AFInity: Toy Story
By Kim Hollis
July 3, 2009
Pixar also adds in some touches that have become more special as time has passed and we've become more familiar with their oeuvre. In the opening scenes of the movie, you can see books on a shelf as Woody delivers a speech to his fellow toys. Some of the titles include Tin Toy (by Lasseter), Red's Dream and Knick Knack. People who have followed Pixar over the years will realize that all three of these are short films created by the studio. Other little Easter eggs include a "Binford Tools" tool box in Sid's room (Binford Tools was the fictional company behind Tool Time, the show on Toy Story star Tim Allen's TV series Home Improvement) and a brief moment where we hear The Lion King tune "Hakuna Matata" playing on a car radio.
Of course, all of these treats would be for nothing if we didn't care about the characters or enjoy the story. Fortunately, we grow to adore Woody and Buzz more than we do most human characters in movies. In the case of Woody, we have a beloved toy who has been #1 in his human's heart for a long time. The movie establishes this early on as we see Andy playing with Woody in early scenes, but we also can ascertain his place in the hierarchy as we see how all the other toys look up to Woody and rely on him for sage advice. While his spiteful jealousy of Buzz Lightyear could have made Woody unlikeable, we understand that extreme circumstances have driven him to behave badly. It helps that Pixar (and specifically director John Lasseter) chose Tom Hanks to voice the role. His geniality and good humor keep the viewer remembering that Woody is one of the good guys.
As for Buzz Lightyear, Tim Allen imbues the character with an "every guy" nature. He's upbeat and steadfast, if a little naïve about the ways of the world in which the toys inhabit. I've always been a huge fan of the way he says the words "Space Ranger" and his subtlety in delivering some of the movie's funniest lines just can't be beat. It's important that we buy that Buzz would believe he's a real spaceman without us thinking he's simple, and thanks to circumstances and coincidences that occur throughout the film, this element of his character really works.
Woody and Buzz have their conflict early on, but as the film moves along, it's important to establish a villain to bring them together. This villain is manifested in the form of a little boy named Sid, next-door-neighbor and menace to society. He's the terror of Andy's room, as the toys have watched him "murder" GI Joe-type dolls and little green army men through the window as he blows them up in his back yard. With his skull T-shirt (it looks like a bit like a Punisher symbol,) and Scut Farkas laugh, Sid is indeed a horrifying figure, but he's humanized a bit as he sleeps and mumbles, "I want to ride the pony." We'd see more extreme villains in later Pixar films (Syndrome and Up's Charles Muntz come immediately to mind), but it was important to place Toy Story's bad guy in the more mundane, day-to-day world. Everyone can relate to being afraid of a bully, after all.