AFInity: Toy Story
By Kim Hollis
July 3, 2009
Nevertheless, when I originally saw the trailers and previews for Toy Story, I was turned off. Not only did I think it looked juvenile, but I found the toys to be creepy and weird looking. If CGI animation was supposed to render things more realistic, I wasn't buying it. Everything was too shiny-looking, too candy-colored, and my heart told me that such stuff could only appeal to hyperactive types lacking in attention span.
And so it was that Toy Story was released into movie theaters on November 22, 2005, but I had absolutely no interest in going. I never saw the movie in theaters at all, in fact. Eventually, I watched the movie on video while I was visiting my parents, who had purchased the movie for my youngest sister (who despite being 15, had not decided she was too cool for 'toons). I realized that my earlier prejudices against the emerging new medium were unjustified. Not only did Toy Story look great, but it was funny, sweet, and had a wonderful storyline that reminded me of The Velveteen Rabbit, a favorite childhood tale. It was here that the seeds of a deep and long-standing love affair with Pixar were planted, though it wasn't until I saw Toy Story 2 on opening night that they blossomed and flourished.
Still, with all the advancements we've seen over the years in CGI animation, one certainly might wonder whether Toy Story stands the test of time strongly enough to be included on the AFI 100 Years... 100 Movies list. After all, since then we've seen monsters with fur that blows in the wind, fish in an environment that seems almost photorealistic, robots who frolic in the starry sky and an old man who flies to Brazil in a house supported by thousands of balloons. Would Toy Story look a little primitive and feel less special by comparison?
To my mind, Toy Story legitimately stands up with the best of the best in Pixar's catalog, and you can make an argument that it's among the finest animated films in history. Watching the movie again after having not seen it for a few years, I was unprepared for how fantastic it would still look, and how much loving care was put into its production. I was immediately struck by all the specific, careful detail that went into the various scenes. Depending upon the time of day during the story, different shading and coloring are used. As an example, when Woody and Buzz are stuck in "villain" Sid's room, it is appropriately dark and scary, but it also appears to be twilight outdoors, and shadows and colors on the walls make this fact perfectly clear. Additionally, as Woody and Buzz make their way through their excellent adventure, you can see small signs of wear and tear on the two toys - grubby dirt on their faces, a pinpoint sized burn mark on Woody's forehead that isn't forgotten in subsequent scenes. In the movie's climactic car chase, Woody gets a bug stuck to his helmet - completely believable and not just tossed in there for the gross humor or silliness of it.