By 1995, Disney had churned out countless critically acclaimed animated features, but Pixar—then a small animation company—sought to bring something different to Disney’s wide audience. This is when Toy Story was born. It was the first fully computer-generated animation film that would lead the way for the cavalcade of features the company would eventually produce. From the storytelling to brilliant characters, Toy Story set a new industry standard for creativity in animation.
The production was anything but smooth. It took countless hours, days and weeks to produce only mere minutes of the feature. Many viewers are unaware that the challenging production resulted in several changes in casting, design and story. Knowing these facts add a new level of appreciation for what Toy Story would eventually become.
It’s hard to believe that there were other iterations of Buzz Lightyear, but the lovable astronaut was actually much different when his concept was first dreamed up. In early designs of the character, Buzz actually had a red space suit and went by the name “Lunar Larry.” In addition to his name and design, Buzz had a much different character, too. In early drafts of the Toy Story script, Buzz was well-aware of the TV show that he was based off of, mentioning it in the most meta ways imaginable.
Buzz was a far cry from the lovable, yet delusional, spaceman that we would all eventually grow to love. Thankfully, what became of Buzz Lightyear was a classic pairing of a brilliant character and incredible voice work by Tim Allen.
Like Buzz Lightyear, Sheriff Woody was a much different cowboy in the early days of Toy Story’s production. Woody was unlikable, bitter, bossy and was even once imagined as a large ventriloquist dummy. He spent most of the film bossing around the other toys in Andy’s room and even went so far as to try kill off his adversarial astronaut, Buzz Lightyear. The execs at Disney hated what they were shown and were baffled that this was the kind of story Pixar was trying to sell to them. The script and story of the film was a disaster and Pixar did double-duty to try and turn it around to save their burgeoning company.
Eventually, Woody became a much more likable cowboy and has held a special place in all of our hearts ever since.
During the '90s, Tom Hanks was churning out roles in hit movies as often as Woody finds a snake in his boot. Similar to Hanks, Woody (the sheriff of Andy’s room) was one very busy cowboy. Luckily for Woody, he had two members of the Hanks family helping him out along the way. In an interview with Graham Norton in 2011, Hanks was asked if the sound coming from a Woody doll was, in fact, his voice. Hanks replied, “No, it’s my brother Jim.”
If you take a peek at Jim Hanks’s IMDB page, it is clear that he has done his fair share of voice acting. Sheriff Woody was lucky to have two dads to help him out with his busy schedule.
Pixar has become well-known for their clever Easter eggs—a trend that began all the way back in their first film, Toy Story. In the scene where Woody addresses the toys from Andy’s room, a bookshelf can be seen behind him with several curiously named books. One of the books is titled Tin Toy, which was the name of the short film that would eventually become Toy Story. There are also several other titles from other Pixar shorts of the time. Several Pixar employees’ names could be seen on the book spines, too.
Pixar’s affinity for Easter eggs has caused things like the Pizza Planet truck and the famous blue and yellow ball from Andy’s room to show up in nearly all of the films following Toy Story.
Up until the release of Toy Story, Disney animated features had become redundant in the way that they told stories. That’s not to say that films like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and the Little Mermaid weren’t box office smash hits, but Pixar began imagining a different way to tell a story.
Pixar saw a film that had protagonists with an abundance of shortcomings to make them more interesting than the perfect leads that audiences had come to know all too well. Pixar also sought to make villains more complex and have the final act of the film be much deeper than the giant villain battle that they had devolved into.
Before Toy Story became the highest grossing film of 1995, the original short, Tin Toy, was shown to Disney and was a disaster that almost lead to the cancellation of the film. Following that, Joss Whedon, who was hot off the heels of the success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was tasked to rework the messy script.
Once Whedon got a hold of the script, he turned the script into the movie that we all fell in love with. He added more humans, more heart and even created the lovable fan favorite character, Rex the dinosaur. Without Whedon, Toy Story would have never become the success that it is—and that would have stopped Pixar’s existence in its tracks.
To say that Toy Story is one of the most consistent and successful film franchises is simply an understatement. The only film of the trio to carry below a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes is Toy Story 3, which comes in close with its 99%. In most cases, sequels rarely maintain the critical approval of the original, but Toy Story’s predecessors evolved the franchise, taking it to new and exciting places, while also staying true to the core values of the characters.
Each sequel added new characters that felt like they belonged in the world, rather than just being profitable marketing ploys. Toy Story 4 is set to release in 2019. Will the fourth installment maintain the critical approval of its predecessors? We have a feeling it will.
It wasn’t odd for characters to break out into song every 15-20 minutes in any Disney movie released in the '90s, but Pixar’s idea of a children’s movie was much different than what Disney had become. The burgeoning company decided, instead, to focus on strong character-driven narratives, rather than repetitive song and dance numbers. All Disney films need music, though. This is where Randy Newman came into the picture, providing an iconic soundtrack that went behind some of the sweetest and most heart-wrenching moments of the film.
Disney was thrilled with the success of Toy Story and the film’s soundtrack. And Pixar movies remain a safe haven for fans of children’s movies that prefer characters to not constantly break out into song.
When you think Pixar, you think about the “Luxo Ball” or the “Luxo Jr.” lamp that have become iconic parts of the animation studio. While the ball and lamp are nice, they have nothing on the Pizza Planet truck that has appeared in nearly every Pixar movie that followed Toy Story. The Pizza Planet truck is a beat up 1978 Gyoza Mark VII, which has made appearances in A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, Cars, Brave and Wall-E (just to name a few).
If you blinked, you could miss most of these brief Pizza Planet truck appearances, but it’s no doubt that it has become just as iconic as any ball or lamp in the Pixar universe.
When audiences got their first look at the Barbies partying in the aisles of Al’s Toy Barn in Toy Story 2, it made them wonder what took so long for this match-made-in-heaven to play out on the silver screen. The reason for Barbie’s conspicuous absences from the first Toy Story movie is simple. Mattel, the toy juggernaut behind Barbie and countless other wildly successful toy lines, turned down the offer because they didn’t want Barbie to have an identifiable character. Instead, they wished to leave Barbie's personality to the imaginations of the consumer.
Mattel eventually did a complete 180 once they saw the success Toy Story had become, which ultimately led to Barbie playing a huge role in the eventual sequel.
Toy Story went through many iterations before it finally made its way to the silver screen. From the way the characters acted, to the way toys looked, everything was a work in progress until the wheels went into motion on this giant production. One major change that occurred was the film’s name. The original title was You Are a Toy, which doesn’t quite have the same ring as the title that Pixar would eventually end up with.
While You Are a Toy didn’t catch on as a title for the movie, it did become one of the most iconic lines that Woody would scream at Buzz in their memorable clash under the Pizza Planet truck.
Animating a children’s movie can be—and this is putting it nicely—an extremely tedious process. This is why the animators often choose to play tricks and leave odd Easter eggs for viewers to wonder about for years to come. Disney animators have become notorious for the “questionable” content that they slip into beloved movies like Aladdin and The Lion King, but Pixar has taken a different approach to its Easter egg placement.
As it turns out, the green soldiers doing the recon work for Andy’s birthday bear a resemblance to several of Pixar’s animators. The animators even went as far as to nail their feet to wooden boards to better understand the movements a toy soldier would make.
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Tim Allen voicing the iconic astronaut, Buzz Lightyear, but Pixar wanted to go in a much different direction with the character in early stages.
It has been reported that Jim Carrey was the number one pick for the role, but was recast as Tim Allen once Disney presented a much smaller budget for the film than Pixar had desired. In the early '90s, there wasn’t a much hotter actor than Jim Carrey, who was fresh off wildly successful films like The Mask and Ace Ventura Pet Detective. Buzz Lightyear would have been a much different spaceman with the slapstick style of Carrey on voice acting duty.
Animating an entirely computer-generated movie in 1995 was a feat that hadn’t been done before. Luckily for Pixar, it had an endless roster of expert animators working around the clock to get the film finished by its scheduled release date. You might think that a giant team of animators could finish a movie with a meager one hour and 20-minute run time pretty quickly, but that couldn’t be further from the case.
In fact, on the most productive week of the production the animators were only able to finish three and a half minutes of the film! Each frame required laser focus and expert precision to meet the standards that Pixar sought to reach for Toy Story.
Andy’s relationship with his mother was one of the most touching aspects of Toy Story, but did you ever wonder where Andy’s dad was? When asked this burning question, Pixar’s Craig Good stated that a father wasn’t necessary to the film’s story and that animating humans was “hideously expensive and difficult to do.” In addition to the groundbreaking animation of Pixar’s first feature film, Andy’s mother being a single mom brought a new level of realism and complexity to the Disney universe that hadn’t been seen at that time. This deviation from the perfect family and overly positive narratives that Disney had become reliant on led the way for many other narratives and characters that were far more relatable to audiences of the time.