The beginning of 3D animation and the debut film from a soon to be giant in the industry!
Screenplay By: Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow, Andrew Stanton & Joss Whedon
Directed By: John Lasseter
It is sad that such a great movie ushered in a bad time for animation. This is a film that is rightfully lauded for its greatness, but it introduced the world to 3D animation and it convinced the industry that 3D animation was far superior to standard 2D cel animation when that just isn’t the case. Both are terrific styles and are capable of producing great films for years to come. The main stigma that Toy Story is stuck with is that it convinced the industry, and most of the audience, that the draw of the film was the 3D animation and not the story as well. This ushered in an era, that is still going on, of bad 3D animated movies that shucked story to the side in favor of good animation alone. Pixar never wavered and always realized how integral the story and characters are regardless of presentation, and there were some other home runs from different studios, but on a whole the derision that was foisted upon traditional 2D animation and the resulting plethora of bad 3D animated movies was sad to watch and does fall at the feet of Toy Story.
Taken only as a movie and not for the impact it had on the industry, Toy Story is a great film. the main reason I have always viewed it as a great film is because of how adult and childlike it is at the same time. Its major theme is one of friendship and how important that is to everyone. That is something that children need to learn, but it is something that every adult should be able to relate to. The humor is very adult without moving beyond the realm that children can understand. The biggest argument I ever get in with people about Toy Story, and animated movies on the whole, is that just because they are marketed towards children and are animated for the sensibilities of children doesn’t mean they aren’t also adult pictures. There are people I know who get mad any time an animated film like Toy Story appears on any “Best Of” list, because kids movies don’t belong on such lists. Labeling something as a kids movie is a can of worms unto itself, but it’s especially vexing when applied to Toy Story, a movie that in every frame pulses with adult themes, jokes and characters. This isn’t a film that talks down to its audience, it knows that people are smart and it gives them smart characters, scenarios and humor.
The funny thing is that I never thought of Toy Story as a buddy movie, but it is perhaps one of the best buddy movies ever made. Buzz Lightyear and Woody have great chemistry in their animation, while Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are amazing with their voice work and develop a camaraderie between their characters that is rarely seen in any type of film, live-action or animated. Allen is especially amazing, because Buzz could have been played any number of ways, but he played him straight and thus he became the perfect counterpart to the rest of the world.
The animation is superb, there are certain areas where it is obvious that the film has become dated. Advancements in computers ensure that will be the case with any computer animated movies. But, there is a wealth of detail in Toy Story that is a joy to discover. Seeing what Mr. Spell scrawls in the background, watching the parts of Mr. Potato Head move on the ground, the reflection of Buzz’s faceplate and so many others. This level of detail was amazing for me back in 1995 and it is still amazing today. 3D animation does offer depth and a level of depth detail that I can’t recall seeing in 2D animation. Even though it may be dated, the animation in Toy Story stills holds up as a triumph in film making.
As I stated earlier, snazzy and groundbreaking animation isn’t enough for a great film. That is where the story of Toy Story comes into play, because while a simple story it is given a fresh take through the toys. I didn’t focus on the more non-original aspects of the story, but on the fun nature of it and the idea of a toy experiencing loss. It’s not the greatest story, but it is a good story and does compliment the animation nicely.
There were a couple of miscues in Toy Story. Some minor errors in continuity bugged me, like using the wrong end of the baby monitor and Woody somehow avoiding the first set of tires on the big rig when he plays toy, if you will, at the gas station. I also felt that there was one Randy Newman montage too many. I understood why they were being used but it also felt a bit lazy to me to go back to his music and a montage to get a point across more than once.
All these years later and Toy Story remains a joyous film to watch. It made me a fan of Pixar Studios and they haven’t disappointed me yet. There is a youthful fun in Toy Story, beautiful animation, great acting, tremendous humor, excellent detail and most of all a whole lot of fun to be had. The kid in all of you needs to see Toy Story, but so does the adult and that alone should tell you about the quality of this film.