Toy Story

USA 1995, 81 mins
Director: John Lasseter

When Andy leaves his bedroom, his toys come to life. Favoured toy Woody is forced to confront his own shelf date with the arrival of a new, top-of-the-market space ranger called Buzz Lightyear. The rest, as far as this landmark film is concerned, is history.

Back in 1937, Walt Disney delighted audiences and changed cinema history with Snow White. Some 60 years later, Pixar Studios did the same with Toy Story, working with state-of-the-art technologies but always ensuring that story remained at the heart of the work.

Director Rowan Woods pays tribute to ‘Toy Story’
When you’re the parent of a toddler you’re at their mercy when it comes to choosing films. Most of they want to watch is absolute rubbish, so it’s a wonderful surprise and relief when something comes along that you too can watch over and over again.

John Lasseter’s Toy Story only gets better with repeated viewings. The story is almost perfect – it has a marvellous circular logic. It also puts an unusual spin on the buddy movie. Unlike in most kids’ stories, the two human characters – a good boy called Andy whose toys are lost out in the world trying to get home, and a bad boy called Sid who lives next door and dismembers his toys hover on the perimeter of the buddy story, which involves two toys: Woody and Buzz. The human characters deliver the film’s conventional message – be nice to your fellow man, be nice to your toys – but it’s the relationship between the toys that’s at the film’s centre.

And there’s an amazing support cast – all the other toys. They are beautifully formed characters, complicated and well drawn. There are stacks of smart jokes of the kind you find in The Simpsons, but they travel further than most Simpsons jokes because they don’t rely merely on a cool adult understanding but also function as sight gags for the kids. The sense of humour is on the innocent side of The Simpsons, but nevertheless it contains many references to popular culture of the last 30 years references Generation-X parents pickup on. Of course all this works very cleverly in relation to the merchandising of the film. You’re sucked into the huge spin-offs from the movie, but I’ve found to my surprise that I don’t have a problem with this because I love the characters so much. Call me naïve, but I was the first waiting at the counter to look at the Buzz and Woody dolls.

I also like the fact that Toy Story is a boydoll story. It’s a modem fairy tale for boys. Buzz and Woody aren’t boy dolls with guns – in fact the whole premise of the two central characters is that they are toys with no power beyond the fact that they are toys. In a sense they’re like real people as opposed to action heroes, or ordinary toys as opposed to action toys which can do anything, perform any function.

The film displays a perfect symmetry of form. Andy and Sid both have baby sisters who play a key role in the way they behave in that how you treat your sibling often reflects the way you treat the rest of the world. You never get a full view of their parents. You catch glimpses of Andy’s mother, leaving us to suppose that she’s a single mother and a very industrious single mother at that who has done the right thing in terms of parenting because her son is so well behaved. In Sid’s family you hear the mother but you also see only one parent – the fat, bulbous knee of the father who is watching television.

Toy Story, The Wizard of Oz and the Wallace and Gromit videos occupy my shelves alongside more highbrow choices. I always analyse the story logic and characters of my favourite films to try to work out what it is I really like about them. And I can say without reservation that Toy Story has more clever story tricks and operates on more levels than my favourite Cassavetes and Scorsese movies. Though it works as a kid’s film, it doesn’t follow a predictable Hollywood pattern and it manages to break a few rules along the road, as in the way it places its two human characters outside the central adventure.

Toy Story is very cunningly structured and exploits to the full the freedom a work that breaks out of the confines of the real world allows. In my own films, the textures and sensibilities are dictated by the fact that the stories reference culture directly. My film The Boys could be seen as a slice-of-life drama, but I’m also interested in pursuing the kind of structures and complexity we don’t usually associate with such dramas, in which to a great extent the story is dictated by the material.

Buzz and Woody’s central dilemma is how to find their way home. They have other problems too, of course, to do with knowing themselves and coming to terms with who they are: Woody has to overcome feelings of inadequacy and jealousy, while Buzz has to accept the fact that he’s a toy, that he is powerless.

Toy Story presents a very accurate picture of suburbia. Andy’s house is a place of enclosure and safety for the toys, but outside is a place of great danger where even the most anodyne of things appears threatening. There’s a real inside/outside dynamic that is beautifully woven into the structure of the movie.

There are many great scenes, but one I particularly enjoy is where Buzz has just realised that he really is a toy (having seen a commercial for himself on television). He’s in a state of terrible despair and then he is grabbed by Sid’s sister, who dresses him up and plays with him in a tea-party situation. She leaves and Woody arrives to find Buzz sitting at the party completely drunk on tea. Woody starts to try to persuade Buzz that there really is hope. It’s a beautiful scene.

Another great moment occurs earlier in the movie when Andy’s plastic soldiers go on a reconnaissance mission downstairs to find out what new toys Andy has received for his birthday. They report back to Woody via a walkie-talkie. There’s a point when the soldiers have to be still and they form an elaborate military statue. There’s also a wonderful scene where Woody and Buzz go to the pizza parlour and end up in an arcade game: a rocket full of martians which has a giant claw operated by whoever is playing the game. To the martians the rocket is their whole world and the claw is God, and they’re pleading ‘Choose me!’ I love the idea that the toy community is a complex hierarchy of groups and sub-groups. What amazes me about Toy Story is that the jokes play out at a miniature level – they’re over in a split second – while whole scenes are jokes in themselves. It’s so impressive – and the more you watch it the more you see.
Rowan Woods talking to Leslie Felperin, Sight and Sound, January 1999

Director: Alvy Ray Smith
USA 1984
2 mins

Director: John Lasseter
USA 1986
2 mins

Director: John Lasseter
USA 1987 4 mins

Director: John Lasseter
© Walt Disney Pictures
Production Company: Pixar
Executive Producers: Edwin Catmull, Steven Jobs
Producers: Ralph Guggenheim, Bonnie Arnold
Production Supervisor: Karen Robert Jackson
Screenplay: Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow
Story: John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft
Story Supervisors: Joe Ranft, Robert Lence
Story Co-ordinator: Susan E. Levin
Story Artists: Andrew Stanton, Kelly Asbury, Ash Brannon, Mike Cachuela, Jill Culton, Pete Docter, Perry Farinola, Jason Katz, Bud Luckey, Jeff Pidgeon
Camera Manager: Julie M. McDonald
Camera Supervisor: Louis Rivera
Supervising Technical Director: William Reeves
Modelling/Shading Co-ordinator: Deirdre Warin
Shader/Visual Effects Supervisor: Thomas Porter
Visual Effects: Mark T. Henne, Oren Jacob, Darwyn Peachey, Mitch Prater, Brian M. Rosen
Lighting Supervisors: Sharon Calahan, Galyn Susman
Lighting/Rendering Co-ordinator: Barbara T. LaBounta
Directing Animators: Rich Quade, Ash Brannon
Supervising Animator: Pete Docter
Animation Co-ordinator: Maureen E. Wylie
Supervising Layout Artist: Craig Good
Editors: Robert Gordon, Lee Unkrich
Art Director: Ralph Eggleston
Designer/Illustrator: Bob Pauley
Lead CG Painter: Tia W. Kratter
Character Design: Bob Pauley, Bud Luckey, Andrew Stanton, William Cone, Steve Johnson, Dan Haskett, Tom Holloway, Jean Gillmore
Title Design: Susan Bradley
Music/Songs Written and Performed by: Randy Newman
Sound Design: Gary Rydstrom
Dialogue Recording: Doc Kane, Bob Baron
Re-recording Mixers: Gary Summers, Gary Rydstrom
Supervising Sound Editor: Tim Holland

Voice cast
Tom Hanks (Woody)
Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear)
Don Rickles (Mr Potato Head)
Jim Varney (Slinky Dog)
Wallace Shawn (Rex)
John Ratzenberger (Hamm)
Annie Potts (Bo Peep)
John Morris (Andy)
Erik von Detten (Sid)
Laurie Metcalf (Mrs Davis)
R. Lee Ermey (Sergeant)
Sarah Freeman (Hannah)
Penn Jillette (TV announcer)

USA 1995©
81 mins

Toy Story + The Adventures of Andre & Wally B. + Luxo Jr. + Red’s Dream
Sun 23 Jul 12:50; Sat 29 Jul 16:00
Tangled + Tangled ever After
Sun 23 Jul 13:10
Toy Story 2 + Tin Toy + Knick Knack
Sun 23 Jul 15:30
Pocahontas + Lava
Sun 23 Jul 15:40; Fri 28 Jul 14:20; Sat 29 Jul 20:40
Dinosaur + Get a Horse!
Sun 23 Jul 18:15
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs + Thru the Mirror
Mon 24 Jul 14:20
Beauty and the Beast + Tick Tock Tale
Mon 24 Jul 18:05; Thu 27 Jul 14:20
UK premiere of 4K Restoration: Cinderella + Trailer Horn
Tue 25 Jul 14:20
Sleeping Beauty + Magician Mickey
Wed 26 Jul 14:20
Hocus Pocus
Wed 26 Jul 20:40
Fantasia + Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom
Thu 27 Jul 17:50
TRON: Legacy + Sanjay’s Super Team
Fri 28 Jul 20:20
Sat 29 Jul 12:30
Moana + Inner Workings
Sat 29 Jul 13:00; Mon 31 Jul 14:20
Fantasia 2000
Sun 30 Jul 10:30
Frozen + Frozen Fever
Sun 30 Jul 12:40
Finding Nemo
Tue 1 Aug 14:20; Sun 13 Aug 18:30; Sun 27 Aug 13:30
Wed 2 Aug 14:20; Mon 14 Aug 20:30; Sun 27 Aug 13:15
Turning Red
Wed 2 Aug 20:20; Tue 8 Aug 14:20; Sat 26 Aug 15:30
The Jungle Book
Thu 3 Aug 14:20; Sun 6 Aug 13:00; Wed 16 Aug 20:45; Wed 30 Aug 14:20
Thu 3 Aug 18:00; Sat 19 Aug 17:30
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Fri 4 Aug 18:00; Sun 13 Aug 18:10; Tue 22 Aug 14:20; Wed 23 Aug 20:20
101 Dalmatians
Sat 5 Aug 13:20; Thu 10 Aug 14:20; Sat 19 Aug 15:30; Tue 29 Aug 14:20
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Sat 5 Aug 15:40; Thu 17 Aug 14:20; Sun 27 Aug 18:20
Sister Act
Sat 5 Aug 20:40; Fri 18 Aug 18:20
Zootropolis (aka Zootopia)
Sun 6 Aug 13:10; Fri 25 Aug 18:00
Silent Cinema: Disney’s Silent Shorts + intro
Sun 6 Aug 15:30
Freaky Friday
Sun 6 Aug 18:20; Fri 18 Aug 20:30; Thu 24 Aug 20:50
The Parent Trap
Mon 7 Aug 18:00; Sun 20 Aug 15:10
Wed 9 Aug 14:20; Sat 12 Aug 11:30 (+ extended intro); Mon 14 Aug 14:20; Sun 20 Aug 19:00
Mary Poppins
Wed 9 Aug 17:50; Mon 21 Aug 14:20; Mon 28 Aug 13:00
Wed 9 Aug 20:30; Mon 28 Aug 12:30
The Love Bug
Fri 11 Aug 20:30; Sat 12 Aug 11:50; Sun 20 Aug 13:30
A Disney Day for Young Audiences
Sat 12 Aug 11:30-16:30
Sat 12 Aug 18:00; Sat 26 Aug 12:00
Sat 12 Aug 20:30; Sat 19 Aug 13:00; Thu 24 Aug 14:20
The Lion King
Sun 13 Aug 13:00 (+ Funday Sing-along); Sat 26 Aug 20:30; Thu 31 Aug 14:20
The Fiendishly Difficult Disney Quiz
Sun 13 Aug 15:30 Blue Room
Sun 13 Aug 15:50; Wed 16 Aug 14:20; Sat 26 Aug 12:20; Mon 28 Aug 16:20
The Rescuers
Mon 14 Aug 18:30; Sat 19 Aug 15:50
Sat 19 Aug 12:00; Tue 29 Aug 20:30
Dick Tracy
Fri 25 Aug 20:40; Tue 29 Aug 18:10
(+ intro by Ben Roberts, BFI CEO)
The Little Mermaid
Sun 27 Aug 16:00; Mon 28 Aug 16:40

With thanks to The Walt Disney Company

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Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
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