here's a post I wrote around Oscar time.)
Where does Toy Story 3 rank? I will have to watch it again to decide for sure. But it is certainly one of those three light cluster destroyers. It is up there with Up and WALL-E as the best Pixar movies ever. And it had better get one of those ten Best Pictures slots. I am still constantly amazed at the geniuses at that establishment. The work they put into these things. Even when they are putting out sequels, they still give each of them the same treatment as the originals. Think about most third movies in a trilogy. How many times can you say the third movie was the BEST movie? (Honestly, I don't know if I can even think of one instance of that.) Some would say Lord of the Rings, since the third one won all the Oscars. But the second movie was the best one. The Academy was rewarding the series with all those wins.
I'm not going to lie - I cried like a little girl. It wasn't even just one scene, either. These characters have so much emotional depth. Their friendship and love is so intense. I found myself hurting for them. They were toys, for Pete's sake. But I ached for them as they tried to deal with the fact that they just were not wanted (or appeared to be). I actually thought about the toybox that I toted around for years as I moved. It was filled with stuffed Garfields and vinyl California Raisins figurines and action figures. And tons of rabbit toys from when I was Natalie's age. I held on to them for years - not wanting to say goodbye to that part of my life. I also held onto them thinking my kids would want them for some reason. (Although, knowing my kids now, they would hardly be interested in most of that junk.) So eventually most of that found its way into a garbage can or a donation box. I could imagine the Dallas Cowboys action figure wondering what he did wrong. Then I jerked myself to reality by saying, "Stupid. They are just toys. They can't feel anything."
But that was where the scenes between Andy and his mom got me. That was where the tears started and didn't stop. Because that is real. Kids grow up. They stop playing with their little toys and start using computers and iPods. As I watched Andy using his laptop and Mollie listening to her iPod, I could see my kids in that. I can already hardly believe Josiah is turning nine in less that three months. Natalie starts FIRST GRADE. My little baby girl is in FIRST GRADE?!? Gabe is so tiny that it seems his babyhood has lasted longer. But then we go through Publix and he is counting and saying the letters. And I know his turn is just around the corner. Before long, I'll be the parent getting my kid ready to go to college. And that thought just kills me. It is too soon. I'm not ready for that. Josiah will be driving in six years. Gabe is old enough to go to preschool. Natalie is doing cartwheels and handstands like a big girl.
So many times in my mind, I still see myself as a younger person. It is like my brain got stuck at 25. Since I have worked with students for so long, it is easy to still think young. But when the reality really sets in, it is scary. I'm 36. The kids I taught last year at ICS were born after I graduated from high school. They literally are young enough to be my kids. And my kids are growing up - even if I don't want them to. We already have seen Josiah outgrow Planet Heroes and Larry Boy. Natalie thinks Strawberry Shortcake is for babies. And Gabe has moved past Max and Ruby to Wow Wow Wubzy and Diego. He actually sat through Toy Story 3 and points out the characters now.
That is what left me in tears at the end of the movie. The thought of my kids one day packing up boxes and moving off to school. Josiah one day will put the Puppy World dogs into a box and stuff them in the attic - or send them to Goodwill. Natalie won't want her Build a Bear unicorn or her Love Bear or mermaid. Gabe won't build trains of cars around the room. They won't run across the room to give me a hug. They won't bring me books and say, "Wead it!" They won't squeal and race to the door when Heather gets home yelling, "MOMMA! MOMMA! MOMMA!" People will think they are silly to hold onto those special toys. And, I guess, as a parent we worry they will outgrow us too. They won't cry at the thought that I am going out of town to teach at a seminar. They won't think we are cool to hang around. They won't grab my hand in a store, just because they love me.
The Toy Story franchise has never been just about toys. The first movie presented such an interesting concept. What do toys do when we aren't around? But it blossomed into much more than that. It was about loyalty and friendship and accepting change. The second movie delved into the concepts of realizing our purpose. We need to do what we were put here to do - even if it means sacrifice. The third movie dealt with so much - friendship, loyalty, love, death, power, vengeance, rejection. But most of all it was about letting go - even when we desperately want to hold on. We so badly want to fight the passage of time. We are dragged kicking and screaming into the future. People have developed so many efforts to delay it - plastic surgery, mid life crises, immaturity. But our kids won't stop growing. And, as parents, we should want our kids to reach their potential and change their world - something they can't do unless they go out on their own. But, man it is hard.
The fact that an animated movie about toys is able to teach that is amazing. As a life lesson, Toy Story 3 was great. As a film, it was incredible. It wrapped up both the toy story line AND the Andy story line perfectly. It was gorgeously made. It had real emotion - both happiness and sadness. It really was a masterpiece. And it was something that I was able to share with my kids. We all were excited about the movie, enjoyed it, and had a great memory because of it. They just couldn't understand my tears. Not yet.