Films such as Toy Story rarely see the light of day, and we should treasure them as the hallmarks of storytelling they are. Only then can we expect to see such marvelous nuggets of joy produced on a more frequent scale. The key to their charm lies in the fact that they can be enjoyed by people of all generations, and sure enough, Toy Story grabbed the attention of many a cinema-dweller, inspiring awe in viewers as old as 5 or 95.
Back in the year of 1995, it was also the first animated feature released by now legendary Pixar Entertainment, and as such Toy Story served as a bedrock of its astronomical success as a cultural and industry giant. Still, over twenty years have passed since its release, so it is only natural to ask a question whether it is suitable for your small child to view it, considering how standards have changed.
The beauty of Toy Story’s concept lies in the simplicity of the dramatic question it poses: What if toys come alive when we are not looking? The secret is pretty much embedded in the title. This is a tale about Woody, the leader of Andy’s ‘toy box’ by the virtue being his favorite. Toys have their lifestyles, distinct personalities, and dynamic intrapersonal relationships. The film plays with the idea of their playtime function as a sort of a day job.
In this particular installment, complications begin to arise when a new toy – Buzz Lightyear – is brought into the fold and becomes Andy’s new favorite toy. This is the inciting incident that initiates a sort of ‘domino’ effect of events that leads our two opposing protagonists on a rip-roaring adventure of peril and self-discovery. Telling anything more than that would be venturing into spoiler territory.
However, it is understandable that you are nevertheless interested in the ins and outs of certain events that transpire in this animated film that may affect your child in a, particularly negative way.
When it comes to the captivating assets in the voice-acting department, Toy Story has some star-studded pedigree. Woody is voiced with some gusto and passion by the worldwide-celebrity darling Tom Hanks, who pulls absolutely no punches with his performance. On the other hand, Buzz Lightyear is quite appropriately – and with a sense of witty irony – voiced by Tim Allen of Home Improvement and Galaxy Quest fame. Both actors were quite crafty at elevating the material in a way that only two veteran actors who are also veteran fathers themselves could have pulled off.
When it comes to thematic relevance to children, Toy Story wears its intention on its sleeve. The entire beloved trilogy of these 3D animated films is essentially about growth. It is not only that our protagonist – Andy – grows throughout the film, but also the characters embodied in sentient toys. They change over time and become better individuals through the power of friendship and cooperation. In other words, the overall message of every film – and in extension, the entire trilogy – is supremely positive and constructive, so we’re off to a good start.
However, before we venture to fully assess the film based on its broad merits, we should discuss a particular scene that transpires in the middle of the second act. Andy’s neighbor Sid is a disturbed child that does not only look creepy, but he also has a sadistic streak, which he satisfies by mutilating and destroying toys. This scene that transpires in Sid’s bedroom takes its visual cues from silent-era horror films, so the frame solutions coupled with light-and-shadow play can be considered somewhat intense.
While it may seem to you that anything related to Sid in this animated film is too dark, the film as a whole nevertheless offers a resplendent time for the entire family. Furthermore, Sid gets comeuppance for his behavior, which actually turns his storyline into a useful lesson about cruelty. Most importantly, the brutality never veers into anything a 7-year-old cannot take. After all, this film was crafted, by the creative geniuses under the roof of Pixar Entertainment, which should be enough of a recommendation in and of itself.
The storytellers at Pixar, in this case, led by the creative genius John Lasseter, have developed this compelling way of telling cross-generational stories with universal messages. They have become a staple of quality, so you can rest assured that, whenever you decide to go out and see a Pixar film, you will come out satisfied while your kids, as long as they are older than 6, will have fun. And this is where the line should be drawn in the case of Toy Story – if the child is younger than 6, they might have a hard time processing certain, let’s say, emotionally heavier aspects of the film. Intense scenes notwithstanding, there is a sense of peril and emotional impact of separation that may leave too strong of an impression on a child younger than that. However, if your kids are already of kindergarten age, they will probably not have a hard time processing the impact separation from Andy has on Woody.
And this is where the trick of the Toy Story films pulls off its pledge, the turn, and the prestige. They are all like a Russian Doll of gifts that can be perceived exclusively by those of a particular age. While the children will grasp at the propulsive movement of events, the adults will be immersed in – let’s be perfectly honest here – philosophical questions posed by the story and emotional depth of characters and their conundrums. There is just so much to like here.
At the end of the day, Toy Story is 80 minutes of unadulterated family fun. While there are some segments of the film that are dark and intense, we should keep in mind that there are no truly good or instructive tales with a solid moral lesson without a sense peril for the protagonists. Throughout its runtime, the pacing is as tight as they come, the visuals are dynamic and the screenplay pops. Naturally, adults will get more out of it on occasion, and certain jokes will fly over the children’s heads, but that’s the name of the game. As an edge-of-your-seat story about friendship and the importance of personal growth, there is hardly a better story on the market. If it hasn’t become obvious thus far, this is 5/5 star affair right here.