The film starts off with one of the most artistically challenging Pixar shorts to date, Night and Day. The idea is that the anthropomorphized “Day” meets the anthropomorphized “Night” and beautifully scored brilliantly animated hijinks ensue. With that taken care of, feel free to skip the next four paragraphs, since I am about to indulge in a rant.
I don’t know how to react to Toy Story 3 (103 minutes) with the childlike wonder that everyone else in America seems to reserve for movies that remind them of lollipops and teddy bears. Ok, the second and third films in the trilogy worked on adding some adventurous and determined female characters (even while subtly undercutting their agency by pairing them with romantic interests). Progress, not perfection, I suppose.
However, while everyone else is worshipping at the altar of Pixar, I am wondering why all the characters are white. I also can’t help but wonder why the toys all paid so much hostile attention to the Ken doll (Michael Keaton). It is repeatedly emphasized in the film that as a girl’s toy the Ken doll possesses many feminine qualities. Not only are these qualities emphasized and mocked, Ken is never shown affirming his right to behave as he wants. In fact, his behavior (enjoying clothes, being romantic, writing in the color purple) is played for laughs throughout the film, the implication being that since he is a so-called girl’s toy he is not “masculine” enough. This begs the question; do presumably neutered toys care about your gender?
But the most egregious –ism is in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene towards the end of the film. It happened so quick I can’t be sure I heard what I think I heard and a number of web searches failed to turn up any solid evidence. Never one for spreading rumors, I want to throw this out to see if anyone else noticed: a toy refers to the character of Big Baby as “mongo.”
It is one thing for a movie like Shrek to use the term when referring to the giant gingerbread man. Not okay, but contextualized as part of a film in which boundary pushing was the name of the game. On the other hand, in a film such as Toy Story 3 rated G and marketed to children should the slur “mongo” be an acceptable way for one toy to refer to another? But this might be a tempest in a teapot. I heard the word, but I haven’t been able to get independent verification. End rant.
All possible racism, sexism, heterosexism and other forms of prejudice aside, on the surface Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the gang are in fine form. Andy (John Morris) is packing for college and clearing out his room. Inevitably he is forced to decide what to do with his beloved toys. After a mix-up his toys end up at Sunnyside Day Care under the seemingly benign Lotso (Ned Beatty). Life for the toys heads rapidly downhill as they discover the TERRIBLE SECRET haunting the seeming paradise of endlessly rotating children to play with. Of course, the whole plot is a kind of tribute to Orwell’s famous Animal Farm, where all toys are created equal but some toys are more equal than others.
Honestly, 90 percent of viewers can just go to the theater with their kids and enjoy a nice afternoon without worrying about all the subtext. But for those of you bored with a conventional understanding, feel free to take your sociology textbooks along.