"Reach for the sky."
Couldn't be more appropriate for what I am writing about.
THIS IS NOT A REVIEW, but just to get it out of the way; Toy Story 3 is Pixar's first threequel just as Toy Story 2 was Pixar's maiden voyage into sequel territory - and like Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 proved to be better movie than its predecessor both in terms of storytelling and animation (I've seen it in 3D, but like Up, I feel the extra dimension adds little to the already 3-dimensional characters, so if you want to save a buck, seeing it in normal-D detracts nothing from the viewing experience). It is probably the best film you can see in theatres for the time being until Inception premieres in July, and I am not ashamed to admit that the ending moved me to manly tears. Both Toy Story films dealt with the themes of attachment and abandonment, but Toy Story 3 took it to its logical conclusion... and beyond.
"Beyond" is the operative word here. When I was watching Toy Story 3, I was positively bombarded with religious allegories and post-life metaphors - or maybe I'm just susceptible to to interpreting it that way, my being an amateur theology buff and everything. The central plot of the film essentially talks about the toys' fate when their relationship with Andy, their child (now a teen and too old for toys), comes to an end. As "being there for Andy" is pretty much their raison d'être, not being needed by Andy, by extension and for all practical purposes, represents the termination of their lives.
The movie then show us - to my eyes, at least - the different possible fates of life after death; some of which Andy's toys actually experienced for realsies while some were only described peripherally.
This is best read by people who have already seen Toy Story 3. Hereafter there be spoilers, yarr!
The Attic: Limbo
Limbo is a Catholic concept necessitated by the exclusive method of salvation in Christendom; which is to be forgiven and brought back into a personal relationship with God by receiving Jesus' sacrifice. There's simply no other way to get into Heaven. What then of Abraham, Moses and the other patriarchs who lived before Jesus' time but had died in the friendship of God? Must they burn in Hell because the taint of their Original Sin was not removed through the acceptance of Christ?
That's what Limbo is for - a place at the edge of Hell which kind of like a departure terminal for all the Old Testamental saints and prophets to hang around in while waiting for Jesus to get born, get executed and get the Heaven doors opened. In that respect, the Attic is a bit like that. There, the toys will have the pleasure of each other's company and could indulge in fun diversions like games and television, sans the bliss of being played with - and there's that hope that "Andy might have kids of his own one day" said Woody. Considering that Andy is almost like God to the toys (who are all religiously loyal to him), his firstborn is technically the Christ, the Messiah. He will inherit them and free them from the Attic to be played with again. And being played with is certainly considered heavenly by the toys.
The meh-ness of the dark Attic where the toys will neither be ecstatically happy nor experience pain also brings to mind the Greek Asphodel Meadows or the Hel of the Norse mythos: two retirement home-type afterlife worlds that are similarly neutral in nature and sound boring as heck.
In a rather poignant scene where Andy was deciding which one toy he wanted to take to College with him as a memento of his childhood, he chose Woody over Buzz. Woody's fate from that point onwards would be in a continuous existence and relationship with Andy, leaving all his friends behind to live in the Attic. This mirrors how immortal characters are depicted in fiction where they eventually outlive everyone they know or love. As we learnt in Toy Story 2, Woody is something of a collectible antique more than half a century old and is probably a hand-me-down from his conspicuously missing Dad (which explains Andy's fierce attachment to him) who in turn might have gotten Woody from his parents; making the cowboy a sort of heirloom. "It's an old family toy," Andy's Mom said as much to Al who wanted to buy Woody in a yard sale in the second movie. It's probably safe to say that Woody will continuously be passed down the line and will never outlive his purpose.
I'll admit that immortality isn't so much a life after death possibility as it is an existential state of being.
Sunnyside Daycare: Heaven and Purgatory
Imagine to be played with everyday in perpetuity, never to be abandoned or outgrown ever because there are always new kids coming in all the time! Being donated to the Sunnyside Daycare is like going to Toy Heaven, or so thought Buzz et al.
The Butterfly Room is indeed like that while the Caterpillar Room housing younger children is more representative of Purgatory, another Catholic doctrine which the sola scriptura, sola fide Protestants don't buy into at all. The Catholics believe that there exists a halfway house for souls which have screwed up in life a little (but not too much) where they will undergo painful temporary punishment to cleanse themselves of sin before entering into the squeaky cleanness Heaven. Some believe that prayers from the living, from outside of Purgatory, can help expedite the purification process and hasten their entrance into Heaven.
Andy's toys must have had a nasty surprise when their ticket to Heaven dropped them in the purgatorial Caterpillar Room where they were roughhoused, thrown about and had their parts stuffed into orifices by toddlers who are not "age-appropriate" to play with them. Lotso, the amiable de facto tyrant of the toys in Sunnyside, deemed them unworthy but was willing to offer Buzz a place in the paradisaical Butterfly Room because he showed "initiative" by breaking out of the hellhole to negotiate a transfer of his friends - so there's a chance of getting out through merit after all.
And it took outside help (Woody's) to eventually break them out of
The Dump: Hell or Extinction
The dump, the shredder and the incinerator were imageries that were all very powerfully evocative of a fire and brimstone Hell where the toys could be put through terrible torture and melted down in what looked all in the world like Satan's barbecue. And what d'you know, it was Lotso (our God slash Devil teddy bear from Sunnyside) who psychopathically consigned them to that fiery fate despite the fact that they are good toys, as evidenced by Woody and Buzz's rescue of his strawberry-scented ass from the shredder even after everything he's done to their company of toys. All they did was refuse to bow to his dictatorial whims and off they were sent to damnation. Sounds like the Christian Hell alright.
In essence however, the whole sequence at the dump more closely parallels the atheistic belief that there is just simply extinction or annihilation of the consciousness after death (what I personally believe in and am most comfortable with). As they were slowly slipping into the incinerator, the toys linked hands in the face of their inevitable end, having spent a full and happy life being Andy's toys. There was no longer fear or apprehension - simply quiet, dignified acceptance. They were ready. It's going to be like falling into a deep sleep after the longest day ever.
Of course, then there's that deus ex machina moment involving an actual deus ex machina - but it was sufficiently foreshadowed by the 3 little green Pizza Planet aliens' worshipful reverence towards anything resembling a claw so it did not seem too contrived a plot device.
So, a god-like being plucked Andy's toys from certain doom - what's next?
Bonnie's House: Reincarnation
In perhaps one of the most touching and satisfying ending in cinematic history to a franchise of movies, the toys were given to a shy little girl called Bonnie. She only ever opened up to her toys, and it was a truly heartwarming moment when she slowly blossomed as Andy hands her his toys one by one, introducing each of them to her as if they are real people. The sight of Bonnie and a teenage Andy playing together with their toys at the bottom of the garden just made me grin stupidly the whole time. It brought the shapeless fond memories of my own childhood back to me - memories which I may or may not have. When Bonnie raised Woody's hand in a wave goodbye to Andy as he was leaving for college, I could just feel the emotions welling out from the toy cowboy's frozen expression. It's a testament to how well-realised Woody is as a character.
Being passed down to Bonnie represents their rebirth or reincarnation; a metaphysical concept common in Eastern faiths like Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism. Their life with Andy had ended and now, they are at the threshold of a new one with a lovely little girl who loves her toys dearly and takes care of them as well as Andy did.
I cannot imagine an ending sweeter.
"And as the years go by
Our friendship will never die
You're gonna' see, it's our destiny
You got a friend in me."
P.S. So, what do you think of my interpretation of Toy Story 3 as a complex life after death allegory? Is there really something to it or am I just overanalysing a computer-animated film for kids?
You got a friend in him,
k0k s3n w4i