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Toy Story (1995)

A 1995 movie directed by John Lasseter.

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"You Are a Toy..."

  • Jun 26, 2010
In 1995 Pixar released their first film.  A movie about toys that came to life whenever you left the room.  At the time it was ambitious because there hadn't really been a movie done that was made entirely out of CGI.  Granted, several movies made use of the effect, but Toy Story was, at the time, truly astonishing to look at.  Nowadays the CGI looks rather dated, but for me, I never grew out of that, "It's totally computer animated," stage.  I suppose it's the nostalgia because in 1995 there were still traditional animated films you could see.  It was amazing to look at then, and it's amazing to look at now despite the fact that films such as Ratatouille, Finding Nemo and Wall-E all have far superior animations than Toy Story.  There's always something unique about "the first," that's so amazing.

Here, we're going to talk about Toy Story.  Pixar's first film, and the story that gave us iconic characters.  For the ten of you who never saw Toy Story, there will be spoilers here.  Because it's hard not to when speaking of such a film that's as iconic and influential as Toy Story.  It not only showed us that Pixar was about making original films rather than doing the typical Disney fare, but is still a memorable film even fifteen years later.  It's that rare film that I never really get tired of watching.

Toy Story begins with a boy named Andy playing with his toys.  We see only a select few at this time.  Bo Peep, Slinky Dog, Mr. Potato head (one eyed bart) and Rex to name a few.  But Andy's favorite toy is Woody.  The cowboy doll that Andy has had since Kindergarten.  During the film's opening credits, Andy plays with Woody and it turns out that Andy's birthday is coming up... and as the movie begins we discover the party is that day.  When Woody is sure that Andy has left his room to go help his mother set up for his party, Woody is surprised to find out that the birthday party is a week early.  This is due in part to Andy moving soon. 

When Andy is gone, the room comes to life.  A small society that functions.  Whenever Andy comes back... they all go back to their spots.  Woody is the leader of this land because he's Andy's favorite toy.  And there are plenty of toys to see.  There are those I mentioned earlier, but there's also Hamm the piggy bank, robot, the army troops and RC the car.  These are but a few of the toys that Andy has.  Most of them play some kind of role, but for the most part, most of the toys are there to give you this idea that Andy's room is alive.

Woody holds a staff meeting where he reveals to the other toys that Andy's birthday party is that day.  This has everyone nervous.  Birthdays mean presents... and presents mean the possibility of new toys.  And new toys mean there's a possibility that old toys could be replaced.  What if, for example... Andy got another dinosaur?  What could that mean for Rex?  The poor guy couldn't take that kind of rejection! 

Woody, of course, has a solution.  Send down the army troops.  They'll take a walkie talkie with them, while Woody and the others keep one for themselves.  This way they can all figure out what's in the presents.  And sure enough, this idea works.  As Andy unwraps each gift the soldiers carefully report to Woody and the gang what's in each one.  Everything is fine and dandy until Andy's mother pulls a surprise gift from the closet.  Unfortunately Andy's guests are so excited about it that the soldiers can't actually figure out what it is to report.  Andy rushes back to his room, the toys barely getting back to their places in time.  Andy immediately pushes Woody aside for the new toy.  "Have you been replaced?" Rex gasp, to which Woody responds, "What did I tell you earlier?  No one is getting replaced!" 

No one thought Woody would actually be the only one to get replaced.

The new toy is Buzz Lightyear.  The hottest new toy on the market.  And when Woody meets him he has to face the fact that Buzz can do a bit more than he can.  All Woody has is a pull string.  Buzz?  More gizmos than a swiss army knife.  And Buzz makes a good impression on all the toys by being so darn cool.  There's only one problem with Buzz... that he doesn't realize he IS a toy.  This is evident because he thinks he can actually fly and that there really is a Star Command he's supposed to report to... among other things. 

Woody, of course, can't stand that Buzz has come in, taken his friends and (most important of all) Andy from him.  It seems as though Woody has lost everything.  As they come closer to moving, Andy's mother takes him to pizza planet and he's allowed one toy.  Woody wants to be that toy, but knows that he can't.  In an act of desperation he tells buzz a helpless toy is trapped inbetween the boxes and the wall.  Unfortunately, Woody's plan doesn't go exactly as planned when he accidentally knocks Buzz out the window. 

It seems like a lot to say, but this is what really gets Toy Story going.  Where the adventure begins.  In the opening moments, most of us were no doubt wowed by the fact that we were still watching a CGI movie.  But Pixar doesn't keep us entertained by making the film sheer eye candy.  It's nice to have, but the real heart of the Toy Story is, indeed, the story.  It's a wildly original idea that comes to life mostly because it's a world nearly impossible not to believe and characters so likable we don't want to leave them. 

Of all of Pixar's movies... Toy Story probably demonstrates best what Pixar is good at.  I've never seen a Pixar movie I haven't liked, but Toy Story in particular seems like a text book example to making a good family oriented film.  It's not only a hilarious romp, but it has expert pacing and character development, along with some emotional moments. One of the films most heartwarming moments is when Buzz discovers he really is just a toy.  While trapped in Sid's house (a boy who tortures toys just for fun) Buzz stumbles upon a commercial where he sees that he really is just a toy and that Woody was right the whole time.  Except he still believes it to be untrue, and he'll prove it by flying out the window.  He sets himself up, jumps and begins to soar for a brief moment before he eventually plummets to the ground... where he breaks his arm.  The scene is so magical because it plays to an original song written by Randy Newman.  As Buzz realizes he's fallen... and broken his arm, Randy Newman sings in the scene, "Clearly I... Will Go Sailing... No More..." It's simple and elegant, but it's hard not to feel pity for Buzz Lightyear as he discovers the truth about himself.  It's hard not to feel bad for Woody as he realizes that Andy may have a new favorite toy. 

The first Toy Story doesn't quite reach the emotional height of the third in the series, but it demonstrates that there doesn't have to be anything complex, complicated... or even deep about any particular film in order to be good.  You'd be borderline stupid to watch Toy Story because it's an intellectual treat.  It's not.  It's just a good movie filled to the brim with good characters and a remarkable story to tell.  Everything which happens on screen has some kind of purpose that's impossible not to love and cherish.  There's almost nothing about Toy Story that's unpredictable either.  It's a pretty straightforward story all around.  There are no real shocking twists and turns.  But we're not watching Toy Story for that reason either (I can't imagine anyone watching any Pixar movie for surprises).  We're watching it because it's emotionally enticing and because it's entertaining.  And fifteen years later it's still one of Pixar's best.  It may not have anything to say the way that Wall-E does (although, I must say, people couldn't seem to realize that Wall-E was still first and foremost... about entertainment more than anything) and it may not pack the same punch that a film such as The Incredibles does, but Toy Story doesn't need to.  Toy Story comes from a time when the reason you went to see a movie had little to do with how "smart" it was and everything to do with how fun and entertaining it was.  These kinds of movies, even from Pixar themselves are a dying breed.  It seems as though the public by and large expects so many movies--even animated movies--to be needlessly brainy or have something to say. 

My take on that is that being brainy means nothing without a good story.  And this is why Toy Story succeeds.  It's fun and anyone can get into it and enjoy it without having to feel like they need to be a snob to do it.  There's a lot of heart put into it, but the most important thing of all is that it's fun.  From the opening credits to the fantastic conclusion in which Buzz and Woody end up "falling with style," this isn't just one of Pixar's best movies... it is, perhaps, one of the best animated movies of all time.  It's one of the few movies that manages to get just about everything right without making the audience feel like they missed something and can reach out and appeal to just about everyone.

Needless to say, it'll always be worthwhile to watch Toy Story.  At least for someone like me who is still wowed by a simple story that packs a lot of heart.  And Toy Story packs in a lot of heart.  Yours will be filled with joy when it's all over.

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June 29, 2010
I still vividly remember seeing this film, in part because it was unlike any animated film I'd seen before it, but more importantly because it wowed me in a way that few films have since. When I saw the trailers I thought it looked stupid and juvenile, even at 10 I thought this, but I was an arrogant little bastard... but I digress. When I saw it, I was stunned at how mature it was in certain regards (particularly the humor and social references), but I was also surprised that the film had such a strong emotional core to it. I guess even then I was expecting it to be all technology and style and no substance. I was dead wrong. Do you have a specific character you relate to?
June 27, 2010
It's a tad difficult to review something that most people see as a classic by adding new commentary on something that has been reviewed to death--but your review SUCCEEDS in paying tribute, analysis and 'wow' to the film. excellent review! Defintiely a worthy 'LOOK BACK' feature!
More Toy Story reviews
Quick Tip by . February 21, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
This is the movie that started it all in so many ways -- for the series, for Pixar, and for advancements in computer animation, and for me personally, one of the very first movies I had ever seen in theaters. Nearly two decades later, I still can't get enough of it, and I love what the third installment became (check out my review of Toy Story 3!).
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Great family fun film. Not only is it a fun film but a good quality film.
Quick Tip by . July 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Who knew back in 1995 Pixar would lead the way for animated films in the next century. Definitely a wonderful visually-appealing film.
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This isn't just one of Pixar's best movies... it is, perhaps, one of the best animated movies of all time. It's one of the few movies that manages to get just about everything right without making the audience feel like they missed something and can reach out and appeal to just about everyone.
review by . January 07, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
My kids and I have seen this film numerous times. It never gets boring. Great characters, story, voices, animation, etc. with a lot of laughs and good musical soundtrack.
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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There is greatness in film that can be discussed, dissected, and talked about late into the night. Then there is genius that is right in front of our faces--we smile at the spell it puts us into and are refreshed, and nary a word needs to be spoken. This kind of entertainment is what they used to call "movie magic," and there is loads of it in this irresistible computer animation feature. Just a picture of these bright toys reawaken the kid in us. Filmmaker John Lasseter thinks of himself as a storyteller first and an animator second, much like another film innovator, Walt Disney.

Lasseter's story is universal and magical: what do toys do when they're not played with? Cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Andy's favorite bedroom toy, tries to calm the other toys (some original, some classic) during a wrenching time of year--the birthday party, when newer toys may replace them. Sure enough, Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is the new toy that takes over the throne. Buzz has a crucial flaw, though--he believes he's the real Buzz Lightyear, not a toy. Lasseter further scores with perfect voice casting, including Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head and Wallace Shawn as a meek dinosaur. The director-animator won a special Oscar for "the development and inspired application of techniques that have made possible the first feature-length computer-animated film." In other words, the movie is great.--Doug Thomas
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Movies, Animated Movies, Pixar, John Lasseter


Director: John Lasseter
Genre: Animation, Family
Runtime: 80 minutes
Studio: Walt Disney Home Video
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