Buzz Lightyear: "To Infinity... and Beyond!"

The first feature-length computer-animated film, released by the Walt Disney Company and Pixar Studios in 1995. This movie helped establish Pixar as a major player in Hollywood.

The film was directed by John Lasseter and produced by Steve Jobs, Ed Catmull, Bonnie Arnold, and Ralph Guggenheim. The story was put together by Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, and Joe Ranft, while the screenplay was written by Stanton, Joss Whedon, Joel Cohen, and Alec Sokolow.

Voice actors included:

Buzz: "Right now, poised at the edge of the galaxy, Emperor Zurg has been secretly building a weapon with the destructive capacity to annihilate an entire planet! I alone have information that reveals this weapon's only weakness. And you, my friend, are responsible for delaying my rendezvous with Star Command!"
Woody: "YOU. ARE. A. TOY! You aren't the real Buzz Lightyear! You're - you're just an action figure! You are a child's plaything!"
Buzz: "You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity."

"Toy Story" received an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay, plus two nominations for Randy Newman, who wrote the film's score and the song "You've Got a Friend." Lasseter received a Special Achievement Award for creating the film.

Basic plot: Toys are alive. Yes! You knew it all along! But they don't move when anyone is looking. Otherwise, parents would freak out. Andy's toys are all great, and their leader is Woody, a floppy cowboy from a 1950s puppet show. But Andy's birthday arrives, and he gets a new toy: Buzz Lightyear, a flashy, gadget-pumped action figure -- and Buzz quickly becomes Andy's favorite toy. Woody gets jealous of the delusional Buzz (he thinks he's a real Space Ranger instead of a toy). When Buzz accidentally falls out a window, the other toys think Woody pushed him to his death, so Woody must go on an epic quest to rescue him before the sadistic loon Sid blows him up with a rocket! Can the toys be reunited before Andy's family moves away?

Mr. Potato Head: "How come you don't have a laser, Woody?"
Woody: "It's not a laser. It's a little light bulb that blinks."
Hamm: "What's wrong with him?"
Mr. Potato Head: "Laser envy."

For me, this movie is the Pixar film that gives me the most pleasure, at least partly because when it was released it was such an astounding and audacious and marvelous accomplishment. Disney had experimented with computer animation in the past -- the ballroom scene in "Beauty and the Beast" and the big chase scene in "Aladdin" spring to mind -- but a movie made entirely within a computer was something new and remarkable. And there's no doubt that Pixar was the company that would be able to pull this one off -- their animated shorts had been winning raves for years. So I was already expecting the movie to look fantastic. But the story, the characterization, the dialogue, and the voice acting are all dead-on, too, and that was the moment that I knew Pixar was going to be something special. Lots of movies -- animated and live-action -- put too much emphasis on special effects at the expense of the plot. But Pixar understood, from the beginning, that all the flash in the world meant nothing if the story and the characters weren't there to back it up.

Buzz: "This is an intergalactic emergency. I need to commandeer your vessel to Sector 12. Who's in charge here?"
Aliens: (pointing up) "The Claw!"
Alien #1: "The Claw is our master."
Alien #2: "It decides who will go and who will stay."
Woody: "Oh, this is ludicrous."

And let's talk about the voice acting a bit. I think the smartest thing they did here was getting all these character actors with recognizable voices and familiar personalities to play the supporting characters. People -- adults and children alike -- often have very strong memories of their toys. They're familiar with everything about them, they're nostalgic for how much fun they were, and they want to feel that same sense of nostalgia and familiarity when they're watching toys run around on the big screen. So what better way to foster that sense of "I've known these toys all my life" than to tie their voices and personalities to actors whose voices and personalities are already familiar to us? So Mr. Potato Head is Don Rickles, and Hamm is Cliff from "Cheers" and the leader of the army men is the drill sergeant from "Full Metal Jacket."

And let's not underestimate the power and imagination of the film's visuals. You watch a bunch of computer-animated movies and TV shows today, and the characters' faces don't move much, the backgrounds are dull, and the action is limited. That's not the case with "Toy Story." Characters can express their emotions with facial expressions both broad and subtle. (And the characters themselves are beautifully created. Even Sid's mutant toys are works of art.) The backgrounds and settings are breathtaking, particularly Andy's room and the pizza parlor. And the action and suspense rival any live-action action movie out there.

Mr. Potato Head: "What're you lookin' at, ya hockey puck?"

As for trivia and Easter eggs? Listen, I ain't going there. There's just too much. Almost every scene had some hidden in-joke referring to one of the animators or a previous Pixar movie. I ain't got the time or the patience to run through the whole list, so don't ask me to.

"Toy Story" was followed by a sequel called "Toy Story 2" in 1999, as well as a cartoon series called "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command" in 2000.

Some research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)

TenMinJoe says: "I always felt that using toys as the main characters was a really sneaky way to excuse the (then) inescapable plasticness of the characters. Either really sneaky or absolutely genius, or both, anyway."

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