IMAGE: Disney / Pixar, Wikipedia
“To the start of Pixar, and beyond!”
The plot moves faster than I remember. Jokes and action set-pieces fly by, and the character development for the mains is solid. For being their first film, Pixar had a great handle on the story and direction they wanted to go in, taking from several genres and blending them nicely, going from discovery, adventure, and horror easily. The film draws from popular film topics of the 1950’s / 1960’s and all the wonder and fear inspired by them. I do think the film moves slowly during the third act, despite the numerous chase scenes. Some characters have too-quick changes of heart, even though the film mocks this.
My PLOT RATING is 8 / 10.
Woody (Tom Hanks), similar to Ichabod Crane (from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad) is not quite the hero protagonist I remember him as. Instead, he comes off as quite an uncaring and bossy leader of the other toys. Being Andy’s favorite toy, he loves his high status and lies and cheats his way to maintain the top spot, though thankfully, he always gets some form of comeuppance. He eventually learns humility and to share the spotlight with Buzz, becoming the good guy we now know him as.
Buzz (Tim Allen) is a way more likable character than Woody. He’s heroic and really cares about everyone around him, in a sharp contrast to Woody. His arc of self-discovery and purpose is really well-don here to the point where it becomes his defining arc throughout the rest of the Toy Story films (for better or for worse). His character represents change, and the future of Andy’s toys, similar to how space-type action figures replaced cowboys.
Andy (John Morris) and Sid (Erik von Detten) are two sides of the same coin. Andy takes care of and plays with his toys, serving as a god-like figure, while Sid corrupts and changes the toys for his own gain, acting as a devil analogue. Andy has a stable home life with his family and is less interesting as a result, while Sid is somewhat fascinating. His home life is isolated. His father seems to actively avoid the family, his mother passively avoids the family (usually yelling from another room), and as a result, he torments his sister to get a reaction. He acts out scenes and movies while alone, experimenting on toys. What’s interesting to me is that he crudely kitbashes (combining parts of different action figures to make another different figure) action figures together, mimicking the films of the nuclear age (Them!, Godzilla, Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, Tarantula) on a much smaller scale, similar to how I kitbash figures (my way being less crude and more refined, I may add). He’s a broken villain (he isn’t all that evil), and I’m happy to say that he at least is on his way to repairing himself in a later film’s cameo.
The rest of the toys are basically one-note glorified cameos and serve the plot rather than be characters on their own. Slinky (Jim Varney) is Woody’s Yes-Man (up to a point) and used as a chain, Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles) is the brash non-conformist (basically Woody’s antagonist, similar to how Andy plays with them) who gets a lot of fun wise-cracks and visual gags, Rex (Wallace Shawn) is the neurotic scaredy-dino (who goes along with the crowd), and Hamm (John Ratenberger) is the snarker in the back of the crowd who would rather be an observer (nothing is really made of his piggy bank status, aside from a joke). Bo Peep (Annie Potts) has Woody wrapped around her finger, and she doesn’t really care about others as much as him. The Aliens (Debi Derryberry) and Mutant Toys are kind of adorable and one-offs respectively, but are remembered through marketing and appearances throughout the franchise. I’d like to also thank my parents for finding the last Baby Head figure in the store, a character I was obsessed with at the time.
My CHARACTERS RATING is 8 / 10.
Very sharp and witty, the dialogue is more mature than most films. The dry back-and-forth between Buzz, Woody, and the other characters is great, and a lot of one liners zip by. The stilted and repetitive dialogue between the humans is pretty funny, making the toys seem like the smartest ones in the room. I also enjoy Buzz’s overly embellished dialogue and inflections in his first few scenes, ESPECIALLY during the tea scene.
My DIALOGUE RATING is 10 / 10.
Less stilted than I remember, but I feel like the effects were cleaned up for the Disney Plus release. The animation here is pretty good, nothing groundbreaking. Smoke and light are great here, and reflections / light bouncing off of glass play a big theme in the plot and effects. Some background or non-character textures are hit-or-miss, and a lot of the human character models are either repeats (ALL of Andy’s friends are slightly tweaked versions of him) or weirdly designed like some background characters (also Sid in a few scenes, maybe intentionally?). The character animation works well and is serviceable, if a bit slow and pose-to-pose at times. RC Car seems like the fastest and best moving character, at least.
My EFFECTS RATING is 7 / 10.
Randy Newman does a great job not only with the vocal tracks, but with the orchestral soundtrack as well. His nasally voice just works here, and he’s become a staple of the franchise since. The score accompanying the action is similar to a small jazz band on a grand scale. You can feel the care, warmth, and love put into each individual track. It’s pure Randy Newman, with a unique ‘lazy’ style, as if no effort was put into creating these masterpieces of music.
“You’ve Got a Friend In Me” – The perfect song for this film. A fun, nice romp that complements the scene well, talking about how great friendship is and foreshadowing its later breakdown.
“Strange Things” – A more melancholic look back at the first song, with a sadder ending. It does have a great back beat (still stuck in my head from the video game), and some great lyrics on losing your status in life.
“I Will Go Sailing No More” is kind of beautiful how it lays out the cross between belief and reality in song. It’s all about finding what you can do, rather than what you believe you can do.
My MUSIC RATING is 10 / 10.
Toy Story is a classic, nostalgic film that made Pixar the juggernaut it is today. The blend of casting, music, and concept could not have been more perfect here. Despite this, the film has aged somewhat even though some tweaks have been made to improve it. The story is well plotted despite some slow parts, the characters are underutilized aside from the main characters, the dialogue is razor sharp, the effects are above average for their time, and the music is incredible and memorable.
It’s not my favorite Pixar film, but it certainly has a friend in me.
IMAGE: Disney / Pixar, Mouse Steps / JWL Media
My OVERALL RATING for Disney / Pixar’s Toy Story is 86%.
A– Bug’s Life!