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Toy Story

Toy Story
Year: 1995
Director: John Lasseter

Toy Story was the second Pixar movie I ever saw (Up was the first), and it has just stuck with me ever since. It's one of my favorite animated films ever, certainly in my top ten, and is just a blast to watch in its short running time. In it we get memorable characters, fun bits of dialogue, and an overall adult vibe that put Pixar on the map for becoming the legend that it became. It all started here.

The plot of Toy Story is simple. Woody, the long-time favorite plaything of the young Andy, is suddenly replaced by a new toy, Buzz. Becoming jealous, Woody seeks to wipe out Buzz but ends up getting himself and Buzz into a whole lot of trouble. There is nothing special about the story, but Pixar makes it magical.

The first thing they do right is create great characters. Woody as a character is likable yet flawed, a good person but someone who will clearly develop in the film. That's always a good protagonist archetype. Woody's transition as a character is paced to perfection. For instance, at the beginning, he is seen as a clearly strong leader who has some egotistical issues, especially with giving up the top spot on Andy's favorites. As the story progresses, he at first is cynical of Buzz, the new, and then finally eases into the fact that life moves and changes, and often there is room for everyone.

What does this change symbolize? What does the arrival of Buzz mean to the story and the themes? This has actually been analyzed in many different ways throughout the years. Some see it as Pixar's small statement that CGI (Buzz) is the new, and hand-drawn animation (Woody) is the old, and both can co-exist. Others, like me, see it as simply a message about change and acceptance. Although that is the biggest and most prominent theme of the story, Toy Story has complex inner layers as well.

For instance, Buzz has his own character arch and conflicts. Take the devastating scene where he finds out he is not a real space ranger, and is simply a child's toy like Woody had been telling him all along. He literally has a mid-life crisis... in a kid's movie! Gosh, Pixar already getting dark with their first movie. But seriously, Buzz is struggling with his identity. He doesn't know who he is, why he's here, what his purpose is. And even by the end, there's a dark footnote that Buzz after all realizes you can't just be whatever you want. Sometimes we are here for a purpose, and in Buzz's case, he has to accept that purpose.

Toy Story is certainly one of the most influential animated movies of all time, and I would put it as one of the best of Pixar's films as well. It's way of making kids movies for both kids and adults has never left animated movies since, and it's still of writing and storytelling is still being copied and used today. Besides being influential, it is just a blast of a film that all ages can enjoy and analyze. Take a way a few things (like some of Randy Newman's score and the ugly animation compared to now), and you have a basically perfect film.