Toy Story is Pixar, Pixar is Toy Story

There are a lot of questions surrounding the 2 trailers for Toy Story 4 that was dropped on the world last week.


But the biggest question is why? Wasnt the story finish when the credits rolled in Toy Story 3? Why continue on when Andy is now a grown man? And why continue with a storyline that isn’t there? Well, the film continues from Toy Story 3, where Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), among other toys, have found new appreciation after being given by college-bound Andy to toddler Bonnie. However, when they are introduced to Forky (Tony Hale), a spork that has been made into a toy, Woody and Buzz lead him on a road trip to show him what it is like to be a toy.

The story was conceived by Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich. In addition to Hanks and Allen, the movie will feature returning cast members, including Annie Potts and Joan Cusack reprising their respective roles from previous films as Bo Peep and Jessie. New additions include Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.

But to answers these questions one must go back decades to fully understand the love and fascination with Toy Story is to understand Pixar.

Where it began, Pixar

Pixar comes from some of the brightest computer minds in the business, it all starts with George Lucas. Yes if you don’t know the history of Pixar it all starts with George Lucas. After wrapping up Star Wars in 1977, and the difficulties associated with creating the special effects Lucas spun off the minds behind some of the earliest computer-generated graphics into 3 companies. The first being the Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and Computer Graphics Lab (CGL).

Its CGL that starts the Pixar story, Lucas finding it too expensive to work with outside companies to create special effects found a group of 6 guys who were bleeding money (15 million in 1974) into a company with the ambitions of creating the first fully computer-animated movie. It was this group headed by Alexander Schure the head and founder of  New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) that Lucas came to find. He invited them to take their ambitions and work for LucasFilms.


In 1979 CGL was renamed The Graphics Group,(GG) which was one-third of the Computer Division of LucasFilms, it’s here that Pixar is born. It was at this time and over the next few years that the first software REYES (for “renders everything you ever saw”) was born. This would eventually become “Renderman” the core software Pixar uses up until this day. In 1983 John Lasseter works freelance with GG after being fired from Disney (yes fired from Disney).

In 1994 he is eventually hired by GG full-time. But as hard times fell upon Lucas with his divorce and knowing the only way to save GG and the ambitions of creating the first fully computer animated movie was to spin of GG as its own company. At this point there only claim to fame was a computer that ran the proprietary software, they decided they should be a hardware company in the meantime, with their Pixar Image Computer as the core product, a system primarily sold to government agencies and the scientific and medical community

While GG bleeds money on poor sales and R&D it came time to sell off the company, after turning down an initial low ball offer and being turned down by 45 other companies, Lucas changed his mind and sold GG to a guy for 5 million who had recently been ousted from Apple. One Steve Jobs.

In 1986 after releasing some of their imaging tools to the mainstream the company was renamed once again this time Pixar is born. It’s at this time that Pixar and its logo is recognized by the world with the release of Luxo Jr. a short animated movie about an office desk lamp. “Luxo Jr.” will go on to become the first three-dimensional computer-animated film to be nominated for an Oscar, receiving a nomination for Best Short Film (Animated).

As Pixar kept fine-tuning their software with the ambitions of releasing a full-length feature in 1988 Renderman was born. The first production to come out of Pixar’s newest graphics program, and newer more powerful computers is “Tin Toy”. Tin Toy would go on to become the first computer animated film to receive an Academy Award when it is named Best Short Film (Animated) the following year.

Disney regrets it mistake

Disney realized their error in ways in firing John Lasseter after seeing Tin Toy and tries to hire him back, but with his loyalties to Pixar and Steve Jobs turns down any offer From Disney. At this point Disney as no choice to work a deal to have Pixar make and distribute at least one computer-generated animated movie. Finally, the ideas and dreams of the original 6 come to fruition.

It as this time around 1991 that Toy Story was born, this movie would be the one that saved Pixar from bankruptcy. With still poor computer sales and Steve Jobs pouring more and more money into the company for a larger owners share layoffs were inevitable. the computer division of Pixar was sold off, as negotiations between Disney and Pixar for Toy Story were still ongoing.

As scripts and proof of concept designs were flowing back and forth Between Disney and Pixar a deal was worked out. Eventually, the deal specified that Disney would own the picture and its characters outright, have creative control and pay Pixar about 12.5% of the ticket revenues. Even though Disney had basically hired John to make the film Disney’s creative control almost killed Pixar as a company. Disney was so admired with Tin Toy that their creative control basically had them trying to expand the short into a full length featured film.

Lasseter and his Pixar team had the first half of the movie ready to screen, so they brought it down to Burbank to show to Disney’s chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg and other Disney executives on November 19, 1993. The results were disastrous, and Peter Schneider, president of Walt Disney Feature Animation, who was never particularly enamored of Katzenberg’s idea of having outsiders make the animation for Disney, declared it a mess and ordered that production be stopped immediately. Katzenberg asked colleague Thomas Schumacher why the reels were bad. Schumacher replied bluntly: “Because it’s not their movie anymore, it’s completely not the movie that John set out to make.”

Toy Story revisited

The decision to let John and his Pixar team rewrite the story was made. Three months later the Pixar team came back with a new script and Toy Story was born. Toy Story, the world’s first computer-animated feature film, is released in theaters on November 22, 1995. It opens at #1 that weekend and will go on to become the highest grossing film of the year, making $192 million domestically and $362 million worldwide.

But there was still issues between Pixar and Disney. Thus, Disney and Pixar release Toy Story to the masses with 2 premieres. Yes, the turmoil between Disney and Pixar still existed even upon release. Steve Jobs who did not attend the Disney Premiere of the movie rented a similar theater in San Francisco and held his own premiere the next night. The dueling premieres highlighted a festering issue between the companies: whether Toy Story was a Disney or a Pixar film.

A bit of the timeline

In 1996 Toy Story gets recognition with Academy Award nominations for Best Original Song, Best Original Score, and Best Original Screenplay—the first time an animated film is recognized for screenwriting. John Lasseter receives a Special Achievement Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his “inspired leadership of the Pixar Toy Story Team resulting in the first feature-length computer-animated film.”

In 1997 The Walt Disney Studios and Pixar Animation Studios announced an agreement to jointly produce five movies over 10 years.


In 1999 Toy Story 2 is released in theaters (despite the Disney idea to release directly to video) on November 24. It is the first film in history to be entirely created, mastered and exhibited digitally. This is also the first time Disney has little to do with the storyline of a movie released under the Disney name.

“The story of Toy Story 2 is based a lot on my own experience. I’m a big toy collector and a lot of them are like antiques, or one-of-a-kind toys, or prototypes the toy makers have given me. Well, I have five sons, and when they were little and they loved to come to daddy’s work, and come in into daddy’s office and they just want to touch and play with everything. And I was sitting there saying ‘Oh no, that’s uh, you can’t play with that one, oh no, play with this one, oh no….’ and I found myself just sitting there looking at myself and laughing. Because toys are manufactured, put on this Earth, to be played with by a child. That is the core essence of Toy Story. And so I started wondering, what was it like from a toy’s point of view to be collected?”
—Director John Lasseter

The film was as successful as its predecessor commercially. It became 1999’s highest-grossing animated film, earning $245.9 million in North America and $497.4 million worldwide—beating both Pixar’s previous releases by a significant margin. It became the second highest-grossing animated film of all-time, behind Disney’s The Lion King (1994).

In 2010, Pixar releases Toy Story 3 in theaters on June 18. It’s the first theatrical film release with Dolby Surround 7.1 sound. Toy Story 3 earned $415 million in North America and $652 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $1.067 billion, earning more revenue than the previous two films of the series combined. It became the highest-grossing animated film, surpassing the six-year-old record held by 2004’s Shrek 2 ($919 million).

The future is now

Toy Story change the way we looked at animated movies moving away from cell animation and hand-drawn scenes and even changed to ideas of Disney for the first time in its, at the time, 60 year history of controlling and keeping everything “in-house”.

Toy Story had a large impact on the film industry with its innovative computer animation. After the film’s debut, various industries gained interest in the technology used for the film. Graphics chip makers desired to compute imagery similar to the film’s animation for personal computers; game developers wanted to learn how to replicate the animation for video games, and robotics researchers were interested in building artificial intelligence into their machines that compared to the film’s lifelike characters.

Why Toy Story 4? Despite the amount of money the movies have generated, it’s the movie, even with all its turmoil, that started and saved Pixar Animated Studios. It’s a storyline that is near and dear to the hearts of the writers John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, and Joe Ranft. It’s a story and movie that will sit in the hearts of billions for generations to come.

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