A quarter of a century is a long time but the characters of Toy Story have aged very well since the first film was released in November 1995. This toy store in Auckland reports that sales of Toy Story characters are booking, even after all these years. Of course, the fact that the original spawned three wildly successful sequels might have something to do with Toy Story’s unmoving place in the world’s consciousness.
If anything, Toy Story is even more popular now than it was then. Toy Story 4 broke global box office records for an animated film and in America, the heart of movieland, it generated box office revenue of USD $ 434 million by December 2019, making it the highest-earning domestic movie in the series.
That’s not to say that the original was a box office slouch. In America, Toy Story became the highest-grossing domestic film of 1995, with this achievement looking even more impressive when you look at some of its competition from that year: Apollo 13, Batman Forever, Pocahontas, Casper and the James Bond film, Goldeneye. Soon after its release, it became the third highest-grossing animated movie of all time, behind Lion King and Alladin, and when adjusted for inflation, Toy Story is Number 96 on the highest-grossing domestic films.
If that’s not enough, Toy Story is in the Guinness Book of Records as being the first feature-length computer-animated movie ever made, and it is the first animated movie to have been nominated for an Academy Award for Original Screenplay. (The Oscar went to The Usual Suspects).
Toy Story’s appeal – both the original and the sequels – comes down to the fact that it is something kids and adults can both enjoy. For a start, the original movie’s audience who were kids in 1995 has grown up with the film and are now taking their own kids to see the sequels. As animation becomes more common, grown-ups now see this sort of film as more than a cartoon for kids, and the series addresses what we could call “adult themes”. For example, Toy Story 3 from 2010 is an absolute tear-jerker when the toys’ original owner, Andy Davis, leaves them behind and heads to college. Just like we all do, the toys must face the fact that they’re aging and that their youth has gone. As the New York Times put it: the toys “suddenly feel the obsolescence of retirement, the pains of old age, the anxiety of death’s approach.”. Hardly kids stuff!
Children get a kick out of Toy Story too, of course. All those beloved toys they play with spring into life on the big screen – but there will come a time when they, just like Andy Davis, will move on and leave those toys behind. Or will they? Toy Story is an enduring classic and so is the cast – they’d be hard for anyone of any age to leave behind and gather dust on the shelf.