Movie Wave Home
Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer

Composed by

* * * *

Album running time

Performed by
conducted by


Engineered by
Music Editor
Produced by

Released by
Serial number

Artwork copyright (c) 1995 Walt Disney Music Company; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Rich, energetic, fun - and great songs to boot


The world of feature animation would never be the same again after the 1995 release of Pixar's revolutionary Toy Story, the first mainstream animation to be entirely computer generated.  Of course, there are technological revolutions all the time, but what made this one so special was that it was coupled with a genuinely brilliant film with a heart.  Virtually every kids' film seems to be described by at least one person as being "just as entertaining for adults as it is for their children", but of course it is exceptionally rare that that is genuinely the case.  What John Lassetter and his team did so brilliantly was to concoct a plot and characters that would prove utterly compelling to children, while insert so many in-jokes and witticisms that their parents would be rolling around the floor in laughter.  It seems so obvious now because of Pixar's continuing success that it's somehow become difficult to imagine what a great concept it was.  Since Toy Story, Pixar has (at the time of writing this) released another four features, each of which is entirely brilliant and follows that basic concept of their first success.  

A key ingredient of the first four movies is Randy Newman's music.  Mention Randy Newman to someone in the street today and if they recognise the name, it's likely to be because of Woody and Buzz and Toy Story, so think back a decade to the time when he was known as a sardonic, cynical singer/songwriter and would quite possibly have been somewhere in the queue just behind Kim Il Sung and Slobodan Milosovic if people were to construct a list of candidates to score a children's animation.  Of course, that view of him was not really true - he had certainly written some harsh songs, but all of his best ones were truly written from the heart, and his mastery of the orchestra in various film scores (all for adult dramas) actually made him an ideal candidate.

Unlike other Disney releases to that point, Toy Story wasn't a musical, at least not in the traditional sense.  Newman did write three songs for the picture, but they are all heard sung by him rather than any characters (written though they may be from characters' perspectives).  Each of the three is terrific.  It is the opening number, "You've Got a Friend in Me", which everyone remembers, but the other two (the uptempo "Strange Things" and moving "I Will Go Sailing No More") are just as good.  The album's back cover says it is "highlighted by an unforgettable duet with Lyle Lovett", but in truth that version of "You've Got a Friend in Me" isn't a patch on Newman's solo.

As for the score, Newman adopted a Carl Stalling approach to proceedings (in technique, certainly not in sound) by musically accentuating every pitfall.  This is very much "underscore by commentary" in that listening to the music leaves you in no doubt as to what is happening in every second of every frame of the movie.  It is relentlessly energetic and so full of life, but equally it is really rather exhausting to listen to, and it becomes increasingly frustrating as the album wears on to find Newman pulling a few bars of a great idea out of the bag, only to immediately abandon it and have a few bars of something entirely different (though just as good).  Different people react in different ways to the approach, and I have to say I'm somewhere down the middle (as most BBC Radio 2 listeners are) - it's great to hear so much invention and drive from the composer, but it would be even better if a few of the ideas could have been fleshed out a little more.  There are some moments of sheer brilliance like the logo music and western pastiche music in "Andy's Birthday", the beautifully-detailed hero music in "Mutants" whose orchestration is truly sublime, the affecting "Hang Together", march-like "On the Move" and rousing finale in "Infinity and Beyond", but the music is just too formless a little too often for it to be as truly satisfying as Newman's scores for straight dramas.

That said, its impact on the film is sensational, with the composer pushing it to an even higher level.  Regardless of how the music works on an album, in the movie it is a masterstroke, and I'm sure played no small part in its success (and the same could be said of the three Pixar/Newman scores which have followed).  The album has been in print since the movie's release and has proved lucrative for all concerned.  The composer himself is to return to Pixar's world for next year's Cars (directed by Lassetter) and will no doubt bless it with his customary brilliance, just as Pixar will no doubt bless us all with theirs.  Toy Story's the one that started it all, though, and despite its vague shortcomings still makes for an entertaining and enjoyable ride of an album.

Buy this CD from by clicking here!


  1. You've Got a Friend in Me Randy Newman (2:04)
  2. Strange Things Randy Newman (3:18)
  3. I Will Go Sailing No More Randy Newman (2:58)
  4. Andy's Birthday (5:58)
  5. Soldier's Mission (1:29)
  6. Presents (1:09)
  7. Buzz (1:40)
  8. Sid (1:21)
  9. Woody and Buzz (4:29)
  10. Mutants (6:05)
  11. Woody's Gone (2:12)
  12. The Big One (2:51)
  13. Hang Together (6:02)
  14. On the Move (6:18)
  15. Infinity and Beyond (3:09)
  16. You've Got a Friend in Me Randy Newman and Lyle Lovett (2:40)