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TOY STORY 3 – Randy Newman

October 16, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The second sequel to the groundbreaking Pixar animation comes 15 years after the original, but despite the passage of time has not lost any of its magic or charm. As well as being an excellent (and very funny) diversion for children, it’s also an imaginative, nostalgic, pathos-filled treat for adults, dealing with such mature themes as obsolescence and loss. The majority of the original voice cast – Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn – return to join up with newcomers Ned Beatty and Michael Keaton in a brand new story where the toys are accidentally delivered to a day care facility when their beloved owner Andy goes away to college. At first happy to be played with again, the toys quickly find out that life in the day care is not quite as rosy as it seems, and hatch a plan to escape.

Returning for his third trip to Toyland is composer Randy Newman, whose witty and ironic music is always a welcome addition to the film despite his penchant for subversive sarcasm. Despite his wholesome and well-respected work on films like The Natural, Newman often pokes fun at the conventions of the American Dream, to such an extent that even when he is being sincere you can never tell if he has his tongue in his cheek or not. I guess we’ll just have to trust that Toy Story plays it straight.

As usual, Newman’s central effort is a song, this time the sunny and uplifting “We Belong Together”, with features his idiosyncratic vocal delivery and sardonic lyrics to excellent effect, as well as an unexpectedly toe-tapping chorus. It’s a great song for anyone who, like me, appreciates Newman’s songs as much as his score, and is likely to pick up an Oscar nomination next spring. The other song is an absolutely hilarious Spanish-language version of “You Got A Friend In Me” by the wonderful Gypsy Kings, in which lead singer Nicolas Reyes is clearly channeling Zorro and every other big-screen amorous Latino from the history of cinema, complete with flamenco-style guitar flourishes. I was singing “Hay Un Amigo En Mí” to myself as I left the theater, which is always a good sign.

The score starts off with “Cowboy!”, which underscores a fantasy play sequence in Andy’s head, and sees Randy channeling his uncle Alfred, Elmer Bernstein, Ennio Morricone and his own score for Maverick in a superb western pastiche that features some surprisingly robust, if a little haphazard, action material. As was the case with the previous films, quite a lot of the rest of the score has a light jazzy flavor through the use of saxophones, harmonicas, guitars, and plucked stand-up bass alongside a traditional orchestral setup. For the most part it’s light on themes and heavy on almost Carl Stalling-esque textures, which roots the music in the classic animation sound, but still seems a little old fashioned.

There’s a pretty, pastoral theme for the initially idyllic-looking day care facility appears in “Sunnyside”, a sense of quiet regret peeking through the Gallic orchestrations in “You Got Lucky” (written for the emotional flashback sequence featuring Lotso the Bear and Chuckles the Clown, and some wonderful Iberian-inflected guitar performances in “Spanish Buzz”, while string-led orchestral pathos and regret comes to the fore in “Woody Bails”, the latter half of which also features a plaintive clarinet-led version of the classic Friendship theme which formed the core of the You Got A Friend In Me song.

However, as the score progresses, it mirrors the film’s descent into much darker territory, with the unexpectedly hair-raising “Come to Papa”, “What About Daisy”, “To the Dump”, and the show-stoppingly energetic “The Claw” containing some quite powerful dissonance, all manner of orchestral histrionics with rousing brass fanfares and sweeping Spanish love themes, as well as some of the best action music of Newman’s career, parts of which recall his rejected score for Air Force One. The conclusive “So Long”, which had many grown men wiping away single dignified tears in the movie, features a beautifully emotional piano theme which is wonderfully warm and touching, one of Newman’s most attractive pieces in many years. The whole thing has that wholesome Americana-laden Newman sound which has permeated many of his scores through the years, and never fails to tug at the heart strings. Despite the slightly frenetic pace and frequent changes of style – often within the same cue – Toy Story 3 is nevertheless the strongest and most cohesive of the three Toy Story scores to date, especially towards the end, when it really takes flight.

Newman’s score is not available in records stores, having only been released as a Disney Digital Download, initially through iTunes, but is now widely available at other online retailers.

Rating: ***½

Buy the Toy Story 3 soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • We Belong Together (written and performed by Randy Newman) (4:02)
  • You’ve Got A Friend In Me (Para El Buzz Español) (written by Randy Newman, performed by Gipsy Kings) (2:14)
  • Cowboy! (4:10)
  • Garbage? (2:40)
  • Sunnyside (2:20)
  • Woody Bails (4:40)
  • Come To Papa (2:05)
  • Go See Lotso (3:36)
  • Bad Buzz (2:22)
  • You Got Lucky (5:58)
  • Spanish Buzz (3:31)
  • What About Daisy? (2:07)
  • To The Dump (3:50)
  • The Claw (3:56)
  • Going Home (3:22)
  • So Long (4:55)
  • Zu-Zu (Ken’s Theme) (0:35)

Running Time: 56 minutes 23 seconds

Walt Disney Records Digital Download (2010)

Music composed and conducted by Randy Newman. Orchestrations by Randy Newman, Don Davis and Jonathan Sacks. Recorded and mixed by Tom Hardisty. Edited by Bruno Coon. Album produced by Randy Newman.

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