100 Days, 100 Movies: Toy Story (1995)
This film was #99 on the 2007 AFI list. I’m pretty sure when they update the list again there will be several more Pixar movies on there.
(I thought these two posters were interesting. I’m guessing Scared Woody is the original and Happy Woody is clearly from the DVD. Funny how marketing changes over time…)
Toy Story is, simply, the story of what happens to our toys when we leave the room. In more detail, this film tells the story of Woody, a cowboy doll, who is the favorite toy of a little boy named Andy. But then Andy receives a new Space Ranger toy, Buzz Lightyear, as a birthday present. The first Toy Story film deals with how Woody handles potentially losing his prestigious spot as the “Favorite Toy.”
And, of course, this movie is now famous for launching the wonder that is Pixar Studios into the world.
Of course, really this film is about friendship, nostalgia, and what we do when the people we love move on without us.
I saw Toy Story as a little girl when it first came out, and I remember my family and I thought it was amazing. We’d never seen anything like it. Back then it was a fun story about toys having adventures in the big world. I’ve watched the film a few times since then but now, as an adult, watching it this time, I was gripped with the most profound sense of nostalgia. I missed my own dolls and dinosaur toys and Legos. I even grabbed my old teddy bear Apples that I’ve had since I was 4 (my Favorite Toy) and I slept with her for the first time in probably eighteen years just because for that night, after watching Toy Story, I missed her.
I can talk in this review about the ground-breaking visuals, the amazing advances made in computer technology, yada, yada, or I could talk about what Pixar really does best: The story. Connection. Emotion. Deeper themes about loss and love that are played out with cowboy dolls and rocket men to make some of the most moving films about the shift from childhood to adulthood that have ever been made.
I kept thinking about all my old toys as I watched this, all the adventures we had…Dinosaur stampedes, daring space battles, monster fights, relationship drama, burning buildings, falling mines, time travel and shark attacks, time travel then shark attacks! And I still remember the day I put my toys away, the day I decided with a sense of shame that I was “too old” to play with toys anymore. I think I was 11? 12?
I think it was right around that time that I began writing stories.
(OK, this picture is from Toy Story 3. So sue me, I’m making a bigger point here.)
It’s easy to see the connection now, although I didn’t then. I’d forbidden myself from enacting all my great adventures with my old friends outside my head, so I had to retreat inside my head to have all new adventures and create new friends.
I’m sorry, I know this is becoming less a movie review and more of an introspective essay about my childhood but, jeez, this is what Pixar movies do–the really good ones, anyway–they make you think about your own life. You watch Andy play with Woody in Toy Story and you dig your teddy bear Apples out of the garage just to say “hi” again. You watch Toy Story and you finally realize you started writing because you stopped playing.
After you’re done with all the crying, of course.
What did I learn from this movie? I think this movie is so effective because it has very strong characters. All the various toy types fit neatly into their archetypes. (And it’s especially fun when the toys are “cast” against “type” like Rex the geeky/clutzy dinosaur.) Woody is a leader who’s grown just a bit too complacent in his position. He thinks he’s invincible and then he can’t deal with finding out he’s not. Buzz is the charismatic stranger who rolls into town and changes everything. This is basically a guy buddy comedy, like Lethal Weapon or 48 Hours– just with toys. This film fits that classic Hollywood formula for success of giving viewers something the same but different: A buddy flick with toys as the main characters.
Can I see why this movie has become a classic? Yup. Great voice acting from Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz. The supporting cast are also stellar. As mentioned above it has really memorable, amusing characters. The pacing is also amazing. This just zips right along and is wonderfully action packed.
Favorite part(s)? When the toys give the evil kid Sid a taste of his own terrifying medicine.
Also, so much of the dialogue is fabulous (a lot of which was written by Joss Whedon):
Woody: You are a child’s play thing!
Buzz: You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity.
Mr. Potato Head: Hey, a laser! How come *you* don’t have a laser, Woody?
Woody: It’s not a laser! It’s a…
[sighs in frustration]
Woody: It’s a little light bulb that blinks.
Hamm: What’s with him?
Mr. Potato Head: Laser envy.
Buzz: I’ve set my laser from stun to kill.
Woody: Oh, great. If anyone attacks we can blink em’ to death.
Woody: T-O-Y, Toy!
Buzz: Excuse me, I think the word you’re searching for is “Space Ranger”.
Woody: The word I’m searching for I can’t say because there’s preschool toys present.
Overall rating: ***** (I LOVED it)