Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day Eighty-Five: Toy Story

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #151
Year: 1995
Director: John Lasseter
Starring: Tom Hanks and Tim Allen

At some point after starting this blog, I decided that I should do all trilogies and multi-part series that appear on this list in their entirety on consecutive days in order. So somewhere down the road, there will be three days of The Lord of the Rings, three days of Star Wars, two days of Kill Bill, and perhaps a few others. Unfortunately, I thought up this awesome idea after I had already blogged about Toy Story 3. As such, I have no particular obligations regarding when I choose to blog about the first two films in that excellent trilogy, so tonight, having watched Mulholland Dr. (which I've already blogged about) with my brother, I'll be covering Toy Story. This is one of the movies on the list that I've been familiar with for the longest, having seen it in theaters as a kindergartner when it was first released. I've seen it countless times since then, and without watching it tonight, I feel fairly qualified to talk about it for a few paragraphs.

Toy Story is notable primarily because it was the first feature film produced by Pixar Studios, a company that has become a powerhouse both at the box office and critically – but you know that already. What the release of Toy Story really meant was an immediate and irreversible shift in American filmmaking away from the traditional animation style of earlier Disney fare (The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, etc.) and toward computer animation. There were purists crying that it wasn't real animation, and there were zealots proclaiming the death of traditional cartoons, but mostly there were wide-eyed consumers, impressed with something they imagined technology could do but had never seen realized so fully. Even at the age of five, I was one of these consumers. Because of Toy Story, I would grow up inundated in the world of Pixar, anxiously anticipating every new film, at first because I was a kid and I saw them as fun kid's movies, and later, after I became a film snob at age thirteen, because I appreciated them as some of the finest cinema that was coming out of America.

It's quite possible that it's just because of the age at which I saw it and how ingrained it became in my DNA as a result, but I think Toy Story transcends plot summary. If you don't know how Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear became united, if you don't know of their power struggle, if you don't know what happened at Pizza Planet, if you don't know how Sid treats toys, and if you don't know the meaning of the phrase "falling with style," you've probably spent the better part of the last fifteen years under a rock. As with most Pixar movies, Toy Story is less about what happens as it is about the associated emotions. I'll get a Pavlovian feeling of nostalgia every time I hear "You've Got a Friend in Me" until the day I die, even if it's been years since my last viewing of the movie that made it a hit. It might not be the best film Pixar would ever make, but Toy Story is essential viewing, and is perhaps the most important animated film ever made.

The Good: The revolutionary nature of a great computer-animated feature film in 1995.

The Bad: Tom Hanks and Tim Allen both perform admirably in their roles, but where later Pixar movies would perfect the casting of talented unknowns to make their films devoid of distraction, they kind of settled for letting two huge stars make characters sound like them. No offense meant to anyone, but that's kind of a Dreamworks thing.

The Skinny: #151 sounds low, until you learn that Toy Story 3 (as of the beginning of this blog) is in side the top ten, then it sounds criminally low.

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