99. Toy Story

“A cowboy doll is profoundly threatened and jealous when a new spaceman figure supplants him as top toy in a boy’s room.”

Let me just preface this by saying that this film holds a very special place in my heart and that I found it quite difficult to shift my focus on this film from a nostalgic focus to a critical focus. Hopefully, I was successful.

This film was a triumph in computer animation at the time that it was made. It was the first fully computer animated film and completely changed the industry. Suddenly, other film production companies were interested in doing the same thing. What’s funny now, after seeing how far PIXAR has come in computer animation, is going back and watching the very first film. It looks completely different than Brave and even Toy Story 3.

That being said, having toys as the subject matter for this all computer animated film is genius. They had not yet mastered the art of creating “life-like” figures, and they weren’t about to pretend that they had.

There were several objects that I noticed that were wonderfully animated. Of course, the whole film is done wonderfully, but there were a few items, specifically, that stuck out to me. One example is the plastic crate that Woody is trapped under in Sid’s room. The texture on that is remarkable and that made it look incredibly real. Same goes for the wooden table in Sid’s room and the trees outside during the moving truck scene near the end.

I always seem to forget that Joss Whedon had a part in writing this script and each time I see those opening credits, it makes me happy to see his name. I’m a fan. What can I say?

As for voice talent, this film is filled with such great voice talent that it borders on ridiculous. First off, you have Tom Hanks and Tim Allen voicing the two main characters. Then, in the supporting cast, you have Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, and Annie Potts, and every single one of them does an excellent job.

I always thought that Randy Newman was an odd choice to compose and perform the music for the film. His voice is, well, odd. However, it definitely worked for this. “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” has become such a memorable song since the 1995 release. But, my personal favorite song from the film is “Strange Things”. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe because it perfectly reflects what is going on in the mind of the Woody or maybe it’s just because I find it to be so catchy. Who knows?

Let me just say that, except for Neverland, I have never wanted to go to a fictional place more than I want to go to Pizza Planet. It had to be said.

When it comes to character development, man oh man, this film hits it right on the head. Mainly, they hit it on the head with the character Woody. Woody, in the beginning, is essentially the “alpha male” of Andy’s room. He is the leader. He is Andy’s favorite toy, and he very much likes it that way. So, when another toy enters the story, a toy that Andy really wanted, Woody almost immediately feels threatened. He doesn’t like the thought that this new toy could become Andy’s favorite. The only way Woody sees it, is that he must get rid of said toy. And, honestly, it gets a bit dark. Woody essentially creates a plan to get rid of Buzz, so Andy then has to pick Woody. Of course, this does not go as planned, and all the other toys think (and rightfully so) that Woody tried to kill Buzz Lightyear. It is at this point that all the other toys (except for maybe Bo Peep and Rex) turn on Woody, with Mr. Potato Head as the leader (I’ll get to that guy in a minute). Eventually, Woody accepts the fact that he has to share the spotlight, so to say, with Buzz (even though we all know that Woody is still and always will be Andy’s favorite toy).

Buzz Lightyear goes through a major character change, as well. His really involves an existential crisis, though. At first, he doesn’t believe he’s a toy. He is the Buzz Lightyear. Woody, throughout the film, is constantly trying to make Buzz realize that he is a toy (“You are a child’s play thing!”). However, Buzz denies it the entire time. That is, until the moment that he sees the commercial for a Buzz Lightyear action figure on television. It is here where he starts to doubt who he is. The breaking point for him is when he tries to fly out the open window at Sid’s house. If he really is the Buzz Lightyear, then he could fly out the window, no problem. Buzz, unfortunately realizes, mid-air that he is not, in fact, the real Buzz Lightyear, and falls to the very bottom of the stairs where his arm then breaks off. This is where his existential crisis really begins, and you can see that clearly on his face. I must say, though, that the aftermath of this fall results in one of my favorite lines in the entire film, which I’ll mention a little later. Thankfully, after a lot of trying, Woody is able to snap Buzz out of his crisis, and bring him back to reality.

Okay. So, let’s talk about Mr. Potato Head, shall we? I don’t know if I just never really noticed it before, or if I noticed it and chose to ignore it, but that guy is kind of a jerk. Like, he’s a jerk in a big way. He does nothing but give Woody backhanded comments from the moment that Buzz Lightyear shows up. And then, he’s the ringleader for exiling Woody. In a way, he definitely enjoys the power. However, there is no way that that hot head would be able to lead that group of toys. He does not have the patience for it.

While I’m on the topic of characters that are irritating, who could forget about Sid? Good ol’ Sid, our antagonist, who probably has the worst mother ever. Sid is what? Ten years old? What parent, in their right mind let’s a ten year old buy fireworks like that and have them delivered to the house!? That’s ridiculous. Doesn’t it concern her at all how he spends his free time? He has all the makings of a future serial killer. I do think that it’s worth mentioning, though, that what happens to Sid is absolutely terrifying. Think about it. He’s destroyed toys, created new ones, ones that look creepy to begin with. Then those toys and one of the new ones he’s acquired comes to life to threaten him. Hell. That would give me nightmares for days. Although, that’s probably what stopped him from growing up to be a serial killer and, instead, be a garbage man.

Toy Story is so chock-full of great lines that I decided to write some of my favorites down and share them:

Potato Head: “Hey Ham, look! I’m Picasso!”

Ham: “I don’t get it.”

Potato Head: “You uncultured swine.”

Buzz: “I don’t believe that man’s ever been to medical school.”

Buzz: “One minute you’re defending the whole galaxy and suddenly you find yourself sucking down Darjeeling with Marie Antoinette and her little sister!” (Favorite line. Period.)

Buzz: “I’m not a space ranger. I’m just a toy. A stupid, little, insignificant toy.”

Woody: “Whoa, hey, wait a minute. Being a toy is a lot better than being a space ranger.”

Buzz: “Yeah right.”

Woody: “No it is. Look, over in that house is a kid who thinks you are the greatest. And it’s not because you’re a space ranger, pal. It’s because you’re a TOY.”

Buzz: “But why would Andy want me?”

Woody: “Why would Andy want you? Look at you! You’re a Buzz Lightyear! Any other toy would give up his moving parts just to be you. You’ve got wings! You glow in the dark! You talk! Your helmet does that…that…that ‘whoosh’ thing. You are a cool toy! As a matter of fact, you’re too cool. I mean — I mean, what chance does a toy like me have against a Buzz Lightyear action figure? . . . Why would Andy ever want to play with me, when he’s got you?”

Rex: “Great. Now I have guilt!”

And, of course:

To infinity and beyond.

Grade: A

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