a review by Jeffrey Overstreet
Movies achieved through digital animation are a big deal these days. Toy Story deserves all the attention it gets.
And that came as a surprise to me. I had lost faith in Disney in recent years; films like Pocahontas showed that they have become more interested in being politically correct and crowd-pleasing than they are interested in retelling a classic story or developing strong characters.
Toy Story is a rare and wonderful exception, a return to the inspiration and genius that powered the old Disney classics. In some ways, its even better than the classics. This film is innovative AND it has a memorable, unpredictable, interesting story. The script passed through some good hands and became more than just a string of clever toy-oriented jokes (although the jokes are much sharper and funnier than you’d expect); it became a great story about pride, jealousy, and identity.
The story: When the child’s away, the toys will play. Tom Hanks gives voice to Woody, the favorite toy of a young boy named Andy, who finds his authority challenged and his place as “favorite” threatened by a new toy space pilot named Buzz Lightyear.
When the spaceman’s arrival gains the awe and attention of the masses of other toys, Woody resorts to inconsiderate measures to regain his popularity. Buzz is oblivious; he doesn’t even know he’s a toy — he thinks he’s a real spaceman stranded on a very strange planet. Because Buzz meant no harm in the first place, Woody’s jealousy gets him and the rest of the boy’s toys into hot water, eventually landing him and the spaceman in the hands of the toy-killing neighbor kid, vicious Sid. Classic children’s toys like Mr. Potato Head and the Etch-a-Sketch come to life for a running commentary on the story’s surprises; they make for a hilarious concert of personalities.
Buzz Lightyear and Tim Allen are the most perfect match of animated character and voice since Sterling Holloway became Winnie the Pooh; Tom Hanks is also an inspired match for the exasperated cowboy Woody. Woody and Buzz interact with more chemistry, subtlety, and humor than any pair I’ve seen in Disney films.
Also noteworthy, the songs — the most common killers of the animated movie — turn out to be fairly well-written (by Randy Newman); they enhance the film instead of slowing it down.
And when all is said and done, the animation is really as good as it’s hyped up to be.
I can’t think of a movie I’d rather watch with kids. Let’s hope this Pixar/Disney collaboration can maintain such a high standard in the future.