15 Years Ago, Toy Story Changed Animated Films Forever

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Toy StoryToy Story

Copyright © Walt Disney Pictures

If a mainstream animated movie were made today without computer involvement, it would be a big story — but it wasn’t so very long ago that the reverse was true. In 1991, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast made waves by integrating its hand-drawn animation with computer graphical rendering in the famous ballroom scene. When, in 1995, Toy Story became the first feature-length film entirely created using computer animation, it didn’t just make waves; it rewrote the rulebook.

Fifteen years ago today, Toy Story hit wide release and surprised pretty much everybody. The reason for this surprise wasn’t that it was innovative, though it was; it wasn’t that the visuals were gorgeous, though they were; rather, it was that it was innovative and gorgeous but also had a really good story, great dialogue, and fine voice acting. It was as though Pixar (then in collaboration with Disney, now of course owned by Disney) had snuck into the world of animated features and raised the bar so high nobody else could come close to reaching it. The film was directed and largely scripted by the great John Lasseter, with some script help from a variety of people, including a then-unknown writer named Joss Whedon.

Toy Story went on to become the highest-grossing U.S. domestic movie of 1995, beating such films as GoldenEye, Batman Forever and Apollo 13. It also holds the distinction of — until Cars 2 comes out next year — being the only Pixar film with sequels, and one of the few movies of any kind with two sequels that are at least as good as the original.

So why not pop your Toy Story DVD or Blu-ray in the player tonight, and try to banish the feeling that you’re getting old that was brought on by reading that the movie came out fifteen years ago … or is that just me?

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