Retro Review: ‘Toy Story’

Released: 1995

Director: John Lassester

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, R. Lee Emry

Plot: When Andy is out of the room, his toys live their own lives. When cowboy doll Woody is displaced as the favourite toy by Buzz Lighteryear of Star Command, he lashes out and puts them both at risk of being ‘lost’.

Review: It really is impossible to downplay the importance of Toy Story upon its release. Pixar were years ahead of anyone else in digital animation at the time, so far ahead that no-one could envision what they could produce. They were producing animation using 3D models as early as 1984 after a decade of special effects work. With figures such as Steve Jobs, George Lucas and John ‘Massive Creep’ Lasseter at the helm of the development of the Pixar computer, this makes sense in hindsight, but the company did not inspire faith from the money people. Disney had made some attempts to incorporate 3D animation into their traditionally made films, but did not give the group sufficient backing.

In a move that paralleled the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, an underestimated new form of film making is marked by the press as the downfall of a company only to usher in a trend that lasts for decades. Toy Story is still producing sequels and spin-offs, Pixar is still a massively bankable studio and 3D animation itself has given rise to new studios Dreamworks and Illumination and been adopted by Sony and even Disney.

With this in mind, how does it look today? Pretty rocky. Focusing the action on a bunch of sentient toys is a stroke of genius, and must have made the rendering process much easier. It creates a delightful and whimsical world that inspires childhood memories. Mixing in real world and recognisable toys in with the main cast of originals. Woody (Hanks) and Buzz (Allen) have a fun dynamic, with Woody’s increasing bitterness towards the spaceman offset by the latter’s delusion that he’s a real adventurer. This particular detail is the source of most of the humour in this movie, and it’s always hilarious. Allen sells it really well.

We don’t need to pull up to many examples to illustrate what a fun romp this movie is. Each location from Andy’s room to Pizza Planet to Sid’s nightmare house is imaginative and full of detail. This is evident in how many of their recurring Easter Eggs Pixar managed to slip into this first full release, from their iconic ball to cameo characters and A113. We switch out the settings often enough, and create new obstacles often enough that it’s well paced.

If there’s one nitpick with the movie it’s the soundtrack provided by Randy Newman. Any one of these songs would be a standout on a more diverse track listing, but it’s a lot to take in one sitting. They’re all a touch to earnest and spell out the plot as we’re watching it.

Otherwise, a classic for a reason.

Rating: NINE out of TEN