Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 21 min.
Release Date: November 22nd, 1995 MPAA Rating: G
Director: John Lasseter Actors: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, John Morris, Erik von Detten, R. Lee Ermey
t wouldn’t be uncultured or assumptive to say that “Toy Story” is one of the greatest animated films of all time. Although the technology used for this very first completely computer generated feature has vastly improved over the years, the story itself is timeless, humorous, powerful, and marvelously creative. All the essential elements of successful storytelling and filmmaking come together in an inspired undertaking that opened the doors and set the benchmark for the future of CG movies. It also made Pixar a household name.
In “Toy Story,” toys are not simply inanimate playthings. When humans leave the room, they come alive, living out little adventures and interacting amongst themselves just like real (or anthropomorphic) people. In Andy’s room, the Sheriff Woody doll (Tom Hanks) is the reigning favorite who confidently leads the other toys, including the plastic dinosaur Rex (Wallace Shawn), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), a Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), Hamm the Piggy Bank (John Ratzenberger), a Bo Peep doll (Annie Potts), and many more. Every Christmas and birthday becomes a time for hysteria for the group, due to the possibility of replacement or relegation to next month’s garage sale fodder. When Andy’s birthday party is moved up by a week so that it won’t coincide with the family’s moving plans, Woody and the ensemble of toys understandably panic.
With the help of the green plastic army men, Andy’s toys get advance info on the arrival of a new addition: the popular Buzz Lightyear space soldier (Tim Allen). Buzz has all the newest features, including flashing lights, moving parts, and battery-operated sound effects, easily impressing Andy – to the point that Woody is all but forgotten. When laser envy gets the better of the rootin’-tootin’ cowboy, he knocks the unsuspecting trooper out the window, jumpstarting a grand adventure to rescue the intergalactic traveler. From escapades at Pizza Planet and the next door neighbor’s house (the domain of cruel youth Sid, who fulfills the classic serial killer childhood portrait by torturing and disassembling toys for fun – as evidenced by his room full of mutilated horrors) to regaining the trust of his longtime companions, Woody must learn to work with Buzz to overcome a bevy of harrowing obstacles.
One of the most entertaining ideas in “Toy Story” is Woody’s acceptance of his place as a toy, and Buzz’s contrasting ignorance, believing that he is an actual cadet who must rendezvous with Star Command to defeat an evil alien enemy. The concepts of programming or instantaneous streams of consciousness aren’t always addressed with consistency, but the personalities and actions are wholly cinematic. The characters and their attitudes are all based on very popular or nostalgic curios, allowing for the numerous jokes to perfectly complement the familiar designs.
The only visual letdowns are the humans and the dog, which are noticeably inaccurate in their movements and designs – though this is primarily to blame on the restrictions of the computer programs of the time. The toys themselves, however, with their plastic, rubber, and fibrous textures, are just as realistic and convincing in appearance more than a decade later. The overall success and entertainment value is also due, in part, to the superb chemistry between Hanks and Allen, who manage to create unique personas that aren’t confined to simple iterations of recognizable celebrity voices. With its heartwarming story, which culminates in an incredibly thrilling escape and a daring rescue, tuned to Randy Newman’s award-winning songs (that all start to sound the same after awhile, but nevertheless match the tone of the film), “Toy Story” is an unforgettable, groundbreaking, absolutely winning masterpiece.
– Mike Massie