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'Toy Story:' A high-tech treat

November 22, 1995
Web posted at: 7:15 p.m. EST

From Movie Reviewer Carol Buckland

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(CNN) -- Fans of toys, 'toons and cutting-edge technology are likely to love the new animated flick, "Toy Story." Released by Disney (which clearly lent its marketing genius to the proceedings), it was made by the digital dreamers from Pixar, a Bay Area studio which is justifiably famous for its innovative animated shorts and all-out original commercials.

The movie starts with a cute-yet-cool concept. That is, that toys are sentient beings. Their mission in "life" is to be played with. Behind closed doors -- i.e., when their little owners aren't around -- they fight with and befriend each other and even hold meetings on things such as "plastic-erosion awareness."

The story line is basically a buddy bonding plot. There's Woody, the old-fashioned cowboy with a pull-string who's been the favorite toy of a young boy named Andy for a long, long time. Onto the scene comes Buzz Lightyear, an astro-adventurer with a laser who doesn't even realize he's a plaything. Buzz quickly supplants Woody in Andy's affections. Woody plots against him and ends up alienating all his toy colleagues. Several plot twists ensue, leading Woody and Buzz to form an alliance. By the end of the movie ... well, you can probably figure out what happens.(655K QuickTime movie)

Tom Hanks voices Woody, and he's wonderful. Tim Allen is marvelous as Buzz, particularly in the scenes when his character discovers the "truth" about his toy nature. Don Rickles is a hoot as a cranky Mr. Potato Head, and Wallace Shawn is sweetly neurotic as the voice of a scaredy-cat T. Rex. Annie Potts is rather wasted as the romantically inclined Bo Peep. My biggest complaint about this movie is that it's very much a "guy" flick. Girls don't get much screen time.

There are several inspired scenes. My favorite (apparently the result of a brainstorming session between the Disney and Pixar folks) has Buzz and Woody trapped in one of those select-a-toy claw games with a bunch of little green space guys. I also greatly enjoyed the climax of Woody's efforts to thwart the toy-abusing kid named Sid who lives next door to Andy.

Toy story poster

Visually, this picture is a knockout. It puts stuff on screen NOBODY'S ever seen before. It's a 3-D cartoon that's "realer" than real. You feel as though you can reach out and feel the textures. There's the China-doll sheen of Bo Peep, the molded plastic finish of the T-Rex, and a tiny troop of khaki green soldiers, to say nothing of the space-age sleek of Buzz Lightyear. The fakiness of the humans (they look rather spongy) in the story aside, this cyberspace "cartoon" is remarkable.

There are a couple of songs by Randy Newman. They are servicable tune-wise and feature some slyly sardonic lyrics.

In terms of technology alone, this is a movie that would make people stand up and take notice. Fortunately, though, those involved in making "Toy Story" realized that a truly memorable flick requires more than flash and special effects. This picture has humor. And heart. And ... dare I say it? Humanity!

One warning to parents. This movie may be dangerous to your wallet. "Toy Story"-related merchandise is coming soon (like tomorrow) to a mall near you.

"Toy Story" is rated G. The notion that toys are "alive" may be a bit unsettling for little kids, although the animation probably will keep reminding them that this is not the "real" world. The nasty stuff involving the toy-abusing Sid is a trifle scary, too, particularly when his cannibalized playthings appear to menace Woody and Buzz. While nearly all the youngsters at the screening I attended enjoyed this movie, two tiny tykes became very frightened by the bad toys and had to be taken out of the theater.

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