“A Story About Toys”
Eighteen years ago, the world of animation changed irrevocably. The self-starters at the little animation company that produced (awesome) Listerine and Life Savers commercials had more up their sleeves than just realistic 3D rendering for the likes of George Lucas. Pixar’s Toy Story came out November 22, 1995 and the film’s reception couldn’t have been better if Shakespeare and Walt Disney produced a film scored by Beethoven and The Beatles.
The film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and almost singularly solidified Pixar as the animation studio of the future. Toy Story was the first fully computer animated feature-length film and each frame took between 4 and 13 hours to render. It was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Screenplay and was the highest grossing film of 1995 (it came out in November!) beating out Batman Forever, Apollo 13, Goldeneye and Pocahontas. Lasseter also won a Special Achievement Oscar and the Walt Disney Company was chomping at the bit for more eggs to hatch from their newest golden goose.
As with most Pixar films, there are tons of “Easter-eggs” and really fascinating factoids about Toy Story. This film began a legacy of recurring elements such as the infamous Pizza Planet truck, which has appeared in every Pixar film except The Incredibles, the nod to CalArts’ classroom A113 in every Pixar film and the necessity of John Ratzenberger’s mellifluous vocal performance, which he has contributed in all fourteen films. Also, the shouting out to other Pixar films, such as the Bug’s Life calendar visible in Andy’s room and the books behind Woody during the Staff Meeting that have the names of Pixar shorts The Adventures of André and Wally B., Red’s Dream, Luxo, Jr., Tin Toy and Knick Knack.
Some interesting trivia tidbits (and there are hundreds) include Billy Crystal originally being asked to voice Buzz Lightyear. After he saw the film, he said declining the role was the worst mistake of his career. In 1993, Disney executives halted production on the film because they thought Woody was too much of a “sarcastic jerk.” Lasseter and the other writers went into the writer’s room and within a week had “fixed” Woody. Bo Peep was originally written as Barbie, but Mattel wouldn’t give Pixar the rights. Obviously, by the time Toy Story 2 came out, they had wised up. The Combat Carl doll that Sid blows up at the end was written to be a G.I. Joe, but Hasbro wasn’t cool with that either. The film was also originally titled You Are a Toy.
It’s virtually impossible to quantify or categorize the importance of Toy Story. The film is magic—the kind of story that you can’t imagine the world without. Maybe it’s because we all knew our toys came to life when we left the room, maybe it’s because the team of writers (John Lasseter, Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Joe Ranft, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow) are amazing, passionate storytellers. What Pixar does is create modern fairy tales—worlds so realistic and fully developed that they simply exist. There is a Monstropolis, Nemo and Marlin did find each other in Australia, WALL-E and EVE are probably dancing through the atmosphere right now and Woody is still as loyal a toy as any kid could ever want. He and Buzz and the entire gang still freeze when people come, which is the only reason why you’ve never seen him walking around in your room in real life. Pixar gets imagination, they get wonder and storytelling and humor and love and character development and did I mention storytelling? To infinity and beyond!