Top Ten Facts You May Not Have Known About Toy Story

23 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Best idea wins': how Pixar grew up.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Disney/Pixar’s legendary Toy Story, and that means more than two decades of toy bro code — with Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), of course — a slew of neat characters and animated fun for all. The adventurous story about Woody, Buzz Lightyear and their toy pals essentially reinvented the wheel, thanks to director John Lasseter’s vision for computer animation.It was the first Pixar film, the first entirely computer generated animated feature and the first animated flick to garner an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay.

On November 22, it will be exactly 22 years since the American release of Pixar’s Toy Story, the world’s first computer-generated (CG) feature film. That technological advancement, coupled with the film’s box office success at over $350 million worldwide and three Academy Awards nominations, reshaped the future and potential of the animation world. By the time “Toy Story 3” rolled around, it collected $1 billion in ticket sales, becoming the highest-grossing animated film at the time (now trumped by “Frozen”).

And movie producers aren’t ready to put the money-making franchise to bed as “Toy Story 4” — which follows a romance between Woody and Bo Peep — is set for a 2018 release. The years in between have seen the studio grow from a scrappy, little-known operation to the most celebrated animation house in the world, possibly even the most celebrated movie studio of our time. Its success sent the studio stratospheric, leading to the release of not only two Toy Story sequels, but also A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo.

Even if it weren’t the first film in a new era of animation, and the inaugural film of the now gigantic, beloved Pixar, Toy Story would still be — and still is — a fantastic movie. A Reddit post believes the dad was killed in the line of duty, thereby creating Andy’s deep attachment to Woody and Buzz — male toys that represent law enforcement. “If there was a dad in ‘Toy Story,’ the boy would not have had such a need for a doll who represents a kind of authority figure, like Buzz,” Matthew Luhn, Pixar story supervisor, told the Jerusalem Post. At an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences event in Los Angeles held in May, the animation legend pointed to Toy Story as an example of a breakthrough film. Lasseter famously turned Katzenberg down, explaining, “I can go to Disney and be a director or I can stay here and make history.” The Disney executive settled for the next best thing: a movie deal with Pixar, the first of which would be Toy Story. I’ve literally seen this movie hundreds of times, because as a toddler I used to watch the movie every single day without exception for a year, as my mom recently reminded me.

Luckily, backed by an all-star voice cast including Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz) and John Ratzenberger (Hamm), the film hit all the right notes, winning over millions of children’s’ hearts, and solidifying it as modern day classic. However, the original script wasn’t quite so loveable, with Woody originally being written as a ventriloquist dummy who was both creepy and evil, Hanks at one point describing him as a “jerk”. And Woody (Tom Hanks), originally conceived as a ventriloquist’s dummy, was changed to a cowboy, an idea Lasseter supported because he liked the juxtaposition of the sci-fi and Western genres. Initially the company made computers; when that venture proved unsuccessful, it moved into creating CG animation for commercials, hiring ex-Disney animator John Lasseter. But Toy Story proved technology could help innovate traditional animation. “You only have one chance to make a first impression,” he said. “Toy Story was the number one film of that year, 1995.

After changing Woody into the kind cowboy we know today, as well as changing Buzz’s name from Tinny, the film finally went into the animating process, bringing Pixar’s film to life. Maybe Sarah McLachlan has just sung on way too many ASPCA commercials but crying when one hears her voice is pretty much like Pavlov’s dog at this point. But neither side liked that version, especially its lead character, Woody, who tyrannized the other toys. “It was a movie filled with the most unhappy, mean characters I’d ever seen,” Lasseter said of that early draft. There are lots of silly, loud moments, lots of colourful characters and of course the whole movie revolves around toys, so there’s an entire line of merchandising that comes alongside it (all of which I still own somewhere, probably). Still, there’s some serious emotion involved when Jessie, the yodeling cowgirl who seems to be pretty chipper most of the time, reveals to Woody how her owner Emily grew up, traded her dolls and lunchboxes for a bunch of makeup supplies, and ultimately ditched Jessie in a donation box.

While it may have received its US and Canadian release in November 1995, the UK and the majority of the world wouldn’t get to see the toys’ adventure until March the following year. At that point, “they gave us two weeks,” Lasseter recalled to Britain’s Guardian in 2009. “At that point we just said: ‘Let’s ignore what they’ve been telling us and make the movie we want to make.’ We came back in two weeks and they were shocked.” In the new script, Woody was written less mean and more magnanimous. (That’s probably for the best, because it’s hard to imagine Hanks playing a despot.) Pixar’s animators, also keen to be part of history, struggled to give the Toy Story world “a sense of history” with banged-up doors and scuffed floors. It has been confirmed that a fourth Toy Story film – also to be directed by Lasseter – is in the works, with Hanks revealing how he got told off by Disney for telling journalists that another film was being made.

The team was small and you could wander around and see what everyone was doing, from the animators to the technical directors, Brannon says, which made the film a more collaborative experience — like a “college campus.” Another one of the highlights was the richly talented voice cast, which included Tim Allen, Don Rickles and Tom Hanks, whom Brannon calls an amazing actor. “The story was so compelling and perfectly structured, I’m still in awe,” he says. “You can take animation and create a layered story that works on one level for kids, and on another level for grown-ups. While Hanks may be credited as having voiced the Sheriff throughout every film, in an interview recently he admitted that his brother sometimes steps in at the last moment.

The points it makes about friendship, about moving on, about growing up, and about change, are surprisingly honest and not sugar-coated for a young audience. A bevy people are offended by the character’s outlandish representation of the transgender community, with many of them signing an online petition to boycott the movie. “Cumberbatch’s character is clearly portrayed as an over-the-top, cartoonish mockery of androgyne/trans/non-binary individuals,” wrote the petition’s creator, Sarah Rose.

The online plea also questioned the movie’s decision to cast Cumberbatch instead of an actor that is actually non-binary, meaning they don’t necessarily identify as male or female. “By hiring a (non-trans) actor to play a non-binary individual in a clearly negative way, they film endorses harmful and dangerous perceptions of the queer community at large,” Rose wrote. “Really wanted to like the Zoolander 2 trailer but the seemingly transphobic Benedict Cumberbatch character left a bad taste,” tweeted a user named Joel Jessup. Students studying animation are required to watch it in their animation history classes, and a variety of them take courses in CG animation to learn the basics. “I think people see it as a seminal film,” Burnett, who has been working at CalArts since 2009, said. “It was also a turning point in the animated filmmaking medium, it really sparked a shift in terms of how major motion pictures are made both in terms of animated films but also in terms of live action films that incorporate visual effects. Toy Story 2 is just as great, if not a slight improvement upon the first, a feat almost unheard of in the sequel business, let alone one aimed at the family audience. More recently, 2010’s Toy Story 3 perfectly paralleled the growing-up of its original audience and definitely got you choked up, unless, of course, you’re a liar.

And it said, ‘Why don’t you just make it for us?’ That opened the door for Disney to think of these ‘niche’ animated films that could be done.” After Pixar won its first Oscar for the short Tin Toy, about a wind-up toy being terrorised by a toddler, Ed Catmull pitched to Disney the idea of making a 30-minute television special based on it. Catmull: “Peter Schneider [the producer of Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast] said to me, ‘If you can do a half-hour, you can do 70 minutes.’ So I thought about it for about one nanosecond – like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ ” Lasseter: “We knew what computer animation could do.

Humans were by far the most difficult to create, so we told the story from the toys’ point of view.” Andrew Stanton director: Finding Nemo: “[Originally it was] sort of a Rip Van Winkle story. This little tiny toy gets left on the side of the road at a rest stop and goes on a road trip to find his owners, and he bumps into this hand-me-down ventriloquist’s doll who tries to help him. It was very convoluted, but we thought it was great at the time.” Christine Freeman Pixar archivist: “There are so many different iterations of what Buzz and Woody might have looked like. In the archive we have boxes of ‘Pointy Nose Woody’, ‘Big Hair Buzz’, ‘Scary Woody’… We have a lot of artists’ good taste to thank for the film we saw.” Lasseter: “Every film we’ve made from Toy Story onward has had some point in development where the story just isn’t working. It was hard to believe in him as the most popular toy in the bedroom.” Freeman: “There are characters that didn’t make it: a fox puppet and a floppy puppy, a tiger teething ring.

As great as it looked [at the time] it was a little rough around the edges by today’s standards.” Toy Story was a huge hit, making some £240 million worldwide. I remember standing outside the restaurant afterward and he said, ‘John, at Apple the lifespan of a computer is maybe three years; after five years it’s a doorstop. Then we could have faded from existence and that would have been the end of Pixar.” Lasseter: “It was really with the second movie that it was different. We had Pete Docter [Director of Monsters Inc., Up and Inside Out], we got Brad Bird [Director of The Incredibles] in and started building a studio where multiple filmmakers made movies. We lost control of it.” They assembled The Brain Trust, the pet name for the original Pixar filmmakers: Lasseter, Unkrich, Docter, Stanton and Joe Ranft, a beloved story supervisor who sadly died in a car crash in 2005.

Stanton: “Getting together in the room again, thinking like Toy Story filmmakers, sort of unlocked these ideas…that would never have come up if we hadn’t all worked and think-tanked together on the first one.” [To Infinity and Beyond] Unkrich: “I remember something said by Steve Jobs…There was a point where we thought we’d figured the story out and could do to it, we just didn’t think we had enough time…We all had to collectively hold hands and gulp and do it. The idea is to make an original film every year and a sequel every other year.” Lasseter: “When any other company has a hit it madly starts developing a sequel to capitalise on it. We’re not conforming so well to the Hollywood sequel model.” Unkrich: “If you look at the movies Pixar makes you don’t see any other studio taking those chances. Newt, announced in 2008, was due to be a romantic comedy about two newts who were the last of their kind and brought together to mate, which they were not keen to do.

I think we’re just more resilient to the pain and know it comes with the territory.” Lasseter: “We’re always challenging the story…We have a discipline that every 12-16 weeks we watch the movie’s story reels in a theater. Peter Sohn: “All Pixar movies begin with a ‘What if?’ The Good Dinosaur started with, ‘What if the meteor that killed the dinosaurs missed?’ In the film they became this very agrarian society. On Good Dinosaur it was big and we reworked the whole story based on the original concept.” Lasseter: “The one fundamental difference between now and when we started on Toy Story is experience.

It’s all trying to get to the best story possible.” Unkrich: “The world will never know the specifics of what [The Good Dinosaur] went through to get to where it is, but I do and I’m especially proud of knowing the challenges that it had.” Pixar has announced a release schedule up to 2020. Lasseter: “What’s really special about Pixar is that it’s a film-driven studio and every movie is original, every movie is coming from a small group of filmmakers. On that side it hasn’t changed all that much.” Denise Ream producer: Cars 2, The Good Dinosaur: “I think everyone’s excited to see what comes from this new generation. To be honest, women had been coming up through the tracks that would take them to directing, [but] we haven’t had a huge number in the animation business.

But we need to do a better job with it.” Following his last directing job on 2011’s Cars 2, John Lasseter will be returning to filmmaking with Toy Story 4 in 2018. Nobody at Pixar, nobody at Disney, because we didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up…” Morris: “I know that in the age of new media this sounds a little old-school, but we just want to keep making cool movies that people want to see.

They’re big films but they’re ultimately personal stories.” Lasseter: “I remember I had this great opportunity once to meet a family whose grandmother was a cel painter on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs all those years ago. That’s the way I want the families of anyone who works on our movies to feel one day.” To Infinity and Beyond: The Making of Pixar Animation Studios, Karen Paik; Entertainment Weekly, John Young, 2011; Entertainment Weekly, 1995; cnet.com, Richard Nieva, 2015; LA Times, 2015, Susan King; The Verge, Bryan Bishop, 2015

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