Dear Pixar, your ability to make great movies every year is completely frustrating.  Cut it out!

Yes, they did it again (that 98% tomato rating is no lie), and while it isn’t their best, it’s still quite good.

The story picks up ten years after Toy Story 2.  Andy is preparing to go to college, and has to decide what to do with his toys.  Obviously he can’t take them, save for Woody (he’s his favorite, of course), but through some accident, they end up being donated to Sunnyside, a nursery for children.  At first it looks good, but when the preschoolers come along and manhandle the poor toys, they want to leave.  Meanwhile, Woody continues his quest to get back home and to find Andy, but makes new friends along the way.

As a story, it’s rather conventional: plot, conflict, climax (involving a dumpster, a dump truck, and a garbage dump), resolution, and everyone goes home happy.  It’s Pixar’s ability to take that formula though and make it exciting, and they’re able to do that quite well.  The writing is often quite good and snappy – Barbie and Ken get most of the big laughs, but there are loads of adult humor in there as well.

There are two things I really admire about Pixar that can be seen in this film.  The first is their ability to bring humanity to even the simplest things.  The toys – a combination of varying plastics, cloths and other stitchings and adhesives – are brought to life wonderfully through their interaction with each other.  The main cast is pared down from previous films – as Andy gets older, they give away a lot of the toys, so there’s less than a dozen of the mainstays remaining – but they each get enough characterization to advance their own stories and the central plot of the film as well.  Woody is completely loyal to Andy, Buzz is 24/7 heroic (though his system reset brings a lot of the humor in the film as well), Jessie is Woody’s often contradictory support and a constant firecracker, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are predictably cynical and sarcastic and always a hoot, and Rex and Hamm are fun comic relief.  The animation for all of these characters is top notch, but it’s the writing that brings them out more.

The second admiration I have is just their amazing story telling ability, most notably early on and at the end.  They use montage sequences quite effectively, both advancing plot and even character.  The one in the beginning, from the eye of Andy’s mother as she records him hanging with his toys, shows Andy growing up, still enjoying the company of his toys and the adventures they share.  The one at the end is much in the same tone but also different: he’s grown up, but now he’s moving on.  It’s on par with the opening fifteen minutes of Up (still to me one of the most brilliantly written parts of any movie ever), and it gives proper closure to the Toy Story arc.

Quite good, and highly recommended.  Though, I saw it in 2-D, so I couldn’t really tell you about seeing it in 3-D.