Toy Story is my all time favorite animated movie. As well as my favorite computer animated movie, Pixar movie, and Disney movie. Although I’ve been gradually going through the entire Walt Disney Animation studio library, it would be wrong of me not to continue the 90’s with Pixar. An animation studio that I’ve been dedicated to since birth. Pixar has been a pioneer of state of the art CGI since the 80’s. Beginning with short films that caught the attention of both Apple founder Steve Jobs and the people at Disney. Their crude, but affective short Tin Toy eventually lead to the first ever computer animated feature film.
No matter how old I get, Toy Story will always be a beloved part of my childhood. Ensuring its place on my “Top 10 Favorite Movies” list. As high as number two, since I feel like a kid everytime I watch it. Toy Story was released in my birth year of 1995. I was only a baby when it came out, so I was too young to ever question the game changing use of computer animation. I had the appropriate Toy Story toys and I watched the movie on VHS a countless number of times. To the point that I can quote everything word for word. However better Pixar gets, Toy Story remains their greatest achievement…
Toy Story asks the question, what if toys came to life when we weren’t looking? Which lead to my entire generation attempting to catch our toys in the act. What I’ve always loved about Pixar, is how they bring emotions to the most unlikely characters. Following a toy’s perspective was a genius idea. Since our imagination helps bring them to life. Although I never inscribed my name on their feet. Toy Story is literally a toy’s story of how being played with by a child who loves you, means the world to a toy. All toys freeze when humans are present and only move when left alone. Andy is a happy child who opens the movie with an imaginative toy playing session.
Woody is a classic pull-string ragdoll with iconic cowboy outfit and trademark hat. He’s Andy’s favorite toy and the leader of the rest of his toys. Which are either original or licensed toys that most kids have had in the past. There’s Mr. Potato Head, Slinky Dog, Rex the dinosaur, Hamm the piggy bank, and so many others. Like toy car RC, an army of toy soldiers, Lenny the binoculars, Speak & Spell Mr. Spell, tape recorder Mr. Mike, and even an Etch A Sketch. Andy also plays with his baby sister Molly’s porcelain lamp figurine Bo Peep. Woody runs the room like an office that deals with toy related problems like new toys that arrive on birthdays and Christmases. Andy’s mom throws him an early party before they move.
Enter Buzz Lightyear, the coolest action figure ever made. Buzz is a space ranger packed with awesome features. The clever contrast between a cowboy and space ranger is the best unlikely buddy pairing in Pixar history. Woody finds himself replaced by Buzz, who genuinely believes he’s a real space ranger. An unfortunate misunderstanding leaves Woody & Buzz stranded at a gas station before being picked up by Sid at Pizza Planet. Their experience at Sid’s house allows them to bond and eventually find their way back home. Now that you know the story, this is why it’s my all time favorite computer animated Disney & Pixar movie…
Toy Story is so perfect that it has a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. As great as it turned out, the road to get there wasn’t easy. Toy Story had a notoriously rocky production. The original idea was to make a Tin Toy movie starring Tinny and a creepy ventriloquist dummy named Woody on a road trip. Tinny was later replaced by a space themed superhero who eventually became the more cop like Buzz Lightyear. Then Woody became a cowboy doll at the request of an animator. Interference from Disney insisted that Toy Story needed to be edgier. I highly recommend seeing the notoriously bad “Black Friday” test footage. Which features a very out of character Woody. Fortunately the father of computer animation, John Lasseter, fixed everything in time. Truly separating Pixar from Disney’s influence.
The biggest difference between studios is originality. Disney is often based on fairy tales, while Toy Story is distinctly modern. With more adult humor and a more kid friendly edge that helps make the toys feel three dimensional. The computer animation can be rough mostly for humans, but the toys, lived in environment, lighting, and weather has all aged beautifully. Animators had to learn on the fly with ancient computers no less. Another difference was not making Toy Story a musical. Instead the great Randy Newman composed 3 songs that tell the emotion of their scenes. “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” is the signature buddy song that represents the main theme of friendship. “Strange Things” represents Woody’s fear of being replaced and “I Will Go Sailing No More” is the closest thing to a tear worthy moment for Buzz.
As much as critics liked to praise the music & animation, Toy Story really does have the story to match. Along with hilarious dialogue that Joss Whedon actually helped write. Opening in the clouds is iconic and so is Andy playing round up with Mr. Potato Head as One-Eyed Bart. Tom Hanks has just the right wit and charm for Sheriff Woody. I had a Woody doll growing up and I even dressed up as Woody for Halloween. Tim Allen is just as likable as a battle ready Buzz who doesn’t know he’s a toy. My theory was always that Buzz’s programing might be why he thinks he’s a space ranger. Buzz’s eventual realization is both heartbreaking and sidesplitting. After a commercial reveals the truth. His initial arrival shows off all his cool features. Pop out wings, laser light bulb, many phrases, a whoosh helmet, karate chop action, Buzz Lightyear was another toy that I loved growing up.
Buzz is pressured into flying by Woody and that’s when we first hear the iconic “To infinity, and beyond.” Buzz falls with style and starts to get the attention of the other toys. Despite how different they are, Hanks & Allen have genuine chemistry. Which really comes out in their banter and heart to heart talk. The rest of the respectable cast is just as perfect. Don Rickles was born to play the cynical Mr. Potato Head. Who has a particularly funny running gag where he keeps losing his parts. Jim Varney’s friendly tone was a great match for Woody’s loyal dog Slinky. Although the dog version of the toy wasn’t as common as you might think. Wallace Shawn is a personal favorite as Rex. A fun play on an eccentric, not so fearsome t-rex.
Along with the Pixar lamp, luxo ball, Pizza Planet truck, and A113, John Ratzenberger first voiced the sarcastic scene stealer Hamm. Rounding out the mostly male cast of toys is Annie Potts as Bo Peep. Woody’s true love who flirts with him in a surprisingly suggestive manner. Of course R. Lee Ermey is the only actor who could voice the green army men’s leader Sarge. I had so many of those toys as a kid and it’s always fun seeing them march on those bases. Woody accidentally knocks Buzz out the window and it leads to a fight that makes clever use of their toy parts. As memorable as every quote is, “YOU ARE A TOY!!!” speaks for itself. Andy’s room is a great central location, but it’s Pizza Planet that I’ve always wanted to experience. It’s there Buzz encounters little green men who worship the claw from the machine.
From a toy’s point of view, a juvenile delinquent who tortures toy’s would be a villain. Even though Sid doesn’t know what he’s doing. His dog Scud is also a problem, but his sister Hannah just sort of puts up with him. Sid’s room is a nightmare populated by misunderstood mutant toys who help Woody after Sid straps Buzz to a rocket. Their break out leads to the toys scarring Sid for life by coming to life right in front of him. The following climax was pivotal to Pixar’s success. Woody & Buzz ride RC to catch up to the moving truck and attempt to board in an epic chase that no one sees. The battery runs out, but Woody lights the rocket to take off.
In what I’d call the greatest moment in Pixar history, Woody & Buzz take flight and Woody says “To infinity, and beyond!” It’s such a triumphant moment that’s sealed with Andy discovering the toys. They celebrate Christmas at their new house and all the new presents set up the sequel. Toy Story was so crucial to animation moving forward that it received three Academy Award nominations. Managing to win a much deserved honorary Oscar for Special Achievement. Toy Story will always have a friend in me no matter how old I get.
Followed by: Toy Story 2