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Toy Story

September 17, 2014

Toy Story (1995)
Director: John Lasseter
Actors: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles

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Synopsis: Woody (Tom Hanks) is a toy cowboy belonging to a young child, Andy. Woody is the nominal leader of the boy’s other toys whenever Andy is out of the room. For Andy’s birthday, he gets given a toy astronaut, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) – who refuses to believe he’s merely a toy, and soon Woody and Buzz are forced to team up to return themselves to Andy’s toy collection when they get lost out on a trip to a pizza restaurant.

Review: Okay, so I may be almost 20 years late to the party, but what the heck – here’s my tuppence worth on Toy Story – “the film that launched a thousand animated pictures” and turned Pixar into a household name.

Obviously being the world’s first feature-length digital animation film, its historical significance has become the prime auspice through which to view the film – and in that respect, I’m marginally agnostic. Adding extra-dimensionality and sensory layers to the film’s surface obviously creates something spectacular and visceral (particularly relevant to its young, largely tactile target audience), although I lament its huge financial and critical success led to a near-systematic jettisoning of classical hand-drawn animation from the Hollywood slate from this point on.

Where I will side with the good press on the film is through its inventive commentary on its own fantasy/artifice subject matter. Some of the most important films and filmmakers concern themselves with the thematisation of their own ‘apparatus’ (take the great Michael Haneke for example whose serious arthouse works always in some way deconstruct spectator theory). Having Woody and Buzz as polar opposites of the whole reality-fantasy dichotomy really works (Woody is toy who subscribes totally to the hegemony of humans, where as Buzz believes that his superstar get-up is reality in its own right, not just a vehicle for a boy’s own fancy – until the illusion is heartbreakingly ended in a startlingly intelligent Lacanian moment where Buzz catches the TV screen advertising his own figure).

All great animated films (certainly those aimed at youngsters) seem to subtly lament the transience of the magic of childhood, and Toy Story certainly fits in that lineage – although its ultra-polished sheen, and its neat, three-act ‘chase’ structure is a tad too industrial for my liking. (September 2014)

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