Toy Story (film series)

D: John Lasseter
Disney/Pixar (Ralph Guggenheim & Bonnie Arnold)
US 1995
80 mins


W: Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, Alex Sokolow [story by John Lasseter, Joe Ranft & Pete Docter]
Mus: Randy Newman

voices of: 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)

It could be very possible to go on and on about how this is cinema's first fully computer animated feature film and how it broke the mould of animation and visual effects, but the simple fact is that it's the story that makes the film so immersive rather than the technological breakthrough.    
In a world where toys come to life away from human eyes, Woody, a traditional pull-string cowboy doll, the long-time favourite of a small boy and "sheriff of the bedroom", becomes jealous and finds his status under threat when a new arrival, a Space Ranger action figure who doesn't realise that he's a toy, becomes the new flavour of the month.             
Full of imagination, wit and lively vocal performances from Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, Toy Story became an instant classic and practically dated all the cel-animated Disney films that preceded it.
It may not feel like an animated film for large segments due to its computer animated style, appealing to adults just as much as children of all ages due to the bright humour, and is amongst the very best of its kind.

Toy Story
Toy Story

The toys are back!
The toys are back!
D: John Lasseter & Lee Unkrich
Disney/Pixar (Heléne Plotkin & Karen Robert Jackson)
US 1999
92 mins


W: Andrew Stanton, Rita Hsaio, Doug Chamberlin, Chris Webb, John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Ash Brannon
Mus: Randy Newman

voices of: Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear), Joan Cusack (Jessie), Kelsey Grammer (Stinky Pete), Don Rickles (Mr. Potato Head), Jim Varney (Slinky Dog), Wallace Shawn (Rex), John Ratzenberger (Hamm), Wayne Knight (Al McWhiggin)

A sequel every bit as good as the original film, especially in the animation style which had improved massively in the few years between.
Woody, the beloved cowboy doll of a young boy, is stolen by a toy shop owner so he can add it to his rare collection from a short-lived 1950's TV show. 
Buzz Lightyear comes to the rescue with some of the other toys, who hope to free Woody before he's sold to a Japanese museum.
Though some of the novelty from the first film has worn off, the story here is just as much fun, with the perfect balance of humour, sentimentality and adventure, with some clever in-jokes and Star Wars references thrown in for those in the know. It's probably too good for kids, instead appealing more to the adults who are still children at heart, reminiscing on their own beloved childhood toys before outgrowing them.
Strangely, the film was originally planned as a straight to DVD release, but thankfully someone at Disney saw sense enough to release it theatrically, ensuring a big payday for the studio giants.

Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2

D: Lee Unkrich
Disney/Pixar (Darla K. Anderson)
US 2010
98 mins


W: Michael Arndt [based on characters created for 'Toy Story' & 'Toy Story 2']
Mus: Randy Newman

voices of: Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear), Joan Cusack (Jessie), Ned Beatty (Lotso), Michael Keaton (Ken), Jodi Benson (Barbie), Don Rickles (Mr. Potato Head), Wallace Shawn (Rex), John Ratzenberger (Hamm), Timothy Dalton (Pricklepants)

The perfect ending (or maybe not) to the Toy Story series, equally as enjoyable as the first two films and rounding off a fantastic animated trilogy.
Andy, the young boy from the first two films, is all grown up and preparing for life in college. Woody and the rest of the toys hope for one last playday but spend most of their time locked in storage and reminiscing about the past, disaster strikes however when they accidentally get donated to a daycare centre where they are mistreated by preschoolers and the building is run at night by despotic teddy bear. 
The film blends the comedy from the first two films with classic prison movies of yesteryear, but it has a dark side to it and the final scenes leave a frog in the throat and a tear in the eye.  You have to hand it to Disney animators nowadays, they sure can make computer animation look as realistic as a live action movie, while the clever screenplay only gives it even greater appeal. It might be a little bit mean to say that the Toy Story trilogy is wasted on the young.
Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3


D: Josh Cooley

Disney/Pixar (Jonas Rivera & Mark Nielsen)

US 2019

100 mins


W: Stephany Folsom & Andrew Stanton

Mus: Randy Newman

voices of: Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear), Annie Potts (Bo Peep), Tony Hale (Forky), Keegan-Michael Kee (Ducky), Jordan Peele (Bunny), Christina Hendricks (Gabby Gabby)

If the Toy Story trilogy were considered as a gourmet three course meal, then this fourth film of the series would be that additional dollop of ice cream that the kids might want when everyone else is full. 

The trilogy ended perfectly in 2010, but Disney will never say no to squeezing every last dollar of profitability out of one of their products, so here's a fourth to the series, which is sometimes a mistake to have too much of a good thing (see Indiana Jones as an example).

Cowboy sheriff Woody and his toy pals have passed from Andy's possession to Bonnie's, a toddler about to start at pre-school. However, she doesn't play with Woody anymore like she did in Toy Story 3 because of toxic masculinity or some such nonsense, so she plays with all the other toys and leaves him in the closet to gather dust. On her first day of school, she makes a new toy out of trash, which she calls Forky, and Woody has to convince this new member that he's a toy (much akin to Buzz Lightyear's dilemma in the first film). 

Bonnie and her parents go on holiday and Woody & Forky get separated from them, ending up in an antique store where a vintage doll has nefarious plans for Woody and the pull-string that operates his voice.

Buzz Lightyear, the double act to Woody for the first three films is relegated to a supporting comic relief role as the spotlight is mostly on Bo Peep, in full action mode here because of reasons of gender and identity politics which even kids films aren't safe from nowadays and Disney especially feel the need to indoctrinate the youngsters into this progressive way of thinking, as early as possible.

Bullcrap aside, there are some funny moments in the film and the pacing is quite timely, but it's a completely unnecessary instalment which denigrates the quality of the original trilogy, which really did end so perfectly with the previous film. It's not quite the equivalent of a straight-to-DVD sequel which Disney were notorious for during the 1990's, but it really isn't far off.

I have the trilogy in my collection and will always revisit it with fond, nostalgic memories. I doubt I'll ever watch this one again though.


Toy Story 4
Toy Story 4