Toy Story is a 1995 CGI-animated buddy-comedy about living toys and is one of the most important innovations in movie making in the last twenty years. This was the first feature length film done entirely with CGI, which is a massive accomplishment in and of itself; this opened the door for a new style of animation that has become the industry standard. But the reason Toy Story has endured as a classic is not because of its innovative technology; it is because it was a highly original idea with rich, fully fleshed out characters, a compelling plot, and themes that resonated with adults even as the movie entertained their children.
The film was directed by John Lasseter, who wrote the film along with Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow, and Joss Whedon. In the world of Toy Story, toys are living, sentient beings but most are aware that their purpose is to be played with by children. While one might think this would be a cause for distress, most of the characters we see in this movie are rather content; their owner Andy is still at age where he plays with all of them and tells epic stories with them. However, they do fear being replaced by newer and cooler toys. Woody, a pull-string cowboy doll, is Andy’s favorite toy and does not face this fear, but soon finds himself replaced when Andy gets a Buzz Lightyear action figure for his birthday.
Buzz is basically the coolest thing on the planet, a space ranger with a ton of buttons, bells and whistles; he’s also completely ignorant of the fact that he is a toy and believes that he actually is “Buzz Lightyer, Space Ranger”. The film, at its core, is about the existential crises of Woody and Buzz; Woody has to come to terms with the fact that his position as Andy’s favorite toy may not be a permanent one, and Buzz eventually has to realize that he is a toy, and figure out how he’s going to handle this. While the film is bright and colorful and funny, there is also a lot going on that adults can read into. It’s those layers that keep people from my generation coming back to this movie twenty years after its release.
Toy Story is rightfully a classic by almost everyone, and is one of those rare movies that manages to transcend cinema and become part of pop culture. The characters resonated deeply with viewers, especially my generation who felt like we grew up with them; not just in this film, but in the two quality sequels. Toy Story 2 is one of the most intelligent sequels ever made and I couldn’t even appreciate how good it was at the time because my brain hadn’t quite realized how human these characters were. Toy Story 3 may actually be a stronger movie than the original and made many people cry. That’s something special and very difficult to replicate in the movie industry. The fact that this cartoon movie was able to make toys feel like real living people, develop and grow the characters, and give them a satisfying ending is beautiful.
It’s kind of hard to imagine that someone may not have seen Toy Story, so let me recommend this in a different way. Buy this movie and preserve it for your children. Good movies come out every year, but there are very few that will affect your children in a more positive way than this classic film. It will inspire their imaginations, encourage them to make friends with those they have differences with, to examine themselves as human beings, and to remember that it is okay to grow up and yet remain a child at heart.