Friday, 10 March 2017

Toy Story (1995)

Fig 1 - Toy Story Poster
Is Toy Story the greatest animated film of all time? A subjective question for sure. Particularly coming from an animation student who was a year old when it was released. Some people had Back to the Future or Indiana Jones, but this was the first franchise I remember really caring about. I don't even remember exactly when I first watched this movie, just that it was always there. And to my detriment today, as I know every line that's coming. And it still makes me laugh. I hadn't seen it for some time up until now, so it was interesting seeing it play out from a perspective of 'knowing how it's done'. And for the first feature of its kind, it really stands up over 20 years later.

For those who dwell under rocks, Toy Story is the tale of a group of toys that come to life when nobody's around. When top-dog Woody (Tom Hanks) is pushed aside in favour of the new toy, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), feelings of jealousy and tension break-out between the two, though ultimately having to put aside their differences to combat a common enemy. The maniacal toy-torturer next door, Sid (Erik von Detten).

So, what exactly is so great about this movie? For starters, I wish I had been old enough to appreciate just how ground-breaking this medium must have looked in the mid-90s. The texturing, lighting and attention to detail aren't a million miles from the standard of today. There are certainly films still doing it worse... And I think that's what's so inspiring to me (as an incredibly amateur animator) is that I feel if I really tried I could make something like this! Which is a sense that I don't get from the overly glossy and insanely rich atmosphere of it's third installment.

Fig 2 - Toy Story - I Will Go Sailing No More

Randy Newman's soundtrack is a playful yet poignant parallel to events unfolding on-screen. From the opening titles of You've Got a Friend in Me to the devastating realisation during I Will Go Sailing No More, Newman's distinctive voice and the lyrics that echo the narrative truly frame every scene with an extra coat of polish. An arguably career-defining achievement.

And speaking of devastating realisations, it's certainly not a film afraid to deal with heavy themes in fear of isolating a younger audience. When I was younger I don't think I really grasped the nature of Buzz's depression when he realises he's 'just a toy'. And in many ways it parallels the child-like wonder of our youth and the eventual realisation that 'you're not special, you're just like everybody else'. But Woody essentially reflects on this notion with the idea that 'being average is better than being special' because it means the ones who care about you think you're special regardless. So it's nice to catch sentiments like that as an older viewer.

Overall I cannot fault this film. And I'm completely biased. But there really isn't any fat to trim here, it's a solid and smooth viewing experience every time. The scenery and visuals are constantly changing with the story, and even at times in which we spend an extended period in one room, the camera angles and change of lighting or weather translate the notion of a new perspective. In my eyes its unmatched by any other CG film to date but... Toy Story 4 is on the horizon. God help us all.



Fig. 1 Toy Story Poster (1995) From: Toy Story - Directed by: John Lasseter

Fig. 2 Toy Story Screenshot (1995) From: Toy Story - Directed by: John Lasseter

No comments:

Post a Comment