Toy Story is a 1995 American computer-animated buddy comedy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The feature film directorial debut of John Lasseter, it was the first entirely computer-animated feature film, as well as the first feature film from Pixar. The screenplay was written by Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, and Alec Sokolow from a story by Lasseter, Stanton, Pete Docter, and Joe Ranft. The film features music by Randy Newman, and was executive-produced by Steve Jobs and Edwin Catmull. It features the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Jim Varney, Annie Potts, R. Lee Ermey, John Morris, Laurie Metcalf, and Erik von Detten.
Taking place in a world where anthropomorphic toys come to life when humans are not present, the plot focuses on the relationship between an old-fashioned pull-string cowboy doll named Woody and an astronaut action figure, Buzz Lightyear, as they evolve from rivals competing for the affections of their owner Andy Davis, to friends who work together to be reunited with him after being separated.
Following the success of Pixar's 1988 short film Tin Toy, the company was approached by Disney to produce a computer-animated feature film, told from a small toy's perspective. Lasseter, Stanton, and Docter wrote early story treatments, which were rejected by Disney, who wanted the film's tone to be "edgier". After several disastrous story reels, production was halted and the script was rewritten to better reflect the tone and theme Pixar desired: "toys deeply want children to play with them, and [...] this desire drives their hopes, fears, and actions". The studio, then consisting of a relatively small number of employees, produced the film under only minor financial constraints.
Toy Story premiered at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on November 19, 1995, and was released in North America on November 22, 1995. It was the highest-grossing film during its opening weekend, eventually earning over $373 million at the worldwide box office. It was critically acclaimed by critics and audiences, who praised the technical innovation of the 3D animation, the wit and thematic sophistication of the screenplay, the musical score, and the voice performances of Hanks and Allen; it is considered by many to be one of the best animated films ever made. The film received three Academy Award nominations, including Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Song for "You've Got a Friend in Me", and Best Original Score, as well as winning a Special Achievement Academy Award. In 2005, its first year of eligibility, it was inducted into the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
In addition to home media and theatrical re-releases, Toy Story-inspired material includes: toys, video games, theme park attractions, spin-offs, merchandise, and three sequels — Toy Story 2 (1999), Toy Story 3 (2010) and Toy Story 4 (2019) — all of which also garnered massive commercial success and critical acclaim.
In a world where toys are living things but pretend to be lifeless when humans are present, a group of toys owned by a boy named Andy Davis are caught off-guard when Andy's birthday party is moved up a week, as his family (including his mother and infant sister Molly) are preparing to move the following week. Andy's toys – including Bo Peep the shepherdess, Mr. Potato Head, Rex the dinosaur, Hamm the piggy bank and Slinky Dog – fear that they will be replaced by new toys from the birthday. Sheriff Woody – the toys' leader and Andy's favorite toy – sends out army men led by Sergeant to spy on the party and report the gift results to the others through baby monitors. The toys are relieved when the party appears to end with none of them being replaced by new toys, but then Andy receives a surprise gift – a Buzz Lightyear action figure, who thinks that he is a real space ranger.
Buzz impresses the other toys with his various features and Andy begins to favor him, making Woody feel rejected compared to the newer, sleeker and more advanced Buzz Lightyear. As Andy prepares for a family outing at a restaurant called Pizza Planet, his mother allows him to bring one toy. Fearing that Andy will choose Buzz, Woody attempts to trap him behind a desk but ends up accidentally knocking him out of a window. The other toys, except Bo Peep and Slinky, rebel against Woody and condemn him for "murdering" Buzz out of jealousy. Before they could exact revenge, Andy takes Woody and leaves for Pizza Planet. When the family stops for gas, Woody finds that Buzz has hitched a ride on their van. They have a fight, only to find the family has left without them, stranding them. They manage to make their way to the restaurant by hitching a ride on a pizza delivery truck. Buzz, still thinking that he is a real space ranger despite Woody's attempts to convince him otherwise, gets them stuck in a crane game where they are taken by Andy's toy-destroying neighbor, Sid Phillips.
While Woody attempts to escape from Sid's house, Buzz, finally realizing that he is a toy after watching a Buzz Lightyear action figure TV commercial and trying but failing to fly out a window, sinks into despondency. Sid plans to launch Buzz on a firework rocket, but his plans are delayed by a thunderstorm. Woody tells Buzz about the joy he can bring to Andy as a toy, restoring his confidence. The next morning, Woody and Sid's mutant creature toys rescue Buzz just as Sid is about to launch the rocket by ordering Sid to no longer destroy toys, much to Sid’s horror. Woody and Buzz escape just as Andy and his family drive away toward their new home.
The duo try to make it to the moving truck, but Sid's dog, Scud, sees them and gives chase. Buzz ends up being left behind while saving Woody from Scud and Woody attempts to rescue him with Andy's remote-controlled car RC. Thinking that Woody is "killing" RC as well, the other toys attack and toss him off the truck. Having evaded Scud, Buzz and RC retrieve Woody as they continue to chase the truck. Upon seeing Woody and Buzz together on RC, the other toys realize their mistake and help them get back aboard, but RC's batteries become depleted, leaving them behind. Realizing that Sid's rocket is still strapped to Buzz's back, Woody ignites it, hurtling them towards the truck. Woody manages to throw RC into the truck before they soar into the air. Before the rocket explodes, Buzz opens his wings to free himself from the rocket and glides with Woody to safety inside a box in Andy's mother's van right next to Andy, who thinks they were in the car all along.
On Christmas Day at their new home, Woody and Buzz stage another reconnaissance mission in order to prepare for the new toy arrivals; one of the toys is Mrs. Potato Head, to Mr. Potato Head's joy. As Woody jokingly asks what might be worse than Buzz, they discover Andy's new gift is a puppy, resulting in the two sharing a worried smile.
- Tom Hanks as Woody, a pull-string cowboy doll.
- Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear, a space ranger action figure and Woody's rival, who later becomes his best friend.
- Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head, a cynical potato-shaped doll with put-together pieces on his body.
- Jim Varney as Slinky Dog, a dachshund slinky toy.
- Wallace Shawn as Rex, a nervous green Tyrannosaurus figurine.
- John Ratzenberger as Hamm, a smart-talking piggy bank.
- Annie Potts as Bo Peep, a porcelain shepherdess doll and Woody's love interest.
- John Morris as Andy, Woody and Buzz's owner.
- Erik von Detten as Sid, Andy's next door neighbor, who tortures toys for his own amusement.
- Laurie Metcalf as Mrs. Davis, Andy's mother.
- R. Lee Ermey as Sergeant, the leader of a large troop of plastic green army men.
- Sarah Freeman as Hannah, Sid's younger sister.
- Penn Jillette as the Buzz Lightyear TV commercial announcer.
Director John Lasseter's first experience with computer animation was during his work as an animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation, when two of his friends showed him the lightcycle scene from Tron. It was an eye-opening experience which awakened Lasseter to the possibilities offered by the new medium of computer-generated animation. Lasseter tried to pitch The Brave Little Toaster as a fully computer-animated film to Disney, but the idea was rejected and Lasseter was fired. He then went on to work at Lucasfilm and in 1986, he became a founding member of Pixar. In 1986, Pixar was purchased by entrepreneur and Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs. At Pixar, Lasseter created short, computer-animated films to show off the Pixar Image Computer's capabilities. In 1988 Lasseter produced the short film Tin Toy told from the perspective of a toy and referencing Lasseter's love of classic toys. Tin Toy won the 1988 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, the first computer-generated film to do so.
Tin Toy gained Disney's attention, and the new team at The Walt Disney Company—CEO Michael Eisner and chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg in the film division—began a quest to get Lasseter to come back. Lasseter, grateful for Jobs' faith in him, felt compelled to stay with Pixar, telling co-founder Ed Catmull, "I can go to Disney and be a director, or I can stay here and make history." Katzenberg realized he could not lure Lasseter back to Disney and therefore set plans into motion to ink a production deal with Pixar to produce a film. Disney had always made all their movies in-house and refused to change this. But when Tim Burton, who used to work at Disney, wanted to buy back the rights to The Nightmare Before Christmas, Disney struck a deal allowing him to make it as a Disney movie outside the studio. This opened the door for Pixar to make their movies outside Disney.
Both sides were willing. Catmull and fellow Pixar co-founder Alvy Ray Smith had long wanted to produce a computer-animated feature, but only in the early 90s were the computers cheap and powerful enough to make this possible. In addition, Disney had licensed Pixar's Computer Animation Production System (CAPS), and that made it the largest customer for Pixar's computers. Jobs made it apparent to Katzenberg that although Disney was happy with Pixar, it was not the other way around: "We want to do a film with you," said Jobs. "That would make us happy." At this same time, Peter Schneider, president of Walt Disney Feature Animation, was potentially interested in making a feature film with Pixar. When Catmull, Smith and head of animation Ralph Guggenheim met with Schneider in the summer of 1990, they found the atmosphere to be puzzling and contentious. They later learned that Katzenberg intended that if Disney were to make a film with Pixar, it would be outside Schneider's purview, which aggravated Schneider. After that first meeting, the Pixar contingent went home with low expectations and was surprised when Katzenberg called for another conference. Catmull, Smith, and Guggenheim were joined by Bill Reeves (head of animation research and development), Jobs, and Lasseter. They brought with them an idea for a half-hour television special called A Tin Toy Christmas. They reasoned that a television program would be a sensible way to gain experience before tackling a feature film.
They met with Katzenberg at a conference table in the Team Disney building at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. Catmull and Smith considered it would be difficult to keep Katzenberg interested in working with the company over time. They considered it even more difficult to sell Lasseter and the junior animators on the idea of working with Disney, who had a bad reputation for how they treated their animators, and Katzenberg, who had built a reputation as a micromanaging tyrant. Katzenberg asserted this himself in the meeting: "Everybody thinks I'm a tyrant. I am a tyrant. But I'm usually right." He threw out the idea of a half-hour special and eyed Lasseter as the key talent in the room: "John, since you won't come work for me, I'm going to make it work this way." He invited the six visitors to mingle with the animators—"ask them anything at all"—and the men did so, finding they all backed up Katzenberg's statements. Lasseter felt he would be able to work with Disney and the two companies began negotiations. Pixar at this time was on the verge of bankruptcy and needed a deal with Disney. Katzenberg insisted that Disney be given the rights to Pixar's proprietary technology for making 3-D animation, but Jobs refused. In another case, Jobs demanded Pixar would have part ownership of the film and its characters, sharing control of both video rights and sequels, but Katzenberg refused. Disney and Pixar reached accord on contract terms in an agreement dated May 3, 1991, and signed on in early July. 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. It had the option (but not the obligation) to do Pixar's next two films and the right to make (with or without Pixar) sequels using the characters in the film. Disney could also kill the film at any time with only a small penalty. These early negotiations would become a point of contention between Jobs and Eisner for many years.
An agreement to produce a feature film based on Tin Toy with a working title of Toy Story was finalized and production began soon thereafter.
The original treatment for Toy Story, drafted by Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter, had little in common with the eventually finished film. It paired Tinny, the one-man band from Tin Toy with a ventriloquist's dummy and sent them on a sprawling odyssey. Under studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg, Woody was the main villain, abusing the other toys until they rallied against him; however, after Disney executives saw the storyboards they relinquished creative control to Pixar. The core idea of Toy Story was present from the treatment onward, however: that "toys deeply want children to play with them, and that this desire drives their hopes, fears, and actions." Katzenberg felt the original treatment was problematic and told Lasseter to reshape Toy Story as more of an odd-couple buddy picture, and suggested they watch some classic buddy movies, such as The Defiant Ones and 48 Hrs., in which two characters with different attitudes are thrown together and have to bond. Lasseter, Stanton, and Docter emerged in early September 1991 with the second treatment, and although the lead characters were still Tinny and the dummy, the outline of the final film was beginning to take shape.
The script went through many changes before the final version. Lasseter decided Tinny was "too antiquated", and the character was changed to a military action figure, and then given a space theme. Tinny's name changed to Lunar Larry, then Tempus from Morph, and eventually Buzz Lightyear (after astronaut Buzz Aldrin). Lightyear's design was modeled on the suits worn by Apollo astronauts as well as G.I. Joe action figures. In addition, the green and purple color scheme on Lightyear's suit was inspired by Lasseter and his wife, Nancy, whose favorite colors were green and purple respectively. Woody, the second character, was inspired by a Casper the Friendly Ghost doll that Lasseter had when he was a child. Originally, Woody was a ventriloquist's dummy with a pull-string (hence the name Woody). However, character designer Bud Luckey suggested that Woody could be changed to a cowboy ventriloquist dummy. John Lasseter liked the contrast between the Western and the science fiction genres and the character immediately changed. Eventually, all the ventriloquist dummy aspects of the character were deleted, because the dummy was designed to look "sneaky and mean." However they kept the name Woody to pay homage to the Western actor Woody Strode. The story department drew inspiration from films such as Midnight Run and The Odd Couple, and Lasseter screened Hayao Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky (1986) for further influence.
Toy Story's script was strongly influenced by the ideas of screenwriter Robert McKee. The members of Pixar's story team—Lasseter, Stanton, Docter and Joe Ranft—were aware that most of them were beginners at writing for feature films. None of them had any feature story or writing credits to their name besides Ranft, who had taught a story class at CalArts and did some storyboard work prior. Seeking insight, Lasseter and Docter attended a three-day seminar in Los Angeles given by McKee. His principles, grounded in Aristotle's Poetics, dictated that a character emerges most realistically and compellingly from the choices that the protagonist makes in reaction to his problems. Disney also appointed the duo Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, and, later, Joss Whedon to help develop the script. Whedon found that the script wasn't working but had a great structure, and added the character of Rex and sought a pivotal role for Barbie. He also revisioned Buzz Lightyear from a dim-witted but cheerful and self-aware character to an action figure who isn't aware that he's a toy, which served as a huge epiphany and turned the whole movie around. The story team continued to touch up the script as production was underway. Among the late additions was the encounter between Buzz and the alien squeaky toys at Pizza Planet, which emerged from a brainstorming session with a dozen directors, story artists, and animators from Disney.
Katzenberg gave approval for the script on January 19, 1993, at which point voice casting could begin. Lasseter always wanted Tom Hanks to play the character of Woody. Lasseter claimed Hanks "has the ability to take emotions and make them appealing. Even if the character, like the one in A League of Their Own, is down-and-out and despicable." Paul Newman, who subsequently accepted the role of Doc Hudson in another Pixar film Cars, was considered for the role of Woody. Billy Crystal was approached to play Buzz, but turned down the role, which he later regretted, and subsequently accepted the role of Mike Wazowski in another Pixar film, Monsters, Inc.. In addition to Crystal, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Jim Carrey were also considered for Buzz. Lasseter took the role to Tim Allen, who was appearing in Disney's Home Improvement, and he accepted. Crystal would later state in an interview that he wouldn't have been right as Buzz and that Allen was "fantastic" in the role.
To gauge how an actor's voice would fit with a character, Lasseter borrowed a common Disney technique: animate a vocal monologue from a well-established actor to meld the actor's voice with the appearance or actions of the animated character. This early test footage, using Hanks' voice from Turner & Hooch, convinced Hanks to sign on to the film. Toy Story was both Hanks' and Allen's first animated film role, and they additionally recorded their lines together to make their characters’ chemistry and interactions realistic.
Every couple of weeks, Lasseter and his team put together their latest storyboards or footage to show Disney. In early screen tests, Pixar impressed Disney with the technical innovation but convincing Disney of the plot was more difficult. At each presentation by Pixar, Katzenberg would tear much of it up, giving out detailed comments and notes. Katzenberg's big push was to add more edginess to the two main characters. Disney wanted the film to appeal to both children and adults, and asked for adult references to be added to the film. After many rounds of notes from Katzenberg and other Disney executives, the general consensus was that Woody had been stripped of almost all charm. Hanks, while recording the dialogue for the story reels, exclaimed at one point that the character was a jerk. 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 Katzenberg and other Disney executives on November 19, 1993, an event they later dubbed the "Black Friday Incident". The results were disastrous, and Schneider, who was never particularly enamored of Katzenberg's idea of having outsiders make 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."
Lasseter was embarrassed with what was on the screen, later recalling, "It was a story filled with the most unhappy, mean characters that I've ever seen." He asked Disney for the chance to retreat back to Pixar and rework the script in two weeks, and Katzenberg was supportive. Lasseter, Stanton, Docter and Ranft delivered the news of the production shutdown to the production crew, many of whom had left other jobs to work on the project. In the meantime, the crew would shift to television commercials while the head writers worked out a new script. Although Lasseter kept morale high by remaining outwardly buoyant, the production shutdown was "a very scary time," recalled story department manager BZ Petroff. Schneider had initially wanted to shut down production altogether and fire all recently hired animators. Katzenberg put the film under the wing of Walt Disney Feature Animation. The Pixar team was pleased that the move would give them an open door to counseling from Disney's animation veterans. Schneider, however, continued to take a dim view of the project and would later go over Katzenberg's head to urge Eisner to cancel it. Stanton retreated into a small, dark, windowless office, emerging periodically with new script pages. He and the other story artists would then draw the shots on storyboards. Whedon came back to Pixar for part of the shutdown to help with revising, and the script was revised in two weeks as promised. When Katzenberg and Schneider halted production on Toy Story, Jobs funded the project personally. Jobs did not insert himself much into the creative process, instead managing the relationship with Disney.
The Pixar team came back with a new script three months later, with the character of Woody morphed from being a tyrannical boss of Andy's other toys to being their wise and caring leader. It also included a more adult-oriented staff meeting amongst the toys rather than a juvenile group discussion that had existed in earlier drafts. Buzz Lightyear's character was also changed slightly "to make it more clear to the audience that he really doesn't realize he's a toy". Katzenberg and Schneider approved the new approach, and by February 1994 the film was back in production. The voice actors returned in March 1994 to record their new lines. When production was greenlit, the crew quickly grew from its original size of 24 to 110, including 27 animators, 22 technical directors, and 61 other artists and engineers. In comparison, The Lion King, released in 1994, required a budget of $45 million and a staff of 800. In the early budgeting process, Jobs was eager to produce the film as efficiently as possible, impressing Katzenberg with his focus on cost-cutting. Despite this, the $17 million production budget was proving inadequate, especially given the major revision that was necessary after Katzenberg had pushed them to make Woody too edgy. Jobs demanded more funds to complete the film right and insisted that Disney was liable for the cost overruns. Katzenberg was not willing, and Ed Catmull was able to reach a compromise.
—Tom Schumacher, Vice President of Walt Disney Feature Animation
Recruiting animators for Toy Story was brisk; the magnet for talent was not the pay, generally mediocre, but rather the allure of taking part in the first computer-animated feature. Lasseter said that on the challenges of the computer animation in the film "We had to make things look more organic. Every leaf and blade of grass had to be created. We had to give the world a sense of history. So the doors are banged up, the floors have scuffs." The film began with animated storyboards to guide the animators in developing the characters. 27 animators worked on the film, using 400 computer models to animate the characters. Each character was either created out of clay or was first modeled off of a computer-drawn diagram before reaching the computer animated design. Once the animators had a model, articulation and motion controls were coded; this would allow each character to move in a variety of ways, such as talking, walking, or jumping. Out of all the characters, Woody was the most complex, as he required 723 motion controls, including 212 for his face and 58 for his mouth. The first piece of animation, a 30-second test, was delivered to Disney in June 1992, when the company requested a sample of what the film would look like. Lasseter wanted to impress Disney with a number of things in the test that could not be done in traditional, hand-drawn animation, such as Woody's yellow plaid shirt with red stripes, the reflections in Buzz's helmet and the decals on his space suit, or Venetian blind shadows falling across Andy's room.
Every shot in the film passed through the hands of eight different teams. The art department gave each shot its color scheme and general lighting. Under Craig Good, the layout department then placed the models in the shot, framed it by setting the location of the virtual camera, and programmed any camera movement. To make the medium feel as familiar as possible, they sought to stay within the limits of what might be done in a live-action film with real cameras, dollies, tripods, and cranes. Headed by directing animators Rich Quade and Ash Brannon, each shot went to the animation department from the layout. Lasseter opted against Disney's approach of assigning an animator to work on a character throughout a film, but made certain exceptions in scenes where he thought acting was particularly critical. The animators used the Menv program to set each character in the desired pose. Once a sequence of hand-built poses (or "keyframes") was created, the software would build poses for the frames in-between. The animators studied videotapes of the actors for inspiration, and Lasseter rejected automatic lip-syncing. To sync the characters' mouths and facial expressions to the actors' recorded voices, animators spent a week per 8 seconds of animation.
Afterward, the animators would compile the scenes, and develop a new storyboard with the computer-animated characters. They then added shading, lighting, visual effects, and finally used 300 computer processors to render the film to its final design. Under Tom Porter, the shading team used RenderMan's shader language to create shader programs for each of a model's surfaces. A few surfaces in Toy Story came from real objects: a shader for the curtain fabric in Andy's room used a scan of actual cloth. Under Galyn Susman and Sharon Calahan, the lighting team orchestrated the final lighting of the shot after animation and shading. Each completed shot then went into rendering on a "render farm" of 117 Sun Microsystems computers that ran 24 hours a day. Finished animation emerged in a steady drip of around three minutes a week. Depending on its complexity, each frame took from 45 minutes up to 30 hours to render. The film required 800,000 machine hours and 114,240 frames of animation in total. There are over 77 minutes of animation spread across 1,561 shots. A camera team, aided by David DiFrancesco, recorded the frames onto film stock. To fit a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Toy Story was rendered at a mere 1,536 by 922 pixels, with each of them corresponding to roughly a quarter-inch of screen area on a typical cinema screen. During post-production, the film was sent to Skywalker Sound, where the sound effects were mixed with the music score.
Disney was concerned with Lasseter's position on the use of music. Unlike other Disney films of the time, Lasseter did not want the film to be a musical, saying it was a buddy film featuring "real toys." Joss Whedon agreed, saying, "It would have been a really bad musical, because it's a buddy movie. It's about people who won't admit what they want, much less sing about it. ... Buddy movies are about sublimating, punching an arm, 'I hate you.' It's not about open emotion." However, Disney favored the musical format, claiming "Musicals are our orientation. Characters breaking into song is a great shorthand. It takes some of the onus off what they're asking for." Disney and Pixar reached a compromise: the characters in Toy Story would not break into song, but the film would use non-diegetic songs over the action, as in The Graduate, to convey and amplify the emotions that Buzz and Woody were feeling. Disney and Lasseter tapped Randy Newman to compose the film. The edited Toy Story was due to Newman and Gary Rydstrom in late September 1995 for their final work on the score and sound design, respectively.
Lasseter said, "His songs are touching, witty, and satirical, and he would deliver the emotional underpinning for every scene." Newman wrote three original songs for the film; developing the film's signature song "You've Got a Friend in Me" in one day. The soundtrack for Toy Story was produced by Walt Disney Records and was released on November 22, 1995, the week of the film's release.
Editing and pre-release
It was difficult for crew members to perceive the film's quality during much of the production process when the finished footage was in scattered pieces and lacked elements like music and sound design. Some animators felt the film would be a significant disappointment commercially, but felt animators and animation fans would find it interesting. According to Lee Unkrich, one of the original editors of Toy Story, a scene was cut out of the original final edit. The scene features Sid, after Pizza Planet, torturing Buzz and Woody violently. Unkrich decided to cut right into the scene where Sid is interrogating the toys because the creators of the movie thought the audience would be loving Buzz and Woody at that point. Another scene, where Woody was trying to get Buzz's attention when he was stuck in the box crate, was shortened because the creators felt it would lose the energy of the movie. Peter Schneider had grown optimistic about the film as it neared completion, and announced a United States release date of November, coinciding with Thanksgiving weekend and the start of the winter holiday season.
Sources indicate that executive producer Steve Jobs lacked confidence in the film during its production, and he had been talking to various companies, ranging from Hallmark to Microsoft, about selling Pixar. However, as the film progressed, Jobs became ever more excited about it, feeling that he might be on the verge of transforming the movie industry. As scenes from the movie were finished, he watched them repeatedly and had friends come by his home to share his new passion. Jobs decided that the release of Toy Story that November would be the occasion to take Pixar public. A test audience near Anaheim in late July 1995 indicated the need for last-minute tweaks, which added further pressure to the already frenetic final weeks. Response cards from the audience were encouraging, but were not top of the scale, adding further question as to how audiences would respond. The film ended with a shot of Andy's house and the sound of a new puppy. Michael Eisner, who attended the screening, told Lasseter afterward that the film needed to end with a shot of Woody and Buzz together, reacting to the news of the puppy.
There were two premieres of Toy Story in November 1995. Disney organized one at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, and built a fun house, Totally Toy Story, next door featuring the characters. Jobs did not attend and instead rented the Regency, a similar theater in San Francisco, and held his own premiere the next night. Instead of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, the guests were Silicon Valley celebrities, such as Larry Ellison and Andy Grove. The dueling premieres highlighted a festering issue between the companies: whether Toy Story was a Disney or a Pixar film. "The audience appeared to be captivated by the film," wrote David Price in his 2008 book The Pixar Touch. "Adult-voiced sobs could be heard during the quiet moments after Buzz Lightyear fell and lay broken on the stairway landing." Toy Story opened on 2,281 screens in the United States on November 22, 1995 (before later expanding to 2,574 screens). It was paired alongside a reissue of a Roger Rabbit short called Rollercoaster Rabbit, while select prints contained The Adventures of André and Wally B..
Marketing for the film included $20 million spent by Disney for advertising as well as advertisers such as Burger King, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and Payless ShoeSource paying $125 million in tied promotions for the film. Marketing consultant Al Ries reflected on the promotion: "This will be a killer deal. How can a kid, sitting through a one-and-a-half-hour movie with an army of recognizable toy characters, not want to own one?" Despite this, Disney Consumer Products was slow to see the potential of Toy Story early on. When the Thanksgiving release date was announced in January 1995, many toy companies were accustomed to having eighteen months to two years of runway time and passed on the project. In February 1995, Disney took the idea to Toy Fair, a toy industry trade show in New York. There, a Toronto-based company with a factory based in China, Thinkway Toys, became interested. Although Thinkway was a small player in the industry, mainly producing toy banks in the form of film characters, it was able to scoop up the worldwide master license for Toy Story toys simply because no one else wanted it. Walt Disney Home Video put a trailer for the film on seven million copies of the VHS re-release of Cinderella; the Disney Channel ran a television special on the making of Toy Story; Walt Disney World in Florida held a daily Toy Story parade at Disney-MGM Studios.
It was screenwriter Joss Whedon's idea to incorporate Barbie as a character who would rescue Woody and Buzz in the film's final act. The idea was dropped after Mattel objected and refused to license the toy. Producer Ralph Guggenheim claimed that Mattel did not allow the use of the toy as "They [Mattel] philosophically felt girls who play with Barbie dolls are projecting their personalities onto the doll. If you give the doll a voice and animate it, you're creating a persona for it that might not be every little girl's dream and desire." Hasbro likewise refused to license G.I. Joe (mainly because Sid was going to blow one up, prompting the filmmakers to instead use a fictional toy, Combat Carl), but they did license Mr. Potato Head. The only toy in the movie that was not in production was Slinky Dog, which was discontinued since the 1970s. When designs for Slinky were sent to Betty James (Richard James's wife) she said that Pixar had improved the toy and that it was "cuter" than the original.
On October 2, 2009, the film was re-released in Disney Digital 3-D. The film was also released with Toy Story 2 as a double feature for a two-week run which was extended due to its success. In addition, the film's second sequel, Toy Story 3, was also released in the 3-D format. Lasseter commented on the new 3-D re-release:
The Toy Story films and characters will always hold a very special place in our hearts and we're so excited to be bringing this landmark film back for audiences to enjoy in a whole new way thanks to the latest in 3-D technology. With Toy Story 3 shaping up to be another great adventure for Buzz, Woody and the gang from Andy's room, we thought it would be great to let audiences experience the first two films all over again and in a brand new way.
Translating the film into 3-D involved revisiting the original computer data and virtually placing a second camera into each scene, creating left eye and right eye views needed to achieve the perception of depth. Unique to computer animation, Lasseter referred to this process as "digital archaeology." The process took four months, as well as an additional six months for the two films to add the 3-D. The lead stereographer Bob Whitehill oversaw this process and sought to achieve an effect that affected the emotional storytelling of the film:
When I would look at the films as a whole, I would search for story reasons to use 3-D in different ways. In Toy Story, for instance, when the toys were alone in their world, I wanted it to feel consistent to a safer world. And when they went out to the human world, that's when I really blew out the 3-D to make it feel dangerous and deep and overwhelming.
Unlike other countries, the United Kingdom received the films in 3-D as separate releases. Toy Story was released on October 2, 2009. Toy Story 2 was instead released January 22, 2010. The re-release performed well at the box office, opening with $12,500,000 in its opening weekend, placing at the third position after Zombieland and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The double feature grossed $30.7 million in its five-week release.
Toy Story was released by Walt Disney Home Video on VHS and LaserDisc on October 29, 1996, with no bonus material. In the first week of this release, VHS rentals totaled $5.1 million, debuting Toy Story as the week's No. 1 video. Over 21.5 million VHS copies were sold the first year. A deluxe edition widescreen LaserDisc 4-disc box set was released on December 18, 1996. On January 11, 2000, the film was re-released on VHS, but this time as the first video to be part of the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection with the bonus short film Tin Toy. This release sold two million copies.
The film was released for the first time on DVD on October 17, 2000, in a two-pack with its first sequel Toy Story 2. The same day, a 3-disc "Ultimate Toy Box" set was released, featuring Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and a third disc of bonus materials with Toy Story in a 35 mm Widescreen print and Toy Story 2 only being in FullScreen. The twin-pack release was later released individually on March 20, 2001 with the film available in both Widescreen and FullScreen. The DVD-pack, U.T.B. set and the original DVD use the 35 mm print of the film to create the copies, rather than using the original files to encode the movie directly to video. The DVD two-pack, the Ultimate Toy Box set, the Gold Classic Collection VHS and DVD, and the original DVD were all put in the Disney Vault on May 1, 2003. On September 6, 2005, a 2-disc "10th Anniversary Edition" was released featuring much of the bonus material from the "Ultimate Toy Box", including a retrospective special with John Lasseter, a home theater mix, as well as a new digital Widescreen picture with the 35 mm Fullscreen version being retained. This DVD went back in the Disney Vault on January 31, 2009 along with Toy Story 2. The 10th Anniversary release was the last version of Toy Story to be released before taken out of the Disney Vault lineup along with Toy Story 2. Also on September 6, 2005, a UMD of Toy Story featuring some deleted scenes, a filmmakers' reflect and a new "Legacy of Toy Story" was released for the Sony PlayStation Portable.
The film was available for the first time on Blu-ray in a Special Edition Combo Pack that included two discs, the Blu-ray, and the DVD versions of the film. This combo-edition was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on March 23, 2010, along with its sequel. There was a DVD-only re-release on May 11, 2010. Another "Ultimate Toy Box", packaging the Combo Pack with those of both sequels, became available on November 2, 2010. On November 1, 2011, the first three Toy Story films were re-released all together, each as a DVD/Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3D/Digital Copy combo pack (four discs each for the first two films, and five for the third film). They were also released on Blu-ray 3D in a complete trilogy box set. Toy Story was released on 4K UHD Blu-ray on June 4, 2019.
—John Lasseter, reflecting on the impact of the film
Toy Story received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 100% based on 84 reviews, with an average rating of 9.01/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Entertaining as it is innovative, Toy Story reinvigorated animation while heralding the arrival of Pixar as a family-friendly force to be reckoned with." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 95 out of 100, based on 26 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Leonard Klady of Variety commended the animation's "... razzle-dazzle technique and unusual look" and that "the camera loops and zooms in a dizzying fashion that fairly takes one's breath away." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times compared the film's innovative animation to Disney's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, saying that "both movies take apart the universe of cinematic visuals and put it back together again, allowing us to see in a new way." Due to the film's creative animation, Richard Corliss of TIME claimed that it was "... the year's most inventive comedy."
The voice cast was also praised by various critics. Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today approved of the selection of Hanks and Allen for the lead roles. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times stated that "Starting with Tom Hanks, who brings an invaluable heft and believability to Woody, Toy Story is one of the best voiced animated features in memory, with all the actors ... making their presences strongly felt." Several critics also recognized the film's ability to appeal to various age groups, specifically children and adults. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote "It has the purity, the ecstatic freedom of imagination, that's the hallmark of the greatest children's films. It also has the kind of spring-loaded allusive prankishness that, at times, will tickle adults even more than it does kids."
In 1995, Toy Story was ranked eighth in TIME's list of the "Best 10 films of 1995". In 2011, TIME named it one of the "25 All-TIME Best Animated Films". It also ranks at number 99 in Empire magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Films of All Time" and as the "highest-ranked animated movie".
In 2003, the Online Film Critics Society ranked the film as the greatest animated film of all time. In 2007, the Visual Effects Society named the film 22nd in its list of the "Top 50 Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time". The film is ranked 99th on the AFI's list of the "100 greatest American Films of All-Time". It was one of the only two animated films on that list, the other being Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). It was also the sixth best in the animation genre on AFI's 10 Top 10.
Director Terry Gilliam would praise the film as "a work of genius. It got people to understand what toys are about. They're true to their own character. And that's just brilliant. It's got a shot that's always stuck with me, when Buzz Lightyear discovers he's a toy. He's sitting on this landing at the top of the staircase and the camera pulls back and he's this tiny little figure. He was this guy with a massive ego two seconds before... and it's stunning. I'd put that as one of my top ten films, period."
Before the film's release, executive producer and Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs stated "If Toy Story is a modest hit—say $75 million at the box office, we'll [Pixar and Disney] both break even. If it gets $100 million, we'll both make money. But if it's a real blockbuster and earns $200 million or so at the box office, we'll make good money, and Disney will make a lot of money." Upon its release on November 22, 1995, Toy Story managed to gross more than $350 million worldwide. Disney chairman Michael Eisner stated "I don't think either side thought Toy Story would turn out as well as it has. The technology is brilliant, the casting is inspired, and I think the story will touch a nerve. Believe me, when we first agreed to work together, we never thought their first movie would be our 1995 holiday feature, or that they could go public on the strength of it." The film's first five days of domestic release (on Thanksgiving weekend) earned it $39,071,176. The film placed first in the weekend's box office with $29.1 million and maintained the number-one position at the domestic box office for the next two weekends. Toy Story became the highest-grossing domestic film of 1995, beating Batman Forever, Apollo 13 (also starring Tom Hanks), Pocahontas, Casper, Waterworld, and GoldenEye. At the time of its release, it was the third-highest-grossing animated film of all time, after The Lion King (1994) and Aladdin (1992). When not considering inflation, Toy Story is number 96 on the list of the highest-grossing domestic films of all time. The film had gross receipts of $191.8 million in the U.S. and Canada and $181.8 million in international markets for a total of $373.6 million worldwide. At the time of its release, the film ranked as the 17th-highest-grossing film (unadjusted) domestically and the 21st-highest-grossing film worldwide.
The film won and was nominated for various other awards including a Kids' Choice Award, MTV Movie Award, and a British Academy Film Award, among others. John Lasseter received an Academy Special Achievement Award in 1996 "for the development and inspired application of techniques that have made possible the first feature-length computer-animated film." Additionally, the film was nominated for three Academy Awards, two to Randy Newman for Best Music—Original Song, for "You've Got a Friend in Me", and Best Music—Original Musical or Comedy Score. It was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay for the work by Joel Cohen, Pete Docter, John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, Alec Sokolow, Andrew Stanton and Joss Whedon, making Toy Story the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award writing category.
Toy Story won eight Annie Awards, including "Best Animated Feature". Animator Pete Docter, director John Lasseter, musician Randy Newman, producers Bonnie Arnold and Ralph Guggenheim, production designer Ralph Eggleston, and writers Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow, Andrew Stanton, and Joss Whedon all won awards for "Best Individual Achievement" in their respective fields for their work on the film. The film also won "Best Individual Achievement" in technical achievement.
Toy Story was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards, one for Best Motion Picture—Comedy or Musical, and one for Best Original Song—Motion Picture for Newman's "You've Got a Friend in Me". At both the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards and the Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards, the film won "Best Animated Film". Toy Story is also among the top ten in the BFI list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14, and the highest-placed (at No. 99) animated film in Empire magazine's list of "500 Greatest Movie of All Time". In 2005, Toy Story, along with Toy Story 2 was voted the 4th greatest cartoon in Channel 4's 100 Greatest Cartoons poll, behind The Simpsons, Tom and Jerry and South Park.
Impact and legacy
Toy Story had a large impact on the film industry with its innovative computer animation. After the film's debut, various industries were interested 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. Various authors have also compared the film to an interpretation of Don Quixote as well as humanism. In addition, Toy Story left an impact with its catchphrase "To Infinity and Beyond", sequels, and software, among others. In 2005 (10 years after its theatrical release), the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress, one of only six films to be selected in its first year of eligibility.
"To Infinity and Beyond"
Buzz Lightyear's classic line "To Infinity and Beyond" has seen usage not only on themed merchandise, but among philosophers and mathematical theorists as well. In 2008, during STS-124 astronauts took an action figure of Buzz Lightyear into space on the Discovery Space Shuttle as part of an educational experience for students while stressing the catchphrase. The action figure was used for experiments in zero-g. It was reported in 2008 that a father and son had continually repeated the phrase to help them keep track of each other while treading water for 15 hours in the Atlantic Ocean. The phrase occurs in the lyrics of Beyoncé's 2008 song "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", during the bridge. In 2012, the late Capital STEEZ released a song titled "Infinity and Beyond" in reference to the phrase as part of his AmeriKKKan Korruption mixtape.
Toy Story has spawned three sequels: Toy Story 2 (1999), Toy Story 3 (2010), and Toy Story 4 (2019). Initially, the first sequel to Toy Story was going to be a direct-to-video release, with development beginning in 1996. However, after the cast from Toy Story returned and the story was considered to be better than that of a direct-to-video release, it was announced in 1998 that the sequel would see a theatrical release.
Toy Story 2 was released to theatres November 24, 1999 and saw the return of the majority of the voice cast from the first film. The sequel focuses on Buzz leading Andy's toys on a mission to rescue Woody after he is stolen by a greedy toy collector. The film was equally well received by critics, many of whom thought it was even better than the first installment, earning a rare 100% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 163 reviews. At Metacritic, the film earned a favorable rating of 88/100 based on 34 reviews. The film's widest release was 3,257 theaters and it grossed $497 million worldwide, becoming the second-most successful animated film after The Lion King at the time of its release.
Toy Story 3 was released to theatres June 18, 2010 and centers on Andy's mom accidentally donating the toys to a day-care center when Andy, now a teenager, is preparing to go to college. Once there, they must hurry home before Andy leaves. Again, the majority of the cast from the prior two films returned, with Slinky Dog voiced by Blake Clark due to Jim Varney's death in 2000. It was the first film in the franchise to be released in 3-D for its first run, though the first two films, which were originally released in 2-D, were re-released in 3-D in 2009 as a double feature. Like its predecessors, Toy Story 3 received enormous critical acclaim, earning a 98% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. It also grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing animated film until the release of 2013's Frozen.
Toy Story 4 was released theatrically on June 21, 2019 and centers on Woody reuniting with Bo Peep, who was given away by Andy's mom years ago, while also coming to terms with his own continued purpose as a toy. It was originally set to be directed by John Lasseter and co-directed by Josh Cooley, but Lasseter stepped down in July 2017, leaving Cooley as the sole director. Most of the cast of the previous films again reprised their character roles, with Mr. Potato Head voiced through archive recordings due to Don Rickles' death in 2017.
In November 1996, the Disney on Ice: Toy Story ice show opened which featured the cast's voices as well as Randy Newman's music. In April 2008, the Disney Wonder cruise ship launched Toy Story: The Musical shows on its cruises.
Toy Story also led to a spin-off direct-to-video animated film, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins, as well as the animated television series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. The film and series followed Buzz Lightyear and his friends at Star Command as they uphold justice across the galaxy. Although the film was criticized for not using the same animation as the Toy Story films, it sold three million VHS and DVDs in its first week of release. The television series brought further commercial and critical acclaim, winning a Daytime Emmy in 2001 for Outstanding Sound Editing. The series ran for a total of 65 episodes.
Following the release of Toy Story 3, a series of Toy Story short films have been shown in theaters in front of other Disney features: Hawaiian Vacation (shown before Cars 2), centering on Barbie and Ken on vacation in Bonnie's room, Small Fry (shown before The Muppets), centering on Buzz being left in a fast-food restaurant, and Partysaurus Rex (shown before the 3D re-release of Finding Nemo), centering on Rex partying with bath toys.
In January 2013, a fan-made live-action version of the film was posted on YouTube that received more than 20 million views before being taken down by Disney for copyright of the audio. In February 2016, the video returned to YouTube.
In October 2013, ABC aired Toy Story of Terror!, promoting it as Pixar's first television special. In the special, Mr. Potato Head disappears and the other toys have to find him.
On December 2, 2014, ABC aired Toy Story That Time Forgot. In the story, the toys are trapped in room with a group of humanoid dinosaur warrior toys called Battlesaurs who do not know that they are toys and must escape.
Software and merchandise
Disney's Animated Storybook: Toy Story and Disney's Activity Center: Toy Story were released for Windows and Mac OS. Disney's Animated Storybook: Toy Story was the best selling software title of 1996, selling over 500,000 copies. Two console video games were released for the film: the Toy Story video game, for the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, and PC as well as Toy Story Racer, for the PlayStation (which contains elements from Toy Story 2). Pixar created original animations for all of the games, including fully animated sequences for the PC titles.
Toy Story had a large promotion before its release, leading to numerous tie-ins with the film including images on food packaging. A variety of merchandise was released during the film's theatrical run and its initial VHS release including toys, clothing, and shoes, among other things. When an action figure for Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody was created it was initially ignored by retailers. However, after over 250,000 figures were sold for each character before the film's release, demand continued to expand, eventually reaching over 25 million units sold by 2007.
Theme park attractions
Toy Story and its sequels have inspired multiple attractions at the theme parks of Walt Disney World and Disneyland:
- Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin at the Magic Kingdom casts theme park guests as cadets in Buzz's Space Ranger Corps. Guests ride through various scenes featuring Emperor Zurg's henchmen, firing "laser cannons" at their Z symbols, scoring points for each hit.
- Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters at Disneyland is similar to Space Ranger Spin, except that the laser cannons are hand-held rather than mounted to the ride vehicle.
- Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters at Walt Disney World's DisneyQuest, despite the identical name to the Disneyland attraction, is a bumper car style attraction in which guests compete against each other not only by ramming their ride vehicles into each other but also by firing "asteroids" (playground balls) at each other.
- Toy Story Midway Mania! at both Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disneyland's Disney California Adventure features a series of interactive carnival-type games hosted by the Toy Story characters. Guests ride in vehicles while wearing 3-D glasses, and using a pull-string cannon to launch virtual rings, darts, baseballs, etc. Disney announced an update to the attraction to add characters from Toy Story 3 several months before the film's release date.
- World of Color at Disney California Adventure is a large nighttime water and light show. Some of the scenes projected on the water screens feature animation from the Toy Story films.
- Toy Story Playland at Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland, opening in August 2010 and November 2011 respectively. The area is designed to create the illusion of "shrinking the guest" down to the size of a toy, and to play in Andy's backyard in several themed rides.
- Toy Story Land opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios on June 30, 2018, with rides including the Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers.
Toy Story's cast of characters forms the basis for the naming of the releases of the Debian computer operating system, from Debian 1.1 Buzz, the first release with a codename, in 1996, to Debian 11 Bullseye, the most-recently announced future release.
In 2013, Pixar designed a "Gromit Lightyear" sculpture based on the Aardman Animations character Gromit for Gromit Unleashed which sold for £65,000.
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