You also experimented with 3D early on.
Yeah we did Knick Knack in '89. I’ve always loved 3D. Now it’s like one of those things that come full circle. There’s a lot of 3D theatres, a lot of 3D films in development. But it’s something we’ve been experimenting with for years. In fact, my wife and I... our wedding pictures are in 3D.
Yeah my love of 3D goes way back. It was very exciting times back then. Jeffrey Katzenberg had come back to the studios. And they started rejuvenating the animation – they did Roger Rabbit.
And every time I completed one of my short films, I would get a call from the folks down at Disney wanting to hire me back. And I was making so little money but I was having so much fun.
And the Pixar we now know was starting to take shape…
Yeah, after Knick Knack, we decided to take a couple of years to do television commercials to build up the income and hire some more animators.
We did hundreds of those. I directed a whole bunch myself. And then I was able to hire another animator, finally, and the first animator I hired was Andrew Stanton [Finding Nemo, Wall-E]. Then I hired Pete Doctor [Monsters Inc, Up], so…
You got some pretty good people!
What’s interesting is, Andrew, I think, had tried to get into Disney and they rejected him four times, so, I brought him in and we became best friends and just had so much fun.
It was so exciting for me to get some more animator energy into the place. There were pranks, all-nighters, laser tag wars…
Yeah yeah, we were working hard, working late, but having a blast, I mean we just laughed so hard and we had so much fun.
We started building the culture at Pixar - animators working with technical artists in a real, fun, collaboration.
How did Toy Story come about?
Steve Jobs was talking to Disney – saying that we were interested in doing an animated feature for them. In the beginning, though, they said no.
It was Tim Burton who opened that door for us, really. He was trying to get The Nightmare before Christmas back from Disney. But then they said, ‘Why don’t you just do it for us?’ and that kind of gave them the idea that, okay, they could have the Disney animated films - which were kind of the crown jewels of all animated films - being done by other people.
So they finally came back to us, came to Steve, and said, 'We’re interested in talking to you.'
Did you already have the idea for Toy Story fairly fleshed out?
We actually made a list of what we wanted our movie not to be. We didn’t want it to be a musical; we didn’t want it to have like a good guy and a bad guy, and you know, sidekicks and all that stuff. Because that was all Disney's thing.
So we started to look at different kinds of film genres and we landed upon the buddy picture. We loved The Odd Couple and The Defiant Ones, and Midnight Run.
And we thought that could be really big because we were developing the toy idea, so we hit upon this buddy picture concept of an old toy that’s a child’s favourite, and a child’s birthday gift – a new, real flashy, modern toy that becomes the new favourite, and how the old toy deals with that. So that became the essence of Toy Story.