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Tues Top Ten: Toy Story 

I'm in a toon'ful mood. What can I say? After some time with Disney's dogs, how about Pixar's toys?

2011 is the 25th anniversary of Pixar Animation Studios (they opened their doors in February 1986!) so I wanted to look back a bit at their marvelous output. I enlisted some other people from around the web to chime in too, so we'll have the results of an informal poll later on. But to start, let's look at the ten best moments from their first full length feature, TOY STORY (1995). Do these choices line up with yours?


Hey Etch, Draw!

10. I almost went with Mr Potato Head's "Hey look I'm Picasso" bit but Woody's showdown with Etch-a-Sketch is the best visual gag during the movie's extended opening scene. It's a perfect illustration (nyuck nyuck) of Pixar multiple joke approach. It's three gags in one: visual, verbal, cinematic.

Pixar's always been adept at endearing you to their stable of characters. But one of the most confident things about Toy Story -- remarkably confident given that it was their first feature -- is that both Buzz and Woody are pitched as hero and villain at some point. Woody is selfish and bossy (especially in the first half) and they don't really soften that and your first moment "inside" Buzz's persona, a great point of view shot, is from inside his bubble where he's breathing like he's Darth Vader. It's a fun reference but it also sets up the possibility that he's the antagonist that Woody's protagonist believes him to be.

Buzz Lightyear seeing himself on TV. A shock to his senses (of self.)

Buzz is greater than Woody and here's why. Woody is a dog; he's desperate for Andy's love and affection 100% of the time, content to follow. Buzz is a cat; he enjoys Andy but his sense of self worth comes from his actual sense of self.


Poor Buzz. He's never been able to roll with improv like the other toys. My other favorite part of this scene is the headless dolls "Marie Antoinette and her sister"

The opening birthday party reconaissance mission. The monkeys and the green aliens have since replaced them as this franchises' favorite multiple character gag, but The Bucket of Soldiers are so endearing in their complete lack of humor. They have some weird old school pull, don't they? The're not brightly colored or showy of personality or funny looking. The mission is everything!

05  Sid performing 'double bypass head surgery.' Buzz's indignant response is so hilariously straight-faced.

I don't believe that man has ever been to medical school.


Sometimes Woody's three film flipflopping between "favorite toy" confidence and disabling insecurity annoys, but this scene, is so beautifully lit (the magic hour) and it makes so much of such a tiny thing (who will Andy take to dinner at the Pizza Palace?) that it sends you right back to any childhood or adolescent (or vulnerable adult) moment where some minor thing was THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERED, LIFE OR DEATH. But it's really the use of the Magic 8 Ball that sends the scene to movie perfection. "Don't Count On It."

Goddamn it that Magic 8 Ball is a bitch.

03 The repeated shot of "ANDY" written on Woody and Buzz's shoes. In permanent ink!  Aren't you jealous of every boy named Andy who can watch these movies and pretend it's literally their toys that the movie is about?


We toys see everything...


The follow up shot of him terrified of his sister's doll is the perfect capper. "Don't you wanna play with Sally?"

Subsequent Toy Story's have regurgitated the joke too often, dulling its neon bright genius, but I still had to give this absurdly clever Pizza Planet flourish the top spot. Everything about the sequence works wondrously starting with Buzz Lightyear's entrance, which is the best kind of pop culture comedy. It plays off universally understood genre tropes -- in this case sci-fi -- rather than referencing one specific property and therefore dating itself.

I come in peace.

And then it soars ever higher. "The claw!!!!" Pixar's process must allow for a lot of brainstorming because you rarely feel they haven't explored every comic possibility of a scene or a character or an environment.

One of the unsurpassable joys of moviegoing (and live theater) is the communal rush you can feel when a piece of art is connecting with everyone in the room. I saw Toy Story on opening night at a huge packed theater in Utah with my brother. Had the theater been empty I'm sure we would have laughed heartily. But would the mad euphoria have set in? We were giggling so hard, we couldn't stop; the laughs were ricocheting back and forth like they were made of rubber. (It wasn't until I saw the film a second time that I remembered anything about the next couple of scenes.)  It's not only one of my single favorite moviegoing memories, it's one of my single favorite memories of my brother.

Do you remember the first time you saw Toy Story?

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Reader Comments (25)

Just rewatched this after I saw Toy Story 3 (gee did I just count July as "just"? Time Flies.) and the story is so moving. I love that Woody is an insecure jerk throughout the first half of the film. What a strong and real choice in a movie about toys. I wonder how many of us after seeing this way back when thought "we better keep an eye on these Pixar guys."

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex BBats


I hope you review every Pixar movie in this fashion. WALL-E is so awesome and full of this tiny, precious, lovely moments. RATATOUILLE, too. Pixar works so efficiently and passionately towards providing you such a wonderful, nostalgic experience (if you're a grown-up) or an immensely marvelous world (if you're a child) that it just seems so effortless to them. I hope they never give in to the Disney 'evil corporate machine' and start making sequels to everything (although that already seems to be in motion).

Nathaniel, while we're at it, why not a "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" with an animated movie?
May I suggest... since it's his 50th anniversary this year... ALICE IN WONDERLAND?

Or if we're talking Pixar... WALL-E?

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

60th anniversary, I mean ;)

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

wow I really liked this post because I still remember I was 6 years old when I went to see it with my brother and I collected all of the toys from the kids menu at Burger King I still have them stashed somewhere, but it was a movie we used to watch and rewatch all through my childhood...nostalgia... I will go look for them :)

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjjablo

As an Andy, I will admit that it completely rules being able to imagine these as my toys. Unfortunately it's a double-edged sword, because it made the final scenes of Toy Story 3 even more emotionally devastating, as it was as if I was giving up my own childhood.

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

This movie IS my childhood. Great list, but I'd be remiss to exclude the moment when Molly looks in the rearview mirror to see Woody and Buzz desperately clinging to Slinky while "Hakuna Matata" plays on the car radio.

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterN8

In #5, don't you mean Sid performing double bypass surgery (I don't think Andy would ever do that)? Otherwise, yes, I agree with your post, and I actually really like that Woody is so needy, since it's his character flaw. Every protagonist needs a character flaw, and Woody goes through a magnificent character arch in this film. It's interesting how the writers find a character arch for Woody in all three films, a different one for each film (there are films that basically wipe out all the growth from the first film just so the characters can learn the same lessons in the sequel). This respect for the characters and the audience are a huge part of why Pixar rules.

Also, would you do one of these for Beauty and the Beast, since it is its 20th anniversary? I recently re-watched the film and I would love to hear what your favorite moments are. Which songs you love most, or what you think of the Broadway feel of it (I think more than any Disney film, that one has a Broadway feel). Just a thought.

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

Our favorites almost match completely! I'd probably swap numbers 1 & 2, because I just love when Sid gets his (what a douche of a child!) I remember seeing Toy Story in the theatre when I was like seven or eight, and instantly falling in love. It's my third favorite Pixar film, just behind Wall-E and Finding Nemo.

*My sister and her husband watched Toy Story on their very first date, and have continued that tradition on their anniversary each year. The film is just even more special to me now, because it reminds me of how happy my sister has been for almost a decade. I'm obviously a very good brother. ;)

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKeelay!

I also love the Claw part! I remember as a kid, when I first watched that scene in the theater.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWill

I was...five years old when it came out? Sheesh! I remember the 7:00 showing was sold out (a definite rarity then- the line was so long!), and we got to go to the "late" 9:00 showing. I remember nothing about actually seeing the movie. I just know that I have seen the movie enough times to recite almost every line. A true classic.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJake D

Without preparing to do so, I actually said "Awwwwwwwww" out loud 4 times while reading this article. The one at the very end was loud and very wide-eyed.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCory Rivard

I love this post. It reminds me how strong Pixar's directors/writers tend to be on a moment-by-moment basis, which can sometimes get lost in the larger shuffle. I never warmed up to either Woody or Buzz in this movie--both struck me as too cocky--which is why it isn't one of my outright favorites, but you make a good strong case.

And I agree with Jorge that 1) you should do this with every Pixar movie, and 2) you should do a Hit Me with Your Best Shot for an animated movie.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterColin Low

My favorite part of toy story is when Buzz realized that he´s just a toy.

Nath, have you seen Rango??

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLuis

I don't remember seeing many films at the cinema when I was little, as my parents mostly got the video (ahhh, VHS). I still our first copy of Toy Story on video - jacket missing (most likely destroyed), but I watched it to death.
And I bought a book full of Disney sheet music, just so I could learn to play 'When She Loved Me" from Toy Story 2 - still one of the most heartbreaking songs ever.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuth

What a great idea for a post. Really gving me inspiration for my film blog http://isawthisfilm.blogspot.com/ thanks guys keep it up!

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack Ibbetson

What I love best about moment #1, is when Woody mutters at the end, "Let go of me, you zealots!". Just cracks me up, every time - and with a 2 year old who loves Buzz and Woody as if they were members of our family, it's been a lot of times. Indeed, I didn't realize how rich the Pixar movies were until I saw how they bore rewatching. I must have seen this (well, all 3 Toy Story films), hundreds of times recently, and I still find myself sitting down and watching as if it was new!

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercarried

Toy Story was the first film I saw in a theater. I was six at the time, and though I don't remember too much about the actual theater, I do remember instantly falling in love with the movie. Afterwards, it joined Beauty and the Beast as my routine movie-to-watch throughout childhood; I must have seen it dozens of times by now. Even today, when it mood strikes, I'll put one of those two on. It reminds me of why I was, and at heart still am, a Disney kid :)

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJason H.

Luis -- i haven't yet, no.

Jason -- toy story -- i am too old to be part of the pixar generation (though i was ahead of the game in a way because i already loved the Pixar shorts which most people didn't now about -- i had a bootleg VHS tape of a bunch of them. don't know how i got that!) -- but i did grow up on disney rereleases since they alternated in theaters and my parents always took us.
the first actual disney contemporary release i remember being excited about was The Great Mouse Detective. but i THINK the first one i remember seeing in theaters was FANTASIA during one of the many rereleases? i have a terrible memory which sucks because i love the "first movie' question.

March 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I love that you could probably double the amount of moments on this list and it would still be unbelievably great - all the Pixar films seem to have endless amounts of perfect little moments and scenes. It's funny, I was 11 (I think) when Toy Story came out, and so was just a little older than Andy, but I remember not really wanting to own any of the toys in the film - except Slinky Dog, because come on! I never thought I had any real sort of attachment to these characters. But come the last 10-15 minutes of Toy Story 3, I literally cannot see what's happening because I was crying so hard... like, audibly sobbing and shaking. I still haven't figured out exactly why it resonated with me so much, but looking at this post, I realized I have a very vivid memory of all the moments you mentioned - maybe Toy Story made a bigger impact on me than I thought!

On another note: My very first subscriber issue of Entertainment Weekly had Toy Story on the cover. I remember being BEYOND thrilled when it came in the mail. Between then and college, I never missed an issue.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I love toy story! Perfect post!

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergabriel s

The (my) hubby hates Toy Story. Shame on him.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchand

The first Disney movie I remember watching was Peter Pan...and I often used to think I could fly because of it...hmmm

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuth

um, you can't? have you tried singing that you can? fairy dust?

March 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I miss Woody so much! The movie animated movie I have seen.

March 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterToy Story party favors

The rightful Best Picture winner of 1995. There, I said it.

Nate, I love this list. MOAR PLZ.

BTW I love this new gif incorporation thing you've been doing. Kudos. Gifs are always fun in any way.

March 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark

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