ABC special celebrates Toy Story 20th anniversary

Jeff Pfeiffer

It was probably obvious to most who sat and watched, with jaws dropped, that they were witnessing a game-changer when Pixar’s original Toy Story first hit theaters 20 years ago during the holiday season of 1995. Pixar had, of course, done amazing short films made with computer-generated animation for years prior to that, but Toy Story represented the painstaking effort of making the very first feature-length computer-animated film. And it succeeded brilliantly — with the expert animation and engaging voice cast, including Tom Hanks and Tim Allen — in actually drawing in audiences and getting them to emotionally invest in a bunch of toys in a boy’s bedroom. The filmmakers were also wise enough to make the film enjoyable to the adults who were taking children to see it, with humor, in-jokes and references alongside the emotions and action; they did not over-focus on the technology to the point where the story and characters were forgotten, and, in fact, the clever screenplay was nominated for an Oscar.

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Pixar has certainly moved forward over the past two decades, pushing technology to the point where directors and animators can now very effectively render human characters, such as those seen in this summer’s hit Inside Out. In the wake of this, the first Toy Story may now seem somewhat rudimentary, but it’s still a classic, is a creative milestone in film history (the film won director John Lasseter a Special Achievement Award at the Oscars), and is a lot of fun. It spawned two sequels (with a third, Toy Story 4, in the works) and made Pixar a household name in family entertainment (along with inspiring other studios to go all-in on computer-animated movies).

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the film, ABC is airing Toy Story 20th Anniversary Special. The one-hour program looks at how Pixar’s early beginnings led to Toy Story. Producers, animators, technical artists, designers and some of the film’s voice talent will also discuss making the film, and its impact. Following the special, ABC will then air the original Toy Story.

Toy Story 20th Anniversary Special airs Dec. 10 at 8pm ET/PT on ABC.

Toy Story airs Dec. 10 at 9pm ET/PT on ABC.

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Disney/Pixar