Study Guide

Toy Story Introduction

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Toy Story Introduction

Release Year: 1995

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family

Director: John Lasseter

Writer: John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, Joss Whedon, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow

Stars: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles

We know; we know. The premise of "toys coming alive when no one is looking" sounds pretty nightmarish. And with good reason—before Toy Story, the world had met the homicidal Chucky (and his not-so-blushing bride), the creepy-as Dolly Dearest, and the demonic toys from the unimaginatively named Demonic Toys.

But Toy Story achieves the unachievable—it's a movie that makes you want your toys to be carefully concealing their sentience.

And when Toy Story hit cinemas in 1995, it didn't just change the way that little kids and grown adults alike thought about their possibly-alive dolls and toy soldiers. It made them concerned about those toys' emotional and psychological well-being.

Because these toys ain't just walking and talking—they're exploring their psyches with more neurotic introspection than Woody Allen.

And speaking of Woody

In Toy Story we meet Woody, a cowboy doll and the hero of our story. But, like any good hero, he faces some challenges right out of the gate. When Buzz Lightyear arrives, this confident space ranger action figure outshines Woody in just about every way.


Of course, when their owner, Andy, starts playing with Buzz a whole lot, Woody's insecurity and neurosis kick into high gear. Eventually, both Woody and Buzz wind up on a wacky misadventure while they try to find their way back to Andy's house and deal with the crushing sadness of loss, change, and the kind of existential crises that would make Camus start weeping.

You know, kid stuff.

And Toy Story didn't just break ground in the field of introducing angst to young kiddos: it was also the very first movie made by a little-known animation studio called Pixar. Back in 1995, you wouldn't be able to pick them out of a production company line-up, but today, Pixar is one of the most creative, admired, and profitable companies in the world. Toy Story was the first in a series of critically acclaimed and commercially successful blockbusters like Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., and Inside Out.

And Toy Story paved the way for Pixar's signature blend of comedy and tragedy. (Seriously, just turn on any Pixar movie and try not to puddle up.)

But before the ugly-cry-inducing first ten minutes of Up, there was Toy Story. It was the little animated movie that could. Made by total storytelling novices with a budget of only $30 million, Toy Story ended up becoming the highest-grossing movie of 1995. (Source)

It made $191 million in U.S. theaters alone. That doesn't count international tickets. Or merchandise. Or later DVD sales. Or any of the sequels. (Source)

Yeah, Woody and Buzz have made some big bucks for Pixar.

At the time, Toy Story was such an impressive feat that it even got nominated for three Oscars and won a Special Achievement Award for being the first feature-length computer-animated film. Oh yeah—and this was five years before the Academy added the Best Animated Feature category. Not too shabby. (Source)

Will Toy Story make you feel bad about the way you treated your toys as a kid? Absolutely—we now feel really bad about donating our Polly Pockets to Goodwill.

But, will it also warm your heart, make you smile, make you question the meaning of life, and make you question what exactly the phrase "To infinity and beyond!" means? Also absolutely—what in the name of Mr. Potatohead is beyond infinity?

What is Toy Story About and Why Should I Care?

There were cartoons before Toy Story, and cartoons after Toy Story.

We know we sound like we're just being major suck-ups to the team at Pixar and the all-powerful hopping desk lamp that surely controls them.

But this not-so-little film about the floppy-armed cowboy Woody and his delusional best bud Buzz did for animated films what, say, Spiegelman's Maus did graphic novels—it showed the world that it was totally possible for cartoons to be deep, searing, and interesting for adults.

It's not like there weren't philosophical cartoons floating around before Toy Story landed in theaters in 1995. There were. But before Toy Story, most people heard "animated feature film" and thought about happy endings, singing woodland creatures, damsels in distress, and joyous musical numbers.

And after Toy Story, people heard "animated feature film" and also thought about identity crises, deep sorrow, ego death, and nuanced characterization.

This complexity is why some critics have called Toy Story the greatest animated movie of all time. But, it's also regarded as one of the best movies of all time, period. It has an 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

100%. Seriously—that's the same rating as Citizen Kane (which is routinely referred to as the best movie of all time), All About Eve, and The Maltese Falcon.

Toy Story is a trailblazer. An icon. And, yes—it will definitely make you feel all the feels. So sit back and grab a beverage—whether you're a kid stabbing a juicebox or a senior citizen grabbing a daiquiri—and watch or rewatch Toy Story. Just make sure you have a box of Kleenex (and whatever flavor of ice cream you need when existential dread hits) handy.


Toy Story was originally going to be based way more closely on John Lasseter's 1988 short film Tin Toy. The main character, Tinny, would get lost during a family trip and join up with a ventriloquist dummy to find his way back home. Tinny eventually became an astronaut toy and the dummy morphed into a cowboy named Woody. (Source)

Mattel refused to allow Barbie to be used in Toy Story (she was supposed to be Woody's love interest) because they didn't want Barbie to have a defined personality on film. They also thought the movie might flop. Everyone's favorite blonde finally makes an appearance in Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 instead. (Source)

When the original movie came out, Hasbro and Mattel declined to make Toy Story-themed dolls because they didn't think they could get products out to stores on time. So, Pixar partnered with a small Canadian company called Thinkway Toys instead. (Source)

Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is far too busy to do the voice of Woody for all the dolls or games that feature the cowboy, so his younger brother, Jim Hanks, does Woody's voice instead. (Source)

The Pizza Planet delivery truck that Buzz and Woody ride in has also appeared in every single Pixar movie (except The Incredibles). (Source)

Toy Story Resources


To the Internet and Beyond!
The official Toy Story page at Pixar's website.

Pixar Wiki
The main article about Toy Story created by that treasure trove of Pixar information, The Pixar Wiki.

Book or TV Adaptations

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command
This 2-D animated spin-off show based around Buzz Lightyear and his adventures only aired on the Disney channel from 2000-2001. Guess kids only wanted to hear about Buzz's adventures in Andy's room.

Toy Story of Terror!
This Christmas special features the toys on a play date with some violent Battlesaurs who don't realize they're toys. Hey, these guys really need to meet Buzz Lightyear.

Toy Story: Little Golden Book Edition
There are more Toy Story kids books out there than we can possibly list here, so we're just gonna go with this one since it retells the events of the movie in the most awesome format possible—a Little Golden Book.

Articles and Interviews

Two Thumbs Up
Here's Roger Ebert's original review of Toy Story. Spoiler alert: it's a four-star classic!

Toy Story Tech
This 1995 article from Wired magazine details exactly how Toy Story was made and the computers (and people) that made it possible.

This Should Be in a Museum
Twenty years after being released, Toy Story had another moment to shine—a new exhibit in the Smithsonian Design Museum.

20 Years of Toy Story
This article looks back on the making of Toy Story twenty years later.

Voice Actors, Real Faces
Did you ever wonder what the voice actors from Toy Story actually looked like? Okay, we mean the guys who aren't named Tom Hanks or Tim Allen? Here they are in all their full-faced glory in this Buzzfeed article.


Toy Story Trailer
Watch and relive the glory of the 90s.

Toy Story: Honest Trailer
This super funny mock-trailer from Screen Junkies will have you laughing and singing along to Will Sasso's impression of Randy Newman. Seriously, just watch it.

Everything Wrong with Toy Story
You've probably seen these Cinema Sins videos detailing all the little mistakes and weird plot points in movies, but we beg to differ on this one. Ain't nothing wrong with Toy Story.

Toy Story's Cinema Secrets
A fun video about the origins of Toy Story (and the other films in the series). There's also some cool Easter eggs and famous film shout-outs you might have caught while watching. Where are your Rebel friends now?


"You've Got a Friend in Me"
Lyle Lovett and Randy Newman performing what we're gonna go out a limb and say is the best song from this movie. (No offense, other songs, you're amazing, too.)

Toy Story Jams
All the songs from our favorite movie about sentient toys.


Movie Poster
The original movie poster from the film's 1995 theatrical release. Hey, we'd see it.

Sheriff Woody: The Early Years
Some different concept art for Woody as his character morphed and changed during the development process.

A little bit of storyboard art from the early stages of the movie.

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