To celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary, we saw Toy Story 3 at the local theater. We considered borrowing some toddlers so no one would know we were going to an animated picture alone, but then realized we would have to spend more time watching them than the show. So we marched in, unapologetic, got our usual large combo (2 large drinks and one large tub of popcorn - hold the butter - for $7), two packages of peanut M&M's (for the appropriate sweet to salty ratio) and took our seats.
When the original Toy Story came out in 1995, our children were 5 and 3. Some friends were visiting us in Nebraska for Thanksgiving weekend, so we all went to the theater together, then went to Burger King and got the kids Toy Story figurines in their Happy Meals. I remember how amazed I was at the reality of the computer animation process. Toy Story on video became part of the rotation of movies we watched over and over at home. By the time the second installment came out, the kids were 9 and 7, and we had moved back to Kansas. Again, we took the kids and some friends to the theater, but I think we enjoyed it as much as they did. Naturally, with these fun memories attached to the first two films, we couldn't allow the release of number three without the theater experience. We actually tried to get the kids to join us and make it another family outing, but at 19 and 18, they just weren't as excited as they used to be.
In this show, Andy has grown up and is leaving for college - an appropriate story line at our house. His mother asks him to sort the detritus of his childhood into boxes and trash bags to be sent to three destinations: stored in the attic, donated to a day care, or trashed. Andy intends to store all the familiar characters in the attic, with the exception of Woody who is destined for his college dorm room, but the bags are mixed up and they all end up at the day care, under the control of Lotso, the tyrant Teddy bear who rules the playroom. The rest of the story covers their escape and perilous trek to return to Andy's house.
At the most climactic moment, the movie came to a grinding halt. The spool on which the movie was wound had broken somehow and would require that the entire film be removed, the spool repaired and then the film rewound - a process that would take up to two hours. We were given free tickets to return the next night and watch the whole thing again. After 24 suspenseful hours, we finally got to see if the toys completed their dangerous journey or if they fell victim to Lotso and the dump ground incinerator.
As always, the movie is filled with clever dialog and some pop-culture references that will mean more to the parents than to the kids. And of course the animation is even more amazing than it was fifteen years ago. Naturally, once we learn the fate of Buzz, Mr. & Mrs. Potatoe Head, Hamm, and all our other toy friends, it comes time for Andy to head off to college. Don't tell my kids, but I actually cried. Maybe it was the toy's memories of Andy's childhood, maybe it was that my own nest will be empty in three weeks, or maybe I'm just a sentimental sap, but it was the perfect ending.