toy-story
Business Management

This month in tech history: November - Toy Story

22 November 1995 – “To infinity… and beyond!”

Twenty years ago, on 22 November 1995, Walt Disney Pictures released the Pixar Animation Studios production Toy Story. The first major motion picture completely created using computer-generated animation, Toy Story not only made Pixar a household name, but dawned a new age of CGI use in the film industry.

Years before the concept of Cowboys and Aliens, the story focused on the relationship between cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), and astronaut Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), and their fellow toys (who pretend to be lifeless whenever humans are around). Directed by Pixar’s John Lasseter (apparently previously fired by Disney after pitching a fully computer-animated film), the film was written by, among others, Buffy creator Joss Whedon, and included Apple frontman Steve Jobs amongst its executive producers.

In case you’ve been under a rock for the last twenty years, here’s the trailer:

Pixar was approached by Disney after the success of their 1988 short film, Tin Toy, which is told from the perspective of Tinny, a tin one-man-band toy. However, the storyline for the new venture proved tricky, with Disney and Pixar disagreeing over how edgy the film should be – at one point, Tom Hanks, Woody’s voice actor, expressed his disapproval with the changes to Woody’s character by shouting “This guy is a jerk!” in the middle of one of his lines.

Production was temporarily halted while the script was re-written. However, the major revisions meant the $17 million production budget was rapidly dwindling and Steve Jobs demanded more funds to be able to complete the film ‘properly’ - insisting that Disney was liable for the cost overruns since it was Jeffrey Katzenberg who had pressed for making Woody so edgy in the first place. Katzenberg refused, however Jobs’ fellow executive producer, Ed Catmull, who was seenas “more diplomatic than Jobs”, was able to reach a compromise.

The top-grossing film on its opening weekend, Toy Story went on to earn over $361 million worldwide, and is widely considered to be one of the best animated films ever made. The film received three Academy Award nominations, won a Special Achievement Academy Award, and was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2005, its first year of eligibility, after it “changed animation’s face and delivery system as the first full-length animated feature to be created entirely by artists using computer tools and technology”. There have been two sequels, with a third slated for release in November 2017, as well as numerous toys, video games, theme park attractions, spin-offs, and other merchandise. And 20 years on, superfans have recreated Andy’s bedroom.

Arguably though, Toy Story’s biggest achievement was its impact on the film industry. As the first fully CGI feature film, Toy Story sparked interest from various industries in the technology used for the film – indeed, in early negotiations, Katzenberg insisted that Disney be given the rights to Pixar’s proprietary technology for making 3-D animation, but Jobs refused – graphics chip makers wanted similar imagery for PCs; game developers wanted to replicate the animation for video games; and robotics researchers wanted to build AI into their machines comparable to the film’s lifelike characters. 

And of course, Toy Story left us with that ever-useful catchphrase “To Infinity… and Beyond!”

 

Read more about Steve Jobs, film and Disney:

4-minute podcast: The stars of the Steve Jobs film
Surprisingly, the hype about the Steve Jobs film is justified
Rant: The deification of Steve Jobs

Is Apple better or worse without Steve Jobs?
Apple: The legacy of Steve Jobs’ ‘inspirational’ leadership
Steve Jobs: The tech bully poster-boy

Telling local stories: Mobile “Disney” for Africa

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Kate Hoy

Kate Hoy is Editor of IDG Connect

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