Glenn Whipp wrote about the challenge of crafting the screenplay for “Toy Story 3” for The Envelope.
“Toy Story 2” had the perfect ending. Woody accepts the idea that his beloved boy owner Andy will grow up someday, but “it will be fun while it lasts.” Besides, he tells pal Buzz, when it ends, the toys will have each other.
So, when John Lasseter, who directed the first two “Toy Story” movies and now runs Pixar and Disney Animation, gathered his creative team to the same remote Tomales Bay cabin north of San Francisco to hash out ideas for the third “Toy Story” movie, he started with one basic question: How do you reopen a story that resolved itself so beautifully?
The first day, no answers came, even after the crew — which included such Pixar stars as Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo,” “Wall-E“) and Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up“) — cracked open the custom-crafted bottle of “Toy Story” wine that Lasseter had given Stanton a decade earlier.
Then the floodgates opened, says Lee Unkrich, the Pixar vet who’d go on to direct “Toy Story 3.”
“We came to realize that there’s a lot of stuff we know is going to happen in life,” Unkrich says over a lunch with his Pixar producing partner Darla Anderson. “I know I’m going to send my three kids off to college someday. I know my parents will pass away someday. It’s one thing to say, ‘I’ll be able to deal with that day when it comes,’ and it’s another thing to find yourself at that day, dealing with it.”
Pixar’s creative team came up with a lot of other ideas that weekend. (Spoilers ahead if you’re one of the three people who haven’t seen the movie.) Andy would now be grown and going off to college. The toys would land at a day care center, a seemingly benign place that would turn out to be a prison ruled by a Teddy Ruxpin knockoff. The great tradition found in prison-break movies would be played with and tweaked. And, in the closing minutes, Andy would leave and give the toys to another child.
And, in those closing moments — a scene that proved so adept at opening the tear ducts of viewers that Unkrich and company had to scramble and craft a closing-credits epilogue to give moviegoers a chance to compose themselves — Pixar fashioned another perfect ending.
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– Glenn Whipp
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