An extraordinary achievement whichever way you look at it, Toy Story 3's accomplishments are a hundred-fold. The most breathtaking (and, ultimately, heartbreaking) thing is how Pixar have performed a skewed looking-glass effect that has continued to expand, mature and improve throughout the three films, processing complex adult fears through the eyes of toys (who of course will entertain the kids watching). It goes without saying the third and final in the trilogy is winningly voiced as ever, carefully paced and intricately designed, but where Pixar have the edge over rival Dreamworks is they make one not only care; they make you empathise.
Satirical songwriter Randy Newman has been with the franchise since the outset, providing spirited underscores along with instant-classic songs like "You've Got a Friend In Me". Famed of course for his witty ballads, he was an inspired choice to accentuate the comical goings on of Pixar's new franchise. But even he was clearly emboldened by the more mature outlook and wider scope of the third film. It begins with a new song "We Belong Together", cut from the same cloth as "Friend", followed by a terrific Spanish variation on the latter by the Gipsy Kings.
As for the score itself, although it does continue to zip around as before, taking mickey-mousing to the extreme, there's a more concise feel that grabs the listener, beginning with the gamut of action music in "Cowboy!", exhaustingly but thrillingly moving from banging anvils to choirs to full-on Elmer Bernstein cowboy fare. Already, there's a more adult feel to proceedings.
"Garbage?" reinstates many of the little motifs from the previous films, including the snazzy laid back one for Tom Hanks' Woody (lovely variations on which appear in "Woody Bails"). "Sunnyside" brims with a delightful optimism, introducing the brilliantly jazzy theme for the apparently benevolent villain Lotso (Ned Beatty), and also the lovely, melancholy central one, seeming to both celebrate and lament childhood at the same time. This is the core idea Newman will continue to expand upon as the film's narrative arc becomes apparent.
In fact there is so much going on in the score, it can be hard to keep up but, like the film itself, that core principle of humanity keeps the listener going. Just when one idea or character theme seems to be introduced, another creeps up, although the composer has just as much fun as the viewer seeing Buzz' (Tim Allen's) identity toyed with, presenting a mock-military march in "Bad Buzz" and a terrific Mediterranean variation in "Spanish Buzz" (for one of the films most hilarious scenes). "Come to Papa" meanwhile is especially violent in a tongue-in-cheek way, emphasising the less savoury side to destructive toddlers.
It's in the steadier moments though that Newman makes the best impression, "You Got Lucky" featuring some especially moving pieces for instrumentals (including solo violin) as a central character's tragic back-story is laid out. Truthfully though, the composer saves the best for last, with the thrilling, apocalyptic two-hander of "To the Dump" and "The Claw" raising the sense of peril as the toys face the dreaded incinerator. So dark-hued is this climactic segment of the score, it could be mistaken for accompanying a live-action film, let alone one centred around child's playthings. It's here that Newman fully throws off the shackles of mickey-mouse music and emerges as a potent force in reflecting the films brilliantly adult outlook.
The real magnificence though comes after, the two-hander of "Going Home" and "So Long" wrenching the heart in the form of Newman's new melody that seems to transform into a leit-motif for the now grown up Andy. It's wonderfully realised, mature music, as brave as the film itself, "So Long" especially, possibly the loveliest piece of film music catharsis heard in a film so far this year. Deeply moving without the slightest hint of sickliness, the sense of closure is palpable; it's not hard to imagine Newman himself spilling a few tears as he himself says goodbye to the franchise.
The ultimate power of the music is amplified by the fact it creeps up on you. After 30 or so minutes of scampering and capering, Newman, just like the filmmakers, digs right to the heart of childhood innocence and extracts an exquisitely wrought conclusion. It alone raises the bar of the whole album, and provides a pitch-perfect musical end to one of the finest motion picture trilogies ever made.
Here's a piece of musical triva: When Mr. Potato Head runs across the keys of the toy piano, the notes you hear are from the "Petrushka chord" (C major and F# major together), used by Igor Stravinsky in his ballet Petrushka - about a puppet which comes to life!