Toy Story 3 delivers powerfully good entertainment and meaning

One of the frustrations in my life right now is that I am away from home for prolonged periods. My career is in the midst of a big transition and I’ve been given an opportunity to really make an impact on a very major project overseas. But that also means separation from my family and some weeks that kills me.

This week was really bad.

Our cat Rascal, who we have had almost as long as we have been married, has had health problems for some time. Well this week it accelerated rapidly and my wife made the decision to end his misery. Not being there, not being able to hug and hold my wife and sons as they dealt with this… Well, it’s not the end of the world by any measure, but it was pretty brutal.

Often life involves letting go and dealing with loss… it’s something that we all have to deal with at some point. Things change. People change jobs. People move apart.

Your cat dies.

You have to accept these things, you have to move on. You have to keep moving forward, in the path you have set. And sometimes it’s hard.

So, to say the themes of Toy Story 3 resonated for me… is an understatement.

I joked on Twitter that Pixar has scientists who have formalized the perfect formula to elicit whatever emotional response from an audience it wants at a moment’s notice. Laughter? Run through shot sequence 28b, add Don Rickles VO, execute. Wistfulness? Access Randy Newman subroutine 12. Sadness and tears? Reference UP! montage and GO. But, of course, it’s more than that.

Pixar is True.

It’s as simple as that. All of the films they continually amaze us with, they never vary from what is True and absolutely Real. No matter what situation, the story and the characters are just… Well, they are us. The real secret formula they have mastered is the power of empathy and efficiency. There is no fat in any Pixar movie, and when I look at some of the other films I have seen so far this summer… Well, Toy Story 3 just pwned them all.

The point of the film is as I noted above… Loss and letting go and moving on. After this week and what is going on in my life, both around the past few days and the near future… Well, it wrecked me. Absolutely emotional devastation. Yes, a movie about toys who are secretly alive. And I’m just wiped out.

The last 20 minutes… Well, I won’t spoil it but… Ya know that montage at the beginning of UP last year? Yeah, the one the people who sell Kleenex noted in their earnings report was the major reason they were profitable in 2009? Well, the ending was like that for me. Only worse.

I see characters walking away from each other in a way that was completely organic and true and joyful and heart-rending. And I see my sons growing up before my eyes and I realize…

I’m Woody.

Andy’s father was never shown in any of the Toy Story movies. Did he die? Did he divorce Andy’s mom? It doesn’t matter, because in the end Woody represented Andy’s father in all the ways that mattered. He was always there for Andy, and he was always going to be…

So, when Andy has to go to college and he only takes Woody… There was a reason for that. And then, at the end… Well, Andy had to grow up someday. He had to go away. And he gave Woody away…

I have three sons… Three Andy’s, in a way. I’ve been away from them a lot lately, and eventually… They’ll be following that same path that we saw Andy take… They’ll be gone someday, too.

So, yeah. Absolutely. Wrecked. Me.

Needless to say, I highly recommend Toy Story 3. It may be the best of the three to me, and not just because of the potent subtext that I referred to here. It’s just a fantastic piece of entertainment, note-perfect.

And I’m gonna see it again.

With my sons, this time.