When I was a child, I always secretly believed that my toys and entire doll collection would come to life when I was not in the room. I knew they would have their hopes, fears, private jokes, adventures, friendships, and even love interests. They could sometimes speak, laugh, cry, be sarcastic, and even grumpy. In my creative mind, they were my extended family that I could always trust to be there just for me. They had dual existences. And no one could ever know the truth. The world of toys and reality could never be entwined. I kept this belief throughout my childhood, teenage years, and even adult teaching career. So strong was this concept in my heart that I even wrote a short play when I began teaching theatre. It was called THE TOYMAKER, and the basic theme was toys coming to life in a toy shop when THE TOYMAKER went home every evening. My students fell in love with this play, and it became, over my 35-year teaching career, a favorite staple for them to perform each holiday season. Eventually, I had to limit how often we would recreate that magical toy shop. I never dreamed it would be so beloved or cherished. It surprised me to learn how many others grew up with this same notion of toys becoming real. This first drew Tom Hanks to want to perform as Woody in the amazing TOY STORY. All it took was Disney and its subsidiary, Pixar, to make it happen. 

TOY STORY opened in 1995. Opening weekend, it took in over $29 million. It would go on to gross close to $400 million. Not bad for the first feature film created entirely by CGI. It changed the animation industry. It would never be the same. TOY STORY was nominated for many honors, including three Oscars and received a Special Achievement Award for its Technology in creating a full-length computer-generated film. John Lassiter was the genius behind this movie. His life has since gone in a different direction, but no one cannot deny his brilliance during those early years. TOY STORY was the first to list the “babies born” in the closing credits. This would become a tradition to be included in all of Pixar’s future movies. 

Randy Newman wrote the opening song for TOY STORY in one day. YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND IN ME elicits oodles of memories the second you hear the opening musical notes. The film draws audiences in immediately with a wild, guns, a-blazing, old-west scenario. It felt exactly how a child would imagine a good guy/bad guy moment. It was such a creative way to introduce audiences to the litany of toys in Andy’s bedroom. Mr. Potato Head, dinosaur, (Rex) Ham, robot, Slinky Dog, soldiers, fire engines, blocks, Etch a Sketch, microphone, binoculars, Bo Peep, and three sheep were mesmerizing. But even better was who they became the minute Andy left the room. Bo Peep’s “I only live a couple of blocks away” line still cracks me up. And the soldier’s big reconnaissance scene to get “eyes” on Andy’s birthday party was hilariously inventive. (We never leave a man behind.) To get the correct body movement from the soldiers walking, the animators attached wooden boards to their shoes. In this way, they assimilate the correct wobbly steps. Wouldn’t you have loved to be at Pixar that day? Where are the outtakes? 

Everything changes when Andy gets a new toy, Buzz Lightyear(Tim Allen). He was named after Buzz Aldrin, along with borrowing two “scientific” words. He had all the “modern” bells and whistles for a new toy. The problem was he did not realize he was a toy. He believes he was an astronaut saving the world from destruction. He even thought he could fly. Woody called it “gently falling,” but deep inside, it was just pure “laser envy.” Oh…Woody. Stop whining.

I find it fascinating how these two toys acted exactly like any human would when their self-esteem was being threatened. Child-like feelings brought into the light of day. This constant push and pull between these characters gives this movie its heart. These toys grow and learn. They develop a better understanding of true friendship. We all need reminders throughout our journeys. The entire ensemble of voices is perfection. They include Don Rickles, Annie Potts, Wallace Shawn, Jim Varney, John Ratzenberg, John Morris, Eric von Detten, and Laurie Metcalf. Their chemistry and emotional expressions enabled TOY STORY to give us the ride of our lives. We knew these characters. They were a part of our lives every day and are unforgettable.

TOY STORY is such a visual treat for their audiences. I can’t get the car/rocket chase scene out of my head. It was fraught with danger, humor, and risks to catch up to Andy and his family. The lost toys made me cry. I wanted to fix each and every one to make them whole again. The Space Pizza place was out of this world. And I must admit that Sid was a scary bully. I am sure many children and parents could relate to meeting a similar character on the playground or in their neighborhood. The carpet in Sid’s house next door was even scarier, modeled after the carpet pattern in THE SHINING. Ok. Now I am having nightmares, but I am glad Sid learned a valuable lesson and perhaps many children in the audience. Kindness goes a long way. 

I could write about TOY STORY “to infinity and beyond.” It is a heart-warming tale with clear, bright, beautiful animation. It is innovative and fun for the entire family. It made me laugh, cry, ponder, and believe. It has a strong sense of playtime’s importance no matter your age. TOY STORY is simply one of the best children’s classic movies. It is timeless and etched in my memory box forever. Now, please excuse me while I make sure my name is still written on all my old dolls and toys that I keep and cherish. 

TOY STORY is available to stream on DISNEY+. 

Esta Rosevear

Esta Rosevear has been a Theatre Arts teacher and director for 35+ years, published Children’s author of the Rebecca series, and is passionate about playing her violin, walking, gardening, and reading murder mysteries.

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