“Toy Story” was released in 1995 and starred Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and the legendary Don Rickles. At the time, it was the first computer-generated animated feature film, launching Pixar into the acclaimed animation studio we now know it as today.
What really binds this movie together and makes it hold up (despite its dated animation, which we’ll get into later) is how it develops its terrific characters. The simplistic plot allowed the filmmakers to focus on crafting a story that’s entirely character centric, which is surprising for an animated children’s film. Woody and Buzz are household names for a reason, as both are complex, flawed individuals who we can all relate to despite them being made of cotton and plastic. Like Woody, we’ve all had experiences where we do immoral things out of jealousy for someone else, and like Buzz, we’ve all had experiences where we were naive to what’s going on around us.
The voice acting is also stellar here. Obviously, the casting of Tom Hanks, who had just come off of a two-year Oscar win streak in 1994 and 1995, brought gravitas to what was an experimental film. He makes Woody feel like a real person through his incredibly organic and engaging performance. Tim Allen is also iconic as Buzz Lightyear thanks to his booming voice and ability to switch from the macho space man to the goofy action figure with ease. As for the supporting cast, Don Rickles is hilarious as Mr. Potato Head, a part which only he could play. Wallace Shawn is another standout as the lovable insecure dinosaur Rex thanks to his high strung, hilarious voice.
Upon rewatch I was surprised at just how funny “Toy Story” was. The slapstick comedy is effective for all ages, but there’s also a lot of subtle adult humor. The movie has a plethora of mature jokes, some examples being the scene when Buzz was drunk on fake tea and when Woody & Buzz call Sid’s toys “cannibals.”
However, unlike the characters and the plot, the animation in “Toy Story” simply doesn’t hold up. Of course, the animators were experimenting with new technology at the time; the reason why Pixar decided to make its first film about toys is because when they initially attempted to animate humans, they instead produced plastic figures. Therefore, whenever humans show up in the film, they all look like freakish, nightmare-inducing monsters. Beyond just the abysmal human character design, the environments lack any real texture or tangible qualities. Everything looks like a toy or a plastic playset. That being said, the animation for the toys still largely holds up.
“Toy Story” is a timeless film for all ages thanks to its fast-paced story, great characters, witty humor & dialogue, and nostalgia value. It’s such a fun, wholesome watch that I’m more than willing to forgive (but not ignore) the dated animation.