(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Toy Story (1996)
One Sentence Plot Summary: Woody becomes jealous of a brand new toy, and this becomes a wild road show as he and Buzz Lightyear are forced to find Andy as the family moves away
Why It’s on the List: Probably one of the most perfectly constructed movies ever made. Pixar had been tinkering with a number of short movies in the decade previous but somehow came out of the shoot with an incredible story, combined with visuals that would change the film industry forever. In the long term, it meant a transition away from 2D animation, but it also ushered a whole new era for Disney. This was not a musical unlike the movies that were a part of the renaissance that started in 1989.
I can only imagine Dreamworks’s approach to something like this. The question of “What if toys could talk?” is a fascinating question and one that could easily have been half done and still been a major success. This turned out to be so much better than it had any right to be as people of all ages could enjoy the adventures of the toys in Andy’s room. The world is established quickly. We see how Andy approaches and can quickly identify who his favorites are. Mr. Potato Head is the villain and the one who his sister gets to play with. Woody is the hero while Bo Peep is the woman is in distress.
This movie works out so well because it’s the mixture of humor and heart we’ve come to expect in the 25 years since. Don Rickles and John Ratzenberger get a lot of the funny lines within the first minutes as the world is still coming out. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen (who was white hot as the star of ABC’s top rated sitcom Home Improvement) carried most of the emotional beats. It’s a simple story, one that involves Woody becoming jealous of a new toy. They get stranded and nearly left behind when Andy and his mom move away. Tim Allen playing an aloof clueless character living in his own pretend world is a little too on the nose.
Despite being a “children’s” film, our protagonists are complicated. Woody is kind of a jerk. Buzz lacks in self-awareness. The other toys straddle between paranoid and amusing members of the choir. I know Randy Newman is almost a parody of himself, but the songs and accompanying score contribute a lot. This is a movie that works so well as an 11-year-old and as a 35-year-old. It’s hard to say whether this is the best of the franchise, bit it’s legacy is not in doubt.
*Andy’s sister being a silly girl who doesn’t know how to properly play with toys is certainly in line with what we know about John Lasseter.
*Sid is unconventional, maybe a little mean. Are we sure he’s that cruel? It’s like he knows the toys are sentient.
MVP: It’s really hard to evaluate to these movies and not talk about John Lasseter. Lasseter was a huge part of Pixar as a creative force and was eventually put in charge of the Disney animated films as well. However, like so many work places, he fostered a toxic one for women. Lasseter was a creep. It’s hard to wipe away his legacy completely, and it’s unfortunate that his name will remain on so many of these movies on Disney Plus. I am staying away from the MVP award on this trilogy.
Best Performance: Tom Hanks probably gives a more layered performance, but Tim Allen’s commitment in his voice to the bit of Buzz as a space person is something to behold. I don’t have a lot of use for present day Tim Allen (and I think this was reflected in how he was used in the fourth Toy Story). He was funny when he needed to be in the first 2/3 of this movie and then did a quick turnaround in the final 1/3. Tremendous.
Best Quote: You uncultured swine! What’re you lookin’ at, ya hockey puck?- Mr. Potato Head
Is there a sequel? Yes, and I’ll discuss them more tomorrow and Thursday.