Movie:Year: 1995 Genre(s): Animated, Comedy, Family
I was actually pretty excited to see this one again because I have long been a big fan of Disney animated films, even before I had kids. In fact, it used to be a tradition that my sister and I had at Christmas and for birthdays: we would buy each other a Disney animated film and build out the other’s collection – first we built out the VHS collection, and then eventually DVDs. Once we had kids it got difficult to manage and the tradition has since slipped away. I might pick that up again this year with her.
I have seen this movie a few times, but not really since I’ve had kids (believe it or not). My kids were born in 2005 and 2006 and by then, Toy Story was a relic. Cars was even kind of old by the time they cared enough to watch it, so they never really got into the Toy Story franchise until Toy Story 3 came out. I had forgotten how much I loved this movie and how much it made me laugh! However, this time watching it, I am a mother and I have a rapidly growing interest in the business behind the movies, so watch it with a different perspective.
So, first, the mother angle – one of the biggest chuckles from me was at the end when Andy becomes reunited with his toys (after they chase the moving van – see the story synopsis below) and his mother basically tells him that they had been in the car all along. I hear those words coming out of my mouth a lot around here and now the thought of the toys getting up and walking off by themselves (something I promised the boys would never happen) crosses my mind as I say it. Also, the relationship between the mother and Andy is poignant to me because it reminds me so much of the relationship I have with my boys as I see it. Although the movie didn’t discuss or show it a lot – it wasn’t even central to the story – resonated with me as a mother to two boys who are about the age of Andy in this movie. I thought it was really sweet.
Next… the business filter… One of the more interesting business facts about this film is the interest Disney had in it, long before Disney owned Pixar. The director was actually an animator at Disney and pitched an idea for a full-length computer generated animated film that was summarily rejected. He went on to found Pixar (no hard feelings). The film was being distributed by Disney, so they had a say in how it was produced and what the end product would be – and, even though they were not yet joined officially, took sole branding in the title of the movie (Pixar was added to the branding in later releases). They also rejected the first draft of the movie because they thought the Woody character was too sarcastic and threatened to take over the project entirely. The Pixar guys said “no, no, we’ll rewrite it… in 2 weeks”.
And they did. *that* amazes me.
Another fact I found interesting is the argument the Pixar guys had with Disney about the film being a musical. The Pixar guys absolutely did not want it to be a musical. At all. Disney, on the other hand, basically told Pixar “hey… that’s what we do” (in my mind, Disney execs sang that sentence… that would be funny). The compromise, if you can call it that, is that the soundtrack to the movie is filled with Randy Newman songs. I type this with gritted teeth because I do not like Randy Newman (sorry Randy). That dumb song from 1984 “I Love L.A.” ruined him for me. This sound track was no different. I am glad, however, that the Pixar guys stuck to their guns about this point – I think having the characters sing in this film would have completely ruined it.
From a technical point of view, the animation is still pretty phenomenal to me. I *cannot* believe how realistic things still look in this film after 17 years – and the attention to detail they have in there – scratches on the floor. Dents in the wall. The dog’s eyes dilating while he’s chasing the toys. I can’t believe this movie is 17 years old… now that I write that. The Budget for this film was $30 million and had only a staff of 110 people. Contrast that with The Lion King from just the year before with a cost of $45 Million and a staff of over 800. The characters were all built with clay first, then transferred to the computer design, when they then added the controls. Of all the characters, Woody was the most time consuming and difficult. I was surprised because I thought the dog would have been tougher since it was so realistic.
Fair warning… from this point on, I’m going to give my impression of the story, just in case you know the story or don’t want a spoiler…
The story is a pretty simple buddy comedy formula, only with toys. The toys belong to a young boy named Andy and come to life when nobody is around. There is the favorite (Woody the cowboy) who is, more or less, seen as the “leader” of the lot of Andy’s toys. On Andy’s birthday, he gets a new toy called Buzz Lightyear, which is an astronaut (and yes, he’s named after Buzz Aldrin… and yes, the contrast between the older cowboy theme contrasts well with the newer astronaut theme in the characters, I think).
Although Buzz doesn’t realize he is a toy, he quickly becomes Andy’s new favorite, which leaves Woody feeling jealous. When the family goes out for pizza, Woody tries to become the toy chosen for the outing (“you may bring one – ONE – toy” is a pretty common thing heard in my house, too) by trying to make Buzz fall behind the bed. Instead, Buzz falls out the window and the rest of the toys accuse Woody of trying to get rid of Buzz altogether.
Because Andy can’t find Buzz, he takes Woody to the Pizza place, but Buzz sees Andy carrying Woody into the car and hitches on to the car. While in the Dinoco (yes, from Cars!) gas station, the toys have a confrontation, fall out of the car, and are left behind. Hitching a ride on a delivery truck for the pizza place, they make their way into the restaurant (called Pizza Planet) which has a space theme. Buzz, still thinking he is a real astronaut, crawls into a space ship that is actually one of those “grab-a-toy-with-a-claw” games and Woody goes after him to try to save him. Unfortunately, Andy lives next to Sid, the creepiest kid on the planet – who blows up toys – and Sid happens to be good at Grab a Toy games. Sid grabs Buzz out of the machine and, because Woody can’t pull Buzz out, he gets Woody too.
This is the part that, I honestly think would creep out my kids. I mentioned that Sid likes to blow stuff up – he also likes to make Franken-Toys made with various parts of broken (or in his case destroyed) toys. Sid puts Woody and Buzz in his room and they are confronted with the Franken-toys which, honestly, kind of creeped me out. They try to escape, only to be chased by a very realistic looking family dog that looks kind of like a bull dog mixed with a pitt bull. During all of these scenes, Woody is unsuccessful at convincing Buzz he is a toy – but while Buzz is hiding from the dog during an escape attempt, he sees a TV commercial for himself and starts to believe Woody…
But, an indigent streak hits him, and setting out to prove to Woody he is real, he attempts to fly from the banister to an open window (an earlier attempt at flying was Buzz getting help from other toys and Woody’s response was “that’s not flying! that’s falling with style” probably the best line in this movie). He crashes on the floor, loosing his arm and becomes depressed. Sid ends up getting a rocket he ordered, and tapes Buzz to it, intending to blow him up. Buzz gets a reprieve, thanks to a thunder storm, and, overnight, Woody finally convinces Buzz they need to escape and get back to Andy. They enlist the help of the Franken-Toys (which they have befriended by now) and all toys meet Sid in the back yard to teach him a lesson by “coming to life” again – which freaks the kid out.
Buzz and Woody get over to Andy’s but not in time before the moving truck (I forgot to mention: Andy’s moving) and the last few scenes are Buzz, Woody, an RC (the car) trying to get back onto the moving truck. They do and they get back into the car where Andy’s mother says (as I know I have a million times) “see what happens when you look?” haha.
On that note… it is time for me to go to bed.
The next on the list: Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). That one should be fun – James Cagney!