Feb 20, 2015

[Movies] Toy Story (1995)

Since I'm doing a review of various Pixar movies not yet reviewed here on the Geeky Guide, it only makes sense to jump all the way back to the start. And while I can't quite go into reviews of Pixar's initial short films, at the very least we should look at their first major feature-length release that really put them on the map.

Toy Story didn't blip on my radar right away back when it was first released. Aesthetically, it looked like an overly cute movie - or quite literally a "kid's movie" since I felt I was already growing out of such things. But then it was a CGI production, and such things were rather rare at the time and so I was still somewhat excited.

Man, can you remember what 1995 was like? We were all like, what the heck is a Pixar? Why are they making movies for Disney? Why isn't this movie based on a popular fairy tale or something? So many questions that all  became irrelevant once the movie started to play and our lives were changed forever.

Synopsis: Toy Story is a 1995 CGI animated comedy movie produced by Pixar Animation Studios for Walt Disney Pictures. It was directed by John Lassater with a screenply by Lassater, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow, and Joss Whedon.

The premise behind the world of Toy Story is that all of our toys are actually alive when we're not looking. They're fully intelligent and seemingly live to be loved and celebrated by their children. Case in point, we meet Woody (Tom Hanks), and old pull-string cowboy doll that is part of the collection of toys owned by young Andy (John Morris). He's pretty much the leader of the little band of toys that call Andy's room home and they all engage in their little make-believe games whenever Andy isn't around.

But today is Andy's birthday party, which is being celebrated a week early since the family is preparing to move. And birthday parties means presents and potentially new toys to join the group - and naturally no one wants to be "replaced" or at least set aside for a newer, shinier toy. And this year's round-up includes the hottest toy of the season - a Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) Space Ranger action figure. And how will Woody deal with this brand new, cutting-edge toy that is clearly a lot more popular these days compared to an old cowboy figure? Thus the story unfolds.

First, this movie set the standard for what CGI could accomplish in the animation space. Sure we had seen various efforts to feature CGI animation to varying degrees, but this first Pixar movie really changed the game for everyone. Everything was just so clean and crisp and the motion was wonderful. And yes, this factors in the fact that we're talking about a bunch of toys bouncing around here. Just look at how Woody flops about with his plushy arms and legs versus how the Green Army Men bounce too and fro with their plastic-mounted legs. Each character generally followed the physics of their toy form while still remaining pretty, well, animated.

Combine the stellar animation with brilliant voice-acting talent, and you end up with a movie that feels truly alive. Good character-centric storytelling just rounds out this equation for success and this movie just set the standard for all of Pixar's movies to come. The movie isn't too flashy in terms of big scenes but focuses on the interactions between these toys and really get you to wonder how these toys might feel given the risk of being forgotten by their owner. And I'm sure many a person watching this movie thought back to their own childhood toys and what happened to them.

You can't get away from the value of having the likes of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen pretty much leading this movie. It takes the movie beyond being just a comedy to becoming a full-fledged buddy-comedy movie, similar to movies like Lethal Weapon or perhaps Rush Hour for you younger folks reading this review. The bond between the two characters forms throughout the course of the movie even though you'd think that they're meant to be rivals all throughout. But hey, plot twist! Good storytelling!

And then there's the humor - a good mix of low-brow jokes, sight gags and sly witty lines snuck in between exchanges. The humor remains at a level where kids are kept happy and laughing and all that stuff, but at the same time we have moments when the humor means other things to those older members of the audience. I mention this a lot when you look at more recent animated feature films, but I think it's fair to say that this movie helped set that trend for many other animated movies that followed it. Such movies aren't just for kids and good storytelling really appeals to audiences of all ages without talking down on folks.

 Toy Story is widely recognized as a classic in movies, not just animated ones. Sure it was pretty landmark for a number of reasons, but what is most important is how great this movie is, period. Thus it's not difficult at all to give this movie 5 crazy toy play scenarios out of a possible 5.


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