There are many truly wonderful things about Pixar’s new jewel Toy Story 3 such as the script, the animation, the music or the fact that a totoro makes a cameo appearance (OMG that was so cool!). However, since in my last posts I have been all about rambling on about so many things that in the end nothing really sticks, I’ve decided to write a short (or rather a “short”) piece on why this film can make even the most macho man cry.
Let’s begin with the themes. There are many, but the ones that struck me as the most important ones were three: loneliness, purpose and death. Let me begin with loneliness. The first scene in Toy Story 3 is a flashback to Andy’s imaginations concerning the adventures of Woody and Buzz when he was a kid. After this, the film cuts to Woody and the band’s attempt to get Andy’s attention, now a 17-year old teenager about to go to college. The toys try to get Andy to play again with them by stealing his phone, hiding it with them in a chest and calling him with the hope that when he finds his cell-phone he’ll play with them once again. However, Andy doesn’t care about the toys anymore and when Woody calls the phone Andy ignores them and just picks up his phone. Here’s the interesting bit: when Andy answers the phone, nobody answers (obviously, as the toys were the ones that were calling him!). Nobody answers him from the chest of his toys, of the chest where his passion as a kid lies hidden. There’s a sense of loneliness; of being lonely from oneself that’s very powerful. Has that never happened to you? That you remember how you were years ago or how you interacted with the world when you were younger? That’s what they mean by loneliness.
Now, I say one of the themes is purpose because the whole point of the film is about finding the toy’s some purpose. Woody and the other toys represent Andy’s world as a kid, and so finding the toys’ purpose in life after they’re no longer needed is like trying to find a purpose to one’s own past. All those experiences of when you were younger, all those things you lived and feared and cried about… what good are they now, years later? That’s a very strange and powerful question. When we doubt our purpose in life we risk everything. You have to put your soul at hazard. You have to say, “Ok, I’ll be part of this world.” This is strangely confusing for a film “for kids.” The thing about purpose is that purpose is the only thing that moves us, that drives us, and when we lose that and we’re still there, we feel like we’re standing in a limbo, neither dead nor alive.
Finally, I say death because the characters in this film face death so many times that it becomes ridiculous. For instance, the garbage scene at the beginning, or the crazy-ass-toy-destroying kids’ scene, or the incinerator scene; there’s always the feeling that something might go wrong and they all might die. Even at the start of the film they say that they’ve lost many toys including Woody’s girlfriend. This gives us reason to believe that death is not something quite far-fetched in Toy Story 3’s world.
Having said this, now I want to address the issue of crying about all this. Yes the film is perfectly made, all the themes are ingeniously interwoven and the dialogues are amazing, and there are many heartwarming moments. However, the most shocking thing about Toy Story 3 is that the film is filled with cathartic moments. What I mean by “cathartic moment” is that there’s some point where the characters suddenly become emotionally purged, so that the emotional tensions that were in conflict inside them, suddenly *click* and are set free, leaving a sense of intense happiness and euphoria behind. A clear example of this is the part when Buzz loses his memories but still falls in love with Jessie right after that. Buzz’s transformation is symbolic of his falling in love with Jessie. Also, we got Andy who’s clearly distressed about his toys and what he’s going to do with them, and at the end of the film he gives them to a little girl, and plays one last time with them. All the emotional tensions that he had are suddenly purged and replaced with a feeling of contempt. And finally, we have Woody’s catharsis, probably the most important one. Woody relinquishes his purpose in life. His whole life revolved around Andy’s attention and in the end he forfeits that. He has the opportunity to go with Andy and remain his toy; however he chooses not to, he chooses to stay with his friends, to stay with all the other toys. Now, THAT’s catharsis. Imagine leaving your one true love because you know that she (or he)’s not in love with you anymore. Imagine doing so having the opportunity to go with her. Woody is starting from scratch, and that’s the most wonderful thing of this film in my opinion, that it teaches us that one can lose everything, everything that gave purpose to our lives, and still be able to purge ourselves anew and be content with the world.
That’s the reason one may cry with this film. Not because it’s sad, not because it brings back memories, but because Toy Story 3 contains so many cathartic moments that it’s overwhelming. And in the end, when Buzz and Jessie dance together, with the theme song playing in the background, I just couldn’t help thinking about how great it is that a “kid’s” film has in its core a theme as important as growing up. And not growing up as in all the other “coming of age” crap films, but in the more important, more transcendent sense of purging oneself of our own emotional tensions. Just think about the first time you kissed somebody else, just think about what kind of person you were after that (that night, when you were thinking about every second of that moment) compared to how you were before. That’s powerful. So, think about that when you see Toy Story 3. There’s so much talent in this movie that is amazing. Congratulations.