Today! Because I’m actually from a smaller company that was purchased by Mattel in a leveraged buyout –
Toy Story (1995)
Directed by John Lasseter (x2)
Starring Tom Hanks (x5), Tim Allen (x4), Don Rickles (x3), Wallace Shawn (x4), Jim Varney (x2), John Ratzenberger (x5), Laurie Metcalf (x4), R. Lee Ermey (x3), Annie Potts (x2), John Morris (x3), Erik von Detten, Penn Jillette (x2)
As I think I’ve mentioned before, I have a soft spot for the first films in movie series, even if the sequels are demonstrably better. This doesn’t extend to superhero movies for some reason, but in many other cases when people point to the superiority of a second or third film, I still feel beholden to the original as my favorite – you will see the bundle of examples of this in days to come.
I just think the degree of difficulty is so much higher when you have to tell an interesting, engaging story while also setting up your whole world and potential franchise. Sure, in many cases, the filmmakers weren’t operating under the idea that their movie needed to be the launching pad for a massive, multi-decade tale, which makes it all the more impressive when the original story can hold up and function as the solid backbone everything else stems from.
Thus, Toy Story, the beginning of the greatest animated series of all-time, and one of the top three or four film trilogies ever made. I feel like I must’ve talked about this a little in #240 Toy Story 2 or #152 Toy Story 3, but I might’ve been a bit hesitant, what with the final movie still to come on the list. I mean, come on, there aren’t that many three packs of cartoon flicks that were striving for quality over dollars, so this isn’t all that ballsy a proclamation, I recognize. Nonetheless, there aren’t many weaknesses in these films, and if it’s your choice for Best Trilogy Ever, that’s a tough thing to argue against. I’ve got a few I prefer overall, but an objectively better one?
Now, some of the animation is aging a bit – figure, this being the first all computer animated feature some twenty-five years ago, it’s bound to pale a bit in comparison to, say, Toy Story 3 (again, I can’t compare it to 4, as it hasn’t yet been released, as of this writing). But even then they recognized the genius of animated toys – they don’t have to look all that great. The incremental changes they’ve made over the years to Buzz and Woody are only slightly perceptible – it’s the humans that suffer more in retrospect. Still, this doesn’t much detract from the story and world building.
Sure, it’s a beloved world classic now, but in its day? Well, Toy Story was the highest grossing movie of 1995 and the first animated movie nominated for a Screenplay Oscar. The AFI named it the #99th best film ever made in their redone list of 2007, and the sixth best animated movie, in their 2008 Animation Top 10. It was placed in the National Film Registry in its first year of eligibility, and lost out to Babe for Best Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes, which, you know what, is pretty fair for the time. Babe is great. Was Babe’s Best Picture nomination at the Oscars the only thing stopping Toy Story from being the second animated film in competition? ’95 has a couple other possibilities, but figure there was no way they were nominating a talking pig film plus a movie about living toys. Intriguing!
With the whole series now on the list, we obviously were going to have a ton of Two- and Three-Timers, including Jim Varney and Annie Potts (2), and Don Rickles, R. Lee Ermey, and John Morris (2 & 3), but also we’ve got whole trilogy Four-Timers Tim Allen (plus #232 Galaxy Quest), Laurie Metcalf (plus #357 JFK), and Wallace Shawn (plus #237 Princess Bride), and Five-Timers Tom Hanks (#234 The Simpsons Movie, #181 A League of Their Own) and John Ratzenberger (#305 Superman, #199 Superman II). Whoa!