What makes the third film in the franchise such a powerful emotional experience?
Toy Story 3 is widely regarded as the high-water mark in the beloved Pixar series. It’s also the film that graduated Toy Story from “children’s movie” to “holy shit this is dark.”
Adults and kids alike can find plenty to enjoy. Nowhere was this more evident than the ending to Toy Story 3.
As this video from Network 1901 explains, Toy Story 3 has a bittersweet ending that encapsulates everything the franchise is really about. Let’s take a look:
What this video is really talking about is the three points of view that the ending jumps between Andy's, Bonnie's, and Woody's.
One of the themes of the TOY STORY franchise is togetherness. Toys and playtime can be a bonding experience and can allow us to experiment with our imaginations in ways we otherwise might not. In this ending scene, Bonnie is initially scared to come to meet Andy, an unfamiliar young man. She hides behind her mother until Andy pulls out a box of toys. Toys!
Soon, Bonnie and Andy are playing together like old friends, any differences in age, gender, or background quickly forgotten. While Andy does speak in various voices during this sequence, take a look at the YouTube video: even without sound, you get what’s going on. It’s an effective and emotional scene on a purely visual level.
Andy All Grown Up
Andy’s part of the ending is a little bit different. Instead of receiving toys, he’s letting them go. What’s more, Andy is essentially giving his childhood best friends away. He describes them to Bonnie as if they’re real people. Bonnie buys into this 100% -- after all, she’s a kid with a vibrant imagination.
What’s really significant here is when Bonnie waves Woody’s hand to Andy, as if he’s saying goodbye. You can see from Andy’s face that he’s a little shocked as if he realized Woody is alive for the first time. It’s the closest Andy ever comes to seeing Woody’s true self. But now that Andy has grown up, that’s a world that is no longer available to him.
So Long, Pardner
Woody’s point of view is different from the other two, especially since this is his movie. He and Andy have a connection that goes far beyond that of any of the other toys, or for that matter, any of the other humans we’ve seen in this franchise.
Woody and Andy go way back, and this scene is meant to evoke that. In fact, Woody barely moves in this scene, instead letting Andy and Bonnie play with him and the other toys.
Andy and Bonnie are people, which means they have agency and choice. Woody is a toy, so he’s forced to accept whatever comes his way. When he says “so long, pardner” to Andy, he’s showing that acceptance of a situation that he can’t change. The film is driving home one of the themes of friendship: sometimes, it’s time for both people to move on.
Toy Story 4 opens this weekend, and it looks set to break more box office records for Disney and Pixar. One of the reasons the franchise has held up so strongly over the past 24 years(!!!) is because of its commitment to exploring universal themes like friendship, community, and growing up.
How do you feel about it? Let us know in the comments below!
If you’re looking for more Pixar story inspiration, check out our article about the script for UP.