Friday, May 14, 2010


Film: "Toy Story"

Release Date:
21 November 1995

Director: John Lasseter

History: It's funny to think that back in 1995, no one had ever heard of Pixar or knew that they were an animation studio. Funny to think that a little movie by the name of "Toy Story" was going to start an animation revolution and that that revolution would lead to the future of the entire animation industry!

And yet back in 1995, no one had any idea what this film would do to animation, Hollywood and that Woody and Buzz would be about as big and desired by little children as Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh!

So much has been said about this land mark film that grossed $191 million at the Box Office in North America, won 8 Annie Awards (the Animation version o the Oscars), won director and Pixar head John Lasseter a special Oscar "for the development and inspired application of techniques that have made possible the first feature-length computer-animated film," as well as a number of other awards and honors, that it seems like you can't possibly add any more to say.
Maybe the greatest honor this film received was in 2005 when it was added to the United States Nation Film Registry. The film that put Pixar on the map, it included songs and a movie score written by the legendary Randy Newman (who would go on to do the same to a number of other Pixar films) with voice talents by top Hollywood stars Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.

It's interesting to note that while Lasseter always wanted Hanks for the role of the pull string cowboy, Allen wasn't the first choice for the space ranger. Comedian Billy Crystal was originally given the chance to play Buzz, but turned it down. He later voiced Mike Wazowski in Pixar's later film "Monster's Inc." Allen, who at the time was on top of the entertainment world as Tim Taylor on the top rated show "Home Improvement" was offered the role by then Disney Exec Jeffery Katzenburg.

Besides being written by Pixar royalty John Lasseter (the director, as well as director of "Toy Story 2," "A Bug's Life," "Cars" and being the head of Pixar and now Disney Animation), Pete Doctor (who later directed "Monster's Inc" and "Up"), Andrew Stanton (who later directed "Finding Nemo," and "Wall-E"), and Joe Ranft (who was the story man for every Pixar film from "Toy Story" to "Cars" as well as the voice of such characters as Heimlich the Caterpillar from "A Bug's Life," and Wheezy the Penguin in "Toy Story 2"), the film was also written by fan boy favorite Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and director for the up coming Marvel film "The Avengers") and Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, who would go one to write a number of family friendly films, including this film's sequel.

It's success would be what forged the Pixar/ Disney relationship with what originally was a three movie deal that ultimately ended up being a merger and a very successful partnership. Many have pointed out that without Pixar, Disney just would not make any money at the box office with animation as most of their in-house projects have not done as well the last decade or so. Many also have found similarities with Lasseter and the great Walt Disney. Either way, this film kicked off what has become the greatest success story in Hollywood history with 10 films make to date and all 10 winning box office gold and critical acclaim, with most likely an eleventh hit this summer with this films second sequel, "Toy Story 3."

My Reaction: I love "Toy Story." Not because of all the awards and honors it has received over the years. Not because it made a bunch of money. Not because it was the first computer animated film or the first film from Pixar, who has earned my fandom a zillion times over. But because of how simple it actually is. How much I find myself resonating with main characters Buzz and Woody. These guys have the ultimate love/ hate relationship, something I know a thing or two about have two younger brothers.

"Toy Story" came at an interesting time in my life. I have always loved animation and wanted to be an animator. In my adult life, that dream has not yet happened, and I wonder if it actually ever will, but this film blew me away so much that at the time I had to be an animator. It was just so amazing all the colors and the sounds and the characters and story. I wanted so bad to be part of that world.

Looking back on it now, while maybe clearly the animation isn't as good as what one would find today (most animated films will have this problem ultimately), I still find myself getting giddy when I see it. It brings me back to when I was a kid, bot watching this film in the theaters for the first time and when I would play with my own toys and wonder if they came to life when I left. I think most kids think that sometime or another, so the fact that that theme is present is just perfect.

Other themes from this film, some I figured out were there as an adult include feelings of being left out or behind, dealing with jealousy, the value of not jumping to conclusions, taking care of what you have, being ok with yourself and who you are, the value of friendship and team work, trust, love and leadership. Mostly you have two characters who come to terms not only with reality and who they are and their role in that reality, but that they really need each other. But, they have to learn this the hard way.

I love how before they can bond together as best of friends, first they have to learn about themselves as individuals and figure some things out, then and only then can they take their whole selves and become a team. Buzz and Woody, while maybe being toys, are very human. By watching their struggles and adventures, we can learn more about what it means to be human as well as how important it is that we let other people into our lives.

I love how the other toys learn lessons too. Villain Sid learns to take better care of what he has, his toys learn to stand up for themselves, and Andy's toys learn to not jump to conclusions. It was also fun looking for all the details that are part of every Pixar film. Fans of Tim Allen's "Home Improvement" will spot a fun nod to the show at the end of the film. Pay close attention to what brand is on the tool box that hold Woody in the blue crate at the end of the movie. Also pay close attention to the books behind Woody at the beginning of the film. The titles on the books are every Pixar short to that point. Besides fun Easter eggs is the great detail put into things like marks on the base board in Andy's room, or how many scuff marks are on Sid's desk.

It is also fun to note that Buzz got his name from real life astronaut Buzz Aldrin. This movie will always have a soft spot in my heart. Watching it again reminded me how much fun it is too, and yet how much warmth it has. Truly this film is an amazing achievement. I could not imagine a World any more without Buzz and Woody in it.

My Wife's Reaction: "I like this movie." "Sid's door is gross!"

My Final Grade: (A-) This film in my mind was really strong on character at least where the starts Buzz and Woody are concerned defiantly. The story is well told, but as amazing as the film is, I just couldn't give it any higher then an A- for my grade. It felt stiff and sluggish at times, but that in part may be because the animation was so new at the time and since it has gotten a lot better. I wish we had seen more of the supporting characters in this one.

All images copyright Disney/ Pixar. All rights reserved.


  1. This was the first movie I saw in the United States, back in 1995. This movie was great until the aliens appeared and went downhill from there- especially once Woody and Buzz ended up in Syd's room. I was scared, mind you I was only five.

    I think I need to see this movie, I love the sequel and cannot wait til June 18th!

  2. I'm really excited for "Toy Story 3" myself.

    While I think most of the Sid stuff in the first one was creepy, it is also where Buzz and Woody really became friends and allies and found themselves.