I was a late admission to the Toy Story appreciation club, and even then I never rose above a loose associate membership. The first outing, with all the heft that comes from establishing a foothold in the history of animated films, was sweet and amusing, and followed by an enjoyable, light-hearted adventure sequel. Yet neither achieved for me, either artistically or emotionally, the depths of Finding Nemo and Wall*E.
This time around, the toys confront the fact that their owner, Andy, has outgrown them on his way to college. Faced with a dusty retirement in the attic or a horrible fate at a local daycare, the emotions of nostalgia, family, and the free spirit of imagination are eloquently. The drama is terrific, though often intense as it involves horrifying scenarios of imprisonment and potential death as much as it does bittersweet goodbyes and, yes, hope. It holds its own with grace and a strong heart, but ironically takes on a more resonant tone with foreknowledge of the characters and their relationships from the previous two movies. Of three films nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2010, I still lean towards How to Train Your Dragon or L’Illusioniste as the better films both in terms of animation and narrative effect, but the distinction is fine and, ultimately, rather pointless. See them all, and enjoy.