What to expect in Toy Story 3 (hints: new characters, adult themes!)

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

You know animator Angus MacLane's work even though he's not one of the Pixar marquee stars like John Lasseter or Brad Bird: MacLane lent his talents to WALL-E, for which he accepted the film's Saturn Award on Wednesday. He also directed the short BURN-E, which appears on the DVD. He got his start at Pixar while Toy Story 2 was in the pipeline, and he's currently working on Toy Story 3 animation. Since he and Pixar got their start with the franchise, he says the third film represents their adulthood.

"I feel like we've grown up making these movies, and each of the films represents where the filmmakers were at the time of making the films," MacLane said in an exclusive interview in Burbank, Calif. "Certainly we're approaching this film 10 years later, so I think we're sort of coming at it from the standpoint of [Andy] has grown up, and we've grown up with these toys, and we have a reverence for them, but we also have different things as a priority."

Lee Unkrich takes the directing lead on a story dealing with Andy's going off to college. The prospect of Andy's outgrowing Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody was first raised in Toy Story 2. So what is a Toy Story with Andy basically grown up?

"I think that's a question we've tried to figure out ourselves," MacLane said. "I can tell you Andy's room is in the movie. That's about all I can say." Whether it's the Andy's room we know or Andy's teenage room, MacLane would not tell.

With a specialty in character movement and motion, which brought many of WALL-E's silent sequences to life, MacLane has had a chance to introduce new toys into the Toy Story world. "Oh, I've had a lot of fun with new characters," he said. "I've spent a lot of the time on the show on new characters. That's one of the things I did work on on this film, was a lot of preproduction and developing on the new characters, just help out getting them ready to go for the film." On Toy Story 2, MacLane was in charge of the "crazy" Buzz Lightyear, fresh out of the box at the toy store, still thinking he's a real space ranger.

MacLane assured fans that he and his Pixar colleagues take Toy Story 3 seriously. They would not make a cheap knock-off sequel (ahem, Disney). And he said the new installment will mark the true conclusion of a trilogy.

"Toy Story 2 was one of the first films I did starting at Pixar, so I feel a real kinship with the characters, specifically Buzz Lightyear," MacLane said. "So I really wanted to get back in there and animate. To give you a sense of the responsibility they feel, there was a T-shirt made in the story department. The back of the T-shirt said, 'Franchise Guardian.' It's not something we do lightly. We go back into that mythology with the intent to continue a story that needs to be told, a story that we believe in and a story that, to be really honest, having seen the movie, is amazing. I'm not worried about it, but in finishing it, we want to make sure it's the best film it can be, and it's fit to stand alongside the other films on the shelf."

Toy Story 3 is due in theaters in 2010.