It might have been 11 years since Toy Story 2 but any fears that this Pixar-animated franchise is past its sell-by-date should be dismissed.
Toy Story 3 is a triumphant return to the playroom, the reunion with Woody (voiced again by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the other toys that come to life the moment your back's turned feeling like a date with dear old friends.
We begin with their owner Andy on the verge of leaving for college. Not only that: he hasn't played with the toys for years – so much so that they've been reduced to checking their sell-on value on eBay. What's next, they wonder – the attic, the trash or worse?
Dealing with what happens to toys after their owners outgrow them is a perfect set-up to reacquaint us with the characters, and a reminder of just how far Pixar has come since the original Toy Story launched the company in 1995.
The toys are all taken to a day-care centre, ruled with an iron paw by an embittered bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty). It's almost impossible to imagine the rival animation company DreamWorks being so daring. Indeed, when have you ever seen a subtitled sequence in a Hollywood cartoon, as you do here? Or, for that matter, a blatant reference to the legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki?
Directed by Lee Unkrich, who graduates after co-directing Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc and Finding Nemo to be in sole charge here, the film is far more epic in scope than its predecessors. Yet its love of spectacle – such as the stunning runaway train prologue – is never at the expense of story or character.
There are also some great new characters to meet, in particular Barbie's beau Ken (Michael Keaton) who has a bigger wardrobe than Victoria Beckham, and a creepy doll nicknamed the Big Baby. Parents' only concern might be that the film could prove all too much for the little ones, such is the overwhelming power of some of the scenes.
But never mind the kids – the poignant finale, which takes place at a landfill site, had most adults in the cinema in floods of tears.