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Toy Story 3
  • Composed by Randy Newman
  • Disney Download / 2010 / 56:18

It’s been 15 years since Toy Story changed the way animated movies were made – in the intervening period, all the other studios jumped on Pixar’s computer-animated bandwagon and very few hand-drawn animations are made today (even Disney withdrew – ironically it took the arrival of John Lasseter as their creative director to reverse that decision).  Unfortunately, what the other studios seemed to take from Toy Story’s success was “hey, look how much money that movie made – if we make a CGI animation then we can do it too!” rather than “hey, look how much money that movie made – if we make a film that good then we can do it too!” – and while of course I haven’t seen all the CGI animations that have been made, I’d be willing to suggest that Pixar’s worst film to date is better than any other studio’s best CGI animation.

Because he has become such a fixture in the credits of animated movies since Toy Story, it’s difficult to imagine today quite how odd it seemed that Randy Newman – composer of controversial, bitingly satirical songs and mature scores for serious adult dramas – was chosen to compose that score (though he was and is Lasseter’s musical hero).  But his lively, energetic score was right on the money and his three songs became beloved by children around the world. Toy Story 3 is his eighth score for an animation.

Randy Newman and John Lasseter at the Toy Story 3 premiere

It opens with a new song, “We Belong Together”, the first time Newman himself has sung for Pixar since A Bug’s Life – it’s a catchy, upbeat, tuneful song about love and friendship which evokes a similar spirit to the first film’s “You’ve Got a Friend In Me”.  Speaking of which, that most famous of the Toy Story songs appears here too – this time in Spanish, in a simply fabulous version performed by the Gipsy Kings.

The film itself is a little darker than its predecessors – and actually this makes for a slightly calmer, less hectic score.  Admittedly, you wouldn’t guess that from “Cowboy!” – the opening score track – which is full of riotous action music in Newman’s familiar style (here with the addition of electric guitars) – but later on, the music takes a distinctly more serious tone – particularly “You Got Lucky”, which has a real profundity about it, going far beyond the territory one might expect in this type of score.  There’s some pretty dark action music too – particularly “The Claw”, vaguely similar to the composer’s rejected music from Air Force One.

Needless to say, there’s plenty of fun here too – from the kitsch of “Zu-Zu” through the sweetness of “Sunnyside” to “Spanish Buzz”, which travels from mariachi trumpets to flamenco guitars via an orchestral march.  It’s nice to hear some of the familiar themes from the earlier scores return too – Woody’s cowboy theme, Buzz’s heroic fanfare (and a brief snippet of a theme from A Bug’s Life!) – the score is a nice blend of fresh material and previous highlights.

Newman saves the very best for last, with the beautiful finale “So Long”.  Touching piano music, full of emotion, it certainly tugs the heartstrings.  This is a terrific score, so entertaining; and while there’s still a fair amount of mickey-mousing, overall it’s a much more coherent listening experience than Newman’s previous scores in the series.  Unfortunately no CD has been released – the music is available via download only – but I hope that doesn’t put too many people off picking up one of the year’s most entertaining scores.  ****

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