My Feature Favorites: Toy Story

      19 Comments on My Feature Favorites: Toy Story
All images © 1995 Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios.

“To infinity and beyond!”

Sound familiar?

Toy Story is the third on my list of my favorite animated feature films. You can see the whole list in that link. If you’ve never seen Toy Story I’d really have to ask where the heck you’ve been. See it already!

What can I say about the first 3D full-length feature film ever made?

That it’s the Snow White of a new generation? Yes, I guess it is.

That it put Pixar on the map? Yes, I suppose it did.

That it was such a success because of all that fancy technology? Uh, no. Sorry.

Some will argue with me, but Toy Story was not a success because of the technology. It was a success because of the storytelling and characters.

Would it have worked in 2D? Yes, I believe it would have. A good story is a good story, no matter the medium. As I’ve said before, you can tell a good story with stick men as far as I’m concerned.

As I go through all my favorite bits from Toy Story, please note that I never mention rigging, lighting or texture mapping. Don’t get me wrong, it looks fabulous (even if the humans are a bit wonky 😉 ). It was freakin’ eye candy all the way when I saw this the first time.

Kids don’t care about eye candy (at least not after the first 10 minutes). Trust me. If the story sucks, a kid will let you know by their lack of interest…technology or not

But 3D worked for telling a story about toys. Period. These days, it’s just gotten a little out of hand. It’s everywhere! Gaa! Use it when it suits the story please.

That’s my two cents. Lecture over.

Let’s roll! Here’s my favorite bits from Toy Story.

The toys. It was a trip back to my childhood. I know the people making this film were from my generation because of the toy selections. I mean Weebles! Stretch Armstrong! Sweet.

More great camera movement. Remember I talked about the great use of camera movement in my Iron Giant post? Here is another fantastic example of a reveal. We’ve been teased about what Andy’s gift was and we finally get to see it.

Woody looks up to bed and the camera pulls back to reveal legs.

Then the camera starts to pan up the body. We get a nice close view of Buzz in all his toy coolness.

To end on his little smirk.

The use of pulling out then panning up lets us really soak in the moment and enjoy our first look at Andy’s new toy.

The little details. OK, this is where I give the 3D stuff real props. The eye for detail in the room. Like the little scuff marks and the great P.O.V. shots that would be a nightmare in 2D. And the reflection here in this P.O.V. shot of Buzz taking his first look around Andy’s room. Nice.

When Buzz ‘fell with style’. This was just a fun piece of business that had huge meaning later in the film. In this scene Buzz had no doubt he could fly and he succeeded. Sorta. Remember that.

This frame in the ‘Strange Things’ song montage. It’s not even the shot that makes me laugh. It’s the last frame of the shot. That pose just makes me giggle.

The acting. Study and learn people. The timing, the posing, the little subtle stuff. So much greatness in this movie. Look at this scene of Woody getting the idea to get rid of Buzz (that backfires).

No words needed till he blurts out “Buzz!” at the end. This is what I mean when I talk about knowing what your character is thinking, and to act that out.

The whole scene under the truck. When they are first lost and at the gas station. Woody blurts out the now famous, “YOU. ARE. A. TOYYYYYYY!” But I love this bit where Buzz gives him the Vulcan sign and calls Woody a “strange, sad little man.” Great line with a nice visual joke.

Like I said in the Iron Giant post…sometimes words *are* funny.

The aliens in the machine. I mean come ON! “The claaaawwwww!”, “I have been chosen!” That sequence rocked the casbah. So. Damn. Funny.

Our first look at the mutant toys. Admit it. You were a bit freaked when you saw this for the first time, right?

This moment. When this little mutant guy turns off Woody’s flashlight. The timing rocked. Study it.

When Buzz sees his commercial. Huge moment for Buzz and for us. The story takes a big turn here as he comes to grips that he is just a toy.

When he tries to fly out Sid’s window. An even more powerful moment. Remember when he believed he could fly? He succeeded. Now when his confidence is shaken, he fails. Nice little life lesson here I think.

“I am Mrs. Nesbitt.” Purely for my own amusement. I love this bit.

The terrorizing of Sid. Was there no better sequence of a ‘bad guy’ getting what’s due? The audience gets a huge sense of satisfaction watching this. And they didn’t have to…you know…kill him off or anything.

“So play nice.” – Woody.

The whole chase. This end sequence is so fantastic for so many reasons. It has a bit of everything.

A whole bunch of fast-action craziness is going on. Then they cut to the baby in the car listening to Hakuna Matata. The baby sees what’s really going on the mirror. A great, funny moment of calm and quiet before jumping back to the action. Perfect.

This shot of silence after they let go of Slinky. It shows their defeat with it’s ‘wideness’ and their ‘smallness’. I just love it. Don’t be afraid of wide shots.

When the match burns out. The first time I saw this I let out an “Ohhh!”. We knew Woody had the match and assumed that’s what would save the day.

Too easy. Keep putting your characters in trouble and give us a great solution to the problem. Burn it out. Now what? Great storytelling.

“Now I have guilt!” – Rex.

When Potato Head gets smashed by the little car. Great timing. Great reaction face.

“To infinity and beyond!” A scene so good you need to see it twice. Such a great moment for the audience, especially when Buzz says he’s ‘falling with style’. He’s accepted who he is yet knows he can still ‘fly’.

We all need a little Buzz in our lives. Thanks Pixar.

Get out there and fall with style people. : )

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19 thoughts on “My Feature Favorites: Toy Story

  1. Friar

    I lost count at how many times I saw Toy Story! I could see it again and again!

    My favorite line is when Buzz says: “You’re mocking me, aren’t you?”.

    I think animated features have had a renaissance.

    Disney didn’t do much after the late 60’s. And between the 1970’s to the late 80’s, it seemed all the studios made crap. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but there didnt’ seem to many cartoons that qualifed as “Classics”.)

    But consider what’s come in the past 15 years: Lion King, Iron Giant, Toy Story, Wall-E, Monters Inc, Shrek, etc…

    It’s almost like another golden age.

    (And let’s not forget South Park!) 😀

  2. Nathan Bowers

    “It was a success because of the storytelling and characters.”

    Preach it!

    I remember a long time ago (15 yrs. maybe) I saw a Return of the Jedi “making of” on PBS, narrated by/starring Billy Dee Williams.

    In it they had George Lucas *on tape* saying “the special effects are nothing with the story and characters”.


    Anyway, yeah I love Toy Story. Part 2, not so much.

  3. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Friar – I think the turning point for the resurgence of animated features came after ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’.

    Big success for an adult audience there. Then Disney took off with ‘The Little Mermaid’ and so on and so on.The big boom was in the 90’s but there have been some gems in the last few years. Again…thanks Pixar! (and my South Park post is coming!)

    @ Nathan – I’ll be preaching that till my dying day man. 🙂

    (I thought you meant ‘without’). Ah George…what happened to you? Ugh, can’t even get into that one! I saw a South Park episode last week (hello Friar!) where they had Lucas and Spielberg ‘raping’ Indiana Jones…literally! It was awesome (and oh-so-true). 😀

    And I actually didn’t mind Toy Story 2. It had some good moments too.

  4. Friar


    Yeah, Roger Rabbit was late 80’s…that’s about the first good cartoon I remember as an adult.

    By the way, when you talk about South Park, will you discuss what George Lucas and Steven Spielberg did to Indianan Jones? 😀

  5. steph

    Karen, I’m totally enjoying these posts. More, I want more!

    I LOVED Toy Story! I can’t believe I don’t own it. I’ve seen it several times. Now I want to go buy it. And I still haven’t seen Iron Giant yet…ugh, no time…

    I especially loved your Woody facial expressions sequence. It’s one of my favourite things about Pixar’s animation: the hilarious facial expressions all the time. They really rock! And yes, I found Toy Story particularly funny.

  6. Pete

    Off topic, but what do you think of the new eps of South Park Karen? I was like the biggest fan up to like season 8 but then I started losing interest. When I watch the old ones I laugh my ass off but the new ones seem without a soul and have become a platform for Matt and Trey to bitch about whatever they’re in disagreement with.

  7. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Friar – Probably not this time because I’ll just be discussing the feature film, not the series. At least I mentioned it here!

    @ Steph – I’m actually really enjoying writing them…even though they are damn time consuming! I could just make the whole blog about this. (And you just rent these flicks when you need an nice little escape.) 🙂

    @ Pete – As much as I love the series, I’d have to agree with you there. There seems to be more of a nastiness and coldness in some episodes. The hilarious gems are more scarce. I think my favorite season was 6. So many awesomely funny episodes there.

    @ GirlPie – You mean me or this post? Either one, you are *way* too kind madame. But thanks!! 🙂

  8. Lorin

    Here, here. Excellent posts. ‘Toy Story’ was pretty inspiring to yours-truly. So much so that I am not working in feature animation…wait, that didn’t come out right.

    Great selection K.

  9. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Thanks Lorin.
    Glad to see it was such an inspiration…sorta…kinda. 🙂
    Now the question is: Do we blame it for all the crappy 3D movies that followed just because it was the ‘thing to do’?

  10. Ivan Gozali

    this movie has inspired me to learn filmmaking, and to continue my study in animation and beyond.

    truly one of the great film.

    btw, it’s great to see the turnout of this website. as i looked down at the end of this entry, people have left 14 comments. i remembered in the beginning when the site was left with 2 or 3 comments. it’s growing!!!


  11. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Jaden – Report back when you do! 🙂

    @ Ivan – Nice to see you here again. You were one of my first commentators ever and I’ll always appreciate that. There’s been a steady growth and the blog will be getting a little face lift shortly. It’s almost a year since I started! Holy moly. 🙂

  12. t.sterling

    I was a little late getting back to reading… but you’ve made me fall in love with this movie yet again. Sadly I only have it on VHS and I don’t think there are any *working* VCRs in my house. I need to put my movie buying on hold to get these timeless classics.

    It such a strange thing (like the song) to see that other people loved particular scenes as much as I did. I certainly can’t deny that this movie was a big deal to my childhood when it came out. I had toys, I knew the songs, and I could probably recite the movie by heart. Had I been a little more sentimental, I think I would’ve cried at certain parts, because I was a kid who really cared about all of his toys. So I could relate to Andy a lot, and all of the toys, since in my imagination, they all had unique personalities too.

  13. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hey T – For you to say I made you fall in love with it again, makes my day. Yay.

    We can sometimes forget how much we truly *loved* some toys as kids. (Parents: don’t chuck your kids’ toys without asking them first!!). I still remember my favorites (usually stuffed animals) and how I believed they had feelings just like me.

    And the first movie I really fell in love with was ‘Herbie the Love Bug’ (aging myself again…). I loved that VW beetle and still love those cars today. 🙂

  14. Stacie

    Loved Toy Story, it was so advanced and Tom Hanks’ voice was just perfect for Woody. But I felt so annoyed that they did a sequel I decided not to watch it. Some stories are just best left alone, the way they ended. I’m a lover of Disney classis – Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Aladdin… they ALL have sequels! WHY?! Makes me feel cheated that I watched the first one.


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