Film's artistry dazzled and touched audiences

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This third adventure in the beloved Pixar franchise is universally acknowledged as that rarest of projects — a triumphant synthesis of art and commerce. Its $414 million domestic haul made it far and away the biggest hit of the year, while worldwide grosses in excess of $1 billion put the sequel — more of a super-satisfying saga capper, really — squarely at the top of the animated earners list.

But it was the film’s sheer artistry that dazzled and touched audiences and critics as it explored weighty themes of change and growing up 11 years after “Toy Story 2.” True to Pixar’s philosophy on sequels, the studio’s top-notch creative team held out until they had a story worth telling, and the concept, proposed by John Lasseter himself, connected with anyone who’s outgrown his favorite toys.

Directed with a sure touch by Lee Unkrich (who co-helmed “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Finding Nemo”) and written by Oscar winner Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine”), the toon seems sure to follow “Up’s” lead, breaking out of the animated feature box to earn noms in multiple categories. Picture, score and adapted screenplay are easily within reach, with Pixar also hoping to crack the directing and acting races (Michael Keaton’s Ken was a supporting scene-stealer).

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