Film #9 on the 100 Movies Bucket List: Toy Story
When Toy Story was first released in 1995, it was groundbreaking. The first-ever fully computer-animated film and the first released by Disney Pixar, this was also one of the first films I saw at the cinema as an 8-year-old child. Admittedly at that age, I was concentrating more on the colourful animated toys rather than appreciating the sheer wizardry on offer, but from repeated watches over the decades, I’ve come to fully recognise the sheer genius of this film.
Toy Story centres around the idea that toys are alive, a concept that most children would love to be true. It follows Woody, a cowboy voiced by Tom Hanks, who’s cushy existence as the top dog of Andy’s toys is disrupted by a new space ranger doll, Buzz Lightyear, voiced by Tim Allen. As Buzz soon becomes Andy’s favourite toy, Woody’s jealousy drives him to desperate measures that wind up with the pair of them becoming ‘lost toys’ and captives of evil neighbour Sid. And together with Buzz and Woody are a whole host of colourful and wacky toy characters, including Mr Potato Head (Don Rickles), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), Etch-a-Sketch and a bucketful of toy soldiers to name but a few of the childhood throwbacks on offer here.
Watching this back 25 years later, it’s hard to believe this film was released in the mid-90s. Whilst you can tell that more recent Disney Pixar releases have improved massively on the animation since Toy Story, the standard of the animation in this is hugely impressive. There are some studios that can’t master this level of detailed animation even now as we move into 2021. The feature and intricacies on show here are impressive, especially with the toy characters – you need to look no further than the scales on Rex (voiced memorably by Wallace Michael Shawn) as a shining example of this.
It isn’t just the animation that makes Toy Story so brilliant though, it’s the entire package. It’s a heartwarming and often hilarious buddy story of sorts, with some strangely adult messages hidden in the childlike story (Buzz’s disillusionment at being a toy rather than a real space ranger is particularly poignant). As a child this made me believe my toys were alive, and as an adult, I’m still hesitant about donating or throwing away old cuddly toys. It’s also full of what we’ve all come to know and love about Disney Pixar: a film suitable for kids but full of grown-up innuendos and adult jokes that makes it appropriate for all ages. Alongside this, it has a fantastic voice cast in household names Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, and of course, it brought us the first of many characters voiced by the unforgettable John Ratzenberger. And what further rounds this off is the catchy and touching original songs by Randy Newman. I doubt there are many people who haven’t heard “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, a song that evokes such a warm and fuzzy feeling inside and is fully deserving of the ‘Best Original Song’ Oscar nomination.
Toy Story is undoubtedly a masterpiece in animation. Whilst it may not have aged incredibly well when comparing it with more recent releases, this is the film that first introduced us to the world of Disney Pixar and paved the way for all of those that have followed.
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