In 1995, fledging animation house, Pixar released their first ever feature film, and the first film to use only CGI throughout, its name was Toy Story. Based on a short film called Tin Toy and using recognisable toy characters from the past, Toy Story became a critical and commercial smash hit and revolutionized animation and immediately made Pixar one of the most exciting production houses in the world. Directed and co-written by John Lasseter Toy Story boasts a crew of future stars of animation and film including Andrew Stanton and Joss Whedon. So successful was the original that two sequels were made Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 form, to date, Pixar’s only trilogy based on the same characters from previous films.
Woody (Tom Hanks) is a the drawstring cowboy and favourite toy of a young boy called Andy (John Morris). One week before the family are due to move house, Andy has a birthday party. Concerned about being replaced or forgotten, the toys in Andy’s bedroom send a group of toy soldiers to inform them of any new toys. Everything seems fine, until Andy’s mum (Laurie Metcalf) reveals his ‘big surprise,’ a brand new top-of-the-range toy called Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). Buzz seems unaware that he is a toy, but slowly becomes Andy’s new favourite, causing Woody to become jealous. During one confrontation Buzz falls from the window and Woody, on the verge of being outcast by the other toys goes in search of his rival.
At the time Toy Story was a marvel of computer graphics and technical wizardry that wowed audiences worldwide. They’d never seen anything like the texturing and motion computer-animated characters for a full-length film. When combined with the charming characters, dripping with nostalgia for all ages and Pixar had a huge hit on their hands. With each successive Pixar film, the technology and effects have become more and more precise, detailed and incredible, leaving the earlier releases to rely on their narrative, voice acting and overall atmosphere. Toy Story has each of these to the highest order.
The voice acting is superb, with Hanks and Allen the standouts, giving life to the inanimate toys, so much so that the audience is completely invested in their success or failure. Their witty repartee and banter makes Toy Story one of the most engaging and thoroughly charming ‘buddy road movies’ around. Each frame sizzles with quick one-liners and visual gags that will keep people of all ages entertained and engrossed throughout the films lithe 77 minute running time.
In Toy Story, the true narrative forces Woody to accept that he has been replaced and Andy’s favourite and to relax and enjoy his lesser role within a group. He learns about friendship, teamwork and overcoming personal obstacles to live a more fulfilled life within a group dynamic. Like most animated films, and kids films in general, Toy Story acts as a lesson to young audiences. The trilogy follows the toys who we come to love through adolescence, through friendship to retirement and finally the spectre of death. It’s all rather deep for a kids film about animated toys, but this rich deeper meaning help make all three in the trilogy timeless classics.
This is film-making at its very best, with a cast and crew desperate to prove their quality in a market dominated by Disney’s hand-drawn animation, Pixar paved the way for the majority of future animated films. Future animations like How to Train Your Dragon, Megamind and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs all owe a debt of gratitude to Lasseter and Pixar and more importantly so do countless thousands of children, whose upbringings were influenced and shaped by Woody, Buzz and the gang.