'Toy Story 3': Have adult moviegoers finally embraced animation?

Toy-StoryImage Credit: Disney/PixarKnowing full well that Toy Story 3 was on its way to a record $109 million weekend, I walked into a 7:30 p.m. showing on Saturday, expecting to find a theater consisting of mostly parents and their kids. This was, after all, an animated film or “cartoon” — a label that’s still used derogatorily by some adults. But to my pleasant surprise, my sold-out auditorium was packed with grown-ups, and nearly all of them had arrived sans kids. This made for a particularly satisfying movie-going experience. There were no crying babies or incessantly chatty tots, and while Toy Story 3 is a movie that children will undoubtedly devour, its poignant coda will be appreciated most by those with multiple decades beneath their belts. And so when that moment came — a brief facial expression from a college-bound Andy — my theater was reduced to sniffles.

There are a couple of possible explanations for why my Toy Story 3 theater contained an adult-to-child ratio of approximately 9-1. On one hand, I went to a 2-D showing. (I’m against wearing those 3-D sunglasses unless a movie, such as Avatar, absolutely demands it.) So maybe parents whisked their kids to the pricier 3-D shows, while we childless adults opted for two dimensions. But I think something else was also at play here.

It may have taken 15 years and 11 Pixar features, but we’ve finally reached the point where adult moviegoers appreciate animated features — particularly those from Pixar — just as much as their live-action counterparts. Gone are the days when one would have been ridiculed for attending an animated movie without a child in tow. Instead, adult moviegoers are flocking to Toy Story 3 because they know (with a high degree of certainty) that buying tickets to a Pixar production will be money well spent, and that’s something most other summer movies cannot guarantee.

Of course, it’s not as if this transition happened overnight with Toy Story 3. Since the original Toy Story was released in 1995, an avalanche of films has gradually forced many adults to reexamine their expectations for animated features. Pixar has clearly been at the center of this epiphanic awakening, but credit should also be given to such enthralling pictures as Waltz With Bashir, The Triplets of Belleville, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Waking Life, Perfect Blue, The Secret of Kells, Persepolis, and the bewitching works of director Hayao Miyazaki. In fact, Totoro from Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro had an extended cameo in Toy Story 3, and I was thrilled to hear fellow moviegoers whispering “It’s Totoro!” to one another.

However, as much as I adored Toy Story 3, I’m also somewhat dismayed about the fact that two of Pixar’s next three films will be sequels (Cars 2 and Monsters Inc. 2). Thanks to the leadership of John Lasseter’s studio, animation has reached an unprecedented level of embrace, and I’d hate to think that Pixar might one day devolve into a sequel factory like the rest of Hollywood. Sure, it’s likely that Cars 2 and Monsters Inc. 2 will be delightful; these days, one should never bet against Pixar. But this is also a golden opportunity for Pixar to push the boundaries of animation even further. The studio had already begun to step out of its comfort zone with the post-apocalyptic Wall•E and the Miyazaki-flavored Up, and let’s hope it continues to do so. By now, Pixar should know that we adults will gladly follow them anywhere, to infinity and beyond.

PopWatchers, how many of you went to see Toy Story 3 without dragging a child along? What was the demographic makeup of your theater like? And who seemed to be enjoying the movie more: the adults or kids?

Comments (224 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2 3 11
  • Hope

    I’m an adult and I approve fully… if it’s as good as Pixar which is rare.

    • joblo

      35 yr old male here who went to see it alone. And loved it.

      I’m not really interested in Cars or Monsters Inc as sequels. Would rather have an Incredibles 2.

      • Jailyss

        Went to see it with 4 friends we were 30, 29, 29, 29, and 26. Mainly adults in the theater. Loved every last moment and as I have done with every Pixar movie since the incredibles will continue to see it without kids.

      • Kip

        34, and I agree with a sequel to incredibles 2

      • kathrynne

        Yep…Loved and love TS3(brought 12 and 19 yr olds-who cried in movie…haha) and bring that Incredibles 2 on…get to it Lassiter…there’s a mandate…LOL

      • L.T.

        One of my favourite lines from Incredibles Mr saying to Mrs “I can’t….I just can’t stand the thought of losing you again!”

      • Sulley

        I LOVE Monsters Inc, but I don’t want a sequel. The ending is so beautiful, I don’t want it to go beyond that.

      • Stephanie T.

        I am a 34 female who saw it alone. The theater was flooded with kids. I loved TS3 but was not impressed with the 3-D. The only time it felt as if 3-D was used was when Rex turned around and his tail was facing the audience. The previews seemed to have more 3-D. The Smurfs preview, absolutely. I almost jumped out of my seat when I saw them. An Incredibles sequel is long due.

      • Steve

        35 year old here – and bring on Incredibles 2! Make it happen, Pixar! (Oh yeah, lots of single people at the theater.)

      • Carla

        I second that! I’d LOVE a sequel to the Incredibles!!

      • pdy

        As long as the story is good, I would be watching the sequels to Cars and Monsters, Inc. As Pixar has shown, it can make good sequels such as the Toy Story trilogy which is probably one of the best film trilogies of all time. And yes, it’s about time for a sequel to The Incredibles. Brad Bird, where are you?

    • LOL

      I’ve seen several Pixar movies and I don’t have kids.

      • Heather

        I’ve seen them all and I don’t have kids.

      • kyleC

        i work at a movie theatre and i think it was mostly teenagers! I mean im 18 and i grew up on toy story (on VHS of course), and what teenager doesn’t want to revisit their past (espically when it involves toy story)?

      • ajmalzx

        I’m 28 I have no kids (not eve married) watched all pixar movies even watched Cars 5 times in the theater. The the writer said, walk into a pixar movie and you wont be disappointed (except maybe Up! but that’s because my expectations were too high).

      • L.T.

        Amen to Incredibles 2 3 4 5 6………BRAD BIRD please hear our PLEAs! We LOVED Iron Giant! LOVED Ratatouille. Please suspend the suspense give us Incredibles 2 ALREADY!

    • shawn

      Who cares how old you are. The greatest minds of comics and cartoons are old thats what keeps you young. But whats old? Its not a number but a state of mind.

    • datruth82

      Great article, but isn’t it kind of obvious…and 10 years too late?

      All Pixar movies and most of DreamWork’s animated films have been big with adults for at least the last decade…so, if people in the industry (including EW) are just now realizing this, then the industry is waaaay out of touch with its audience.

      • jslost


    • Chris

      I went with my wife and three of my four kids (ages 7, 11, and 17). There were a lot of kids around but we did go to a fairly early showing (6:00 p.m. on Friday). It was a 2D showing as well because I can’t stand 3D and no one in my family expressed a desire to see the 3D version.

      I would say the demographics of the audience were about 40-50% children.

  • Ceballos

    I agree that Pixar deserves a lion’s share of the credit for mostly lifting the stigma that animated movies have for being only child’s play. (Despite “Up”s Best Picture nomination last year, I don’t think animated flicks totally get their due during awards season).

    Obviously, a big reason for Pixar’s success is their steadfast refusal to talk down to kids, which also results in material that adults enjoy. They weren’t the first (I’m fairly sure 80% of the Genie’s bits in Aladdin flew by most kids heads, including my own, when the movie came out), but they do it better than anybody.

    However, I think you touched on the most important thing: the certainty of a Pixar production.

    When you go to a Pixar movie, you KNOW you’re going to be entertained, emotionally/intellectually engaged and transported. Most importantly, you KNOW that you’re not throwing away your $$$.

    • DocRules

      But the Genie’s material is mostly designed for adults, I think. Pixar is different from that because, while it includes jokes for adults exclusively, kids are also looked at as mature. They do not dumb things down.

    • Meg

      The only Pixar I hated was Wall-e. I mean, really? Other than that, Pixar has been 100% in my book.

      • Kurt

        Wall-E? I think that ranks among their top 2 or 3. Monsters Inc is the one I was never a huge fan of.

      • shawn

        Sorry 20 something, I didn’t like wall e at first either and then I got the deeper meaning, and enjoyed it more the second time.

      • QuilledMind

        Actually Wall-E was one of my top 3, along with The Incredibles and Up. I think Cars, Monsters Inc and Bug’s Life were all … not so good. That’s relatively speaking, of course…every Pixar film has been pretty darn good.

      • Kathy

        Wall-E was my least favorite, too. My kids loved it though…just goes to show that they can make a film for everyone!

    • kathrynne

      haha…Aladdin…Lassiter was with Disney then if I am not mistaken…he rocks

  • Heather

    I went to see Toy Story 3 last night not only because it was a bankable Pixar film but because 15 years ago, I saw the original Toy Story in theaters as a 7 year old. I think a lot of the audience this weekend was comprised of us 20-somethings who have grown up with Pixar knowing that it is a solid studio, but Toy Story 3 was a trip down memory lane to beat all. I know many of my friends went out this weekend solely because it was Toy Story.

    And yes, I cried.

    • AJ

      Heather, I’m in the same boat as you, I saw it because lets face it, Toy Story was our movie, I’m 22 now, went to see it with my friend, used her as my excuse to go. At the end, both of us had tears in our eyes, we’re both in college, and still remember seeing the original in theaters. I honestly think Pixar wrapped up the series with our group in mind. Just from Facebook statuses alone, I know that at least 50 of my friends have seen it this past weekend. It was a great movie, even though it made me tear up at the end.

  • Deborah

    My sister and I are both in our twenties and we went to a 10pm showing Friday night. Except for one 3ish year old, the entire audience was older teens and adults. The audience was very receptive to the movie. You could hear lots of sniffles throughout the movie along with the appreciative laughter. During the furnace scene, the audience was silent…with tears streaming down cheeks and then applause when the outcome of that sequence was revealed. At the end, I honestly don’t think there was anyone in the room who wasn’t touched by the final scenes. Although the best reaction for me was hearing several people yell “Holy Sh*t!!” when Big Baby unexpectedly appeared on the swing.

    • jslost

      spoiler warning please!!!! Not all of us made it to the theater this weekend. : (

  • Winona

    I think the fact you went to an evening show is why the audience was mostly adults.

    That being said, I personally love a great story and characters (good or evil) that I am emotionally involved with enough that I care what happens to them in the course of the movie. Pixar delivers this EVERY TIME!

    • Amy

      I don’t believe the writer’s 7:30 showtime guarantees a kid-free audience. I went to a 7:30 showing of The Passion of the Christ (years ago) and couldn’t believe the idiot behind me had a 3 yr old and 5 yr old with her.

      Toy Story 3 rocked and appeals to any age because of the quality of the writing/production/animation and the emotional depth of the animated characters.

      • Kiki

        Amy, I totally agree with your first point. I’ve seen small kids in the audience for evening showings of everything from Fight Club to Schindler’s List. :-(

    • Stacy

      I went to a 10:30 AM showing this morning… the audience was half kids. I kind of felt like me and my best friend were out of place (we’re both 21) untill I turned around and saw a row of teenage boys totally into the movie.

      I’m really excited about Monsters Inc 2 (loved the first one.) and add to the crowd clamoring for the Incredibles 2

  • AK

    I’m a couple of years into college and the combination of nostalgia for a franchise I grew up with and a very prescient storyline hit me square in the gut; I was sobbing at the end.

    I saw it with my younger sister, who is still in high school, and while she loved the movie, she didn’t get nearly the same emotional impact out of it that I did. I think it’s interesting how much of this movie was actually aimed squarely at an older audience: anyone who can appreciate the bittersweet feelings of growing up.

    • JP

      Spot on, I thought I was the only twenty something crying at the end.

    • miss k

      I’m going to college this year and I cried like a baby. So much nostalgia. Goodbye childhood.

      • Madd

        My friends and I are all 25 and we sobbed like crazy.

      • Taryn

        Same here :(

      • Jordan

        Same everything

    • Ailene

      Good to know I wasn’t the only one, I related to what Andy was feeling at the end so much, I found myself affected by the story way more than I thought I would!

      • Jac

        I went with a group of friends from grad school that all saw Toy Story in the movies as kids (one of my first movies!). All of us were bawling.

  • Laura

    It also helps that those of us who saw the first Toy Story as children are now adults. I went on Friday to a 9:35 showing with friends, and there were at least 30-40 college students there with us.

    • Molly M M


    • jonatan

      I went to a midnight screening, and it was actually packed wit people around my age,people who grew up wit pixar. My friend who i saw coming out fron another theater room put it best,”we grew up wit woody n friends, its like our duty to see the end”, and boy, was that an epic adventure!!!

    • tvgirl48

      Exactly. I’m in the 20-something age group that grew up with the first two Toy Story movies. A lot of us have major nostalgia so you get our crowd plus a new crowd of kids since the movie is also good on top of the pre-existing goodwill. Most ppl I know were counting down the days to Toy Story 3 – the true highlight of this summer.

      • Zachary

        I’m 16 and I remember when the first Toy Story movie came out. I was fixated on it for years and it just grew when I saw the second Toy Story movie. Now the big finale to one of the first animated films I’ve ever seen is in theaters. Its funny as soon as I saw the trailer for Toy Story 3 I just got a funny feeling. And now its out and I had no idea I’d feel this anxious to see it. Toy Story has been there for me my entire childhood and now I (along with everyone else from the Toy Story generation) am growing up and what better way to celebrate this than to see one an old childhood favorite come to an end.

      • Kathryn

        Zachary, if you’re 16 now, didn’t Toy Story come out when you barely exited infanthood? Good memory…

        Regardless, most of us who remember Toy Story coming out are well into adulthood. I was 6 when the first one came out and now I’m 20. There was one really annoying kid in our theater who WOULD NOT SHUT up. It nearly ruined my movie-going experience, but luckily the beautifully written film was enough to drown out her cloying whines. Everyone else in the theater was high school aged or older.

    • Chris

      You make the point I was going to make. Some of these young adults grew up watching the first film 15 years ago.

    • Hope

      Unfortunately I didn’t see the first one in the theater which I’m sure would’ve been quite an experience, but I think I was about eight or nine when the second came out and I saw in the theater then. It was pretty something. I’m 22 now and I can’t wait to see the third one.

  • therealeverton

    Well you also have to think that even a 5 year old who was taken to Toy Story would likely be 20 now and you could be in your late teens even if you were6 or 7 when Toy Story 2 came out. As for the 3D specs, given a choice I amagine most parents would rather go 2D than have to take out a 2nd mortgage to afford 3D prices for the whole family! But isn’t there also the possability that the 3D screenings were sold out?

    Whatever the reason I hope that western audiences are realising that animation isn’t just for kids. I just wonder why you’ve left Walace & Gromit Coraline / Nightmare before Christmas and The Corpse Bride off yopur list.

    I wish more people would go to see Miyazaki films though, they never seem to get the level audiences they deserve.

    • z

      Yup you’re spot on- I was 5 when the first one came out and 20 now- you’re also right about Miyazaki films- I loved Spirited Away and after seeing Toy Story 3 I really need to see My Neighbor Totoro

      • Kiki

        And see Howl’s Moving Castle while you’re at it! Fabulous movie.

      • Marph

        Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Totoro are my favorites by Miyazaki, but all of his are really worth seeing.

      • Steve

        Add The Castle of Cagliostro and Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind to the list!

    • A

      My son was 4 when I took him to see the first Toy Story and we all went with friends and family to see TS3 – the mom’s cried hard!

  • therealeverton

    Oh one more thing, Pixar are unearthly in their ability to turn out quality time and again, but A Bug’s Life was not that good. I mean, I lnow Pixar not that good is better than most people’s best, but it wasn’t that good at all, it remains the only Pixar film we don’t own and we always felt Antz was better.

    • Melvin

      I agree A Bugs Life may not be the best Pixar film but ANTS was better? A see ‘A Bugs Life’ as the retelling of ‘The Magnificent Seven’. The movie may be too scary at times for kids but at least its better than listening to Woody Allen complain and psycho analyze everything throughout the whole movie.

    • Whatever

      I agree. A Bug’s Life is good but it was before Pixar really became the best. :p AntZ was way better. It’s too bad Dreamworks never managed to make another 3D movie that good – that wasn’t a comedy à la Shrek.

  • Andy Wilson

    Although this film lacks the coherent story line of “UP” Pixar’s last production, it is still good. Why this film was rated “G” however, is a mystery. It has several disturbing sequences – the clown, the cymbal player, the furnace sequence – that I would personally not take a child under 7 to see. OK. There is no bad language or excessive violence, but some of the images may give children under 7 bad dreams. All the best parents – Andy

    • RobNJ

      Wizard of Oz monkeys, Bambi’s mom gets shot, the witch in Snow White, the Von Trapps dodging Nazis in The Sound of Music. Scary things happen in life. My 5 year old was fine with it and was not scared. She even said, “It’s a movie. It’s not real.”

  • John

    For me, Toy Story 3 was a full circle approach. I may not be an adult yet, (17 at the moment!)but for me seeing the movie with my family without kids was a nostalgic expierence. I was Andy’s age, and my mother had tears in my eyes that I knew had nothing to do with the finale and everything to do with the connection she made between Andy and myself. I’m going to college in a year or two, and I may have even chocked up a bit at seeing my old friends leave. I grew up with Woody, Buzz, and the rest, and it was a very fitting ending to a series that I always followed as a child. As for the kids, it was probably spread out. I acually disagree with your assessment of the kids ratio in your theatre. Those with younger kids probably have less money to spend, not more, and would probably be found more often in a less expensive 2d zone. We went in 3D, and still had a variety of ages. At first I was bummed because a little girl sat directly behind me, asking questions and chatting a bit too much. But then I remembered the magic of Toy story, the magic of innocence, and the magic of imagination. I was horrified to find out that I had become that snobbish adult. After that realization, I smiled when she chatted, laughed when she asked questions that a young child would ask. Seeing this movie brought me back in time. Thank you Pixar.

    • Lisa

      I just returned from the movie Toy Story 3 with my son, who is 17 and going to college soon, and his 9 year old sister (who favors Molly). We also grew up with Toy Story and felt the same emotions as you John. What a wonderful movie that brought back many memories of childhood and growing up. It was emotional for me too as a Mom getting ready to send her son to college!

    • Zoey

      As magical as a movie can be, I still would’ve been annoyed at children constantly talking throughout a movie. A little talking is fine, but if it’s trhoughout the whole film, then I’ve got a bone to pick with that parent.

    • MC

      I’m an incoming college freshman, and TS3 was that much more of an emotionally resonant experience because of it. It’s become a regular occurrence for me to tear up at Pixar movies, but this is definitely the most personally affecting one I’ve ever seen. There wasn’t a dry eye in the theater I was in. Keep ‘em coming, Pixar!

  • Eric

    We went to a 3D Imax showing and I kid you not there was only two families with kids. It was all young adults to people my age (32). Very interesting.

    • Andy Wilson

      Interesting comment, Eric. I went to a showing with mostly families. Two children (obviously under 7) were upset at some sequences. All the best – Andy

      • Lisa Simpson

        Even seen Disney’s “Snow White”? The classic “Wizard of Oz”? Kids love those movies, partly because they do have the courage to scare them.

  • danielle

    As being twnety three and my boyfriend thirty we felt we should bring a child along w us not to look out of place. Well we wound up just going ourselves to a late show and again as yourself it was just adults. From the moment it went off to the very last credit was just pure magic. Pixar made me feel like a kid again and I couldn’t stop tearing at the end. Whatever they put out I will always give it a chance cause its something special.

  • Josje

    I don’t know about the USA but in Holland Animation movies have always been visited by adults. If I announce that I’m going to Toy Story 3 there is no adult who would find that childish. Ever since the incredibles I have been to every Pixar movie and at every movie it was full of adults. Granted I went to the English version not the Dutch, but still. I think that Pixar is just animation for adults with all the gags, the beautifull animation and the emotional impact. The beginning of Up can only be fully comprehended when you’re above the age of twelve in my opinion.

  • Terry

    The author is apparently to o young to remember the excellent Disney animation of the Thirties to the late Fifties. Adults enjoyed those movies even though they storylines were directed more at children. The same in-jokes for adults were employed then.

    Animation went downhill until the rise of Pixar and anime and graphic novels.

    Now we are looking at the decline of the action film as CGI distances the viewer farther from reality.. Transformers is a long way down from James Bond and Die Hard.

    • Ana170

      You’re apparently forgetting the Disney movies of the late 80s/early 90s. When I saw Beauty & the Beast back in ’89, there were mostly adults in the the theater.

      The problem with action films today isn’t CGI. It’s the lack of good storytelling. Pixar makes movies that are almost all CGI but they’re also focused on story and characters.

      • Librarygirl

        Ana — that is the absolute truth. So many of the filmmakers nowadays are so enamored with the CG technology, they seem to forget that the reason people watch great movies over and over is because movies are nothing without a good story. It seems like so many of the other studios think that the public won’t notice that there’s no substance, only style. So wrong.

Page: 1 2 3 11
Add your comment
The rules: Keep it clean, and stay on the subject - or we may delete your comment. If you see inappropriate language, e-mail us. An asterisk (*) indicates a required field.

When you click on the "Post Comment" button above to submit your comments, you are indicating your acceptance of and are agreeing to the Terms of Service. You can also read our Privacy Policy.

Latest Videos


From Our Partners

TV Recaps

Powered by WordPress.com VIP