So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ending to Toy Story 3. It doesn’t set well with me. It has too much of a perfect wrap-up in that traditional Disney way.
I can’t deny that it’s emotional and resonates with me on a level that is more uncomfortable than I like to admit. I grew up with toys, man. I lived through that high point of Toys ‘R Us and Kay-Bee Toys, that brief period in American history where home gaming consoles were really taking off and TV shows were blatant toy commercials.
This was a movie made by dudes and dudettes that are my age or older. They grew up with the same shit I did, and it shows. There isn’t some cutesy “what if toys were alive” concept at the heart of Toy Story 3. Fuck, no. That is a story about getting older–Andy grows up and moves on to college and leaves his toys behind.
A quick aside: Considering I was about the same age as Andy when the first movie came out in 1995 (about 10 or so), what does that say about Andy’s future prospects when he’s barely headed off to college and stops playing with his old toys at the age of 25?
Anyway, this shit is dark, man. Andy grows up, okay. Whatever. Fuck him. This isn’t about Andy. Yeah, he gives away his toys at the end (spoiler for a 7-year old movie, I guess). But the movie is all about these toys who are forced to contemplate the very end of their use, their purpose, even their own existence. This is a fucking existential crisis drama with a Mr. Potato Head making thinly-veiled sex jokes. This is some serious shit, right here.
But I don’t like that ending, man. It becomes about that late-bloomer manchild and stops being about the fucking toys, man. The whole series was about the toys and their lives and their world. Andy just happened to be this bigger thing that was beyond them but consumed them. He accidentally lets them get thrown away, they fight and claw their way back to him, and then he gives them away right after that. That’s some fucked up shit right there. And it’s rewarded by making him this sentimental and focal character right at the end.
No, the perfect ending–one that would have stayed true to the franchise and its toy-centric crisis–would have been to let the entire cast die in a fire instead of saving them. It’s dark, I know. But it’s a better ending. It’s powerful. It’s original, even.
Those toys are going to break eventually. They’re going to get lost, broken, burned, or whatever. They’re not exactly mint-in-box, ya know. And now we’re never going to see the logical conclusion of their story. No matter how many of the movie’s lead voice actors keel over and their characters are written off.
But picture that scene with them in the incinerator, slowly but steadily being pulled toward that massive fire at the center. The lot of them holding hands, closing their eyes, and finding peace and love in their final moments. But instead of a giant fucking crane coming down and pulling them to safety, they draw closer and closer to the fire. And then, just as they can feel the earliest licks of the flame and refuse to pull away–as they tighten their grip on the friend to either side of them–the movie fades to black, the sound of the fire and the burning and the machinery still going for a brief moment over the black. The credits roll begin to roll over this. The movie goes silent for just a brief instant. And then, just as Tom Hanks’ name hits the top of the screen, we get a bitter-sweet piano rendition of You’ve Got a Friend in Me.
Now that’s a fucking ending, huh?
Let’s not condescend to the audience, Pixar.