As the film trilogy is emotionally powerful, Toy Story 3
in particular gets a special mention, in which it is so powerful that even hearing the story second-hand is enough to make one break down and weep.
- The first trailer alone can be counted as one of the saddest moments in the whole series. Randy Newman's "Losing You" playing over footage of young Andy playing with his toys throughout the year perfectly evokes the heart-wrenching nostalgia one might have for the innocence of childhood. If anything, the trailer version of the scene is sadder than how it appears in the actual movie.
- The Incinerator Scene. Children's toys. Accepting oblivion. Even after repeated viewings, a few tears will be shed. When the toys were facing death together in the furnace, they seemed to break off into groups, depending on who was closest. So, every toy was huddling close to another, or burying their faces in each other's shoulders (Buzz and Jessie, the Potato Heads), except Woody. Sure, he was holding Buzz and Slinky's hands, but they were too far off for him to really get close. At the very end, when everyone else has someone close, in comparison, Woody is facing this alone. It's then that you realize that, since the beginning, Woody has been the one keeping them all together. And he's still doing that at the very end. What makes the scene sadder isn't just the fact that the characters are facing death, but the fact that they have no other choice but to do so. When they first fall into the incinerator, they try in vain to scramble out before accepting their fate with quiet dignity. The fact that they all join hands with nothing more than an exchange of helpless looks shows that they all know exactly what's going to happen. There's a reason animator Tom Sito called it the best-acted scene in all of animation.
Jessie: Buzz! What do we do?!
(Buzz just looks at her sadly and silently, hopelessly extends his hand)
- The scene where Buzz is running through the compactor area with Jessie in his arms, triumphant music playing — and then a TV falls on him. The look in Woody's eyes — and Jessie's — that look of sheer, unadulterated horror of facing the prospect that his best friend could be broken.
- What makes this part gut-punching is Buzz, even with his lifeless body and closed eyes. Seriously, he may have been just "knocked out," but if you really think about it, it makes you think he's dead.
- Also, when Jessie tries to shake him awake, she calls his name twice: the first time it's really forcing him to wake up, but the second time, she started to lose hope. Translation: helpless.
- Also when Jessie lay her head on Buzz's motionless chest, sobbing hysterically. She really believed he was gone for good.
- The ending. Holy mackerel, the ending. Woody leaves a note for Andy to take his toys to Bonnie. When Andy brings them to her, Andy takes them out and introduces them to her, playing with her and with them for one last time. One of the last shots of the movie is Andy, about to drive off to college, waving goodbye to Bonnie as she stands on the front porch, Buzz and Woody in her arms. As she waves goodbye, she picks up Woody's arm to make him "wave" goodbye. What makes this more heart-wrenching is that as Andy is taking the toys out, he takes Woody out last, not knowing how he got in the box. When Bonnie recognizes him as her cowboy doll, she reaches for him, but Andy slightly pulls Woody back. This is when he tells her how Woody would always be there for her. And after the whole playtime sequence, as Andy is driving away, Woody says, "So long, partner." Andy was surprised because, for a moment, it seemed like Woody was ACTUALLY waving goodbye to him, which, he WAS. And also the line, "Thanks guys..." It was a true farewell to childhood. It hit too close to home with a major demographic for the movie, and that is college students, or people who have just recently crossed the thin line into adulthood from childhood.
- When Woody learned Buzz wasn't coming with him; the absolute hurt on his face that he didn't even have his best friend anymore, summed up with his refusal to shake his hand.
- What Lotso's cronies did to the poor Telephone. The sad, resigned look on his face as he gave the following line. Woody and his friends can only look in sadness.
Chatter Telephone: "I'm sorry, Cowboy. They broke me."
- During the end credits, this Spanish version of "You've Got a Friend in Me" plays during a special end scene. It is both beautiful and heart-wrenching because you've known these characters for years now, and now it's time to say goodbye.note
- When Andy's dog comes onto the screen, all old and sleepy, when in the previous film he was so full of energy. Oh Pixar, you broke the hearts of college kids the world over.
- Sort of a Fridge Tearjerker, but anyone who's grown up with a pet will recognize that the puppy that was so vibrant and energetic in Toy Story 2 is, well, not long for this world in Toy Story 3. Given his condition, it would be surprising if he lasts through Andy's first semester. Not bad enough? Towards the end, Andy can be heard playfully asking Buster if he'll wait for him until he gets back.
- Andy's mom gasps as the realization that her son is really leaving finally sinks in. And then her line shortly after the gasp. It's failproof:
Andy's mom: I know. It's just...I wish I could always be with you. *sob*
- After "Operation: Playtime" fails, Woody slowly opens the toy chest, a look of absolute devastation on his face. His last shot at playtime was never even a shot at all. And Rex's reaction is horrifyingly sad despite Rex's usual comedic side.
Rex: He held me... HE ACTUALLY HELD ME!
- The look on Woody's face when Andy answers his cell phone. He so badly wants to say something, but knows he can't break the rules.
- The fact that this movie came out the weekend many high schools across the US had their graduation ceremonies. The movie's timing can be even more powerful for people who saw the first film while in grade school, and got to see the last one after graduating from college. They grew up with Woody, Buzz, and all the other toys, and the third film was truly the end of childhood: They have to go out into the wider world and find their own place in it. The final scene of the movie, when Andy says goodbye to all his toys, isn't just him saying goodbye: It's all of us, who followed the toys for all those years, saying goodbye, not only to them, but to our childhoods, and our teenage years. When Woody waves to Andy, he also waves goodbye to all of us, who shared the journey with him.
- The scene where Woody decides to return to Andy and the other toys refuse, out of a combination of the fact that Andy isn't going to play with them again even if he didn't throw them away, and that Sunnyside looks like a good place to live (it's not).
- Rex sadly ponders the idea that Andy doesn't care about them anymore. To hear such an upbeat, funny character so sadly ponder if Andy doesn't love him anymore is depressing. The tenderness in Woody's voice as he desperately assures Rex that Andy cares about him is heart wrenching as it's clear that Woody is as heartbroken as we are to hear Rex sound so hurt.
- Bullseye is the only one to take up Woody on his order to return home. Woody sadly orders Bullseye to stay, clearly moved, since he doesn't want Bullseye alone in the attic while he's away at college.
- Sarge's speech about how he and his two remaining troops will be the first to be thrown out "when the trash bags come out". It could be summed up in one phrase, "we're screwed". Who'd have thought R. Lee Ermey could say something so moving?
- It gets even more heartbreaking when R. Lee Ermey died 8 years later.
- The scene where the toys use Andy's cell phone to get him to open the toy box. When Andy answers the phone and tries to ask who's there, the look on Woody's face as he contemplates answering back is just heartwrenching.
- At the beginning of the film, Woody tells Slinky to gather everyone for a staff meeting. Slinky's response? Everyone is already gathered. For anyone who grew up with the first two films and remembered all the toys that attended Woody's staff meeting, seeing such a large population reduced to just under a dozen (combined with Slinky's response) gave the film an eerily post-apocalyptic feel.
- The tone and timing of the music during this brief, early exchange make it necessary to gulp and get a firm grip on your throat if you want to hang on for the rest of the film's tear jerker parade:
Rex: Bo Peep?
Woody: Yeah, even, (tremor) even... Bo...
- Don't deny it: you felt bad for Big Baby when he remembered his previous owner, Daisy. After Woody gives him back his old "My Heart Belongs To Daisy" pendant, he realizes that due to Lotso's lies, he lost his only chance to reunite with her back when he had the opportunity and will never see her again.
- For those who see him as a Jerkass Woobie, the fact Lotso will never realize it was a symbol of Daisy's love for him. Clearly, he was the only toy Daisy reacted so badly to losing that her parents had to buy a new one almost the next day. Worse still, Lotso had a perfect chance to redeem himself in the incinerator scene, but he threw it all away when he abandoned Woody and friends to die.
Woody: Wait! What about Daisy?
Woody: Daisy? You used to do everything together?
Lotso: Yeah? Then she threw us out!
Woody: No! She lost you!
Lotso: She replaced us!
Woody: She replaced you! And if you couldn't have her, then no one could! (holds up Big Baby's pendant) You lied to Big Baby, and you've been lying ever since!
Lotso: Where'd you get that?
Woody: She loved you, Lotso!
Lotso: SHE NEVER LOVED ME!
Woody: As much as any kid could ever love a toy!
- How Andy's toys give up on him and Daisy's toys give up on her is harsh when you think about it.
- Look closely at Stretch's face during the entire sequence when Lotso's giving his motive rant and abusing Big Baby. She's clearly beginning to second-guess herself and the look on her face when Lotso orders her to push Andy's toys (and Barbie and Ken) into the trash is a mix of reluctance and fear. This seems to imply that she's beginning to regret what she's doing but is too scared of Lotso to disobey.
- When Andy chooses to take Woody with him to college over Buzz. Sure, we get proof that the Prospector was wrong about Andy. But Buzz's reaction is heartbreaking. Buzz, the positive leader and role model for the toys, is clearly genuinely hurt. As selfless and understanding and wise as he is, he is truly hurt at being passed over and left behind by Andy.
- When Woody and Buzz talk later, Buzz is much more subdued than usual when addressing Woody. It seems that while Buzz was trying not to hold it against him, Buzz may in fact have been jealous of Woody.
- The very beginning of the movie, which is probably just as melancholy as the ending. It may not be as heartbreaking as the beginning scene from Up, but good god is it tearful. Not only are we shown the Andy we know playing with his toys through an old betamax tape which constantly reminds us this is all in the past, not only do we see him aging over time, or that we see that his entire toy family is decreasing, BUT this is all accompanied with the original "You've Got A Friend In Me". It turns right into Tear Jerker territory as the song starts fading WAY too soon, and ends on a line that makes your heart drop like a stone:
"And as the years go by, our friendship will never die..."
- Arguably made even more heartbreaking in some of the translations. For instance, the Latin American Spanish translation replaces that line with "Nuestra gran amistad el tiempo no borrará" (literally "time will not erase our great friendship")...
- Jessie briefly succumbing to her old abandonment issues when it looks like Andy is throwing all the toys out, having to breathe into a bag. She's remembering when Emily left her under the bed for years, and then one day put her in a donation box and drove away without even looking back.
- When you think about it, the reasons for a lot of Jessie's actions are quite sad. Her anger towards Andy and Woody (while unwarranted) is understandable given her previous experience with Emily and the thought of going through it again too much for her to cope with. Her anger towards Andy and refusal to listen to Woody might come across as Jessie being overly stubborn and not listening to Woody but ultimately, they're the actions of someone who is angry and scared of being hurt again.
- Many people survived watching most of Andy's toys be almost thrown out, watch them be donated, watch them be abused by kids, watched the incinerator scene, and watched almost all of Andy introducing his toys to Bonnie while holding back their tears. Then...
Andy: Now Woody... He's been my pal for as long as I can remember. He's brave, like a cowboy should be, and kind and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special is he'll never give up on you... ever. He'll be there for you, no matter what.
- Andy's voice actor has never changed. Ever. The young man who provided Andy's voice in this movie was the same little boy who did Andy's voice in the first two films. This also applies to everyone else who had a role in the first two - the only voices that changed were Molly's (as Molly was just a wee baby before) and Slinky's (due to Jim Varney's untimely death in 2000). Everyone but those two kept their original voices from the first two films.
- It's just a small thing, but it seems a little sad that in all the years they'd come to know each other, Buzz never built up the courage to tell Jessie how he felt about her (until he had his memory tampered with at least).
- "So long, partner."
- Comparing the three toys from Chuckles' flashback story to their current conditions now is quite shocking in a way but it's worst with Big Baby. Before being lost Big Baby was a normal baby doll, wearing a light coloured romper and bonnet. The journey home dirties him, he loses his bonnet (and breaks his lazy eye) when they reach Sunnyside and now in the present day he's just a naked baby doll with a dirty cloth body scribbled all over with pen and never had his eye fixed up. It really shines a light on just what events can do to people and how it can change them drastically.
- The final shot of the film: A shot of the sky that resembles the wallpaper of Andy's room. It provides a moving bookend for the film and the series as a whole: Evoking Woody and the gang's time as Andy's toys and that those times are now over.