Toy Story (1995)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberg, Annie Potts, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, Laurie Metcalf
Directed by: John Lasseter
Released by: Walt Disney Pictures
Synopsis: Cowboy ragdoll Woody (Tom Hanks) is Andy’s favorite toy and believes that this will never change. But soon he faces competition in the form of Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), the most popular toy on the block. Buzz and Woody’s rivalry culminates when they are left behind at a Pizza Parlor. Now, they must work together to find Andy, realizing that a strong friendship can grow despite the extreme differences in the process.
Review: Unlike the majority of the movies I have reviewed so far, I was there when Toy Story premiered in theaters in 1995. It was the holiday season and I was in my first year of Middle School. I was going through the same stage many pre-teens experience growing up: I was beginning to feel “too old” for cartoons, animated movies and other childhood relics, but was having a hard time letting go. While watching TV one day I caught an ad for a new Disney movie called Toy Story (made by a company called “Pixar”). Hailed as the first computer animated movie ever, I was blown away by the technology they used and thus caught every making off special that would air that year. One day my parents went Christmas shopping and asked them if I could go see the movie while they shopped. They gave me some money and thus I went to see the movie. Seeing the classic Disney Castle logo rendered in 3D was amazing, and the first scenes in Andy’s room stunned me in its detail, fluidity and realism. When the movie ended, I had realized that while the animation was fantastic, there was one thing that stayed with me long after the movie was over: its heart.
Yes, Toy Story was more than just a showcase film for computer animation unlike most films released nowadays. The film features one of the most heartwarming stories to have ever graced modern cinema along with some unforgettable characters. This is accomplished thanks to the great voice talent. Despite their big name status both Tom Hanks and Tim Allen give us iconic performances as Woody and Buzz respectively. It’s very hard to think of them when watching the film. Their voices fit the characters very well to the point that you forget who are voicing them. They have believable chemistry, vital in the development of the film. The rest of the characters also shine in their vocal performances, most specifically Don Rickles as the cranky Mr. Potato Head, Wallace Shawn as the nervous Rex and John Ratzenberg as the sarcastic Hamm. Each one of these characters gives the film its charm, never feeling superfluous or like added padding to the story.
Speaking of which, the story is phenomenal. Granted, Pixar has become better storytellers with each film they have released, tackling subjects such as the pollution of the planet in “Wall-E”, the loneliness of an old man in “Up” and even the value of communities in “Cars”. But Toy Story still remains one of the studios’ best efforts. Each character is even in the development department, always giving us hints of personality and complexity that make them that much relatable. Toy Story speaks loudly about our passion for toys. Toys are something that we take for granted, especially as kids. But as we grow older we realize how much they shaped our childhoods, often realizing that toys are wonderful things to have. Toy Story gives us both the perspective of the child and the toy, giving us some very heartwarming and at times very saddening moments. It’s this level of complexity that makes Toy Story than just a cute animated film and would define Pixar as a whole. Children and adults alike have great memories of the film, simply because it captures the universal feelings of love, friendship and childhood innocence and uses them to create an amazing story.
Of course, you can’t talk about the movie without mentioning its pioneering animation. Toy Story was the first computer animated film ever released in North America. While there have been experimental shorts before the film was made (examples such as Pixar’s own “Tin Toy” and various other projects), Toy Story was the first to be completely animated by computer. Even when Pixar would perfect their style with each film released, Toy Story still looks amazing today. The amount of passion and effort that went into this film is beyond belief. Such is the quality of the animation that even some modern CG films don’t look as great as this movie. There are, of course, some flaws, mainly in the human characters. Pixar went for the realistic look with the humans, and while at the time they were successful, now they look creepy. It’s the toy characters, however, that shine through, still being wonderful to look at after all these years.
Even the music proved to be original for its day. While Toy Story is a musical, it is not like Disney’s other animated movies. Rather than the characters singing them the songs are placed on top of pivotal scenes as narrative devices, giving us the chance to understand the character’s feelings better without the need to have them break into song. Both the score and the songs were composed by Randy Newman. Love him or hate him, Randy Newman does a really good job in Toy Story, giving us very memorable songs that add a lot to the narrative. His definitive song is “You Got a Friend in Me”, used to both explain the friendship between Woody and Andy and Woody and Buzz. The song would become the iconic theme for the entire franchise as well as all of Disney. Today it is still considered to be one of the greatest songs ever written for an animated film, becoming one of Disney’s many flagship anthems.
More than ten years have passed since the film was released, and Pixar has done great things since. Their movies would become better, grander and more successful in both critical and monetary terms. They revolutionized the animation industry with a style that is still being perfected to this day. Film history has shown us that the greatest movies ever made gave us a reason to go to the movies. Toy Story has more than earned the moniker of “the best ever made”. Pixar has since created better, more ambitious films, but Toy Story still remains one of their best movies, the one that revolutionized the film industry while still remembering that a movie isn’t worth watching if it doesn’t have a heart and soul behind it.
To this I say… “TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!”
Rating: 5 filmstrips out of 5