#45) Toy Story (1995)

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#45) Toy Story (1995)

OR “When Disney Met Pixar…”

Directed by John Lasseter

Written by Joss Whedon and Andrew Stanton and Joel Cohen & Alec Sokolow. Original Story by John Lasseter & Pete Docter & Andrew Stanton & Joe Ranft.

Class of 2005

The Plot: Andy (voiced by John Morris) is a young boy with a room full of great toys. What he doesn’t know is that when he’s away, the toys have a life of their own. Andy’s favorite toy, cowboy doll Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), is threatened by the arrival of new spaceman toy Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen). The two toys fight and end up stranded out in the real world. Will they make it home before Andy moves away? Well it’s a Disney movie, so you figure it out.

Why It Matters: The NFR acknowledges the film for being the first full-length computer animated feature, and applauds the film’s “magical and hilarious secret world of toys”. It should also be noted that this is one of the rare films to make the NFR after only 10 years, the minimum eligibility period.

But Does It Really?: The ripple-effect that Pixar created with “Toy Story” cannot be denied. But on top of that, it’s also a really good movie. “Toy Story” hits all the right notes; it’s appealing to kids without talking down to them, and appealing to adults without being racy. It taps into a fantasy world that every child has dreamed of and then runs around and has a lot of fun with it. Good animation is never about technique or technology, but rather about a good story and strong characters. “Toy Story” has all of these in spades.

Get Off My Lawn: I saw “Toy Story” in the theater on its original release in November 1995. I don’t remember much, other than the CG animation was pretty amazing. And the video release in October 1996 was like the second coming of Christ. It was seriously that big a deal.

Shout Outs: Quick nods to previous Pixar shorts “Luxo Jr.” and “Tin Toy”. Among the many films that get referenced throughout are NFR entries “The Wizard of Oz”, “The Exorcist”, “Star Wars”, “Alien”, “Apocalypse Now”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Lion King”.

Everybody Gets One: Tim “The Tool Man” Allen, Laurie “Jackie” Metcalf, Jim “Ernest” Varney and the recently departed Don Rickles. And that’s Penn Jillette (of “& Teller” fame) as the announcer of the Buzz Lightyear toy commercial.

Wow, That’s Dated: The whole film has that early ‘90s CG look about it. 22 years later it takes a second to remember that that’s what cutting-edge technology looked like. Also check out the credits for “Soundtrack available on cassette and compact disc” and a reference to the film’s CD-ROM (which I had).

Seriously, Oscars?: Lasseter received an honorary Oscar for his technical achievements (a call-back to when they used to give Walt Disney these kinds of awards). As for actual nominations, it lost its Original Screenplay nod to “The Usual Suspects”. By missing out on Best Original Score and Best Song, Randy Newman lost his 7th and 8th Oscar nominations. He would eventually win on number 16 with another Pixar film, “Monsters Inc.” and on number 20 with “Toy Story 3”.

Other notes

  • Yes, it’s that Steve Jobs and Joss Whedon listed in the credits as executive producer and writer, respectively. Jobs was a majority shareholder of Pixar at the time, and Whedon was a script doctor who helped Lasseter and company navigate the exciting new world of screenplays.
  • The Toddle Tots (because “Little Tikes” is a registered trademark) sound a lot like Jawas.
  • I always forget how much more antagonistic Mr. Potato Head is in this film compared to the sequels. I guess married life softened him a bit.
  • This film – along with “Finding Nemo” – leads us to believe that humans have no peripheral vision or ability to hear anything outside a few feet of them.
  • They live in a two-story house and yet Andy has to share a room with Molly?
  • For whatever reason I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of the lines “Look, I’m Woody! Howdy, howdy, howdy!” and “Would you like some tea, Mrs. Nesbitt?”
  • It’s a good thing that he’s voiced by Tom Hanks, because Woody is a real jerk for the first half of this film. The story goes that Disney Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg unsuccessfully pushed for Woody to be meaner and for the film to be edgier. Hmmm, kinda like a certain animation company Katzenberg might just have founded a few years later…
  • So about Sid: from a toy’s perspective he’s pure evil, but I actually think he’s cool. He’s way more interesting than that goody-two-shoes Andy, plus he’s very creative with how he reconfigures his toys. And his mom makes Pop-Tarts! I’d much rather hang out with him.
  • Nice foreshadowing of Al’s Toy Barn. Newman!
  • With this film, Pixar begins their tradition of listing “Production Babies” in the end credits. Those babies are now in their early-to-mid-‘20s.

Legacy

  • Two sequels; one that is among the best sequels ever, and one that is also very good and very intense.
  • Of course, every Pixar movie made since “Toy Story”; plus that weird theory that they’re all in the same universe. (No no, they just share in-jokes).
  • “Three hours in line for a video game?”
  • Randy Newman: Act II
  • The animated shorts that used to play on Saturday mornings that gave Jim Hanks a nice round of residuals.
  • The Buzz Lightyear TV series that gave Patrick Warburton a nice round of residuals.
  • Toy Car Story

Further Viewing: Someone did a shot-for-shot remake of this film using real toys. Admire their commitment.

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