Have you ever felt like a monster for not liking a certain movie? The reverence with which people talk about Toy Story (1995) makes it seem like it could rival some of Hollywood’s all-time greats. I suppose there are those out there who would make that exact argument. I am not among that group. While I will admit to being emotionally moved by Toy Story 4 (2019), I found its originator less compelling. I am not sure why this would be the case with Toy Story. Given its solid message of learning to cope with new people and experiences, I probably should have gotten more out of it. This should have been doubly so since I had not seen it until recently. Perhaps, as a Disney annual passholder, I am pretty familiar with these stories through osmosis, if nothing else. Hence, I found myself fighting the urge to nod off while making it through a twenty-five-year-old plus movie that shows its age in places. At least it was short.
We are introduced to world of Toy Story, where our playthings come alive when we are not looking, through an opening credits montage of Andy Davis (voiced by John Morris) messing around with the various objects in his room. His favorite toy is Sherriff Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), a cowboy doll that speaks when Andy draws a string on its back, uttering a series of genre specific phrases. His place in the social hierarchy of Andy’s possessions means that he enjoys a privileged position among the others when their owner is not around. Things begin to change, though, when for Andy’s birthday he is given a new action figure, Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen). As happens with children, Andy fixates on Buzz for a while, knocking Woody aside. One evening, Andy’s mom (voiced by Laurie Metcalf), decides to take the family to Pizza Planet for dinner. This means that Andy is allowed to bring one toy with him. Hoping to ensure that it is him and not Buzz that is taken, Woody accidentally knocks his rival out of the second story window of the room. Buzz manages to make it into the Davis family car and confronts Woody, leading to them both falling out of the vehicle. Now they must work together in order to reunite with their beloved owners. Their plan to make it to the restaurant and entertainment center backfires when they are found instead by Sid Phillips (voiced by Erik von Detten), the neighbor kid who gets sick enjoyment out of blowing up toys. Buzz and Woody soon find out that attaching explosives to dolls is not his only hobby, of which the Davis toys are all too aware. When Buzz and Woody arrive in Sid’s room, there emerges from the shadows a collection of mutilated creations, toys that Sid had grafted disparate parts together in order to make things that look like monsters. Buzz and Woody need to escape, not only to get away from their creepy neighbors and/or avoid a sudden, dismembering fate, but also because the Davis family is set to move the next day. The rocket that Sid has strapped to Buzz’s back is a further impetus. What eventually helps them is Andy’s ability to get Sid’s dark minions to assist in their escape the next day. Yet, in the process they are chased by the Phillips’ family dog Scud. They get to the Davis’ moving truck, with Buzz attempting to fend off Scud, and Woody managing to free Andy’s remote control (RC) car. Even with wheels now, Buzz and Woody are not able to completely catch up with the Davis family, until they manage to light the rocket still strapped to Buzz’s back. With an extra push, they are able to take off and conveniently land in Andy’s toy box. With a newfound appreciation for Andy, they all settle in for a life of being a part of the Davis family.
As I mentioned earlier, Toy Story is a short movie. However, one thing I left out is Buzz Lightyear coming to terms with his own existence. When Buzz first arrives in Andy’s room, he is convinced that he is the actual person on which his toy is based, complete with lasers and the ability to fly. Despite a stern talking to by Woody and the others, he remains obstinate that he is the Buzz Lightyear. It is not until he notices a television commercial proclaiming the awesomeness of the owning a Buzz Lightyear that he realizes that he is an indefinite instead of the definite article. This is furthered when his arm comes off without any real consequences. What brings him around is seeing Woody’s determination to return to Andy. It gives him a higher purpose than he had previously known. I do not wish to equate Andy with God, necessarily, but that is sort of the way Buzz and Woody, and the rest of the toys, see their adolescent owner. Andy shows his love to all of them by playing with them, even if there are a couple which he uses more often. It is because of the boy’s fickleness that the comparison to our Creator loses its appeal. There is nothing fickle about God. What I do enjoy is the toys seeing a function for themselves beyond themselves. When we first meet Buzz, he is more concerned with all his supposed gadgetry and his fake mission. In other words, he is wrapped up in the things that only matter to him. How apt a description is that of so many of us! God calls us to serve others because that is one of the best ways to imitate the love He showed for us by giving His only Son over to die for our sins. We may not always see the fruits of our labors because it is ultimately others who are fickle. But God sees, God knows, and God will return it to us in time. In the meantime, simply loving something bigger than ourselves will suffice.
In watching Toy Story, I can cross another Disney film off the list. I acknowledge its great message and appropriateness for any age. Some of the things Sid does are a little scary, but he is also the villain of the movie, so that makes sense. It is also all a bit predictable, though if you cannot make it through its roughly eighty-minute run time, then you might want to see somebody. I know I barely did, but I accomplished it all the same. Then again, I can be cynical at times, the curse of being a critic. As such, if you are unlike me (and who is not?), then you will probably enjoy it.