ShoWest 2010: Disney•Pixar’s Toy Story 3 Debuts!

One of the big selling points for the 2010 ShoWest was the fact that Pixar Animation would be debuting a work-in-progress version of Lee Unkrich’s Toy Story 3 months before its release on June 18.

This continues the strategy begun by Disney and Pixar last year when they surprised many by showing the first half of Pete Docter’s Up at various comic book conventions over three months before its release. The big difference with Toy Story 3 is that Up was an unknown, a new and original premise rather than a long-awaited three-quel to two of Pixar’s early hits as well as a movie that’s been shrouded in secrecy for the many years since it was first announced. That said, the movie wasn’t quite finished yet and was screened in 2D, but lost nothing on the capacity audience of exhibitors lined-up to see it at the Paris Hotel’s Le Theater Des Arts and the Jubilee Theater at Bally’s.

Before showing the movie, ShoWest presented John Lasseter with a special ShoWest Big Ten Award, commemorating Disney and Pixar Animation’s ten movies released to date, all enormous hits that have grossed $5.5 billion worldwide. After giving a speech, Lasseter presented the premiere of Teddy Newton’s short Day & Night which will be running in front of Toy Story 3. The short was shown in 3D and it’s another fairly innovative dialogue-free short involving two 2-dimensional “Schmoo”-like creatures who display 3D animation scenes on their bodies. The general idea is that one is always showing daytime scenes, while the other is always showing night, and the short cleverly juxtaposed the two things as the characters interacted.

Unfortunately, we can’t really review Toy Story 3 nor can we say more about the plot than what you’ll already know from watching the trailer, which is that Woody and Buzz Lightyear’s owner Andy has grown up and is heading off to college, leaving the fate of the duo and their toy friends somewhat uncertain. Essentially what we see in the trailer is the set-up for another amazing adventure, which is sure to appeal to fans of what Disney and Pixar Animation have been offering for the past 15 years. Like the best Pixar movies, it’s consistently funny, exciting and moving, sometimes all three at the same time, and as someone who never got around to seeing Toy Story 2 and really had very little emotional investment in the characters, I was really impressed with what was done with a fairly simple story that doesn’t require having seen either of the previous movies to immediately understand the idea of growing up and losing interest in one’s toys. Toy Story 3 explores that from the toys’ perspective, and the clever introduction and integration of new toy characters with the beloved known characters is quite seamless. It’s also impressive how some of the funniest gags are introduced and used just enough to never wear out their welcome, which is rarely the case these days. There are also moments as emotional as those in Up without ever feeling sentimental. I’ll also freely admit to being close to tears a number of times while watching it, which is a true testament to what Unkrich and his team of talented creators have done in making these toys feel so human, yet making the human characters feel even more real than what we normally see in animated films. (Supposedly, they were still working on the musical score and sound mix but the temp music that was there worked so well that they clearly don’t have that far to go or have to do much to make these scenes work.)

Toy Story 3 is the type of movie that I could definitely see again right away and certainly will want to see how it plays in 3D, especially since one of the best things about the look of the movie is how bright and colorful it looks even compared to Pixar’s other recent movies. One wonders if any of that might get lost when wearing glasses that tend to darken the images. I guess we’ll see in a few months when we see the movie again, but in the meantime, you can look forward to our continued coverage of Toy Story 3 before it opens on June 18. We can almost guarantee that Disney and Pixar have another blockbuster hit on their hands, one that is going to stand the test of time more than most sequels.

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