Wednesday 17 June 2015

Munir's Pixar Retrospective #1 - Toy Story (1995): 20 Years Later

Make Sure You've Read: Pixar Retrospective - An Introduction. 

To talk about Toy Story is a daunting task. After all, since the film's release almost 20 years ago, there have been countless articles, reviews, discussions and more of a film that completely changed the animation industry and put its studio on the map. Toy Story is the modern Snow White, a film that revolutionized the medium, infused it with fresh energy and opened the door to a new technology that has become the standard tool to make American animated films.

As you can see, Toy Story is a landmark of cinema but, how does it fare 20 years after it came out? Does it continues to be an exceptional film with richly constructed characters? Or, Has its appeal faded with the increasingly growing output of CG animated films? I'm happy to say that it's the former as Toy Story (just like Snow White), aside from its technical achievements, continues to be a wonderful and heartfelt film with its appeal completely intact.

The best aspect of the film is how well written the characters are, especially Woody and Buzz. Their opposite nature and their growing relationship is what has cemented the film as a classic. There are wonderful visual moments where you can see how John Lasseter & Co. already knew how to convey emotional moments. Buzz's realization that he is a toy and Woody's talk when he is imprisoned are some of the best scenes in the film. The voice acting, the facial expressions and the dialogue are in perfect synch creating scenes that reach for the heart and continue to move moviegoers to this day. The film is also is perfectly balanced with exhilarating sequences like the escape from Sid's room and of course the "Flying with Style" scene near the film's end that still give you goosebumps every time you see it.

The rest of the cast is excellent too. There are not your typically cute sidekicks. They are toys with imperfect personalities. Mr. Potato is cranky, Rex is insecure, Ham is a know-it all and Slinky is not very bright. Also, the leads are pretty imperfect too. Woody is a good leader and cares for the toys but he can also be petty, jealous and a little bit mean. Buzz is delusional and self-involved with a sense of grandeur and superiority. All these elements contribute to make this film much more complex than your average cartoon.

Animation-wise, Toy Story obviously looks a little bit dated. Since its release, CG animation has evolved exponentially and every new animated film brings more polished environments and characters. However, even if it doesn't look like it was animated today, that hardly matters when you have a very strong story. The animation might look old but it gives the film a nostalgic charm that perfectly compliments the plot. Many films look better than this one but very few achieve the same heights.

Toy Story also marked the first collaboration between Pixar and Randy Newman (a collaboration that still continues today) and his score and songs have become classics in their own right. Songs like "You've got a Friend in Me" and "Strange Things" are now part of our culture and the score continues to be elevate the film to soaring heights.


Toy Story may not look brand-new but with richly-written characters, clever gags, a layered plot and great music, it remains an absolute classic and a towering achievement that will continue to be unmatched.

Rating: 5/5.

Next: Munir's Pixar Retrospective #2 - A Bug's Life (1998): 17 Years Later. 

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