Toy Story set the bar high in many ways

This year is the 25th anniversary of the release of the first Jurassic Park. For most of us at Cinedelphia, it is a film that has defined what we look for in a summer blockbuster. So what better time than now to revisit the last 25 years of summer blockbusters and pick our favorites? View the criteria and full introduction here, and the whole series here.

15. Toy Story (dir. John Lasseter, 1995)

When Toy Story was released in 1995, I was six-years-old and was basically the perfect age for it. One thing I remember as being so special about seeing this for the first time was how much enjoyment my parents got out of it—they loved it, which certainly wasn’t always the case. I guess not everyone loved watching “Barney” again and again. A lot of the jokes in Toy Story certainly went over my head at the time, but that didn’t matter. The film is hilarious whether or not you pick up on the small subtleties, and that’s what’s so brilliant about this movie (and so many other Pixar films). After seeing Toy Story a few times, I became obsessed (and delighted) with the idea of my toys coming to life. I actually think that’s why I still tend to anthropomorphize many of my belongings (I may or may not have a large collection of stuffed animals, complete with names). When I was around 7 I even wrote a story about a little girl’s toys coming to life (which was not at all a rip off of this film, I’m sure). This is all to say that Toy Story influenced my childhood in a big way.

Unlike many staple nostalgic films, however, Toy Story has seamlessly carried into my young adulthood and eventually my adulthood. It does more than just “hold up”—it really set the bar for what a computer animated (and animated film in general) should be. It makes me laugh even more now than it did when I was a kid. Although this post is about the first installment, it’s almost impossible to write about the franchise without mentioning the next two films. Not only did Pixar make a huge splash with their debut film (and sophomore release A Bug’s Life, which I will defend forever), but they actually made a sequel to Toy Story that was shockingly amazing. Toy Story 3 raised the stakes yet again for animated movies. It successfully introduced new characters that have since become a staple of the franchise, and it also really, really hits the emotions hard. I didn’t think a Toy Story installment would ever get me to cry so much. Until I saw Toy Story 3. But that’s a whole can of worms that I’m not emotionally prepared to open at this time.

Bringing it back to the first film, I want to talk about one scene in particular that I think is so incredible. The scene where the jerk next door, Sid, finally learns a lesson and is traumatized when his toys turn against him. Toys coming to life is not what springs to mind when thinking of a fun kid friendly film. One thinks of Chucky, or the terrifying clown from Poltergeist (1982). The entire film takes a concept that is historically terrifying and completely turns it on its head. The toys in Toy Story are depicted in such a lovable and human way, that even the most sensitive kids wouldn’t be fazed. Not only that, but in the Sid scene, they do come to life in that “scary” way, at least that’s Sid’s experience. For us, we already know and love these toys so the scene is anything but frightening. It’s actually hilarious. Hats off to you, Pixar, you god damn brilliant jerk.

Author: Catherine Haas

Catherine Haas is a native Philadelphian who received her master’s in film history from Columbia University. She is a freelance film programmer, writer, and an avid pug enthusiast.

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