movie film review | chris tookey

Toy Story

Disney/ Pixar - all rights reserved
  Toy Story  Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
8.75 /10
Woody ............. Tom Hanks, Buzz Lightyear .... Tim Allen, Mr. Potato Head ... Don Rickles
Full Cast >

Directed by: John Lasseter (AAW, for "special achievement")
Written by: Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow . Based on a story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter and Joe Ranft.

Released: 1995
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 81


Toys come to life as soon as their six year-old owner, Andy, leaves the room. They are the kind of playthings which suggest that Andy's mother (as in so many American "family" films, there's no evidence of a father) has exceedingly retro tastes. Many date from the Fifties or Sixties and they include a cowboy called Woody (with voice by Tom Hanks) who is head toy by virtue of his nice, shiny Sheriff's badge, and the fact that he goes to bed with the boss. But then Andy has a birthday, with a new influx of presents, and Woody's dominance is threatened by Andy's latest passion, a plastic space ranger called Buzz Lightyear (voice by Tim Allen). Buzz has ideas above his space station - he refuses even to acknowledge that he is a toy, and insists that he has been sent to save the universe, or at any rate Andy's bed, from the evil Emperor Zurg.

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

Bookmark and Share

The rest of the story is about how Woody is cured of his jealousy and Buzz's delusions turn into realism. They join forces to escape the clutches of Sid, the boy next door, a vicious heavy-metal fan who delights in destroying toys and re-assembling them in devilish combinations - shades here of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas : very small children may find Sid's mutant creations frightening.

Toy Story was the first movie to be generated entirely by computer. Fortunately, humans - under the skilful direction of John Lasseter - were still needed to programme those computers. And new technology has been harnessed to an equally inventive script and old-fashioned flair. The result is state-of-the-art fun - not just a children's hit but a landmark in movie entertainment.
Of course, there's nothing new about the idea of toys coming to life. It lies behind nursery tales from Hans Andersen to Rosie and Jim. But never before has it been managed with such wit and wizardry.
Even so, digital technology has not reached the point where computer-generated humans can't be distinguished from the real thing. It is at its best evoking hard, plastic, waxy or rubbery surfaces - far less accurate with flesh, so that even the would-be sympathetic human beings in Toy Story look so artificial as to be creepy.
Although the screenplay is full of humour and invention, this remains essentially a buddy-buddy action story with no sub-plots, and only just sustains itself for its full 81 minutes.
It is also more likely to appeal to boys than girls. The original intention of the six (male) screenwriters was to have had a Barbie doll help rescue Woody and Buzz from Sid, but Mattel executives vetoed the idea (something they may regret - sales of all toys featured in the movie have rocketed), and there is no sign of Barbie in the finished product - except a set of suspiciously feminine legs forming the bottom half of one of Sid's mutant toys.
The film-makers' introduction of sex (via a docile but man-hungry Bo-Peep, who looks out of place in Andy's bedroom) will elicit cheap laughs from some adults and adolescents, but is unwise since it introduces irrelevant speculations as to what toys get up to in the darker recesses of their toybox. Walt Disney would have excised it, and rightly.
Despite these defects, Toy Story was rightly a huge success, and not only with children. It recovered its costs within two days of opening in America, and is among the most profitable films ever made.
The explanation does not lie in electronics. The history of movies is littered with technologically adventurous flops such as Tron, Dune and the critically acclaimed Blade Runner , which failed to tap into the spirit of their age - whereas anyone who cares to probe beneath the surface of Toy Story will notice that it tells us more about the Nineties than most supposedly "serious" films.
For the toys in this movie are recognizably grown-ups, and Toy Story is essentially a parable about adult male insecurity. The characters inhabit a world where each birthday is a time not for celebration, but for new anxieties about the inevitability of being kicked out of work, in favour of new, technically sophisticated replacements.
The toys may take considerable trouble to gain advance warning of whether their jobs are under threat, but they have no power to protect themselves and certainly no thoughts of unions. Woody, the one toy who does take direct action against the new technology, is immediately sent to Coventry by his colleagues. Toy Story is the Nervous Nineties' answer to The Angry Silence.
Children watching these toys are, in fact, being invited to sympathise with their own parents - especially their fathers - and the actors do a great job of investing the toys with humanity. Tim Allen (from Home Improvement and The Santa Clause ) makes the egotistical Buzz touching in his naivety. Tom Hanks covers a wider emotional range than in many of the movies which have made him a star.
Other delights include Don Rickles (as Mr Potato Head, understandably grouchy about the way his facial characteristics have of coming unstuck in a crisis) and Wallace Shawn (as a Woody Allenesque Tyrannosaurus Rex neurotic about his macho image).
The world of Toy Story reflects a universe in which we are all ageing toys - powerless playthings of employers, technological trends, whimsical Gods. The Satanic Sid, especially, calls to mind that line in King Lear: "As flies are to wanton boys, are we to the gods; They kill us for their sport".
There's an underlying bleakness which is common to many of the great children's films, from Bambi, Dumbo and The Wizard of Oz right through to Babe. It helps to make Toy Story more than just a technical achievement or a commercial blockbuster, but a children's classic.
Randy Newman's song You've Got A Friend was Oscar-nominated.

Key to Symbols