Toy Story

SF elements

toys’ secret lives
  1. Toy Story (1995)
  2. Toy Story 2 (1999)
  3. Toy Story 3 (2010)
  4. Toy Story 4 (2019)


Toy Story
[Woody and Buzz]

To infinity … and beyond!

Andy gets a new toy – Buzz Lightyear – and neglects his favourite – Woody the cowboy – for a while. Woody is jealous of Buzz – and Buzz doesn’t yet realise he is not a space ranger, but just a toy!

That’s not flying: that’s falling with style.

Brilliant animation, wonderful storyline.

Rating: 2.5

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]


Toy Story 2
[toys playing with toys]

It’s a fact of life: sequels are always poorer than the original (except when the original is so dire the sequel can’t help but be better). Until now. Toy Story was great – Toy Story 2, funnier, more poignant, cleverer, surpasses it.


Woody gets stolen by a toy collector – he already had Woody’s horse Bullseye, cowgirl Jessie, and prospector Stinky Pete; now he has the complete set, and is selling it for a small fortune to a Japanese museum. The others in the set are deliriously happy about being released from storage, and welcome Woody with open arms. Meanwhile, Buzz organises the other toys on a rescue mission. But Woody is quite taken with the idea of being so valuable – he discovers he’s Sheriff Woody, with his own 1950s TV series Woody’s Roundup, and even merchandising! So he’s not that keen on being rescued…

[Woody, Bullseye, and Jessie]

Woven into this quite straightforward rescue/chase plot is loads of great detail, and some quite deep questions about loyalty and friendship. Highspots are: the toys crossing the road; the scenes in the toy shop (the Barbie party; the shelves full of Buzz Lightyears; the book about defeating Zurg; …); the references to the previous film (when Buzz tells Woody “you’re a toy”; the attitude of the other Buzz; …); the references to "real life" (the climax in the fight between Buzz and Zurg; the style of Woody’s Roundup; the digs at merchandising; …); oh, and just about every other moment, too.

[crossing the road]

The choice confronting Woody – on the one hand, being a currently well-loved kid’s toy who will inevitably be abandoned in a few years, and condemning his new friends to years in storage, and on the other hand being preserved in a glass case in a museum, admired, but no longer loved by a child – is quite real and difficult. Many live-action “grown-up” films could benefit from this degree of depth and characterisation.


And before the film even starts we get a treat: the famous short of Luxo junior playing with the ball. [It just better be on the video release, too.] What this demonstrates, in about a minute, is what makes Pixar so great – not just the brilliant animation – but the great story-telling. These people can give emotions, feelings, and character to an anglepoise lamp!

Rating: 2

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 12 March 2000

2010 / DVD

Toy Story 3
[welcome to kindergarten]

This just keeps getting better and better. How do Pixar do it?

Andy is now 17, and off to college. The long feared day arrives: what will happen to his toys? Through a series of misadventures, they end up donated to a kindergarten, believing that Andy was dumping them. They decide to settle into their new life, loved by the youngsters. But they discover all is not as it seems, and that a sinister presence rules over the toys there. But how can they escape, and where to?

Pure brilliance. The plot is complicated, the problems real (as mentioned in Toy Story 2), and the denouement thrilling. As before, as well as a great plot, there are tons of great details, too. There’s always something happening, some clever little scene, some detail that builds on the fact that these are toys. Barbie and Ken’s dream house; Buzz in Spanish; Mr Potato/Tortilla/Cucumber Head; the Claw. Brilliant.

Rating: 2

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed25 December 2010

2019 / DVD

Toy Story 4
[Woody introduces Forky to the other toys]

The Toys are no longer with the adult Andy, but with young Bonnie. Woody is no longer Top Toy; he’s often left in the cupboard during play sessions, but is still struggling to do right by his kid. So when Bonnie goes to her first day at school, Woody goes with her. Bonnie makes herself a toy, Forky, from supplies Woody covertly gives her from the rubbish bin.

Forky is not the sharpest spork in the drawer, and Woody has to make sure Bonnie doesn’t lose him. This is harder than it looks, and on a road trip when Woody goes to retrieve a wandering Forky, they are accidentally left behind. As they try to find Bonnie again, Woody encounters some creepy dolls in an antiques store, and also meets Bo Peep, the love of his life who was given away nine years earlier. Since then she has become a tough independent toy, with no child owner. Will they all be able to survive, and find Bonnie again?

This is another great entry in the Toy Story series. It has bags of charm, clever set pieces, creepiness, wit, and deep moral questions about the right thing to do and how to live a good life.

Rating: 3

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 23 May 2020

2000 / DVD

[DVD cover]
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command

In Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear thinks he is a Space Ranger, with a laser cannon in his arm, and able to fly, not just fall with style. And here in this feature length beginning of the TV cartoon series, he is all that, battling to save the Galaxy from the Evil Emperor Zurg.

On the surface, this is a straightforward TV cartoon, if rather better animated than much current TV fare. But it is witty, self-mocking, with some clever touches, and some great little references back to the Toy Story films. So, mind candy. But good mind candy.

Rating: 4

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed8 July 2001