25 years ago, a computer animated film called “Toy Story” changed the face of children’s films and launched the new studio Pixar into the annals of history. As the first film composed entirely of CGI, “Toy Story” was innovative and unique in more ways than one. A kids’ movie that’s also enjoyable for adults and holds up under actual critique and analysis, the 1995 film pioneered a generation of high-quality family entertainment.
Today, the four “Toy Story” films are one of the most successful franchises of all time, and Pixar has an extensive filmography full of stellar animated films with good and surprisingly deep messages. But none of that success and none of those magnificent movies would have been possible without the studio’s first film. We wouldn’t have the likes of “Up,” “WALL-E,” “The Incredibles,” “Finding Nemo” or “Inside Out” without “Toy Story.”
Even when separated from its incredible legacy, “Toy Story” is a great film. The amazing and unusual concept, something Pixar has come to be known for in years since, is the foundation of a film exploring everything from jealousy and leadership to growing up and dealing with change.
The performances are legendary, with everyone from Tom Hanks and Tim Allen to John Ratzenberger and Don Rickles performing to perfection the now-iconic voices of their unforgettable characters. Allen and Hanks specifically are the backbone of the film, playing off each other and their character archetypes beautifully to really sell the conflict and eventual resolution.
The story is stunning as well. Everything feels so creative and new, from the very idea of a favorite toy getting jealous of a newcomer, to the maniacally violent kid next door, to the Planet Pizza scenes, to the ultimate conflict of getting home before the big move causes them to be left behind. The film’s utterly unique story and concept are so rich and full of potential; a potential that director John Lasseter fully lived up to.
The animation, while not quite up to par by today’s standards, was undoubtedly impressive in 1995. It’s interesting to know that the animators were so limited by the technology of the day that they couldn’t animate actual falling raindrops outside the windows, instead opting to simulate rain by showing drops running down window panes. Compared to the opening scene of “Toy Story 4,” in which the toys brave a deluge of ultra-realistic rain and water in order to save one of their own, it’s obvious just how far both technology and Pixar itself have come. Despite the restrictions of CGI 25 years ago, Woody’s world and all the characters in it are detailed and full of life.
“Toy Story” has rightfully become legendary in the 25 years since its release. Wholly innovative and unique at the time of its release, Pixar’s first film has spawned a generation of innovative, interesting, thematic and extremely high-quality CGI animated family films. The 1995 movie is notable for being the birth of one of the most consistently high-quality film studios in America, but “Toy Story” is a great film all its own. Perhaps even more remarkably, it’s a film that holds up very well after 25 years.