With the re-release of Toy Story/Toy Story 2 (1999) in theaters this weekend, I suddenly really wanted to re-watch the series. Unfortunately (as loyal viewers are already aware), I can’t see 3D, so the theater double feature was out. Instead, I delved into my DVD collection and sat down to watch Toy Story once more.
Would Woody and Buzz’s original antics still thrill me as much as it used to (I believe this is the only film I ever saw twice while it was in theaters, unless you count the Return of the Jedi (1983) release and re-release, both of which I saw once), or would Pixar’s first feature film have gotten stale by now?
Tom Hanks, who never was really a site favorite, redeemed himself a little by voicing Woody, the jealous sheriff toy. Whether he’s having his string pulled (“Reach for the skyyy”) or shouting at Buzz (“You Are A Child’s PLAY THING!”), he voices some of the most memorable lines of the film, and by this point, no other actor would seem right in the role.
Of course, Tom Hanks’ vocal performance is overshadowed by Tim Allen, whose Buzz Lightyear character nearly steals the show entirely. His lines are even more memorable than Woody’s, and Tim Allen’s antics – usually a bit over the top – are toned down nicely, while still managing to keep that comic’s sense of timing that made him so much fun to watch in the first place (before he started falling into ridiculous roles like Jungle 2 Jungle, in other words).
The rest of the voice cast is also spectacular, and while most are at least somewhat recognizable (especially the man who would become Pixar’s good luck charm John Ratzenberger, playing Hamm the piggy bank), their voices don’t overshadow their characters, and in fact blend in rather nicely, so the viewer never quite has that moment of trying to superimpose the actor’s face instead of the toy they are portraying.
Toy Story also does a good job of taking everyday objects and creating a totally original story around them. Viewers will recognize childhood favorites like Mr. Spell, Mr. Potato Head and those green army men, but will see them in a whole new light after this film. The story taps into a basic idea all children must have at one point (toys move when people aren’t around! of course, that’s why kids can’t find the toys they were just playing with – they must have moved by themselves!), giving an added sense of familiarity with the plot that makes the viewers feel comfortable – and let’s them totally immerse themselves in the film because of it – right from the start.
Randy Newman’s music helps this idea as well. With his somewhat folksy base, his music is soothing and seems to easily become a part of the film. Instead of the big musical numbers that belabor a story point that Disney is known for (“Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King (1994) for example, while a catchy song, simply shows that they are living a carefree life), the music is here to give insight into what the toys are thinking – in other words, the songs continue to tell the story, they just happen to also be songs. It’s a nice change of pace, and viewers won’t need to fast-forward through these sections even after multiple viewings.
Of course, the thing that brought Toy Story into the public consciousness in the first place was the incredible computer animation. Oddly enough, while the toys themselves are realistic down to the last minute detail, the humans look rather cartoonish. This may have been done intentionally to give the toys not only the spotlight of the film, but also make them seem more real to the viewers (although that may not be the case, judging by the similar appearance of the human baby in the animated short Tin Toy), but it still seems like an odd effect. Aside from the humans, however, the animation is superb, and still mind-blowing even after all these years. There’s a reason why Pixar is known for it’s amazing computer animation, and Toy Story was the general public’s first real glimpse at their skills.
Just as fun as ever after all these years, Toy Story has become the standard at which all other computer animated films are judged. Sadly, this means many fall short in the public’s eye, since it seems only Pixar can really keep up with their first effort, while the other studios – including now parent company Disney, still struggle for 2nd best in the genre.
Full of childhood memories and an incredibly adept voice cast that makes even Tom Hanks seem likable, Toy Story should be a must-own on any movie lover’s list. And now that it’s teamed up with it’s sequel, Toy Story 2 (1999) in theaters, the only reason to not see this extravaganza in theaters is if you have the same problem I do – you can’t see 3D.
If you don’t have that problem, be sure to catch this dynamic duo during it’s 2 week limited 3D engagement in theaters. If you, like myself, can’t see 3D, then you can still pick up the 2D versions of the films on DVD (I recommend the “Ultimate Toy Box” edition, which is packed with extra goodies – including a bonus disc of special features). What are you waiting for? Go see this one today!