Welcome back pals! Playtime is over because this week for #90sMC we settle down for story-time with Lou-Michel Thelier as they take us back to 1995 for a look at the film that changed everything, so sit down, be quiet, take the snake out of your boot and listen very, very carefully to the tale of Toy Story!
Time is a funny thing. Nostalgia perhaps even more so. Toy Story, released in 1995 (an entire 26 years ago!), is a movie that’s basically been with me my entire life. Or, at least, as long as I can remember. I was only 4 when it came out, and as such I probably didn’t see it in the cinema, nor do I remember what year I actually watched it for the first time.
But, the one thing I am sure of, is that it’s been a constant. As far as I’m concerned, Toy Story has been a thing for the entirety of my conscious life, and like many, many others, it’s something I’ve loved dearly since the first time I was introduced to Woody, Buzz, Rex, Bo Peep, Mr Potato Head, Hamm and everyone else in the gang.
So let’s over-analyse and bring up all the weird stuff, shall we?
Now, before I raise any hackles, I mean that in a loving way. When I re-watched the movie for this article, I thought it would be interesting to approach it as if I was watching it for the first time, unfettered by the nostalgia goggles that so many people automatically don when the subject of a Favourite Childhood Thing comes up.
You know what I found?
Toy Story is a deeply screwed up movie if you look at it from a certain point of view (no, not that one, calm down, Obi-Wan). There’s just this mean, cynical streak that pervades a fair amount of the movie, mostly originating from one character:
Woody, viewed from an adult perspective, is basically a narcissist (or at the very least, deeply insecure). He can’t take any criticism, absolutely has to be in charge of the other toys due to his position as Andy’s Favourite Toy – and speaking of, he obviously can’t take any threats to his lofty stature at the head of the hierarchy. I mean, he’s immediately deeply jealous of Buzz’s perceived usurping of his favoured position, so much so that – while not actively plotting the murder of another sentient being – does take the first opportunity to incapacitate someone who, sure, was actively labouring under the delusion that he was someone else entirely, but literally hadn’t done a thing wrong other than be a bit of an idiot.
Sure, I’m probably taking things to some extremes there, and yes, Woody does go through a character arc that irons out a lot of his character flaws (and you can definitely make an argument that Woody’s flaws are deliberately exaggerated to make it clearer to children that this is not how you should be acting), but allow me my weird, cynical take on things. Honestly, it can be fun taking things you love and just looking at them from another perspective. Try it out sometime, it might be fun.
The rest of the toys are better than their, uh, flawed leader, but not by a huge amount. They’re clearly gullible and easily led
wait does that make Woody a cult leader oh god no I’m not going there, but are also quick to embrace completely castigating Woody to the point of refusing to believe him when he legitimately needs their help during the climactic moving truck scene – something which is hilariously sent-up by Rex seconds after they kick Woody off the truck: “Oh no, now I have guilt!” Although considering Mr Potato Head was one of the quickest to turn on Woody, maybe he had some deep-seated resentment over never being Andy’s favourite – okay I’m probably reaching a little there.
Oh, and of course, it wouldn’t be a Toy Story article without mentioning the deep, existential nightmare that is your toys coming to life to begin with. Just look at what happens to Sid. Sure, the kid is a verifiable little psycho, but what Woody and the other haphazard toy abominations do to him will no doubt result in years of very expensive therapy, and you just know that absolutely no one is going to believe him when he tells people that his toys came alive and threatened him.
I mean, wouldn’t you be terrified of anything approaching a plaything for the rest of your life if one of them told you they were literally always watching? I know I would be. And it’s not like you can avoid toys as an adult, especially if you’re into pop culture. Who’s to say that collectable Iron Man figure wouldn’t also come to life, or your LEGO collection
or even that anime body pillow you have to hide when your friends have come round. I’d probably lock myself in a bare room and never, ever leave.
Alright, I’m done. Nostalgia goggles firmly back on. The animation in Toy Story might be showing its age now, but as a story, it definitely still holds up. Toy Story 2 is maybe a tiny bit better and deals with slightly more complex themes, but there’s nothing like the first one. Pixar basically made a perfect movie with their first-ever feature, so it’s no wonder they keep going back to the well with multiple sequels and shorts.
At the end of the day, as someone who grew up with the movies – and weirdly odd analyses aside – they’re wonderful and magical and rightly deserving of their place in cinema and pop culture history. Just, don’t look too hard at them, yeah?
Come back next time for more 90s shenanigans as Paul Childs takes us to 1998. You won’t want to close your eyes or to go to sleep and you most definitely won’t want to miss a thing as he looks at the top-grossing film of the year: Armageddon!