R.I.P. Steamboat Willie. In 1995 this might as well have been the working title for Toy Story, as Disney, with its talking-toy flick, made the much-touted leap from hand-drawn to computer-generated animation. Like an old pair of wingtips with a spit-shine, Toy Story and its sequel have been revamped in 3D for a two-for-one walk back to a time when animated plastic toys suddenly looked really, really plastic. Though audiences are too spoiled by all the digital flicks released in years since to sit in awe of the gleam on Woody’s head, they can at least still enjoy Woody’s comic misadventures and witty one-liners.
Unlike recent 3D releases, the first two Toy Stories weren’t filmed with 3D effects in mind. Nothing floating in the foreground or lunging out toward theater seats here. What 3D does offer in this case is a sense of clarity similar to high definition. Already the images were razor sharp, so it’s sort of like cranking your amp to 11.
The real appeal of the films lies in their timelessness. The toys could easily be strewn across the playroom floor today or 40 years ago, and the plots are sure to remain relevant for as long as there are, well, toys. In the first, Woody “accidentally” knocks new rival Buzz Lightyear out a window and into the clutches of the toy-torturing boy next door. Lesson? Value your toys. In the second, a collector nabs Woody to sell to a Japanese museum, prompting Buzz to lead the rescue party. Lesson? Toys are meant to be played with.
Outshining any visuals are the spot-on vocalizations of Tom Hanks (Woody) and Tim Allen (Buzz). Hanks’s plaintive, everyman charm strains against Allen’s hyper-masculine, hyper-confidant rumble in a battle for playroom supremacy. Both will resume their roles for next summer’s Toy Story 3.