Seldom does a film come along and truly change the face of a genre entirely. For animation, it was back in 1995 when a little known studio named Pixar released the first feature-length film made solely using computers. Almost every animated movie since owes a debt to John Lasseter and his crew for pushing those boundaries. Being just a wee lad when this came out, I remember the hype and anticipation, but its significance was probably lost on a 6-year-old. I simply remember it capturing my imagination…although, “That was sooo cool!” would probably have been my words at the time.
For those who haven’t seen it (and I’m guessing that’s not many of you!), Toy Story is the tale of a group of toys owned by a boy named Andy, in a world where toys come alive when humans aren’t around. His favourite toy, a cowboy marionette-style doll named Woody (Tom Hanks) leads the toys, but his position is threatened when Andy receives a new space-age toy in the form of the deluded space-ranger Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). The stroke of genius is the toys’ mindset; they know their purpose is to delight children and thus they yearn to be played with and are terrified of being replaced and becoming seemingly unloved. With this the story garners universal appeal touching on important themes, meaningful to adults and children, such as friendship, trust, and acceptance.
As a bright-eyed sprog, I remember a sheer sense of wonder as I was shown the world from a toy’s eye view. It is now a Pixar hallmark, but the animators’ attention to detail is superbly ever-present, arguably best illustrated in the characters’ movements. Each has mannerisms based on their construction – Woody is very loose and his appendages bend and flail like a rag doll, whereas Buzz moves in a more controlled manner befitting an action figure. My personal favourites are the army men, restricted to hopping around due to their permanent bases. At times, the animation shows its age (it’s 18 years old!), but that only serves to give me a lovely nostalgic feeling if I notice it.
At the heart of Toy Story is an unlikely friendship between Woody and Buzz, effectively making this a buddy movie in a way. The chemistry in the voice work of the two leads is of the highest standard making for fantastic moments of comedy such as the now very famous ‘You are a TOY!’ argument. Pixar seems to have a knack for picking voice actors that work well together. Hanks and Allen play off each other wonderfully, delivering each line with gusto throughout the zippy 80 minute runtime.
For me, this film is a throwback to my childhood, when I used to create my own stories using toys and whatever else I could find, much like Andy in the first scene. But I’m sure that’s not a singular experience. I’m sure this is the case for millions around the world who enjoy this film, giving it a timeless quality. We were all children once, and this is what we see portrayed in Toy Story – the exceptional fun and vivid imagination of childhood.
P.S. Fun facts I noticed in my recent viewing – The petrol station is run by Dinoco (Cars, hint hint), and Joss Whedon helped to write the screenplay!