In 1995, I was ten years old when Toy Story was first in released. I remember seeing previews and scoffing, thinking a story about toys was so juvenile. By ten, toys were out of my style, video games, bikes and Goosebumps books were my main source of home entertainment. But I had younger siblings, so like most other Disney affiliated movies, a VHS copy was soon in our possession. We watched Toy Story over and over and I loved it. It was child like, not childish, something I could get into with my siblings and not feel like I was watching one of their baby movies.
What I always loved about Toy Story is how all these seemingly carefree plastic playthings have such raw emotions and crippling doubts. Who knew there were so many things for a toy to worry about? There is the fear of being replaced by a newer toy, getting lost and being destroyed by the disturbing neighbor kid, Sid, just to name a few. Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) faces all of these fears within the short amount of time between Andy’s birthday party and the family’s move to a new house.
When Andy gets a Buzz Lightyear action figure (voice of Tim Allen) for his birthday, Woody’s whole world is rocked. A boy who used to be very into cowboys is suddenly playing space rangers and Woody feels replaced. He’s replaced not just by Andy as the new favorite, but Buzz is also very popular among the other toys. In a silly move fueled by jealousy, and a trip to Pizza Planet, Woody accidentally gets Buzz knocked out the window. Soon he and Buzz have to work together to escape an explosive fate from Sid and find their way back home in time for the move.
One of my favorite things about the original Toy Story is how Buzz believes he is a real space ranger, not a toy. His delusion is genuine and makes him more sympathetic. The other toys seem to go along with it with no problem, while Woody is clearly annoyed.
The moment when Buzz finally realizes he is only a toy is so heartbreaking. With one commercial, he can suddenly see the Made in Taiwan clearly molded into his arm. Still, he believes in himself and does one last daring test. He tries to fly out an open window. The build up to that heroic moment, and then the tragic fall is so perfectly crafted and so full of utter defeat at the end, I end up with tears in my eyes every time. I think that moment is what made me first understand what shattered dreams can feel like.
Clearly, Toy Story is a wonderfully molded story with colorful, complex and highly memorable characters, but it was also a huge feat in digital film making. Today, digital animation is mainstream, when less than twenty years ago, it was such a huge undertaking that only Pixar dared dream of making a feature film. Toy Story was that first feature film with all computer generated animation. Though I look at some sets in the film and kid myself into thinking I could recreate them in certain computer programs, given enough time, this is an incredibly complex feat of animation that can go, well… “to infinity and beyond!”