Several toys from previous movies are not present in this film. Bo Peep, Etch, and Wheezy are mentioned. Wheezy does appear (briefly) during the opening sequence with Andy taking down the toy's heights on the wall (He's stacked up on the wall).
An early version of Lotso can be seen in Toy Story (1995) during the staff meeting. Woody asks if the toys "up on the shelf can hear" him, and we see a shot of a big, pinkish bear. John Lasseter wanted to use Lotso in the original Toy Story, but PIXAR had troubles getting the fur right.
By the time Toy Story 3 was made, Pixar animators had figured out how to animate things like water and fur. Although being able to realistically animate fur was originally a concern for Toy Story 3 animators, the real animation challenge was trying to animate the trash bags in the movie. Because trash bags have special properties such as how it reflects light, animators spent weeks trying to get the trash bags correct.
For Big Baby's one line for the entire movie ("Mama"), the crew had a lot of babies audition by recording them saying the line. The baby that was chosen was named Woody. In fact, the director joked that was the reason why they chose that baby.
Tom Hanks and Tim Allen insisted that they record their lines together, something rarely done with animated films any more, and wasn't done for the first two films. They loved the chemistry their characters shared on-screen.
SERIES TRADEMARK: The Pizza Planet delivery truck, which has appeared in every Pixar film, is the truck that Lotso and his friends hitch a ride on in a flashback sequence. Andy has a calendar from Pizza Planet in his bedroom.
For inspiration for the Sunnyside escape, the Pixar staff watched numerous prison movies. Director Lee Unkrich said: "There are a lot of prison movies out there, and I think we watched every single one of them."
When Barbie is going through Ken's closet, they come across a blue and gold letterman jacket with a "K" embroidered on the breast and a "State" pennant laying across the front. Michael Keaton, the voice of Ken, graduated from Kent State University, whose colors are blue and gold.
The final shot in the film before the end credits is that of white clouds against a blue sky. This is a reference to the very first frame of the movie, which is also the same as the first frame of the Toy Story trilogy, that of white clouds against a blue sky in the wallpaper on Andy's room.
SERIES TRADEMARK: The letters/numbers "A113", which appears in most of the Pixar films, makes an appearance on a license plate on the back of Andy's Mom's car. A113 is a reference to the room at CalArts in which the Pixar Animators studied. The car itself bears a lot of resemblance to an Opel/Vauxhall Zafira.
When Woody comes back to Sunnyside to save the toys and enters the Caterpillar room through the ceiling, he lands on top of a shelf and runs past bins labeled "Toys", "Glue", etc. The font used is called "Andy".
The beginning was meant to mirror the beginning of Toy Story (1995) and Toy Story 2 (1999), with Mr. Potato Head presenting his attack dog with a force field, Woody responding he had a dinosaur that eats force field dogs with Evil Dr Pork Chop and Death By Monkeys, with added things (The Orphans, The Train).
During the early development stages, when the people behind the film sat down to look at their work from the original Toy Story (1995), they found they could not edit any of the old 3D models because advances in technology rendered the digital files containing the models incompatible with newer software. As a result, everything had to be recreated from scratch.
Originally, a sequel was planned when it seemed that Disney and PIXAR would split over creative differences in 2004-2005. Disney started up an animation division titled 'Circle 7,' which would have been in charge of churning out sequels for PIXAR films that would not involve the original creators at PIXAR. Entertainment Weekly published an article that said the original plot for Toy Story 3 was going to be about Buzz Lightyear having a defect. Buzz would then be shipped to Taiwan to be fixed, but the other toys find out that the toy company is just replacing the broken Buzz toys with new ones, so they ship themselves to Taiwan to rescue him. This script had to be canned when PIXAR and Disney made amends. Part of their agreement was not to further develop projects that had been planned during their fallout.
At one point in the film, Mr. Potato Head scurries across a toy piano. The notes the piano plays are the "Petrushka chord," a recurring motif from a ballet composed by Igor Stravinsky about a puppet who comes to life.
The phrase "I'd like to join your posse, boys, but first I'm gonna sing a little song." had not yet been said by Woody's voice box in the final cut of any Toy Story film until now, but it did exist as far back as Toy Story (1995) in a deleted scene where Sid tortures Buzz and Woody.
Barbie's line, "Authority should derive from the consent of the governed, not from threat of force!" is based on a quote from Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. "Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." But it is also a nod to Michael Palin's line in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975): "Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!"
1225 Sycamore Street (Bonnie's house) and 234 Elm Street (Andy's house) do exist together in 2 cities: Cincinnati, Ohio and Denton, Texas. Though they are in reality much farther apart in Cincinnati, though in Denton they intersect. Elm Street is similarly surrounded by roads with names of trees (ie: Maple, Walnut, Hickory, Oak) as seen in the scene where Woody uses the computer to find his way home.
Ken's line, "Take him to the libary [pronounced as 'lie-berry']", after capturing Buzz was an intentional mispronunciation as an improvisation by Michael Keaton. The director liked it so much he kept it in the film.
The lunch box Buzz grabs to save himself from the shredder on the conveyor belt is a replica of an actual The Six Million Dollar Man (1974) lunch box the director had in his childhood, his favorite one.
In an interview with KCRW's movie industry radio show "The Business," Joan Graves, the chair of the MPAA's Classification and Ratings Administration, admitted that (based on the response she and her board have gotten from parents) giving Toy Story 3 (2010) a G rating was a mistake, and that it should have gotten at least a PG (especially because of the incinerator scene) and that the lesson learned in that case would be applied to future movie ratings so that movies would no longer be given the "benefit of the doubt" while being rated.
Near the beginning of the movie, a sticker resembling the Clemson Tigers helmet can be seen on the toy box. It is actually a reference to director Lee Unkrich's high school alma mater, the Chagrin Falls (Ohio) Tigers.
A trio of plastic Hamburger, Soft Drink, and Fries toys appear in the crowd of toys that greet Woody and his friends at the day care center. These three toys are based on three puppets (called "Hamburger," "Soft Drink," and "Fries") that appeared with Ronald McDonald in 1980's TV commercials for McDonald's Happy Meals.
In the scene where Barbie goes through Ken's clothing collection, she pulls out a Nehru Jacket and asks, "This is from what, 1967?" The famous James Bond villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, whom popularized the Nehru style in film culture, made his first formal appearance in You Only Live Twice (1967). Additionally, the shirt resembles the same style worn by The Beatles on the cover of the 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' album, which was also released in 1967.
This is the first feature film released in Dolby Surround 7.1. The Dolby Surround 7.1 format is made up of eight channels of audio, with the following channel layout: Left, Center, Right, Low-Frequency Effects (LFE), Left Surround, Right Surround, Back Surround Left (new), and Back Surround Right (new).
This is the first Toy Story film to receive the Oscar for Best Original Song with the song "We Belong Together". The first Toy Story movies lost the category for non-Pixar Disney films. "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story (1995) lost to "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas (1995) and "When She Loved Me" from Toy Story 2 (1999) lost to "You'll be in My Heart" from Tarzan (1999). "We Belong Together" won over the non-Pixar Disney film Tangled (2010) song "I See the Light"
The Judas Priest song "Electric Eye", was used as temporary music for the desert sequence. Director Lee Unkrich hinted that every employee who worked on the film, including himself, are fans of heavy metal.
Numerous visual references to Pixar Animation Studios' hometown of Emeryville, CA, are visible in Andy's room, such as the poster for a fictional Baja 1000-style off-road race that finishes in the city of Emeryville. In addition, a ticket stub can be seen on the cork board above Andy's desk for a concert in Emeryville featuring the New Jersey pop/punk band Humble Beginnings -- which may also be a reference to the "humble beginnings" of Pixar itself.
In the scene where the toys send Buzz to see Lotso about transferring them to the Butterfly Room at Sunnyside, Buzz mentions the 'transom'. In the script, Rex says "What's a transom, Buzz?" as an homage to Drugstore Cowboy (1989). Michael Arndt had repeatedly begged Lee Unkrich to include the line in the movie, but the director didn't think it was necessary so was not used. It is, however, mentioned in the DVD commentary.
Sid Phillips, the next-door-neighbor who was the first movie's major antagonist (he destroyed toys by blowing them up, and he liked to dismember toys and reconstruct them by mixing up their parts) makes a brief appearance in the third movie as a garbageman. He is identifiable by the same black and white skull t-shirt he wore during the first movie, and he is voiced by the same actor, Erik von Detten.
The finale of the film when Baby Doll tosses Lotso into the trash is a reference to The Emperor's fate at the hands of his henchman, Darth Vader, at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI - The Return of the Jedi (1983). Toy Story (1995) and Toy Story 2 (1999) have similar homages to the Star Wars films; in the former, Sid menacingly asks Woody "where are your Rebel friends now?", as Grand Moff Tarkin had in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) while Buzz suggests that Emperor Zurg has begun construction on a space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet and has only one weakness. In the latter Emperor Zurg confesses he is Buzz Lightyear's father, similar to Darth Vader's admission to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
At the end of the original Toy Story (1995), Rex said he hoped Andy would get another dinosaur, preferably a "leaf eater" so he could act as the dominant carnivore. In Toy Story 3 he gets his wish because his new owner, Bonnie, has Trixie.
The plot of the movie is loosely based on the original treatment for Toy Story (1995), which had Tinny (from Tin Toy (1988)) getting lost at a rest stop and being found by a junk man, who throws him into back of his truck. Tinny meets a ventriloquist dummy and they both decide to stick together. But in the end they end up in a preschool where they'll never get lost or outgrown.
A piece of concept art found in the book 'The Art of Toy Story 3 (2010)' shows that originally, Trixie the blue dinosaur was envisioned to be part of Lotso's gang at the daycare center. However, in the final movie she is one of Bonnie's toys and is a friendly character.
Pixar came with the idea of using a teddy bear as a villain for the first time in 1990, when they were planning A Tin Toy Christmas, the never produced sequel to Tin Toy (1988). In the planned short, the titular Tin Toy would get lost in a mall ruled by a gang of old toys bitter for not having been bought and played with for years, and the teddy bear would be their leader. Some of the ideas were also used in Toy Story 2 (1999).
When Lotso is helped to the Emergency Stop button on the trash conveyor belt, instead of pushing the button to stop the belt and save the other toys, he glares at them and yells, "Where's your kid now?" This is a wink to the Billy Crystal routine making fun of the incongruity of Edward G. Robinson being cast in The Ten Commandments (1956): "Where's your deliverer now, Moses?". This supposedly sparked the Internet meme of "Where is your god, now?", which Lotso's statement echos.