Lightyear’s release isn’t the first time Disney has attempted to expand the Toy Story universe. A movie that effectively works like the movie the characters in those movies would watch in their own world, the movie won’t make it into our Toy Story rankings. Lightyear is the second Disney story featuring Buzz Lightyear as a functioning human being in his own cinematic galaxy. It’s the kind of story that Andy or any other character from the main Toy Story films could watch in theaters.
However, Lightyear ultimately doesn’t look much like the series kids and adults have enjoyed for nearly 30 years. Beginning in 1995 with the smash hit and groundbreaking impact of Toy Story, Pixar’s flagship franchise was visually groundbreaking, but with clever stories and compelling characters at its core. Toy Story Classified in Any Form reveals a collection of movies that still stand out. The first three Toy Story films in particular show us a series that has always stood out from the rest. The fourth movie, as well as Lightyear, doesn’t feel too terribly unique compared to most other movies made these days.
However, Toy Story as a franchise remains as culturally relevant as ever. Even though these four films span three distinct decades of entertainment history, the best qualities of these films shine through with the best animation technology available at the time. Let’s cover the highs and lows of this quadrilogy in more detail as we get into this topic.
Toy Story Ranked
4. Toy Story 4 (2019)
Director: Josh Cooley
Ranking Toy Story 4 at the bottom of any list seems odd. After all, the film is almost impossible not to like. Reviews have been almost universally positive, with many calling the charming epilogue film one of the best animated movie trilogy of all time. That’s true, given that Toy Story 4 was meant to continue the previous entry’s extraordinary task of ending a 15-year adventure on a perfect note. What else to say, even if another film nevertheless seemed inevitable. Toy Story 4 could have been just a set-up product for that likelihood.
But Toy Story 4, which puts Woody (Tom Hanks) on the hunt for Bo Peep, doesn’t feel very connected from thread to thread, with quite a few characters and stories working together. This includes Woody trying to find Bo Peep, Buzz (Tim Allen) trying to find Woody, and a new character Forky’s (Tony Hale) existential crisis. Forky alone is hilarious, with Tony Hale putting on a performance of mellow wonder and utter terror at literally everything. Toy Story 4 only suffers from being overcooked, with all those funny, insightful, and dark moments never quite coming to fruition in what’s supposed to be a single film.
The fact that Toy Story 4 has to fit so much into its absolutely stunning setting (the series’ first big-screen entry) doesn’t spoil the fun, though. The film’s best moments carry it easily, with Woody finally finding his place in the world. The relatively dramatic changes to Bo Peep, once again performed to perfection by Annie Potts, are exciting and bold changes for the character. New toys played by Keanu Reeves, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are all fun in their own way.
Toy Story 4 just doesn’t reach the first three movies because it’s both an epilogue and a transition to new characters and stories. That’s a lot for a movie to take on, and it’s worth remembering that it’s remarkable how right it is.
3. Toy Story (1995)
Director: John Lasseter
From the moment the trailers started rolling, the excitement around Toy Story was immense and arguably something special. It had a good premise, focusing on the secret life of a child’s toys, and how old favorite Woody the Cowboy handles the arrival of new favorite Buzz Lightyear, a space toy. It featured a surprisingly well-regarded and talented cast, including Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Don Rickles, Jim Varney and several others.
It’s no wonder that all of the above, including a legendary soundtrack by Randy Newman, and a deeper story beneath Woody’s desperate demand for attention and the security of a defined role and place in life, made Toy Story a huge success. Critics adored the performances, comedy, visuals, and perhaps equally enthusiastically suggested Toy Story’s potential success. Something new in the world of animation was now here to take the medium to another era. Traditional animation unfortunately suffered, but the decline was still a bit far. Toy Story should be discussed as a cultural achievement, not only in terms of success at the time of its release, but also as an essential piece of an enduring series.
How does the film itself hold up? Better than you’d think if you haven’t seen it in a while. Both Allen and Hanks are hilarious, heavily realized as compelling characters, and form one of the most satisfying friendships in movie history. It all shows, though the animation is understandably a little rougher compared to the next three entries. That probably won’t stop you from getting into everything we love about Toy Story. The toys played by Wallace Shawn, Laurie Metcalf and Pixar favorite John Ratzenberger are distinctive characters we instantly connect with. There’s also the fact that the film gave audiences in 1995 an amazing opportunity to see the full extent of what computer animation could do on the big screen. It could now definitely tell a stunning cinematic story with deep and emotional characters, engaging designs for those characters, and elaborate backgrounds.
Toy Story has an unrelenting pace of character, humor, relatable themes, and a boundless enthusiasm for showing off new technology. This is sometimes relatively simplistic, but that’s not a bad thing in this case.
2. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Director: Lee Unkrich
If this ranking was judged on the emotional weight of specific scenes, Toy Story 3 would be the clear winner. That doesn’t mean it fails as a cohesive story, or that it doesn’t rely on those specific scenes, which force Buzz, Woody, and most of the original gang members (oof) to face the very real possibility of complete oblivion, in a meaningful way.
It’s just that while Toy Story 3 is one of the best third chapters in a movie series ever made, that jump in telling a bigger story in a suitably bigger world doesn’t always work. Forcing them out of Andy’s room for good turns out to be a moving, absolutely beautiful, and necessary story to tell. It’s nearly impossible for a movie to carry such deep storytelling ambition without a few little bumps that can make some of this series’ inherent appeal now feel like an afterthought. These minor criticisms are only mentioned because when it comes to the best of this series, it’s extremely difficult to choose between this conclusion to a trilogy of stories involving the toys belonging to a boy named Andy and the movie that has finally got first place.
Toy Story 3 provides added depth to characters like Woody and Buzz. A lot of that comes from Tom Hanks and Tim Allen giving vocal performances that fit the very different approach to plot and pacing that this movie was going to have. Praise should also go to the late Ned Beatty as the toy who runs the show at the daycare center where much of the film takes place. An actor who could go from mild to downright scary with the ease of a singular talent, Beatty also gives this film a depth that makes Toy Story 3 the most emotionally complex of the four. As beautifully animated as these increasingly elaborate worlds are, the writing and acting are just as essential to the success of Toy Story 3 and beyond.
All of these reasons tell us that Toy Story at its best is truly entertainment for just about every member of the family imaginable. Toy Story’s appeal and themes are as close to universal as anything is these days.
1. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Director: John Lasseter
Toy Story 2 tops this list for telling the best Buzz and Woody story brought to screen so far. These characters and their relationship are the heart and soul of this universe at its best. It’s not as deep as some of the topics and themes explored in later films. Many of them are nicely touched upon in the Toy Story 2 story of Buzz launching a daring search and rescue mission for Woody, taken by a man who plans to sell him to a vintage toy collector in Japan. Toy Story 2 remains lighter in comparison, but it works for a series that is most charming when Woody and Buzz work together or each build on their characters in ways that are both humorous and meaningful.
Toy Story 2 also benefits from having two distinct, but equally pitiful antagonists. One is the man who thinks he made an incredible find at a garage sale organized by Andy’s mother. Voiced in Wayne Knight’s pitch-perfect, hilarious tone, he’s less likeable than Stinky Pete. One of Kelsey Grammer’s best performances, Pete is part of the same potential sale to a collector in Japan. Pete doesn’t have Woody’s house, and as such has genuine motivation to make sure Woody is on board.
You also can’t talk about Toy Story 2 without talking about Jessie. Joan Cusack’s voice acting fits perfectly with Pixar’s desire to give the sequel a nuanced new female character. The result is one of the film’s secret weapons for comedy and emotion. All of this attention to dividing time evenly between old and new characters, before bringing everyone together in a way that suggests a new family has been defined, is the greatest strength of the best Toy Story movie. The film keeps its characters and plots (Buzz’s search for Woody leads to some of the best comedic moments in any of these movies) consistently matched, raising the stakes and depth in a world that still makes sense to all. involved persons.
The ending is beautiful and well deserved, giving each character both a conclusion and the possibility of another story. If there had never been another Toy Story movie, and that’s a good thing, it would have been a charming and upbeat farewell.
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