Sunday, July 6, 2014

#1,420. Toy Story (1995)

Directed By: John Lasseter

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles

Tag line: "Hang on for the comedy that goes to infinity and beyond!"

Trivia: Joss Whedon reportedly created the character Rex the Dinosaur

Toy Story was a groundbreaking motion picture. Along with being Pixar Studio’s debut feature, it was the first full-length computer animated movie ever made. While these bits of trivia have assured it a place in cinematic history, it’s what the filmmakers did with these various innovations that lifted Toy Story into the stratosphere, earning it a place among the best animated movies of all-time.

Toy Story is set in a world where toys are alive; walking, talking characters that only pretend to be inanimate whenever someone walks into the room. The toys in this movie belong to a young boy named Andy (voiced by John Morris), whose favorite toy is Woody (Tom Hanks), a cowboy doll. Being the favorite has made Woody the undisputed leader of the toys in Andy’s room, which include a Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles); a dog made out of a slinky (Jim Varney); a nebbish Tyrannosaurus Rex figurine (Wallace Shawn); and a piggy bank (Pixar mainstay John Ratzenberger), among others. Woody’s authority is threatened, however, when Andy gets a brand new toy for his birthday: a Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger action figure (Tim Allen), which is on the fast track to becoming his next favorite. The problem is, Buzz doesn’t realize he’s a toy (he thinks he’s an actual Space Ranger). Woody, who’s a little jealous of the new arrival, takes advantage of Buzz’s confusion and tries to hide him away so Andy can’t find him. Instead, he accidentally knocks Buzz out of an upstairs window, sending him plummeting into some bushes below. When the other toys accuse him of attempted murder, Woody tries his best to put things right by rescuing Buzz. Unfortunately, his efforts only land them both in an even worse predicament when he and Buzz are found by Andy’s sadistic next-door neighbor, Sid (Erik von Detten), a kid who enjoys torturing his toys.

Toy Story was a revelation when it hit theaters back in 1995, a glimpse into the future of animation, when computer programs would replace pen and ink as the animator’s tools of choice. To be sure, the movie is an absolute marvel, with sharp, vibrant colors and crystal-clear imagery that bring the toys in Andy’s room convincingly to life. Of course, the wonder and spectacle of computer animation was only going to take Toy Story so far. Once the novelty wore off, it needed something else to keep the audience’s attention. This is where Toy Story truly excels, creating a world so distinctive that it actually overshadows the movie’s look and style. It’s to Pixar’s credit that they not only breathed life into this concept, but also managed to give each and every toy its own unique personality (you even forget the fact that a few of them are voiced by well-known celebrities).

Being the “first” at anything will, at the very least, earn you a footnote in the history books. Toy Story took its technical achievements and added something special to the mix, creating a work of art that ranks among the greatest animated films ever made.

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