5 fun facts about the making of 'Toy Story'

5 fun facts about the making of ‘Toy Story’

LOS ANGELES — Toy Story turns 20 this year, and at the top of a reunion panel at the D23 Expo on Saturday, John Lasseter knew exactly how the audience felt: “This is the session to make all of you feel really old.” Truth. But even two decades after it was born, the story of how the film — the first feature-length computer-animated movie ever — came to be, has anything but lost its luster. In case you’ve never heard it: Lasseter and his team at Pixar had been making computer-animated shorts and commercials to get their footing in the very new medium, but their eyes remained locked on the goal of making a feature-length movie. Enter Disney, who’d they had been working with on a software development, and the chance — and challenge — of a lifetime. You know it ended well, but what you may not know is some of the stuff that led up to the happy ending. Here are five key takeaways from Lasseter and Co.’s walk down memory lane: Prior to Nightmare Before Christmas, no animated film bearing the Disney name was ever made outside of Disney. But Tim Burton’s quirky effort opened their minds to the possibilities of collaborating, setting the stage for Toy Story. “Because of Nightmare Before Christmas, Toy Story happened,” Lasseter said. When Toy Story was being conceptualized, Lasseter and the team found it easiest to first discuss what they DIDN’T want — a fairytale, a movie with a bad guy who wanted to take over the world, a movie with bad guys “growing big in the third act.” (Writer and producer Andrew Stanton said he joked at the time: “Why do they name these movies after the most boring character in the film?”) Easy. But what DID they want? That was harder to decide, but said Lasseter, “I’ll never forget when we came up with the idea of a buddy picture … a buddy picture had never been done in animation before.” For inspiration, the team had to look no further than 1988’s Midnight Run, in which Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin play a bounty hunter and huntee, respectively. “We looked at that and said that’s emotional growth and that’s what we were really looking for,” Lasseter said. Yes, it’s true. The thinking on Disney’s part was that a movie with the word ‘toy’ in the title would make teenagers and adults less inclined to see the movie. Pixar held their ground. “Boy, they proved us wrong,” Stanton said, sarcastically. “Temptest from Morph to Star Command,” doesn’t quite have the same ring. Because it’s terrible. But like it or not, it was the first name given to the space hero that was set to be one half of the starring toy duo. Lee Unkrich, a Pixar old-timer who directed Toy Story 2, said the moniker was in part inspired by Temptest the game, which they were very into playing at the time. Buzz Lightyear was eventually a name thought up during a story meeting, Lasseter said. They immediately knew they had something special. One thing that was always part of the mix, though? “To infinity and beyond” — a line that was part of the short pitch video that they made for Disney, which was screened during the panel. An amazing ad-libber, Hanks was sometimes given props to play with during his voice recording sessions. One prop — a fake severed arm that Lasseter borrowed from his kids — led to the sequence where Woody plays with Buzz’s detached arm in the window. “All of that dialogue was Tom Hanks ad libbing,” Lasseter said. Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.
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Updated: August 8, 2021 — 1:29 pm