This week, the first full trailer for Pixar’s Toy Story 3 officially went live.
The film itself will arrive in our cinemas on 23 July next year, directed by Lee Unkrich, who has been with Pixar since the first film.
But Toy Story’s latest outing wasn’t always in Pixar’s hands, and while we suspect if the company truly had its way that the sequel wouldn’t even exist, they have taken over responsibility for making it work.
So how did this new adventure for Woody, Buzz and co come about? For that, we have to travel back in time. Back to the making of Toy Story 2, when Disney and Pixar’s relationship was a little different.
Please keep your hands, arms, and accessories in the car, and no flash photography…
1. Disney Demands A Sequel
Long before there was the controversy of Disney making a third Toy Story movie, there was the controversy of Disney demanding a second Toy Story movie.
Back in the dim, distant past (the early nineties, kids) a spunky little studio named Pixar did a deal with Walt Disney Pictures to produce an animated film using computer technology it had been developing to work on adverts and visual effects.
No one knew what would happen with the planned project – finally named Toy Story – as the production was torturous and had to be shut down at least twice before it started looking like it would on release.
To get the greenlight for that first film, Pixar and Disney hashed out a deal, which would cover the animation team’s next few projects.
History has long since recorded what happened – huge box office success, critical orgasms and genuine, deserved talk of ground being broken and boundaries being shoved.
Fresh from the success of that film, Pixar was asked about a direct-to-video sequel to Toy Story, an idea that Disney had increasingly begun to push for all the “products” and characters it owned.
The Pixar brass – including John Lasseter and Ed Catmull – were not particularly thrilled about the idea, but since Disney was A) still largely funding them and B) offered to keep the film out of the original deal, they put a separate, yet still in-house team to work developing it while they focused on the grind of getting A Bug’s Life made.
The early results were not promising. “To be fair,” explained Andrew Stanton when Total Film asked him about it, “none of our movies look that great for most of their existence.
“You start out with the possibility of what it could be and it sounds exciting like any pitch. And then you’re forced to go through childhood and puberty through the life of the movie and it falls off its bike for most of its development and it’s not until the back end that you start to see it come together and be something.
“When we first heard the idea, we said, ‘Okay, let’s make it straight-to-video’ and then when they started to make it, we thought, ‘this has more potential…’
“We also underestimated what it really took and who made it possible for the first Toy Story to make it as good as it was. We couldn’t simply hire in another crew and say, ‘go make it’ and hope everything would fall into place. It’s like saying ‘Well, the Beatles made one album, let’s hire a new group of musicians and let them make a new album.’
“It was that ignorant. We were so busy with A Bug’s Life that we really weren’t able to check on its progress too often and even when you do, and it’s not really working, you don’t freak out because none of them films come together that early.
“And when we were at a year and a half or two years into it, at the stage it should be coming together, it wasn’t. It wasn’t getting any better. And that’s what made us get really, really nervous…”
Yes, Toy Story 2 was shaping up to be an embarrassment for the crew that had produced a winner with their first effort.
But thanks to the intervention of Lasseter, Stanton, Lee Unkrich, and some of the other original team members, it was brought back into shape, thanks to both their hard work and the fact that the crew who had been beavering away on the sequel actually had found some decent plot suggestions.
“The kernels of the ideas that are in Toy Story 2 – Woody being a collector’s item and finding his past - those were all in place, but had just not been capitalised upon or used correctly," explains Stanton. "It was really the experience of the old crew coming in and taking those pieces and doing something with them that others were no able to see.”
With Toy Story improving every day, decisions were made to switch the film for a cinema release. “Pixar’s very good at doing high quality and expensive work. And not very good at doing quick, dirty and cheap work!” laughs technical director Michael Kass. “So after a while they decided to turn it into a theatrical release.”
TS2 arrived with even more fanfare than the first film – and was seen as even better. Given that it actually hit cinemas, Pixar asked that it now be considered part of the original distribution deal.
Disney said no. How does the song go? “There may be trouble ahead…”