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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
Eamon July 29, 2010, 12:21 PM

My 4 and half yr old hasn’t slept properly since seeing the movie. Massive Buzz & Woody fan. I didn’t see it personally but whatever scene(s) involving the red eyed monkey has scared the bejebus out of him

Suzanne Schwartz July 30, 2010, 6:00 PM

I agree, the movie is dark. We just got back from seeing the movie and both commented that it did not seem appropriate for a 3 year old. Our son asked to leave once, but we reassured him the toys would make it out safely. I enjoyed it but would not recommend this for young children.

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Mom of boys August 19, 2010, 3:15 PM

I agree with the author. The movie was great, but not necessarily for the intended audience. My husband and I took our kids, who are 3 and 6, opening weekend. While my 3-year old was fine and loved the movie, my 5-year old was wrapped around my husband’s arm the whole furnace scene, crying crocodile tears and saying “they’re going to die.” My husband, like the rest of the adult world and most older kids, assumed that they would be saved, and reassured him as much. Since we saw it, he has now been a lot more aware of death.

I’m not saying it’s a bad movie, or don’t watch it, just be prepared. Kids movies aren’t for kids anymore.

joyce November 9, 2010, 10:33 AM

My family watched the movie last night on DVD, my youngest brother who was 10 came in my room saying that he could not sleep last night. I knew why. TS3 had really creepy scenes. Especially really creepy characters like Big Baby, The clown, and the monkey. I was upset that they made it so scary, the theme is already dark enough. I suggest that people call pixar studios and remind them that they are making movies for kids so that they will not do this in the future. Share with them your experiences and children’s review because they dont get children’s reviews but adult’s. Share what kids think not what adults think. I love pixar, I had alot of faith in the movie. No matter what ppl say of how good the movie is, The child comes first. If we are good parents and even siblings, we should take actions to do what is best for the kids… not show them things that will instill fear and nightmares.

Biffster November 17, 2010, 12:00 PM

Two things: One, I completely agree with the author. TS3 is far too intense and dark for little ones. I wouldn’t take a kid under the age of 5 to see this, and maybe not even ‘til 7 or 8. I took my 6y.o. and he had nightmares - especially about the monkey. That is damned disturbing!

I don’t agree with the idea that Pixar shouldn’t make these types of movies, though. These darker movies are brilliant, they are true displays of artistry. Toy Story 3 is the most poignant, emotional of the trilogy. It is well written, well placed, and the story that is told is almost heart-breaking in a good way. I wish that more movie studios consistently put out this high quality of a movie.

It should’ve been rated PG, though.

Mrs. S. November 21, 2010, 4:21 PM

This movie is definitely not appropriate for kids 7 and under. It’s so much like a war or prison film that it should be renamed TS3: Apocalypse Toy. TS3 is so dark and macabre that it’s downright gothic. The monkey is very Monkey Shines (80’s horror flick from a brutal Stephen King short story) and the dump scene is an animated Dante’s Inferno. It has most of the plot elements of the Stanley Kubrick’s last film, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) but it’s marketed to little children which is kind of sick. Good writing and excellent plot, but no way is this suitable for children.

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