Toy Story: Retrospective

By: Jim Weekes

With the release of Toy Story 3 on DVD/Blu-ray this week, and the lack of any Toy Story review on this site, it’s important we fix that right about now.

The year was 1995, I was 6 years old and a little movie known as Toy Story had just taken the world by storm. The time was December and my family and I had gone out to do some Christmas shopping followed by seeing Toy Story. I remember running around in excitement days prior, running up to random lunchroom attendants at school blabbing  about “dream toys” (as I called it at the time) Their artificial interest only fed my excitement even more. This whole experience in my life was one of the most distinctly vivid that stands out in my memories. I remember humming along to the catchy soundtrack and staring up at the big screen, on the edge of my seat (much like young Carl in the beginning of “up,”) eyes entranced on this piece of filmic history. I fell in love not only with this new franchise but this new film studio (pixar.) I went on to get all the fast food toys associated with the film as well as an authentic woody doll, (which my mom wrote “Jim” on the bottom of one of the boots to mimic the film.) I also insisted on having my room wallpapered with clouds so that it would look “just like Andy’s room” (I still have that wallpaper today.)

The animation now seems a tad outdated but it was certainly monumental at the time (being the first fully CG animated film.) The story however, still stands tall today as classic tale of rejection, revelation, and redemption. Those are all strong words that may not fit with an animated movie but that’s just the magic of Pixar and that of Toy story.

Randy Newman’s soundtrack and songs for the film is arguably one of if not the best soundtrack in the last 20 years, with my favorite animated film tune of all time, “strange things.”

Flashforward some years later to the release of Toy Story 2. Not only was Toy Story a hard film to trump to begin with, but sequels in general rarely go over well. Pixar, still fairly new at this point (this being their third film,) had gone through a lot of trouble to make Toy story 2. It started off as a straight to video release and when Disney wanted to bring it to theaters and speed up production, crew and staff lost weeks of sleep, spending the night at the studio and some even suffering from debilitating injuries that forced them to leave the field altogether. Meanwhile, I’m 10 years old and a little more aware in life. Some of the kiddish things I liked back in ’95 were not so cool anymore.

The second film is technically better than the first, with more lush settings and the catch-iness of the old western theme. Where The original toy story was about rejection and redemption, Toy story 2 was about self discovery and acceptance. This film was more about Woody’s origin and introduced some new characters, including the o so annoying Jesse, yeeeeee hawwwwww!!! Ahem, anyways…

The one fault with this film was Jesse’s song. I loved the sequence and the story but the song was just so “gag-reflex-inducing.” It was a little too corny for a Pixar film and I felt it was “below” them. The film also plays with the idea of the future, and asks the question, “what’s going to happen to these toys when Andy grows up?”  These questions would not be answered for another 10 years, give or take.

Pixar is now a monumental studio with many films under their belt, and I’m a junior in college and 20 years old. The cloud wallpaper? Covered almost completely with posters and magazine clippings as well as my TV and dresser. As for my security blanket I loved so dearly as a child? Shoved far underneath my bed covered in dust.  Pixar and Toy Story have had a huge impact on my life and has influenced my career outlook in media. Now, to the nitty gritty. The third film was under a lot of scrutiny. First of all, rarely has a 3rd film in a trilogy ever been good, are even acceptable and also the fact that the man helming the director seat would be Pixar editing vet, Lee Unkrich. This was his first full directing position and a lot of people doubted him. Suffice it to say, he has created what is arguably the best film in the trilogy. This film has the heart and emotion of films like Wall-E and Up and the humor of films like Finding Nemo and Monster’s Inc. the only real flaws per say is the fact  that the story is fairly similar to toy story 2 and ****spoiler ahead****

Lotso has the exact same personality and principle and sound of Stinky Pete. The good part of his character is basically Jesse gone bad. His back story is identical to hers only he didn’t take it so well. The contrast is nice to see. The thing that completely makes this film is its final sequence. I won’t really go into detail about this but let’s just say I almost lost it. As the credits rolled, I wiped away the single tear forming in my eye. The ending is bittersweet, beautiful and poetic.  This is a picture perfect trilogy where the whole is just timeless. As I went home, I was almost tempted to run upstairs to my room and pull my security blanket, which basically served as my “woody” through my childhood, out from under the bed and just embrace it, just to let it know I never forgot about it.

The Toy Story series is brilliant, poignant, and absolutely beautiful.

Without any hesitation I rate this entire series a 10/10

If you’re curious how the individual films ranked in my book,

Toy story-10/10

Toy Story 2- 9.5/10

Toy Story 3- 10/10

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1 Comment

  1. As Jim’s mom I have a unique perspective of his review. Yes the cloud wallpaper that he INSISTED on having is still there, albeit, mostly covered with things more associated with a young man’s interests, rather than the musings of a young boy. Yes the blankie is still there, list in the dust bunnies and other discarded items, no longer needed, but not meant to be cadr aside. Jim owned a woody doll and his younger brother Tom has buzz. Both toys that have been cast off to, not the attic. But the basement, amid a mirad of other once well loved toys. This last in the toy story trilogy, was especially poignant to me. Jim’s dad & I were sailing on the Disney magic, just 2 weeks ago, where toy story 3 was showing onboard. There, somewhere in the carribean, away from our 3 boys (now young men) I watched as Andy, now 17 (our youngest, Tom is about to turn 18), dealing with growing up and away and his connection to his favorite toys ( keep in mind , Jim and Tom had their room in ou current house decorated in EVERYTHING toy story& had those same toys, which have since been all but discarded). I was crying by the end , but not in a bad way. This film brings it all full circle and the ending was perfect. And Jim, in my mind you will always be that little boy, like Andy holding on to what’s important to you

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