. But also, TS3 ends on a fantastic, upbeat resolution, destinies arrived at, children leaving the nest and passing on their legacy to the next generation. Something pretty fundamental to all parents' day to day hopes and fears. Cue salty water.

    I cry at happiness. I often blub at award ceremonies when people are being recognised for something. I find it incredibly moving seeing hope and skill being rewarded. Talking of awards: TS3 was about 20 times more profound and moving than the King's Speech. Should have romped the Oscars. Most films are shit. TS3 goes deep for all the family, wherever you are on the lifeline. It's a film.

  10. Fail. My last sentence should read "It's a GREAT film."

  11. I thought "It's a film" was the perfect ending to a great comment.

  12. But how to explain or excuse Eurovision?

  13. Anonymous5:48 pm

    Lat night third time I have seen this movie. Its really enjoyable movie.

    Watch Movies Online

  14. I bawl every time I re-watch this wretched film (which, incidentally, I love) but at long last I must quibble with the reasons given so far in the press. These are: identification with the toys as parents, cast off and unneeded as the child leaves the nest; and a more general "goodbye" to childhood. No, no, no, no, no!

    Let's remember that during the entire Toy Story series, Andy has been a peripheral character, mainly existing as the catalyst for the actions of our main characters, the toys. In the first film, they fear being replaced by Andy. In the second, the toys realise that eventually, Andy will not need them; and in the third, they confront the reality of their redundancy.

    In Toy Story 3, they attempt to solve the dilemma of not being played with anymore by tricking Andy into handling them again with the cell phone ploy. This makes their motivation clear: they wish Andy would play with them again - if only one last time. During the remainder of the film's action, an alternative solution to their problem is revealed: they can be bequeathed somehow to a younger child, or group of children such as in the daycare center. However, the really poignant, touching thing that reduces so many adults to tears is that the final denouement is a beautiful combination of these solutions: not only does Andy hand his toys over to a younger, highly imaginative child - the absolute ideal torch-bearer for Andy's games of "let's pretend," unsullied by preoccupation with any technology-based games or viewing habits - he accomplishes the handover of his precious toys by playing with them PROPERLY one last time. THIS is what our toy gang so fervently wanted and so richly deserved, after their hold-no-bars displays of loyalty and devotion. It is the sight of Andy with Woody on his shoulders, making him and Buzz ride Bullseye and Buttercup, or introducing each of his friends to Bonnie in such a way as to explain how each toy got his characteristics - that is what is so touching and satisfying. We are just so incredibly happy for the toys, not moved by notions of passing childhood or redundant parenthood. By God, they EARNED that playtime! They faced incarceration, incineration, impending death, even being drooled on by toddlers to get back to Andy again. We care about their fate, not Andy's so much. The ridiculous heights of their happiness and the just nature of their fate is why we cry at the end of Toy Story 3.