Before 1995, animated films was hand-drawn and presented in two-dimension whether as feature films or as shorts. The idea of computer animation was something that had been thought of for years as a computer scientist named Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith founded a company called Pixar as a spin-off for George Lucas’ Lucasfilms computers division. When Lucas’ interest towards the company decreased, Apples Computer co-founder Steve Jobs took interest as they found an animator in John Lasseter to help create computer-animated shorts. For many years, Lasseter and Catmull dreamed up of creating the first-ever feature-length computer-animated film that finally came true in the fall of 1995 called Toy Story.
Toy Story is the story of a pull-string cowboy doll who finds himself competing against a new space ranger toy for the affection of their owner. In turn, the two would go have an adventure as their owner would move to a new town. Directed by John Lasseter with a story written by Lasseter, Pete Docter, Joe Ranft, and Andrew Stanton that was later scribed by Stanton, Joss Whedon, Joel Cohen, and Alec Sokolow. It is a film that transcends the idea of not what an animated film can be but also reach an audience wider than just kids and families. With an all-star voice cast that includes Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Jim Varney, Don Rickles, Annie Potts, John Morris, and R. Lee Ermey. Toy Story is an exciting and entertaining landmark film John Lasseter and Pixar Studios.
Since kindergarten, Andy’s favorite toy is a pull-string cowboy doll named Woody (Tom Hanks). Andy (John Morris) often has Woody play with other toys like Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Slinky the Dog (Jim Varney), a Tyrannosaurus Rex named Rex (Wallace Shawn), a piggy bank named Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Bo Peep (Annie Potts), the binoculars named Lenny (Joe Ranft) and RC the Car. When Andy’s birthday is moved a week earlier before the big move to a new town, Woody asks the toy soldier Sarge (R. Lee Emrey) to scout for new presents as the new toy Andy gets is a space ranger named Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). Woody is at odds with Buzz, who believes he’s a real space ranger, as he becomes Andy’s new favorite.
When Andy’s mom (Laurie Metcalf) wants to take Andy and his baby sister Molly (Hannah Unkrich) to Pizza Planet, Andy wants to take Buzz as Woody makes a plan to get rid of him only to have it go wrong. Buzz decides to exact revenge as the two get lost while they try to return to Andy at Pizza Planet. Instead, they get retrieved by a kid named Sid (Erik von Detten) who loves to destroy toys. With Sid living next door to Andy and Woody trying to redeem himself, Buzz learns some surprising revelations as he and Woody try to find a way to return home.
The film is about a cowboy toy who feels upset over the fact that he’s being replaced by something new and exciting in a space ranger. Because of this sense of jealousy, he decides to have this new toy get lost only for the plan to go horribly wrong where the two embark on an adventure. During this adventure, an unexpected friendship between the two happens where both learn the values of being toys and sharing the love for their owner.
What has kept Pixar vital over the years isn’t the use of the technology they created that has gotten better over the years. It’s always been about the story and how the technology enhances the story as Woody and Buzz are the main characters that start off as rivals only to become the best of friends. The screenplay is a mesh of various genres ranging from the buddy comedies to action-adventure with a dash of family entertainment. This mesh of genres is one of the reasons Pixar has been so successful which always bring in wide variety of viewers with different taste as the script is truly a highlight of the film.
John Lasseter’s direction is truly lively in the way he frames the scenes and gets the action going. Yet, he also allows the presentation of the film to be very simple for some of the dramatic moments of the film. The animation is truly amazing for its three-dimensional look as well as the layers of light and shadows used for some of the scenes in the film. The look of the characters are also shown with a movement that is very loose as the camera is always looking at the action and playing up its intensity. Lasseter’s direction is truly spellbinding in every frame he creates for this film.
Editors Lee Unkrich and Robert Gordon do an incredible job with the film‘s editing in creating a straightforward presentation that has wonderful rhythmic cuts for the film‘s action sequences. Art director Ralph Eggleston does a phenomenal job with the look of Andy‘s room and the objects used including the dark world that is Sid‘s room. Sound designer Gary Rydstrom and sound editor Tim Holland do an amazing job with the sound from the way the soldiers walked to the places that Woody and Buzz encounter throughout the film.
The music by Randy Newman is a real highlight of the film as it features a mixture of piano-based pop music with elements of orchestral scores to play up the intensity of the film in terms of drama or humor. The songs Newman create such as Strange Things to play up the rivalry of Woody and Buzz along with I Will Go Sailing No More as a dramatic piece. Yet, the highlight of the soundtrack is the song You’ve Got a Friend in Me that serves as the theme for entire series about the friendship between Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the toys that includes a duet version with Newman and Lyle Lovett.
The voice cast is absolutely phenomenal as it features some memorable voice appearances from Jack Angel as Shark and Rocky Gibraltar, Jeff Pidgeon as the Squeeze Toy Aliens, Joe Ranft as Lenny the binoculars, Sarah Freeman as Sid’s sister, and R. Lee Emrey as Sarge. Other notable voices include Erik von Detten as the destructive Sid, Laurie Metcalf as Andy’s mom, Hannah Unkrich as Andy’s baby sister Molly, and John Morris as Andy. For the varied roles as the toys, there’s Don Rickles at the funny yet outspoken Mr. Potato Head along with Wallace Shawn as the insecure yet lovable Rex. Annie Potts is excellent as Bo Peep as is John Ratzenberger as the humorous Hamm and Jim Varney as loyal yet witty Slinky .
Finally, there’s Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in superb voice performances as Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Hanks brings a wonderful mix of comedy and drama as a pull-string cowboy doll who adores Andy while also being a bit of a schemer when it comes to Buzz. Hanks’ funnier moments is when he gives Woody a chance to go all out when Buzz refuses to believe that he’s a toy. Allen’s voice work is perfect for the heroic tone as Buzz where there’s a lot of bravado and dead-pan humor to the voice. Hanks and Allen don’t just elevate the film with their voice performances but also provide life to two of the best animated characters on film.
Toy Story is a dazzling yet exhilarating film from John Lasseter and his team at Pixar. Anyone that is interested in the films of Pixar Studios will no doubt see this as a great place to start. Even for anyone interested in animated films should find this as one of its landmark films. Particularly as this was the film that helped launch a slew of computer-animated films for many years to come. In the end, Toy Story is a remarkable feature film from Pixar Studios and John Lasseter.
Pixar Films: A Bug’s Life - Toy Story 2 - (Monsters Inc.) - (Finding Nemo) - The Incredibles - Cars - Ratatouille - WALL-E - Up - Toy Story 3 - Cars 2 - Brave - Monsters University - Inside Out - The Good Dinosaur - (Finding Dory) - (Cars 3) - Coco - Incredibles 2 - Toy Story 4 - (Onward) - Soul (2020 film) - (Luca (2021 film)) - Turning Red - (Lightyear) - (Elemental (2023 film)) - (Elio (2024 film)) - (Inside Out 2) - (Toy Story 5)
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