Pure magic. Toy Story, the first-ever fully computer-animated feature and the film that put Pixar Studios on the map, is more than a technical tour de force. It’s moviemaking alchemy — a breathtakingly perfect blend of wide-eyed childhood wonder and wry adult humor, yesteryear nostalgia and eye-popping novelty, rollicking storytelling and touchingly honest emotion.
First-time feature director John Lasseter brings a sure hand to a tale that takes us back to a time when playthings seemed as real to us as other people, and a beloved teddy bear, doll, or stuffed dog was almost as important a fixture in our world as our parents or siblings.
For young Andy (John Morris), the sun rises and sets on his
lanky Sheriff Woody doll. And Andy is just as important to Woody
(Tom Hanks), who presides in Andy’s absence over the inhabitants
of Andy’s room, which include an acerbic Mr. Potato Head (Don
Rickles), an unassumingly loyal Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), an
But the status quo is upset by the arrival of a flashy new toy: Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), space ranger, who impresses the other toys with his nifty features and threatens Woody’s place as Andy’s favorite — and, in an inspired stroke, doesn’t realize he’s a toy.
Woody’s jealousy and pettiness toward Buzz lead to a series of increasingly serious consequences, including getting lost and finally falling into the hands of a future juvenile delinquent named Sid (Erik von Detten) whose sadistic tendencies make him a hazard to any toy he gets his hands on.
Of course Woody must work through his resentment and redeem himself, Buzz must face the truth about himself, the two must learn to accept and respect one another, and Sid must be taught a lesson as well. The joy, though, lies in the grace and deftness with which all these elements are brought together, in the neatly crafted plot and the rightness of the characterizations.
It’s also a joy just to watch the film, to take in the exactness of every detail of the toys, down to the translucent green tags of extra plastic on the toy soldiers and the back-and-forth undulations of Slinky Dog’s steel-spring body. Behind this must surely lie untold hours of Pixar animators just sitting around playing with toys — and, judging from the results, enjoying it as much as Andy himself, whose spirit of imagination and playfulness is matched by the filmmakers’ own.
At times Toy Story 3 feels a bit less fleet-footed than its predecessors, though there’s nothing that doesn’t work. Lee Unkrich, who co-directed Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo, directs with a sure hand. The story is stuffed with wit and invention, such as a couple of premise-bending applications of the Potato Heads’ modular body parts and some hilarious riffing on Ken and Barbie.
More insightful analysis on patterns at Pixar from Peter T. Chattaway…
It’s the best kind of sequel, the kind that neither repeats the original nor merely adds to it, but lovingly builds upon it and goes beyond it into narrative and emotional territory no first film could reach.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.