To infinity and beyond!
It is hard to believe that it is 20 years since we opened the door to Andy's bedroom and stepped inside, meeting the cast of the 1995 hit Toy Story. Spawning a multi billion dollar franchise, two sequels, three shorts and two TV specials. Buzz Lightyear and Woody show no signs of being packed away into the attic any time soon, so we couldn't be happier. Now let's start off by stating that none of the Toy Story films or their spin-offs are bad, it is just that some are better than others. Here's Woody's Roundup of which Toy Story is coming to college with you and which is going on eBay.
8. Partysaurus Rex
The latest of the Toy Story Toons series is a welcome chance for Wallace Shawn to get the screen time he rightly deserves. The scene is set as once again awkward Rex the outcast is dubbed "partypooper Rex" by ruining yet another playtime at Bonnie's house. Everything goes a bit Finding Nemo (hence its theatrical re-release alongside Nemo 3D) as Rex is introduced to the bath time toys alongside references to Godzilla and even a F.R.I.E.N.D.S. 'lobster'.
Rex's new friends turn to him to get the party started, making him the popular one when his stubby dino arms mean he is the only toy in the bathroom who can turn the fawcett on.
The problem is the short ends up more like an extended Pitbull video, overflowing with its electro soundtrack and flashy lights. It was designed by electronic artist Brian Transeau but unfortunately comes across as a late night trip in an Ibiza nightclub, explained in his interview response:
I'm in the middle of scoring a film for Pixar right now. It's a short for Toy Story, and I'm not allowed to say the whole story, but quite literally, it's like a Toy Story rave, and I'm actually not kidding either.
Rex's place as the whiny, neurotic dinosaur means he often sits towards the back of the franchise, so Partysaurus Rex whilst promising finishes more than a little wet.
7. Toy Story That Time Forgot
Shamelessly plugged by Sky in the run up to Christmas and those god awful Sky Broadband adverts, Toy Story That Time Forgot cashed in on the dino hype surrounding Jurassic World and is the second time Toy Story puts their reptile friends front and centre. This time it is Kristen Schaal's Trixie who is the focus when disappointed that new owner Bonnie never plays with her like a 'real' dinosaur. Schaal plays the kooky weirdo with ease, but can she play any other character?
On an arranged play date we are introduced to Mason's room and the fearsome 'Battlesaurs', a race of dinosaur toys similar to flop film Toy Soldiers. The Gladiator references are over done and the storyline of a kidnapped Woody and Buzz has been done to death. It was a Christmas special that didn't particularly feel that festive
Toy Story That Time Forgot was one sure fire way to cash in on some merchandise and we felt the hit! Mother's around the world could feel their skirt hems being tugged as children wanted to spend their Christmas money on Battlesaurs.
Relatively unknown guest actors such as Steve Purcell and Emma Hudak means that the new additions pale in to the background. Even Grey's Anatomy's Kevin McKidd doesn't stand out enough as Reptillius Maximus to warrant a mention. The best newcomer is the uber cute kitty Christmas decoration, Angel Kitty. Also Rex and Trixie's power suits are memorable by ensuring that for Christmas our favourite green dinosaur finally gets the arms he has always wanted. With an extended runtime you would expect more from an entirely new world, but it just misses the mark.
6. Hawaiian Vacation
One for the lovers out there, the first short, Hawaiian Vacation, sees Barbie and Ken stowaway in Bonnie's bag in the hopes of a Christmas holiday to Hawaii. Unfortunately the two end up in Bonnie's room with Woody and co., who promise the budding lovers the best vacation ever. Michael Keaton (again) steals the show as in the closet Ken and his ever expanding closet.
Whilst there are no new people to join the voice cast, we don't really mind. Toy Story's core cast are its strength and this short allows them to shine. After Toy Story 3 we worried we might not see the gang again, but director Lee Unkrich promised:
We have announced we're going to do a short film in front of Cars 2 that uses the Toy Story characters. We're going to keep them alive; they're not going away forever.
It was fantastic to see everyone again, but our only gripe is we wish that Hawaiian Vacation had been a bit longer, maybe with a Forgetting Sarah Marshall vibe. However, we can't grumble too much, the scuba diving scene is a stand out and we are also treated to the return of Spanish Buzz, the BEST addition to Toy Story 3.
5. Small Fry
Sticking it to McDonald's, the second Toy Story Toons short features Bonnie visiting an unnamed fast food corporation in the hopes of picking up a Buzz Lightyear toy.
Buzz finds himself replaced by an imposter and left behind at the restaurant. Here he joins the support group for discarded 'fun meal' toys, lead superbly by Jane Lynch as the matriarchal leader, echoing her performance in Wreck It Ralph. Once again it great to see the larger world in perspective, one of the highlights of Toy Story 2 and showing there is more to life than a kid's bedroom.
Transformer T-Bone, Beef Stewardess, Ghost Burger, Neptuna, Koala-copter and Taekwon-Doe introduce us to a world of name pun toys who (I personally) would love to see join the ranks, after all - no toy should be left behind. Sadly the mini toy version of Buzz is highly annoying and should have been chucked out with a 48 piece bargain bucket.
A welcome cameo for Emperor Zurg (albeit in Happy Meal form) isn't quite the Return of the Jedi reunion we had hoped for and we also wanted the cute little Happy Meal toys from Toy Story 3 to reappear... But they didn't. Small Fry's pop culture nods makes it the best of the Toy Story Toons.
4. Toy Story 3
Now, there is nothing wrong with Toy Story 3, in fact there is nothing wrong with any Toy Story, but it just doesn't stack up to its predecessors. A more grown up feel circles Toy Story 3 and it was supposed to close the franchise.
Andy is off to college and it is time to say goodbye to old friends and memories. A plot partially recycled from Toy Story 2, this time in reverse with Woody being saved and the other toys accidentally taken away. Noticeably absent are the likes of Bo Peep, Weezy and Etch who over the course of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 had become fan favourites. Their absence is briefly explained, but mainly thrown away like old Play Doh. Luckily it isn't long before we are introduced to a whole new world of toys at daycare centre, Sunnyside, but whilst still pining for Andy's old toys.
The opening train scene is an epic chase pulled right out of an Indiana Jones film and the homages to The Great Escape throughout Toy Story 3 provide adults with the smug nods they need to keep them entertained. In particular Teddy Newton's creepy performance as the Fisher Price Phone and Bud Lucky as Chuckles the Clown give a dark edge of humour which doesn't feel out of place.
New cast members are pushed aside by the stellar performance from Michael Keaton as Ken. It is hard to remember the series without Ken and he easily slips in as the metrosexual camp partner to Barbie. On the other hand Ned Beatty's Lots- O'- Huggin'- Bear seems to just be there to sell toys. At the end of the day it is hard to be angry at a villain who smells of strawberries and the motives of Lotso just don't quite stack up to the enemies of previous films. On a side note, look out for Toy Story's bad kid Sid who pops up as the garbageman - karma eh!
A climactic finale based in the enormous city dump will literally leave your heart in your mouth and neatly rounds off a well polished and original film with a happily ever after. Thankfully not the last, it is already confirmed that the quest for Bo Peep becomes the plot line for Toy Story 4, but we have to wait until 2018 to watch.
3. Toy Story of Terror!
Maybe it is the morbid sense of humour, or the obsession with the macabre, but Toy Story of Terror! just pips Toy Story 3 to third place. Arguably the best of the 'non-film' stories, Toy Story of Terror! is just long enough to develop a full story, without getting bogged down in the emotional baggage which slows Toy Story 3.
Set in the sinister roadside motel and following the disappearance of Mr. Potato Head, you spend the first two thirds of Toy Story of Terror! trying to find out what is after them. Ironically (and probably a first for a film) it is an [SPOILER] Iguana stalking the cast.
Admittedly the motel owner Ron is similar to Al, trying to sell the gang for his own financial game, but we will let this one slide. We get more of Joan Cusack's back story as the rugged cowgirl Jessie, showing that she isn't as tough as she makes out. It is a huge adventure for such small characters, but doesn't overwhelm them or the audience.
Buzz Lightyear's glow in the dark is put to full effect as we homage the likes of Alien, Anaconda and Bates Motel. Not necessarily one for the kids, which is probably why Toy Story of Terror! ranks so highly. For the Toy Story generation we have all reached a certain age and it is fantastic to see the directors take this into account.
2. Toy Story
The original, and the best? The birth of Buzz, Woody and the concept of talking toys had the children of 1995 checking toy boxes worldwide.
The script sees young boy Andy and his favourite toy 'Woody the Cowboy' drift apart following the arrival of Buzz Lightyear. The flashy, brass Space Ranger is Woody 2.0 and threatens his existence as not only leader of the toys, but Andy's favourite playmate. A huge cast including the likes of John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, many whom have gone on to become Pixar staples for their films. Toy Story took us "to infinity and beyond" as Buzz and Woody are forced together in dire straights when exploring the world outside the bedroom.
Born from 1988's short Tin Toy, which told a story from the perspective of a small toy, the treatment went through many different incarnations and was even once shut down. An original concept of an evil gun slinger and Lunar Larry was thankfully scrapped in favour of the story we know and love. What makes Toy Story so beloved is the moral message hidden beneath army men and Lego, it stirs the kid inside you all and takes you to a place you feel safe. Frequently dubbed one of the best animated films of all time, entered in to the National Film Registry and the first ever film to be shot using CGI. It is amazing to see how far the film industry has come, but Toy Story will always mark a milestone.
1. Toy Story 2
Where to begin, a gushing review for 95 minutes of unadulterated Pixar perfection. Toy Story 2 takes the great work that John Lasseter had directed four years earlier and stuck an extra battery in it.
Andy's favourite toy Woody the Cowboy finds himself accidentally sold at a yard sale, but realises that this simple toy has much more of a legacy than he thought as collectors item. Couple this with Buzz Lightyear's quest for an origin plus a boom in cast numbers and you are on to a winner.
Joan Cusack enters the franchise as cowgirl Jessie, becoming a welcome addition to the rest of the series, a strong female lead with more substance than Bo Peep. Kelsey Grammar's turn as the dastardly Stinky Pete completes the trio of villains alongside Wayne Knight as chubby toy collector Al and Buzz's galactic nemesis, Emperor Zurg. A Star Wars epic of stories intertwine alongside the whole message of Toy Story 2 that toys need family too.
Highlights include the setting of Al's Toy Barn and the Barbie tour which represent just how expansive the world outside of Andy's room is, helping improve on the trip to Pizza Planet from the first Toy Story. Meanwhile we are treated to a whole new world and a whole new saga specifically for Buzz and Woody - will Woody pick his new or his old family?
Seemingly ending on a high, rumours were rife that this was the end of the Toy Story franchise, thankfully it wasn't; whilst me may never again reach the highs of Toy Story 2, who's to stop Pixar trying?
Which is your favourite Toy Story? Sound off below.