Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and Jessie from "Toy Story" for an article featuring Lightyear
Many people took a trip down memory lane after seeing the trailer for "Lightyear," which will focus on Buzz Lightyear's origin story. (Illustration by Molly Posten, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ Trailer Is Here, so Let’s Look Back on Why ‘Toy Story’ Is so Amazing

News about an upcoming movie featuring everyone’s favorite space cadet just came out, so let’s remember why people loved the original film so much.

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Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and Jessie from "Toy Story" for an article featuring Lightyear

News about an upcoming movie featuring everyone’s favorite space cadet just came out, so let’s remember why people loved the original film so much.

On Oct. 27, Pixar released the teaser trailer for the “Lightyear” movie, a sci-fi origin story for the iconic Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story,” and fans everywhere are buzzing. The trailer received over 83 million views in less than 24 hours, nearly breaking the view record for Pixar film trailers, falling just below the 114 million views for “Incredibles 2.” Angus MacLane, co-director of “Finding Dory” and a sci-fi fan himself, pitched the idea based on his curiosity of what made Andy interested in the toy Buzz Lightyear in the first place.  

Fans are excited for the unique spinoff and can’t wait for the film to be released in 2022, but we cannot embrace the future without acknowledging the past. “Lightyear” would not exist without its classic source material: 1995’s “Toy Story.” At the time, the film achieved technological and artistic feats unlike anything seen in movie houses before. Let’s take a look at what made “Toy Story” the global phenomenon it is today.

It Was the First of Its Kind 

“Toy Story” was the first fully computer-generated, feature-length animation. Directed by John Lasseter, it was Pixar’s first-ever feature film. At the time, computer-generated animation was only popular in short films; Pixar found success itself through early short films such as “Tin Toy” and “The Adventures of André & Wally B.

Pixar knew that it would be taking on a huge challenge by trying to develop a feature-length film with this new technology. But when Disney approached the studio and asked it to create a film based on a small toy’s perspective, the opportunity was too good to turn down. If Pixar could pull it off, they would be breaking ground in the same way Walt Disney did by producing “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” the first feature-length, hand-drawn animation to be released in American history. 

However, it had a lot of obstacles to overcome. The Pixar team wasn’t sure if it would be able to tackle the technical aspects of the software or if audiences would even accept computer-generated animated films. At first, the animators struggled to get the complicated technology to work. Many of the artists were trained in hand-drawn and stop-motion animation and had to learn new skills as they went. Pixar even had its technologists sit down with its animators so they could help each other with the knowledge of their respective fields.  

In the end, Pixar was praised for taking on such a complicated medium; critics called it a technological achievement. Looking at it now, it would be hard to imagine the movie in a medium that doesn’t provide three-dimensional space. Historians say it was a steppingstone for the many video games, films and media to also use computer-generated animation. 

The creators acknowledged that the technology was important in helping bring the characters to life, but felt strongly that the story was vital to the film’s success — and this proved to be right. Audiences were so enraptured by the story that there were few to no complaints about the fact that it was in a completely new medium.  

It Had a Great Story 

“Toy Story” is treasured for its funny and endearing story. The main plot focuses on the relationship between Woody, an old-fashioned cowboy doll, and Buzz Lightyear, an astronaut action figure, competing for the attention of their owner, Andy. Lasseter liked to refer to it as a buddy film, essentially about two characters — Woody and Buzz — who start out butting heads but eventually find common ground through their struggles. The team drew inspiration from films with similar dynamics such as “Midnight Run,” “The Odd Couple” and “Castle in the Sky.” 

However, writing the screenplay wasn’t an easy feat. The final version we saw on screen is almost unrecognizable to the original script. Many of the “Toy Story” writers had no experience writing a feature-length screenplay, but they learned as they went. They studied the lessons of Robert McKee, whose principles were grounded in Aristotle’s “Poetics.” After getting notes from producers and feedback from test audiences, the script was worked and reworked into the masterpiece we see today.

In addition, a star-studded cast undoubtedly helped bring “Toy Story” to the next level. Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz were revered as the perfect castings. When the movie first came out, the two admitted that when they’d encounter children and start using their character voice in conversations, the kids were left in awe. The entire cast’s distinct voices brought passion and expression to each of the “Toy Story” characters. 

The movie was highly praised for its creative and emotional story and received numerous acclamations, including an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay. Critics called the story imaginative, comedic and inventive, applauding its ability to connect to both children and adults alike. Many adults admit they forgot they were watching a movie meant for children.  

“Toy Story” is often regarded as one of the best films of all time, holding a perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The Library of Congress even chose the film for preservation in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Its innovative style and story touched the hearts of millions in 1995 and it continues to do so even today. The excitement for “Lightyear” tells us just how timeless the “Toy Story” characters are. 

If “Lightyear” is well-received by audiences, the buck doesn’t have to stop there. Fans have been discussing interest in a possible Woody origin movie. If Buzz Lightyear is well on his way to having one, why not other prominent “Toy Story” characters? The original film’s fruitful work opened up interest for more experiences with its characters — the possibilities are endless. In fact, they go into infinity and beyond. 

Writer Profile

Tiffany Singh

University of Central Florida

Tiffany is a rising junior who loves to read and write. She spends her free time watching movies and playing with her dog.

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