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Pixar, which produced short animated films to promote their computers, was approached by Disney to produce a computer-animated feature after the success of the short film, Tin Toy (1988), which is told from a small toy's perspective. Lasseter, Stanton, and Pete Docter wrote early story treatments which were thrown out by Disney, who pushed for a more edgy film. After disastrous story reels, production was halted and the script was re-written, better reflecting the tone and theme Pixar desired: that "toys deeply want children to play with them, and that this desire drives their hopes, fears, and actions". The studio, then consisting of a relatively small number of employees, produced the film under minor financial constraints.
The top-grossing film on its opening weekend,Toy Story went on to earn over $361 million worldwide. Reviews were universally positive, praising both the animation's technical innovation and the screenplay's wit and sophistication, and it is now widely considered by many critics to be one of the best animated films ever made. In addition to home media releases and theatrical re-releases, Toy Story-inspired material has run the gamut from toys, video games, theme park attractions, spin-offs, merchandise, and two sequels—Toy Story 2 (1999) and Toy Story 3 (2010)—both of which also garnered massive commercial success and critical acclaim. Toy Story was inducted into the National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" in 2005, its first year of eligibility.
Woody is a pullstring cowboy toy and the leader of a group of toys owned by a boy named Andy. With his family moving away one week before his birthday, Andy is given a week-early party to spend with his friends, while the toys stage a reconnaissance mission to discover Andy's new presents. Andy receives a space ranger Buzz Lightyear action figure, whose impressive features see him replacing Woody as Andy's favorite toy. Woody becomes resentful, especially as Buzz also gets attention from the other toys. However, Buzz believes himself to be a real space ranger on a mission to return to his home planet.
As Andy prepares for a family outing at Pizza Planet, his mother allows him to bring one toy along. Fearing Andy will choose Buzz, Woody tries to trap Buzz behind a desk, but the plan goes awry when he accidentally knocks Buzz out the window, resulting in the other toys to turn against Woody upon accusing him of eliminating Buzz out of jealousy. With Buzz missing, Andy reluctantly takes Woody to Pizza Planet, but Buzz climbs into the car, confronting Woody when they stop at a gas station. As they quarrel, the pair falls out of the van, which drives off and leaves them behind. With Buzz still believing he is a real space ranger, Woody spots a Pizza Planet delivery truck and convinces Buzz it can take him to a space port. As Woody looks for Andy at Pizza Planet, Buzz sees a rocket-shaped skill game and jumps inside, thinking it's a real spaceship. Woody clambers into the machine after Buzz, but they are interrupted when Andy's toy-abusing neighbor, Sid Phillips, arrives and operates the machine. Sid maneuvers the claw to snag Buzz, but as Woody tries to hold onto Buzz, both are collected and taken to Sid’s house.
At Sid's house, the two attempt to escape before Andy's moving day, encountering Sid’s nightmarish toy creations and his vicious bull terrier, Scud. During one attempt, Buzz sees a commercial for Buzz Lightyear action figures, and realizes that he really is a toy. Disbelieving, he attempts to prove he can fly, but instead plummets down the stairs, and his left arm breaks off. Frustrated, Buzz is unable to cooperate with Woody. After Sid’s toys repair Buzz’s arm, much to Woody’s surprise, Sid appears with plans to attach Buzz to a rocket, but a thunderstorm delays the plan. That night, Woody convinces Buzz that he can bring joy to Andy as a toy, which helps Buzz regain his spirit. The next morning, with the help of Sid’s toys, Woody rescues Buzz and scares Sid into playing with his toys properly. Woody and Buzz then return home just as Andy’s mom drives away toward their new house.
They manage to climb onto the moving truck, but Scud chases after them. As Scud tries to pull Woody off the truck, Buzz tackles Scud, leaving himself behind. Woody attempts to rescue Buzz with Andy's RC car, but the other toys, who still think Woody is eliminating fellow toys, ambush Woody and toss him off onto the road. Woody drives RC back to pick up Buzz and as they return, the other toys realize their mistake and try to help them get in the truck. However, RC's batteries become depleted, stranding them. Woody ignites the rocket on Buzz's back and manages to throw RC into the moving truck before they soar into the air. Buzz opens his wings to free himself of the rocket before it explodes, gliding with Woody to land safely into a box in the van, right next to Andy.
On Christmas Day, at their new house, Woody and Buzz stage another reconnaissance mission to prepare for the new toy arrivals. As Woody jokingly asks what might be worse than Buzz, the two share a worried smile as they discover Andy's new gift is a puppy.