"Toy Story 3" Save the Cat! Beat Sheet

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The 15 beats to the Disney Pixar hit are provided by Master Cat! Ben Frahm. Printed with the Permission of Blake Snyder Enterprises, LLC.

Opening Image (1)

  • We’re reintroduced to all of our favorite characters, Woody, Buzz, and friends, in an action-packed, train-robbery, chase sequence. We’re dropped into this world quickly… and it’s not until after we have some fun and adventure… that we quickly PULL BACK and:
  • Realize… we’re remembering a PLAY EPISODE that Andy had years ago.
  • REVEAL: We’re watching a VCR recording of Andy as a young child… when he loved nothing more than to play with his favorite toys. This nostalgic moment seems like so long ago, and our toy characters long for this attention that they once had.

Theme State (5)

  • Woody tells Buzz that they belong to Andy and that they will always be his friends. They must go to college with him, and never lose this bond of loyalty and friendship that they have with their owner.

Set-Up (1-10)

  • Andy is now 17. Andy is going to college. And Andy doesn’t need his toys anymore. In fact, the only way our toys can grab his attention is by pretending to call him on his cell phone, in hopes that he will rediscover them in a toy chest, and play with them like old times.
  • Andy is going to college in only a few days, and per his MOTHER’S request, he must organize all of the “old stuff” in his room into piles: 1.) Stuff that should go to the attic in storage; 2.) Stuff that is no longer needed and should be tossed in the garbage; 3.) And lastly, “stuff” that will go to college with Andy in a few days.
  • Our toys are panicked. Why doesn’t Andy care about us anymore? Why doesn’t he want to play with us anymore? Will they be tossed aside and forever forgotten? They all hope desperately to be chosen for the college pile, so that they will stay a part of Andy’s life forever.

Catalyst (12)

  • However, this isn’t exactly the case. There’s a mix up. Andy is cleaning his room and making the various piles that his mother spoke of… when he puts the majority of his toys in a pile meant for the “attic.” This plastic bag is then misinterpreted as junk by Andy’s mother… and taken outside and put by the road to be taken away by the junk man. The toys are devastated. They think Andy’s trying to get rid of them. They are convinced that they mean nothing in Andy’s life. And this is the worst possible case for them. However, we see that Woody was chosen for the college pile, and that he saw Andy put the toys in the attic pile, and thus he knows that Andy still cares about them. Woody must rescue his friends from the junk pile, before they are taken away to the junkyard, never to be seen again.
  • Woody to the rescue: Woody jumps out of the window, scales the house, and sees that the GARBAGE TRUCK has just pulled up and is taking away the junk pile. He runs after the truck and tries to stop it, panicked that his friends have been taken away when, looking over, he sees that they’ve escaped to a RECYCLABLE BIN, where they retreat to safety in the garage.

Debate (12-25)

  • Convinced that they are no longer wanted, the toys find their way into the back of the minivan, into a new pile of belongings… meant for Sunnyside Day Care facility.
  • The debate is this: Woody says that Andy didn’t mean to put them in the junk pile and thus still cares about them. All of the other toys don’t believe this, and think that the only way that they can continue to feel loved and be played with by a child is by going to Sunnyside. Woody warns against this: “We belong to Andy. We always have, and this is how it has to be.” But our other toys don’t listen. At least at Sunnyside they will have someone who cares about them and who will play with them on a daily basis… unlike Andy.
  • Dramatic questions, posed in the debate: Is Sunnyside a good place? Should toys turn their back on Andy and give up on the idea of going to college with him? Does Andy care about them anymore… and did he really put them in the junk pile?
  • These are all questions that FUEL AND PROPEL our second act, as well as the conflict resolution in the third act. They are specific, and hold both emotional and physical stakes to each of our characters.

Break into Two (25)

  • Arrive at Sunnyside Day Care. Despite the warnings of Woody, this place seems pretty good, right? Everybody seems nice enough. There are a lot of new toy friends. Cool facilities. And there are tons of playmates that will give them lots of love and attention… something that Andy is no longer capable of…
  • Meet LOTSO, the fuzzy leader of Sunnyside. He’s welcoming and kind, and happy to meet the “new guys.”
  • However, something in Woody still doesn’t feel right. He knows that he belongs to Andy, as do all of them, and he tells them again that Andy still cares about them. They of course don’t believe him, still convinced they were put in the junk pile. So, Woody has no other choice… he says goodbye to all of his friends, and sets out on a journey to get back to Andy’s house and make it back into the “college pile” where he will be reunited with his owner.
  • (AGAIN: THEME, THEME, THEME: issues of friendship, loyalty, separation, moving on in your life… we see this with the peripheral story lines. The A Story just said goodbye to the B Story… and Woody has left his friends).

B Story (30)

  • Woody heads out on a journey to get home to Andy. And of course there are complications. He gets stuck in the bathroom. He tries to fly away via the roof. And then gets caught in a tree… and noticed by a LITTLE GIRL, BONNIE, who attends Sunnyside. She is intrigued with Woody and takes him home with her.

Fun and Games (30-55)

  • The acclamation of our characters into Sunnyside: there is something new and appealing to this place. Our toys are starting to like it here. This is going to be a lot of fun…
  • That is, until the rambunctious PLAYMATES return from recess… and have one KILLER SESSION of intense, rowdy, aggressive play. Our toys are thrust around. Painted with. Smashed against each other. Eyes pulled out. Ears tweaked. They’ve never experienced free play like this before.
  • Meanwhile, our B STORY is home with Bonnie, having some fun IMAGINATIVE PLAY in her yard. She’s a caring, kind girl, who comes from a loving family. But Woody still misses his real owner.
  • (And note: a good fun ‘n games, always has the back of forth of the A AND B STORIES… as they both propel and forward the plot).
  • Nighttime is setting in Sunnyside, and our characters are fully exhausted after a play session from hell. Buzz and friends realize that they’re not in the “age appropriate” Child Care rooms, and go to ask Lotso if they can move to an older group, as they’re used to playing with Andy, who’s a lot more mature and considerate.
  • However, when they go to find Lotso, they see that he’s up to no good. Lotso is really an evil character, and plans on holding our toys hostage, as he’s the boss, and ruler of Sunnyside. And MR. KEN BARBIE, the guy who BARBIE met earlier in the second act, who seems like only a gentleman, is really on Lotso’s side and is his right hand man.
  • Lotso and Ken seize BUZZ LIGHT YEAR, and take him to the back, where he is REPROGRAMMED, and his authentic, lovable self is erased. Now Buzz is on Lotso’s side.
  • But our other toys don’t know this, and get caught up by Lotso and Buzz, and locked away, like they’re in Shawshank prison.
  • CUT BACK TO OUR B STORY: Woody is getting ready for bed after a day of play, when he meets some of Bonnie’s other toys. These toys know of Sunnyside. And they warn against the dangers of that place. As well as the evil Mr. Lotso… who, we come to learn, has a back-story that has influenced and created him as a monster. You see, Lotso feels abandoned by his play owner, and this has created the mistrust and sadness that fuels his anger as an antagonist. (Again, even our BAD GUY, has a story line that deals with friendship, abandonment, loyalty, etc. Michael Arndt, the screenwriter, is a smart dude who really understands how to tell a focused and clean story, thematically).
  • Now, Woody knows his friends aren’t safe at Sunnyside. He must return to get them. And help them back to Andy before he leaves to college in a day.

Midpoint (55)

  • Is the intersection of our A AND B stories: Woody comes back to Sunnyside to rescue his imprisoned friends.
  • And it is now… that we are also introduced to a TICKING CLOCK.
  • Via Mrs. Potato Head’s missing EYE, that was set-up earlier in the story: her eye was missing and stuck under Andy’s bed… we learn that Andy did NOT in fact want to throw away his toys, but only wanted to put them in the attic pile. And, also, there’s the ticking clock element… where we all see that Andy is now only a day away from going to college.
  • This new information allows our characters to feel the need and pressure to get out of there now. And also, allows for them to have emotional closure, and realize that Andy still does care about them.
  • Plan: tonight, we have to break out of here.

Bad Guys Close In (55-75)

  • But it’s not going to be easy. Lotso has his men everywhere. He has a WANDERING BABY patrolling outside. He has a trained MONKEY watching the video screens. The bad guys are looking pretty tough right now.
  • Night comes… and the escape PLAN BEGINS…
  • Working together, our friends devise a plan to escape through the JUNK CHUTE, as this is the only way out of Sunnyside.
  • All the while, Barbie has a plan of her own. She’s distracting the evil Mr. Ken, and trying to free the BRAINWASHED BUZZ LIGHT YEAR.
  • The plan is going well…
  • Everyone’s working together…
  • And despite some glitches, it looks like they’re going to make it through the GARBAGE CHUTE… when Lotso appears. He’s on to them. He’s caught them. And they will never escape Sunnyside.
  • At that moment, the GARBAGE TRUCK comes and empties the CHUTE, carrying away, all of our characters, as well as the evil Mr. Lotso.

All Is Lost (75)

  • Their plan has not only failed but it looks like they’re headed for total disaster… in the back of the garbage truck, with the evil Mr. Lotso…

Dark Night of the Soul (75-85)

  • And if things couldn’t get any worse, our characters are now taken away to the JUNK YARD, and headed right for the JUNK FIRE, as Lotso torments and delights in their situation.
  • It’s not looking good for anyone at this point.
  • Their goal of getting back to Andy will never be a reality…
  • And it looks like Lotso is going to win… as they’re whisked away into the JUNK YARD FIRE…
  • However…

Break into Three (85)

  • Breaking into the third act, our characters again rally together and use what they’ve learned with each other to defeat Mr. Lotso. Woody tells Lotso that he was never abandoned and that his owner still cares about him. He knows of his story and he shows him a “ribbon” that Lotso’s owner used to give him. Lotso is distracted and this allows our characters to escape.
  • Lotso is taken away by one of the JUNK TRUCK DRIVERS and appears to be a HOOD ORNAMENT on the truck.

Finale (85-110)

  • Our characters must get home to Andy before he leaves for college…
  • And they turn and recognize one of the TRUCK DRIVERS that we saw earlier in the movie… he’s the GUY WHO LISTEN TO HIS iPOD at work, and who, almost took away our characters in the beginning when they were accidentally taken to the garbage pile.
  • Our characters know this garbage guy is on Andy’s route, and thus, this is their way home…
  • (AGAIN, fantastically CLEAN, and specific, and tight writing from Michael Arndt; everything is a set-up and pay-off!!!!).
  • Everyone returns home to find Andy.
  • Our characters now realize that Andy still cares about them and that they will be happy in the attic, as they will have each other. Woody returns to his chosen spot in the college pile, and everyone else jumps in the “attic box.”
  • However, there’s an EMOTIONAL BEAT here with Andy’s mother. And again, this PERFECTLY ECHOS and reiterates our THEME.
  • Andy’s mother is sad that he’s leaving for college. She doesn’t want her beloved son to leave. And she’s having trouble coming to terms with this separation. “I always want to be a part of your life, Andy…” The mother tells him, trying to choke back tears.
  • These heartfelt, and inspirational words change something in Woody, who jumps from the college pile. Woody knows that he doesn’t want to be separated from his other friends, and that he must do something quickly to change this.
  • Woody jumps on the attic box, and we see him writing something…

Final Image (110)

  • It’s Bonnie’s address that Woody just wrote.
  • And ALL OF OUR CHARACTERS, still in the box, are scooped up by Andy and taken to…
  • Where Woody has already been… and he’s seen what a kind, young girl Bonnie is. She lives in a loving family. And she will appreciate them all as toys.
  • Andy introduces Bonnie to all of his toys.
  • They have a play session together…
  • And we know what Bonnie will be in the perfect person to inherit these amazing characters…
  • And thus, we’ve come a long way from our opening image. We started our movie, watching Andy, as a young kid, playing with his favorite toys. And now, the BATON has been passed, and we’ve introduced a new life and characters for all of our toys. They will get to stay together. And just as Andy is going off to start a new life, with new friends, our toys will be doing the same…

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