Despite holding parallel careers as one of the best songwriters of modern times and as an accomplished film composer, Randy Newman was a wildcard choice to pen the score for Pixar’s landmark 1995 animated film, Toy Story. From the late 60s, Newman had made a name for himself as a writer of songs steeped in irony and satire; he may have been capable of moments of tenderness and melodic beauty, but he wasn’t the most obvious option for a children’s movie. However, as You’ve Got A Friend In Me – the Toy Story franchise’s theme song – has proven, he was the perfect fit.
Listen to the best of Randy Newman here.
“He would deliver the emotional underpinning for every scene”
Released on 22 November 1995, Toy Story was no ordinary kids’ film. It was the first entirely computer-animated feature-length movie, and the debut feature from the Disney-affiliated Pixar Animation Studios. First-time director John Lasseter sensed a chance to make a different kind of animated film, with jokes designed to appeal to an adult audience, and an emotional resonance that had been missing in traditional animation. Lasseter knew it would require songs a cut above the usual fare in terms of sophistication, as he told Entertainment Weekly in 1995: “[Newman’s] songs are touching, witty and satirical, and he would deliver the emotional underpinning for every scene.”
Newman delivered three songs for the film, as well as the instrumental score. Strange Things was a jaunty, comic song reflecting toy cowboy Woody’s feelings on his owner’s shiny new toy – a spaceman called Buzz Lightyear. I Will Go Sailing No More was a bittersweet lament that soundtracked Buzz’s realisation that he was a mere doll, rather than a genuine spaceman. But it was You’ve Got A Friend In Me, a warm-hearted song that offers reassurance in the face of mounting difficulties, which became the film’s main theme. In the movie, it was about the relationship between Woody and his owner, Andy, but the song’s theme was universal enough for it to be applied to different character relationships throughout the Toy Story franchise – and to viewers’ real-world lives, too.