Before 1995, animation was either hand drawn (see: ALL of Disney) or combined with live action (Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Then came Toy Story, the first film to be entirely made on a computer (or to be more precise, a lot of computers). What could have easily been a gimmicky release fortunately became not just one of the best family movies of all time, but one of the greatest films in history.
Woody (Tom Hanks) is a cowboy doll who presides over the other toys in his owner Andy’s bedroom. That is, until Andy acquires a new toy: a deluded space ranger named Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). Woody feels threatened by the new arrival but when an attempt by Woody to get rid of Buzz ends up with them being stranded with a bully named Sid who tortures toys, they must learn to work together to stop a common enemy.
The plot outlined above is just a small part of the narrative of Toy Story: it’s a film made up mainly of subplots that are strung together beautifully. For example, there’s the heartbreaking arc of Buzz, who genuinely believes he’s a real spaceman. That is, until he needs to fly out of the window. Then there’s Woody’s constant attempts to reclaim top-spot in Andy’s ‘favourite toys’ list. It’s not just about these two though – there’s a whole load of other toys who are just as well characterised as Woody and Buzz. There’s no such thing as a supporting character here. The sarcastic and long suffering Mr Potato Head voiced by Don Rickles is comedy gold, while Bo Peep (Annie Potts) provides the love interest and adult innuendo for Woody. The adorable Slinky the dog and smart mouthed piggy bank (cruelly) named Hamm round off an unforgettable ensemble.
The beauty of Toy Story is it manages to not only achieve what most family films aim for, but become the benchmark for future films in this genre. The balance of kid friendly jokes with quips that only adults will understand is sublime, and the latter never oversteps the line to become smutty or too rude. The positive themes of friendship and loyalty are clear enough for kids to understand too, so not only is it a fantastic piece of entertainment, it teaches youngsters to have respect for others.
Visually, the animation is ground breaking. It may not look as smooth as the more modern pixar releases of today, but it still holds strong against other, shall we say ‘lesser,’ companies who churn out animated features. Considering it holds the title of ‘First Fully Computer Animated Feature’, an insane amount of detail went into its creation. And then there’s the soundtrack. Randy Newman wrote some truly unforgettable songs for this film, including the timeless Oscar nominated ‘You’ve Got A Friend in Me’. The two other songs that include vocals by Newman also impress – ‘I Will Go Sailing No More’ and ‘Strange Things’. The music score brilliantly sets the mood for the film too, and should not be overlooked.
Simply put, Toy Story is the ultimate piece of family entertainment. There’s something for everyone, and boredom will never creep in on multiple viewings. Chances are, you’ve already seen it by now. But if the choice was between watching this again or a private screening of the majority of kids movies released in the last 5 years, Toy Story would win every time.