We all knew Toy Story was going to happen. The Little Mermaid in 1989 marked the last traditional hand-painted cel method of animation, and the successes after it did nothing to slow down computer assistance. So why not do an entire film on the computer?
We all knew Toy Story was going to happen. We just didn’t know it would be this good.
The Unique Premise
So I said the Pixar formula included a unique premise: toys that come alive only when their owners aren’t looking. Check.
When I was kid, I always felt like my toys could possibly live secret lives. Hold meetings about other toys given to their owner at his birthday, send plastic army men to do only the riskiest of tasks, scurry back into place when they hear their owner returning; needless to say, my suspicious were confirmed in this wildly entertaining toy world of Pixar’s.
I think why this premise works on a purely entertainment level is because it appeals to all people of all age groups. As a kid, it’s fun to see toys walk and talk the way they do in their imagination. As an adult, it’s almost nostalgic and makes you wish you were a kid again. That’s because we all played with toys at one point in our lives, and quite frankly, it was important to us.
So after establishing the rules of this toy world, the adventure starts to take form with the grand entrance of Andy’s new birthday present, Buzz Lightyear. In a testament to Pixar’s innovative technology, the scene where Buzz Lightyear flies, or rather, falls with style, is one that seems very realistic despite its fictional context. This sort of real-world physics simulation will make for a visually-exciting ending.
At first, it seems like we have a tale about friendship. Pixar was clearly influenced by the Disney family entertainment juggernaut, so in their first outing they played it safe and included songs such as Strange Things. However, I’m sure the one that everybody remembers is You’ve Got a Friend in Me, and yeah, this theme of friendship certainly exists as its theme song would suggest. But as the adventure ensues, we realize that this movie dives into much more adult-substance material.
The Pixar Moment
Woody, a cowboy doll of Andy’s, finds himself in trouble when he inadvertently knocks Buzz Lightyear out of a window in Andy’s room. The other toys accuse Woody of jealous-driven murder, and so Woody is excited when he finds Buzz at a gas station where Andy’s mom fills the tank. Soon, Woody and Buzz start fighting out on the cement, and Andy drives away; hence, the adventure.
During the adventure, Woody is forced to spend time with Buzz and his never ending space-ranger antics, and thus, tries to convince Buzz that he is a toy. It should be emphasized that Buzz is not some righteous prick or anything; he’s just programmed to be this way. However, Buzz starts to question his purpose in life after he sees a television ad for a Buzz Lightyear toy. So Buzz goes on to the top of a flight of stairs to see if he can really fly. And… this is undoubtedly the Pixar moment.
The reason why this Pixar moment works is because we know what’s going to happen before it happens. Although this is a fictional world, it is a world that has clearly defined rules. Simply put, we all know Buzz is going to fall and we know how this is going to break him. Sure, he loses an entire arm, but more importantly, he loses sense of who he is. Although Woody wanted Buzz to get a little dosage of reality, Woody didn’t realize that Buzz couldn’t handle the reality of the situation.
Buzz is going to be blown up tomorrow morning by Andy’s evil neighbor, Sid. But Buzz, being in the mental condition he is, doesn’t find much point in doing anything about it. What’s the point of living a purpose-less life? It is here when Woody learns his lesson after seeing his friend in this state of mind: sometimes, you aren’t going to be someone’s favorite toy. Sometimes, you aren’t going to be a space-ranger on some all-important mission. Sometimes, you aren’t going to be president of the United States, become a millionaire, or cure cancer. Sometimes, reality hurts.
But that’s not the point in life. It’s not to be important, or feel important, or be the best at something. Sometimes, the joy in living life can come from being someone’s friend, someone’s spouse, someone’s child, or even someone’s toy. Sometimes, living a life for others is far greater than living a life for one’s own self.
I love the entire car chase back to Andy. It is computer animation at its highest entertainment value just from a visual standpoint. However, what puts me from giving Toy Story a masterpiece grade (over 95%) is the quality of the visuals and its style. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs still looks great after more than 70 years. Toy Story kind of looks bland after 15. Also, Toy Story lacks the artistic merit which is, quite honestly, a requirement for a taestful masterpiece grade. While I don’t think Toy Story will be timeless visually, I do think Toy Story will be timeless for innovating family entertainment. In short, Toy Story marks the first of many adult films that just happens to be made for children too, and not the other way around.