After watching Toy Story 3, hearing reviews from friends, and reading several critical reviews of the film, I am stunned that much of the real story in Toy Story 3 has gone unnoticed. Underneath the bright colors, the funny lines, and the tear-jerking moments lies an existential tension that ultimately upholds a biting and deceptive nihilism that most audiences don't pick up on and if they did, would probably sour on the film. What am I talking about you ask? Lets dig a bit deeper.
Let's first get this out of the way; Toy Story 3 is a good film. The love from the writers and animators is clearly on display here, leading to a film that is equally parts funny, engrossing, and touching. Add on top of that continued great voice work, some fun new characters, and how could this film not be a success? While Toy Story 3 is clearly a winning film, there are a few issues that serve to limit this film (in many ways the series of films as well) for me, and it surprises me that many other critics and moviegoers don't seem to notice these issues as well.
The drama of the Toy Story Universe depends on its ability to create relatable situations between the toy subjects and the audience members. While there certainly are emotional points the audience can relate to within Toy Story 3, the overall dramatic issues are a failure as they fail to offer appropriately translatable situations for us, the audience. Toy Story 3's primary dramatic tension comes from Andy's growing older and no longer playing with his toys; he'll be going off to college by the end of the film. As such, the whole cast of toys has been getting neglected, thrown out, or donated. Our remaining cast of toys has to struggle with no longer being useful to their owner and eventually getting thrown into the trash, tossed in the attic, or donated to a daycare center. While it's a very relatable feeling to no longer feel wanted or used and indeed presents the audience with a similar existential crises, I don't think it becomes an appropriate tension for an audience to relate to.