Monday, 29 September 2014

Animation Turnaround #3: Toy Story (1995)

If there's a film that deserves the title of "Turnaround," it's Toy Story. The film completely and single-handedly changed the animation industry and its repercussions are still felt today. Just as Snow White introduced the animated feature film in 1937, Toy Story introduced a new way of making these films and now most mainstream animated films are done that way. CG animation was almost non-existent before Toy Story, mostly relegated to backgrounds, environments or creatures (for example, the stampede scene in The Lion King or the ballroom scene in Beauty and the Beast), but a fully CG animated film was thought an impossible task. Not only did Toy Story prove that notion wrong, but it also launched Pixar Animation Studios, one of the most highly regarded studios in the world. Toy Story came as a breath of fresh air for audiences and was a direct answer to Disney's Broadway formula, which by that time was starting to show signs of exhaustion.

But the novelty of a new medium can only carry the film so far. Had Toy Story been a lousy film, CG wouldn't have soared to the popularity it has now and the movie would have been seen as a novelty rather than a breakthrough. Fortunately, Toy Story is a great film and it has stood the test of time very well. Aside from the animation, which does look a little dated by today's standards, the story and the characters still pack a lot of punch and it remains one of the bright spots in the Pixar canon (which is saying something). The film also spawned two equally acclaimed sequels and a franchise that is one of the most popular and beloved ones in the world.

I won't go into details about the story because chances are you've already seen it countless times. What I will say is that the film still impresses with witty jokes that don't feel dated, edgy characters who have genuine emotions and a great story of friendship and discovery. I'm still amazed by how imperfect Woody is and how much he learns in this journey (a journey that continues beautifully in the next two films). He is a multi-layered and flawed character who can commit some reprehensible acts, but who never fails to feel human and relatable. How well the character is portrayed is a testament to Pixar's ingenuity. Buzz's journey is a beautiful one too, as he makes some discoveries about himself and learns his place in life. Overall, the film is still funny, touching and relevant, almost 20 years later.

Toy Story represents a before and after for the animation industry. It launched CG animation as a valid medium for producing animated films and made Pixar Animation Studios a titan in the industry. CG animated films are now the norm (which is somewhat sad since Toy Story also signalled the decline of traditional animation - but that's another discussion) and Toy Story still holds up incredibly well. A classic through and through. Rating: 5/5.

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