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'Toy Story 3': Too Dark for Little Kids?

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Bethany Sanders: Hot, muggy weather found us detouring our Father's Day plans to the cool darkness of the movie theater last night, where we took the kids to see "Toy Story 3." Having already seen "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2," I had no worries that the third movie in the franchise wouldn't be appropriate for my 5- and 7-year-old girls. But here's a warning for parents of sensitive children: Things get a little dark in the middle.

Toy Story 3

Buzz and Woody's boy, Andy, is heading off to college, and his mom wants him to sort through his old stuff. Andy loads his favorite old toys -- Jessie, Bullseye, Rex, Hamm, Slink, and the Potato Heads -- into a garbage bag to store in the attic, and throws Woody into a box headed for college. When the bag accidentally gets thrown to the curb, the toys defect and jump into a box of donations headed for daycare.

Woody, seeing the mistake, tries to talk the toys into heading back to Andy's house, but Sunnyside Daycare looks like a dream come true for toys aching for playtime. This is where things get a little dark.

Warning -- spoilers ahead!

As it turns out, Sunnyside Daycare is run by a homicidal old bear named Lotso, who runs his kingdom with an iron paw. When the toys -- realizing their mistake -- try to escape, they're locked up by Lotso's henchmen, who aren't afraid to break a toy into submission. The action gets so intense and emotional at times -- there's a moment when the toys are headed into a furnace and sadly but bravely accept their fate by holding hands -- that you'll wonder how "Toy Story 3" got a G rating when "Wall-E" and "Up" were rated PG.

It was at this point that my 5-year-old took off her 3-D glasses. My 7-year-old sat quietly in her seat, but her hands were gripping her armrests tightly. Was it too much? Probably not -- my kids seemed fine, and we didn't have any bedtime problems. But it is more adult-type action than we're used to seeing in a G-rated movie.

Offsetting that action, though, were the warm and funny moments we're used to seeing in the "Toy Story" series, including some hilarious scenes between Barbie and fashion-forward Ken, and Buzz's adoration for spunky cowgirl Jessie. But it's the ending where it all comes together and we remember why the original "Toy Story" touched us the way it did. Not a few moms left the theater last night with tears in their eyes, myself included.

You'll get all the laughter and heart you're used to from the "Toy Story" gang, but things get a little rough in the middle for younger viewers. If you've got a sensitive kid, stay home and wait until you can preview this on DVD.

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30 comments so far | Post a comment now
Matt June 21, 2010, 2:07 PM

You must be joking, it’s the neurotic parents like you that over react to nothing why other children can’t do anything fun, you are completely wrong.

Mom June 21, 2010, 7:49 PM

Ummm, Wall-E is rated G. Please check your information first before posting. Thank you!

Pookie June 21, 2010, 8:48 PM

I have to agree that some parents over react. We took our 5 year old to see the movie, and while that part was intense we all knew someone would come to the rescue, like they always do. It was a great movie, like the others. We really enjoyed it!

hpoulter June 22, 2010, 5:00 AM

Good grief - she wasn’t neurotic or over-reacting, but simply noting that the movie carried more emotional weight than one might expect from a G film. Different kids react differently.

I loved TS3 very much, and I would encourage parents to take their kids, but I was surprised it wasn’t PG.

PG means what it says. Parents need information so they know what their kids are getting into. When I was a tot, I dragged my mother out of a theater showing of “The Wizard of Oz”. When I saw those feet curl up, that was all she wrote.

sportsmom June 22, 2010, 8:36 AM

WOW! We must not have seen the same movie. I took my daughter (age 11), son (age 14), nieces (ages 9 & 4) and my nephew (age 8). EVERYONE loved the movie! My daughter and I got choked up when Andy left for college, but noone thought the movie was dark. Have you seen the other two Toy Stories or anything else from Disney? Duh! There’s always a villian, and the good guys always win. Stick to PBS if this is too “dark” for your kids.

Tiffany June 23, 2010, 7:19 AM

We took our 3 year old to see this. And when I knew there would be parts where the toys were in danger…I would simply whisper in her ear..”They’ll be okay”. But honestly…she was more worried about getting woody & buzz lightyear dolls to take home! She loved the movie!!

Mike June 24, 2010, 3:53 AM

What is wrong with some of you? All the article is saying is that there are some younger kids who may get frightened by the content in the movie. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t excellent, and it doesn’t mean the parents are overreacting or neurotic.

Some kids just might not be as desensitized as yours, and a (spoiler ahead) group of toys sliding slowly toward their deaths in a massive incinerator can be a bit scary to some of them.

I think its great that someone at least notifies parents who might be curious.

Mark June 24, 2010, 7:07 PM

Actually, I have also noticed this about recent Disney/Pixar movies, including Wall-E, Bolt, Finding Nemo, etc.-they make cartoons so emotional, sad, and depressing now!

Many of these cartoons carry more emotional baggage than a rated R shoot-em-up.

I hope Disney listens, because cartoons are supposed to be about FUN.

Dan June 26, 2010, 7:53 AM

I dunno…Partds of it were light-hearted & downright hilarious! C(‘mon Ken, how much time do youREALLY spend in the closet hmmm?) But I agree with the writer of the article. In particular the imagination scene at the beginning (SPOILERS!!!) when Hamm, in his alter ego Mr. Dr. Evil porkchop, descends in his aerial battleship all Bowser-style(from super mario games) & drops an atomic bomb made of the barrel-o-monkeys. And it was accurate too! The flash-bang, the mushroom cloud, the sonic wave that rushed over the heroes as they were running away. (it did’nt incinerate them or anything, just held them in place so Dr p.’s ship could power up a death ray to fire.)Then it cut back to Andy playing in his room. Afterwards, my 6 yr old daughter asked me:”Daddy, what was that big red thing that looked like a mushroom?” I was so flabberghasted Ididn’t know what to say! On top of the prison/concentration camp scenario at Sunnyside. Barbie one time said something to Lotso about not governing the people through fear. WTF Disney/Pixar! who are you REALLY trying to target? Never thought I’d see the day where I’d see Nuclear imagery in a kid’s movie…

kate June 26, 2010, 12:37 PM

I went with a group of 24-28 year olds, and we all thought that the Big Baby and Monkey characters were creepy (and the clown, but just from those who don’t like clowns in the first place). I would imagine the Monkey especially would be scary to young kids, with its bulging red eyes, wordless angry nature and banshee shriek. Even my friends were going “Oh my god” when it first started going crazy.

The scene were all the toys think they’re going to die by being burned to death was also a moment where I felt “really? This is a kid’s movie?”

I agree with the author - I think the movie really is too dark in some places for some kids. It’s certainly more like the first film than the 2nd, with a more sinister dark tone present. At the very least, it provides plenty of images to get stuck in kids heads for nightmares. I’d be wary if I was a parent taking kids less than 8 to see this.

Ann June 27, 2010, 12:03 AM

Many people here don’t seem to remember how “dark” the original toy story was. Woody tries to run Buzz over with a rc car because he was afraid of being replaced, and there’s a bully boy who cuts the head off his toys and replaces them with other heads. There was even a scene with a bunch of mutilated zombie toys.

Pixar Fan June 27, 2010, 9:14 PM

I’m a big Pixar Fan, but that doesn’t make me blind in seeing how over-the-top dark and mean TS3 is! Yes, there are always villains and meanness, but TS3 had “way” too much of it!! About 3/4ths of the movie took place in a prison camp/hell setting. It bothers me that so many are so “desensitized” that they can’t see how dark this film is! I would definitely not recommend this film to children or to anyone who doesn’t like movies with an overly dark, mean tone.

Concerned mom June 27, 2010, 10:49 PM

My husband and I took our 3 yr old and 5 yr old to see TS3 today. The 3 yr old was half paying attention to the movie but thw 5 yr old watched without turning away from the screen. Tonight, he is traumatized by the monkey and big baby! He did not want to go to sleep and he has now cried out in his sleep about 4 times because he must be having nightmares!! I didn’t expect this from a G movie. Wished we hadn’t gone! (although I personally loved the movie!!)

treasurefolk June 27, 2010, 11:06 PM

Personally a friend told me the movie was wonderful and he brought his 2 1/2 yr old to see it. I wanted to read reviews for myself as I don’t want my child exposed to shoot-em-up type imagery. Now with reading about the mushroom cloud and incineration scene I think I will have to preview this movie before bringing my 2 1/2 yr old. We already stayed up one night and had to sleep on the living room floor because he was scared a monster was in the room and the wind was howling in his dream. All night crying—- so no thanks TS3.

Karen Ritter June 28, 2010, 7:59 PM

PG, yes; G, no! Toy Story 3 was dark, creepy and rather disturbing. My 7 yr old was miserable. It’s surprising how ‘tough’ little kids have to be to enjoy a movie in a theater. If it’s not the previews it’s the movie.

Disappointed, again.

Rupert Mcnulty July 2, 2010, 8:25 AM

I noticed there wasn’t any mention of Bruder Toys. Exactly where I reside that’s the only toy you’ll see at the Playground or Beach. I’d enjoy to see some more info about Bruder Toys.Thanks!

Laurie July 3, 2010, 12:43 PM

I agree, it is way too dark. Having worked professionally with children for 15 years, what we think on the surface may not disturb children is often acted out in their play and relationships at other times. After seeing this, I was horrified at the stupidity of what this world is coming to. I feel like Pixar is really in it for the money now. Who are you really concerned about anyways, parents, yourselves, or your children? Wise up, and quit thinking about your entertainment needs, and put your children first!

trey July 3, 2010, 12:48 PM

Oh, you gotta be kitten me! This movie, I agree, was a little dark. But, when they were in the furnace, I knew someone was gonna save them (like always). Geez, soccer-moms should look at the reviews online before taking their little kids. I’m a tween, and I was fine with the movie. It was sad though, it almost made me cry at the end, but, no nightmares, scary thoughts, etc. I don’t get what all the fuss is aboot.

Paul  July 6, 2010, 9:31 AM

As the parents of two year old Buzz fanatics, we took a date night last night to see toy story. Although we both loved the movie and appreciated that Pixar told the true story of out-grown toys, I am not sure I will show it to my kids anytime soon. Unlike the first two movies whose darkest scenes involve woody getting thrown away, this movie had nightmarish toys, prison/concentration camp/incinerator sequences, good characters turning bad, etc. I am not suggesting that my kids won’t be exposed to these themes elsewhere, but I would have preferred 90 more minutes of the sweet, heart warming sequences of the first two movies. This was not a movie made for young children, which is fine, but it was a bit of a bummer. The moral of the story seemed to be that we all need to be able to accept loss, grow up and move on… quite an adult moral if I have ever seen one.

Jeff July 9, 2010, 5:15 PM

Not sure why so many spiteful comments, but the fact is, the movie is NOT toddler ready. I’m not sure what the appropriate start age is, but its just a little too dark for a G rating. To the parents that put their kids first and try to think with their minds, thank you. To the parents that say “big deal, get over it” good luck with your children.

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