Film Review: Tin Toy

by Julia DeKorte | 19 Feb 2024

Book Reviews

Tin Toy is one of the most culturally significant short films out there—one might even say that it is because of Tin Toy that we now know and love the Toy Story franchise. Tin Toy came out in 1988 and was produced by Pixar and directed by John Lasseter. The five-minute film was a risky investment, as Pixar wasn’t doing well financially. But the company’s small animation division made history with Tin Toy, using the PhotoRealistic Renderman software to create the film, and becoming the first film made using computer-generated imagery to win an Academy Award.


Tin Toy is a simple, wordless story about Tinny, a tin one-man band toy, and Billy, a human baby. When Tinny first sees Billy, he’s excited about the prospect of being played with, but when Billy starts playing with other toys—putting toys in his mouth and throwing them across the room—Tinny is scared, and starts running away from Billy, only to have Billy start chasing him.


Tinny finds refuge under the couch, where he is met by the terrified faces of all of Billy’s other toys, who are also hiding from him. But, when Billy starts to cry, Tinny has sympathy for him, and goes out to him to try and cheer him up by playing a song. Just as Billy picks up Tinny, who is terrified now, Billy spots the packaging that Tinny came in, and is much more interested in that than in Tinny himself. Frustrated, Tinny tries to get Billy’s attention, but Billy is all-concerned with the cardboard box and shopping bag.


Tin Toy debuted at the SIGGRAPH convention in 1988, and in the same year won Pixar’s first Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Tin Toy even caught the attention of Disney, who sealed a deal to create Toy Story, which was primarily inspired by elements from Tin Toy.


Watching Tin Toy really gives you an insight into where the inspiration for Toy Story came from. The idea of toys having this adorable desire to be played with, of course, the idea of toys coming alive and feeling things, and the sense of protectiveness that the toys seem to have for the children that play with them.


In 2003, Tin Toy was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” If you’re at all interested in Toy Story and the history behind the films, Tin Toy is a must watch!



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