The movie that started the famous relationship between Disney and Pixar is often looked back upon so fondly that I couldn’t imagine it’s as great as everyone says it is. If you ever find a children’s movie on a list of the greatest movies of all time (which is often) it’s going to be Toy Story. I’ve always been annoyed at old entertainment getting put on a pedestal due to its age rather than its lasting appeal, but I also have a soft spot for Pixar and decided to dust off what was, at one point, my favorite movie in the world when I was a kid.
Coming back to it with fresh eyes after all these years, I totally get the hype. Toy Story is so beloved not only because of the rose colored lenses through which we often look at nostalgic things from our childhood, but because it really is that damn good. Every character is clever and unique, and there are a lot of them from Tom Hanks’ lovable but cocky Woody to John Ratzenberger’s dirty piggy bank capitalist Hamm to Jim Varney’s lovable Slinky Dog to Don Rickles’ hilarious Mr. Potato Head. Even the toy soldiers and background toys like Etch-a-Sketch are scene-stealers. But nobody can top Tim Allen as the delusional Buzz Lightyear whose sobering realization that he is, in fact, just a toy is somehow simultaneously satisfying, laugh-inducing and heartbreaking all at the same time. And there can be no understating the gift of Randy Newman’s music to this movie; it’s impossible to imagine anybody else producing the soundtrack.
At a relatively short 81 minute running time, Toy Story covers a shocking amount of ground and offers a great bit of depth that I don’t think I ever understood until returning to the movie all these years later. I still wouldn’t put it quite at the level of genius that Wall-E achieved, but for a first attempt it’s still shockingly satisfying to watch all these years later.