Toy Story

AFI Rank: #99 (10th Anniversary list)
Year Released: 1995
Director: John Lasseter
Actors: Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, Annie Potts, John Ratzenberger, Don Rickles

When the AFI redid their top 100 film listing, they took off Fantasia, which was regarded as a classic for being the first full length animated movie. However, they added Toy Story to the famous list - which shares an equal honor. This was the first full length computer-animated movie, and it is simply amazing what a success it was. There could have been so many things held against it. It could have felt "fake". It could have featured dull characters. Instead the graphics were beautiful, the characters powerful, and it created a series that even nearly twenty years later shines and flourishes.

I saw Toy Story when it came out, I've seen all of the series' films many times over the years, and I recently went back to re-watch Toy Story with a fresh eye. So much has changed when it first came out. We now accept that computer animated films can be expressive and moving. We know that the characters can connect with us in a powerful way. Tim Allen and Tom Hanks did a brilliant job of bringing their characters to life, to infusing them with meaning and emotion. And even so, Toy Story wasn't just a "staring point". With many other movies on the AFI Top 100 you can appreciate what they did but still not quite feel moved by them. With Toy Story, it was both groundbreaking AND it still has power. That's the sign of a true classic.

One thing that stands out to me after all the sequels, though, is that Toy Story has only one female character - Bo Peep. That's it. She looks plaintively after Woody and believes in him. That's all the role model any females watching the film can connect with. On one hand one can say "well they're just toys" - but look at the sequels! We have some amazing female characters in those which light up the screen. It's extremely curious that they made such of an effort in Toy Story to be inclusive to teenagers, to adults, to other groups - but they didn't really give any thought to female characters. It's indicative of how the movie industry is in general. So many famous movies have only one or two females in amongst a cast of thousands of males. Even Lord of the Rings, which I adore, only has two females with any real lines. And a cast of thousands.

That issue aside, I do love Toy Story. All the tiny, subtle moves that bring so much feeling to the plot. The way Buzz gasps in panic as his helmet is removed - and how Woody just stands there and waits for him to stop the drama. The way the Etch-A-Sketch draws a noose symbol when it's thought that Woody has done Buzz in. The horror of Sid's mutant-doll-headed-metal-spider. The simple joy of the three-eyed-martians.

Definitely a movie to own and watch over and over again. There is so much in here to appreciate for all ages of watchers. And so much of what is done here is now part of our overall culture.

Highly recommended.

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AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100