A little tin wind-up one-man-band toy is on the floor of a house when a diaper-clad baby (named Billy) toddles in. The toy is delighted to see the baby, until it watches the baby start gnawing on a plastic ring. Fearing a similar fate, the toy runs for cover—but not for long.
Tin Toy was the third animated film created by Pixar. At the time it was uncertain whether Pixar would actually be an animation studio or a computer company that sold animation computers. The first two Pixar shorts had cost the company a lot of money and some people at Pixar wanted to leave animation behind and concentrate on the software. Lasseter's short won an Oscar, and the idea of toys coming to life later led to the first computer-animated feature film, Toy Story.
Tin Toy provides examples of:
- Chekhov's Gun: The box the toy came in is seen in the opening shot. At the end, the baby picks up the box to play with and forgets about the toy.
- Conscience Makes You Go Back: The toy has made it to safety under the couch, but the baby falls down and starts to cry. The conscience-stricken toy then emerges from under the couch so the baby can play with it.
- Credits Gag:
- The credits roll includes "Babies John Looked At A Lot".
- "No portion of this movie, including its soundtrack, may be reproduced in any manner or we won't be your friends anymore."
- Gonk: The baby is terrifying. It's one of the most famous cases of the Uncanny Valley in animation. This was due to limited technology in the new field of computer animation. It does however work in the context of the film, as the toy flees from the terrifying child.
- Humans Are Cthulhu: The baby is this to all the toys, who are all hiding under the couch, cringing with fright.
- Kids Prefer Boxes: The joke at the end, when the baby sets the toy aside and starts playing with the toy's box.
- Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: Standard for Pixar shorts.
- Oh, Crap!: The toy has this reaction when the baby bites down hard on the ring.
- One-Man Band: What the little tin toy is, a wind-up one man band.
- Shout-Out: The Price Is Right can be heard in the background in another room.
- The Stinger: After the credits finish the other toys start coming out from under the couch, looking for the baby.