Drawn That Way: Toy Story
By Daniel Pellegrino
April 14, 2010
Right now billboards and bus stations across the country are being stripped of Miley Cyrus and her Australian boyfriend movie posters, as the movie industry reintroduces us to our favorite animated toys. Toy Story 3 is being released on June 18, 2010 and Disney/Pixar is making sure that we recognize the faces of Buzz, Woody, Jessie and Mr. Potato Head before they head back into theaters. This week, I took another look at the original Toy Story to see if it holds up as well as I thought it would.
Toy Story hit theaters in 1995 to critical and commercial success (over $191 million domestically). Everything written about the film tended to focus on it being the first completely computer animated film. Nowadays, the novelty has worn off. Audiences expect a new computer animated film every few weeks. There was a time when Hoodwinked could be successful simply because the characters were created using a PC. Robots was a huge hit and Ice Age spawned multiple successful sequels because audiences were hungry for this technology. It was because of Toy Story that these films were even possible.
The aforementioned films probably won’t be remembered in ten years (many of you probably had to search IMDb for Hoodwinked). Toy Story, on the other hand, could be released in any year, and still be considered a classic. The story is brilliant. The characters are recognizable. The humor is fresh. The animation is lively. The vocal talent is pitch-perfect. It’s just a good movie (okay, I got tired of starting my sentences the same way - was it too much? To be determined).
Everyone is constantly praising the Pixar folks, so let’s try and pick out a few flaws in the film. I’ll preface this by saying that I really enjoy the film and it stands out as a personal favorite, but there has to be something wrong with it, and I worked hard trying to find these subtle flaws. The animation is great, BUT it’s not as great as what you will see gracing the over-used 3-D screens at your local AMC Theater. I was fortunate to see the Toy Story 1 and 2 double feature in 3-D last summer, and there was an obvious jump in technology from one film to the next. That said, it’s still a beautiful film. The human characters are a little difficult to look at, but the film only shows the humans for brief sequences as the story focuses on the toys.
What else is less than stellar? The music can be a little grating for those who aren’t into the Randy Newman thing. To me, he’s interchangeable with Michael McDonald. I don’t mean to diss Mr. Newman, but his voice reminds me of elevator muzak and shopping at Big Lots. I also have a soft spot for the Sarah McLachlan number in the sequel, and unfortunately there isn’t a musical moment in the first film that resonates as well.
Honestly, there isn’t much else to pick apart from the film. Parts of the Sid storyline bother me, but I think that’s the intention of the filmmakers. We’re supposed to hate that character, and I do. The design of the dog is creepy, but that’s because they didn’t have the technology to make him look realistic (see the fur on Sully in Monsters, Inc. for a beautiful creature animation). Otherwise, the story, characters, animation and dialogue are fantastic.
After re-watching the film, I was left thinking about the characters. Usually, you leave a film loving maybe one of the characters, sometimes liking one or two others. Toy Story has a handful of them. Woody and Buzz are clearly the leads of the film, both likable and both hilarious. The secondary cast is filled with the hilarious Rex and sarcastic Potato Head among others. Aside from them, there are great moments to be had with RC and the Troll doll. If Pixar wrote live-action, extras would each be given an opportunity to shine onscreen. They did a fantastic job of creating characters that viewers care about. The first sequel introduced even more memorable toys to the line-up, and Toy Story 3 has been slowly releasing images of an ever-expanding universe of toy misfits. There is a scene circling the Internet right now that lets us see Michael Keaton performing as Barbie’s significant other, Ken. It’s a hilarious scene that assures us Pixar will be seamlessly integrating a new group into our current mix of toys.
Go dig out your old VHS copy of Toy Story the next time you have some free time. Re-introduce yourself to Buzz and Woody before the new film opens in June. Sunset Boulevard has a giant Buzz Lightyear poster on the side of a hotel, and this week I passed by it and nearly got into a car accident. Buzz is bigger than life right in the middle of Hollywood. I smiled the moment I saw him, and it’s inevitable that you will too. Remind yourself why.