For many moviegoers who were born around the 90’s or grew up into the 2000’s, the title “Toy Story” evokes a feeling of nostalgia one way or the other. Of course, for myself, Toy Story holds a special place in my heart not only for being my earliest memory of ever watching a movie but also being one among the first films that I distinctly remember branding “my favourite.” And although the title has been taken away by numerous films ever since as I continued developing my own taste in cinema, Toy Story still remains a favourite for even if the animation style may appear rather aged when put aside many future computer-animated features let alone the rest of Pixar Animation Studios’s oeuvre, it still feels every bit as fresh as it did the first day I remember having watched it. Noting its innovations for the time period as it was the very first feature film entirely animated through the use of computer-generated imagery, there are many more reasons as to why Toy Story still remains a huge staple for pop culture in the many years that have passed since its release and for every bit as enduring as its legacy is, it still remains Pixar’s finest achievement in my eyes.
The story is already familiar to all of us at this point, toys come to life whenever we’re not around and have lives of their own, but when the humans are present, they act as if they’re lifeless as they wait to be played with by children. Woody (Tom Hanks) is the favourite of Andy, but all of that changes once his birthday party hits and he receives a Buzz Lightyear action figure (Tim Allen), and thus a competition begins for the favourite toy of the household. In setting up the perfect dynamic for a mismatched pair, Toy Story is more than simply a perfect buddy movie, but it also creates a bigger scale of its own through its own perception of the world around itself. But how a film like this ever manages to be not only one of the best films ever made for children yet also one of the best adventure films ever made, it’s almost miraculous to think about how none of that ever feels like it has aged a day. But even beyond the familiar adventure dynamics that the film has already been known for, it still remains a genius piece of cinema for its own insight on what it feels like and truly means to be loved in the world, from the toy’s perspectives.
Knowing how much Toy Story has managed to play around even with a scope that seems small to familiar eyes, there’s a whole lot more to admire about the manner in which the film also builds up its own perception of the world. But even with its limited scope it still manages to make the most of what it has, even create something whose sense of imagination is far beyond most of what one could expect of such a small space. With the inclusion of the ending credits, the film runs 81 minutes long, but every minute of it still feels as if it’s truly well-spent and every bit still feels so exciting because of how well the film immerses you into its warped perspective of the world in order to truly connect with how the toys see everything around them. When talking of course about the film’s entertainment value, there’s a lot that children can attach themselves to, especially when they’ve been connected with their toys for the peak of their growing curiosity. Yet for adults, there’s a whole lot more that the film can bring oneself back to, whether it be what it felt like to be a child and allow any sense of imagination from the peak of one’s youth to be so free or even a sense of introspection – pondering about what it feels like to be a treasured part of one’s life as they continue growing up.
Although the animation may look dated from a technical perspective (Scud’s fur in particular appears flat from afar and the humans to some extent still do look like the toys), there’s still a lot to love about the careful attention to detail placed into every facet whether it be the background or the characters themselves. With noting what was available at the time, the visuals could never possibly be any more breathtaking than they already are and it still remains higher up above many modern animated films that have since taken on the same style and appearance. There’s always something to love about the ways in which the team at Pixar have carefully constructed their worlds and their characters in order to make each new one still remain so fresh and distinctive but with noting how this was the first film of its sort, it’s astonishing to look back at how innovative the film remains. Most notably in its influence on the world of animation in the years since, but also in how it expanded the possibilities of what could be done with the medium ever since – by creating worlds that test the limits of one’s imagination and even inspiring a newfound sense of awe in small facets of their everyday life that would nonetheless have only seemed so ordinary everywhere else. As a first run for the new medium, there couldn’t possibly have been a more fitting introduction because even in the years that have followed, it still stays true towards retaining the sense of innocence that best defined the purity of childhood innocence.
Perhaps most importantly, what secures the everlasting legacy of Toy Story comes most from how brilliantly it’s written and established too, with most of the jokes still landing with ease from all ages but also from the fact that its characters’ personalities remain so fresh too. And it’s not just Woody and Buzz Lightyear in the leads but even its side characters like Mr. Potato Head, Slinky Dog, or Rex still have bits of freshness arising from every moment in which they interact with one another. The voice acting could not be any more perfect too, for Tom Hanks and Tim Allen perfectly embody their own characters in their respective roles as Woody and Buzz, but even in the chemistry that the two share with one another they could not feel like any more perfect a match too. Yet even as the film takes a more dramatic turn with Buzz Lightyear’s despondency towards the end of the film as he realizes whom he really is (for most of the film, he’s under the impression that he’s an actual space ranger), the film’s emotional beats still ring perfectly as the film delves into what wonders it can delve into from what it’s like to be who he really is. If anything, that also remains the key fundamental to the success of Toy Story, for it’s all about the ability to embrace who you are as it soon forms friendships that will only be made to last from one big moment onward – and as a story of a rivalry for the top turns into the greatest adventure for two toys of contrasting backgrounds, it becomes one of the best films ever made about retaining that spirit too.
Being someone who’s grown up on Toy Story I can’t help but admit that I’ve also grown rather nitpicky of certain elements of the film as I grew older, yet I’m still awestruck by what it accomplished as every revisit still feels as wonderful as the first time. It would be somewhat redundant to say that it’s both one of the best animated films ever made as well as one of the best films ever made for the whole family, but with so many great memories of all sorts that can come back to how Toy Story had impacted generations that have followed, it’s hard to not want to repeat the many praises that have been sung in its favour. And noting the consistency that Pixar has managed to retain in the years that have followed, the film still remains every bit as dazzling as ever on just about all counts. If there’s anything else that best sums up the power that film has as a medium, one can only look to what Toy Story has inspired in its own trails, with the idea still remaining so fresh and every joke and emotional beat sticking its landing. But most of all, on many watches that follow it’s easy to keep every quote and small detail in your head, because a toy’s philosophy as Pixar creates here can find its own ways to apply itself to the real world. If that isn’t a sign it’s one of the best animated films of its own era, let alone one of the best films of all time, I really don’t know what is.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Directed by John Lasseter
Screenplay by Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow
Produced by Ralph Guggenheim, Bonnie Arnold
Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, John Morris, Erik von Detten
Release Date: November 22, 1995
Running Time: 81 minutes