25 Years Old Today: Here’s 30 Things You Never Knew About Toy Story
Believe it or not, it’s now been a whole quarter-century since Pixar’s original Toy Story first graced our screens.
A groundbreaking 3D animated film, Toy Story not only won multiple awards, it also broke the bank at the box office and proved so popular with both audiences and critics alike that it laid the groundwork for an animation studio that would come to rival Disney itself.
Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr Potato Head and co’s path to the screen wasn’t without a bump or two, however. Before Toy Story changed animation forever, it first suffered an arduous production process that saw the film go through multiple changes and, at one point, almost abandoned altogether.
Scroll down for 30 things you never knew about 1995’s original Toy Story, one of the greatest animated movies ever to come out of Tinseltown.
30. Tom Hanks’ brother also voices Woody
Tom Hanks is one of the biggest actors on the planet, so he doesn’t always have time to do extra voiceover work for all of the merchandise and games related to his films.
Enter his younger brother, Jim Hanks, instead, who actually voices Woody for tie-in merchandise including dolls, video games and Toy Story spin-offs.
The jig was finally up in 2015, when Hanks was presented with a talking Woody toy on The Graham Norton Show and asked if that was really his voice.
“No, it’s my brother Jim,” Hanks revealed. “There are so many computer games and video things, and Jim just works on those all year long.”
29. Disney wanted the film to be a musical
If Disney executives had had their way, Toy Story could have ended up a very different film.
Toy Story was revolutionary for Disney not just in its approach to animation: this was to be a Disney ‘toon without any singing. Naturally, Disney execs didn’t like the sound of that.
In the 90s, the idea that a Disney movie would not be a musical was unthinkable – but John Lasseter refused to budge, insisting Toy Story was a buddy comedy.
The compromise was that Pixar’s first film would feature music by Randy Newman on the soundtrack at key points. Lasseter still stuck to his guns, though: none of his characters would actually sing any songs themselves.
28. Pixar wanted Toy Story to be the anti-Disney film
Despite the fact that the House of Mouse was raking in billions of dollars in the 90s thanks to films such as Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, Pixar wanted to change the formula entirely for Toy Story.
It wasn’t just a refusal to make the film a musical. Director Lasseter and the Toy Story writers came up with a whole load of things that they wanted the film not to be.
First on the list: they didn’t want it to be a soppy fairytale. The Toy Story team was also fed up of ‘boring’ protagonists, using Aladdin as a perfect example of a main character who is just too ‘good’ all the time.
Pixar’s creatives purposely made sure that the likes of Woody and Buzz had clear flaws, as a way to make them more interesting.
27. Steve Jobs produced the movie
In his brief time on Earth, tech icon and Apple impresario Steve Jobs gave us the iPod, iPhone and the Apple computer. He also gave us Toy Story.
In the 80s, after Pixar went independent from Lucasfilm, Jobs took an interest, eventually becoming chairman of the board and full owner of the company.
Jobs remained with Pixar through the production of Toy Story (and on to the company’s purchase by Disney in 2006), investing much of his own money into the film while leaving the bulk of the creative decisions up to Lasseter and co.
For all subsequent Pixar films, Jobs took more of a backseat. As a result, Toy Story features Jobs’ only film credit – he’s credited at the end of the film as executive producer.
26. Toy Story only exists thanks to The Nightmare Before Christmas
There’s an intriguing connection between Toy Story and the slightly creepier 1993 animation The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Before Tim Burton’s spooky tale of Halloween and Christmas, no animated film using the Disney name had ever been made outside of Disney Studios.
However, Burton’s intriguing – and financially successful – use of stop-motion made the studios think twice about collaborating with other companies.
Only recently, at a Toy Story 20th anniversary panel, Lasseter unequivocally said: “Because of Nightmare Before Christmas, Toy Story happened”.
25. It was the first computer-animated film ever made
When Toy Story was released in 1995, the movie marked a number of firsts for Disney.
For one, the film was the first ever animated feature to receive an Oscar nomination for its screenplay, and the first (and so far only) animated film to receive a special achievement Academy Award.
Most notably of all, however, was the fact that Toy Story was the first fully computer-animated feature film, made for Disney or otherwise.
That the film also turned out to be such an enduring classic was a shock: some animators working on the film thought their little CG ‘experiment’ was going to only appeal to a limited audience.
24. Lasseter’s pitch for an all-CGI ‘toon got him fired from Disney
Pixar head honcho Steve Jobs may have seen the potential, but not everyone had faith in what Pixar was trying to achieve with Toy Story.
John Lasseter, before he became the creative head of Pixar, was an animator who worked for Disney.
While there, a young Lasseter had the bright idea to make a move from traditional cel animation into computer-generated animation.
Unfortunately for the young animator, this was something some of Disney’s old guard were less enthusiastic about.
Eventually, after working briefly on an all-CG feature at the Mouse House, Lasseter in his own words “got fired because I felt so strongly about computer animation and I wouldn’t take no for an answer”.
23. Production was shut down at one point because producers thought the film was so bad
The film may be viewed as a classic today, but Toy Story didn’t exactly have a smooth path to greatness.
November 19, 1993 – now known as the ‘Black Friday Incident’ by Pixar insiders – was the day a rough cut of Toy Story was first shown to Disney execs.
The producers hated this early version of the film, so much so that they demanded production was shut down immediately.
What followed was more than three months of Pixar creatives working unpaid to figure out the film’s problems. Disney execs approved of the proposed changes, and production was resumed in February 1994.
22. The film was originally much darker
One of the key reasons why the Toy Story production was shut down in 1993 was the film’s not-so-child-friendly tone at that time.
In this version of the film, Andy’s toys had no love for each other and Woody was – in the words of Tom Hanks, the actor voicing the character – nothing but a “sarcastic jerk”.
Rather than being the warm-hearted (yet flawed) leader he would ultimately come to be, Woody was originally a tyrannical ruler who verbally and physically abused the other toys.
In the ‘Black Friday’ cut, Woody even purposefully threw Buzz out of Andy’s window, showing no remorse for betraying Andy’s new favourite in a “toy eat toy world”.
21. One of the film’s deleted scenes showed Sid torturing the toys
Though the ‘Black Friday’ version of Toy Story was thankfully quickly passed over in favour of a much lighter movie, not all of the original film’s darkness was extinguished.
In the Toy Story we know and love, Sid is still a callous, toy-wrecking teen – but he could have been even worse.
One of the deleted scenes from the movie shows Sid doing worse than burning a hole in Woody’s forehead with a magnifying glass.
Originally, the scene ran longer, and showed Sid spinning Buzz with a drill, before throwing both Buzz and Woody around his bedroom.
20. Billy Crystal and Jim Carrey were the first choices to voice Buzz Lightyear
Tim Allen, at the time a popular name in television thanks to the ABC sitcom Home Improvement, wasn’t the first choice to voice Buzz Lightyear. Far from it, in fact.
Several big-name movie actors were considered before Allen came on board, including Jim Carrey, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase.
Billy Crystal, however, was Lasseter’s dream voice actor for Buzz. Crystal said no, though, in what he later called “the only regret I have in the business of something I passed on”.
Crystal has no hard feelings, though: after Toy Story’s release, he called Allen’s voice work “fantastic” and bagged himself a part in 2001 Pixar effort Monsters, Inc.
19. Paul Newman could have played Woody
Billy Crystal wasn’t the only actor to turn down a prominent Toy Story role after it was offered to him.
The original concept for Woody and Buzz – the cowboy and the spaceman – was that the two would be played by actors who respectively represented Old Hollywood and New Hollywood.
With Pixar looking at exciting new comedians like Billy Crystal and Jim Carrey for Buzz, they were also looking at Paul Newman – who got his big break in 1956’s Somebody Up There Likes Me – for Woody.
According to Tim Allen, Newman turned it down because the offer from the relatively low-budget animated film was too small. Instead, Newman would work with Pixar 11 years later, voicing Doc Hudson in Cars.
18. Woody was originally a ventriloquist dummy
Before he became the recognisable cowboy ragdoll all film fans know today, Woody went through several different iterations.
In early drafts, Woody was a ventriloquist’s dummy (hence the name ‘Woody’) with a pull-string, inspired by a Casper the Friendly Ghost doll Lasseter had as a child.
Later, Woody was changed to a cowboy-themed ventriloquist dummy, before the dummy was deemed too creepy for younger audiences and abandoned altogether.
Finally, ‘Woody’ became a far less “sneaky and mean”-looking cowboy doll. The name stayed with the character as a nod to Western actor Woody Strode.
17. Buzz Lightyear’s original name was Lunar Larry
Like Woody, Buzz Lightyear went through a few changes of his own on his journey to the big screen.
Initially a tin toy called Tinny, in homage to Pixar’s 1988 short Tin Toy, Buzz was then changed to a GI Joe-esque action figure, and finally a spaceman.
With the character change came an inevitable name change – but it was the bizarre Tempus from Morph, and then Lunar Larry, that took Pixar’s fancy.
Finally, Pixar decided to call their spaceman toy Buzz Lightyear, after second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin.
16. Buzz’s spacesuit was almost completely different
When the Toy Story team finally landed on a name and a profession for Buzz, they set about settling on the character’s look.
In early test footage for the character, however, Buzz is almost unrecognisable, much smaller than Woody and with his iconic spacesuit made red.
The Pixar animators soon changed their minds and decided to model the outfit on real spacesuits instead, eventually landing on the combination of white, lime green and purple.
“Lime green is my favourite colour and purple is my wife Nancy’s favourite colour,” Lasseter later explained.
15. The animators play-acted as toys for inspiration
Working as they were in 3D, Toy Story’s animators saw the opportunity to make their characters move more realistically than cartoon characters ever had before.
Pixar put particular effort into making Andy’s Bucket O Soldiers move as realistically as possible (well, as realistic as toys spontaneously coming to life can be).
Having a eureka moment, supervising animator Pete Docter nailed his trainers to a wooden board and proceeded to walk around the Pixar offices.
Docter then made more prototypes for the rest of the team to use. The Pixar staff spent a day moving around like this, after which time they had truly nailed how to animate Andy’s toy soldiers.
14. Two teenage fans remade the entire film as a live-action movie
Since the dawn of YouTube, film fans have enjoyed recreating scenes from popular movies.
However a Toy Story fan film, created by Jonason Pauley and Jesse Perrotta and first unveiled in 2013, takes the prize.
The film, which took two years to make, is a shot-for-shot live-action recreation of all 81 minutes of Toy Story.
Even more incredibly, the film was made by Pauley and Perrotta when they were both still teenagers. Six years later, it’s still a marvel.
13. Joss Whedon wrote the most memorable line in the film
After the Toy Story script was taken in a direction the Pixar team didn’t like, they went looking for fresh writers to get back on track.
Lasseter invited a young Joss Whedon into the writing room after reading an early draft of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie.
Lasseter was so impressed that he brought Whedon in to help with the Toy Story script.
Whedon subsequently ended up creating one of Lasseter’s favourite lines in any Pixar movie: Buzz’s “You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity.”
12. Whedon also created Rex
Though the Toy Story script went through multiple further changes and several more drafts after Joss Whedon had a crack at it, some of his ideas stayed for the long haul.
One of Whedon’s biggest contributions to the script, besides an all-time great Pixar one-liner, was a fan-favourite character.
With Disney pressuring Lasseter and co. for more human characters, Whedon’s solution was to instead introduce neurotic dino toy Rex.
Whedon also brought Barbie to the script, but Mattel declined Pixar’s request to use the character. Barbie would instead be introduced in Toy Story 2.
11. Pixar couldn’t afford to give Andy a dad
According to Lee Unkrich, the editor of Toy Story, Andy’s dad has never featured in the Toy Story movies simply because he’s “never been relevant to the story.”
“The decision was made really early on in ‘Toy Story’ to have Andy’s dad not be around,” Unkrich told MSN Movies in 2010.
However Craig Good, supervising layout artist for the film, recently offered a rather different explanation.
“The real answer is that we couldn’t afford a dad,” he wrote in response to a question on Quora. “Human characters were just hideously expensive and difficult to do in those days and, as Lee mentioned, Andy’s dad wasn’t necessary for the story.”
10. Toy Story saved Etch A Sketch from going into administration
When Toy Story opened in 1995 to $374 million of box office, on a $30 million budget, it was a bigger success story than anybody could have predicted.
Toy Story was so successful, in fact, that it actually saved a company from the brink of bankruptcy.
The Ohio Art Company, which makes Etch A Sketch, was nearly going bust before Toy Story was released.
After the Ohio Art Company agreed to let Etch A Sketch feature in the film, their sales increased by 20%, which ended up saving the company.
9. Toy Story references films Pixar hadn’t even made yet
In the 24 years since their first feature, Pixar have become known for referencing their own movies in their latest projects.
Even Toy Story, despite being the first feature Pixar ever made, references a couple of the studio’s other movies.
Midway through the film, Woody and Buzz find themselves at a gas station, which bears the Dinoco logo.
Not only would Dinoco become a key component of the Cars films, but the Dinoco logo features The Good Dinosaur’s apatosaurus, Arlo.
8. Another Pixar ‘character’ makes a cameo
It’s not just other Pixar features that receive nods in Toy Story: the studio’s short films are referenced, too.
On Andy’s bookshelf, there are books entitled Tin Toy, Knick Knack, Red’s Dream and Luxo Jr, all named for Pixar shorts made prior to Toy Story.
Two items from Luxo Jr that have since become Pixar trademarks also feature in Toy Story: a Luxo lamp, modelled after the short’s two lamp characters, and the Luxo Jr ball.
The lamp can be found on Andy’s desk, while the ball is the one which Buzz bounces off to prove his ability to fly.
7. There’s a Hidden Mickey in Andy’s bedroom
Though Pixar and Disney’s partnership through the production of Toy Story was frayed, Pixar still repaid Disney’s generosity by making a couple of references to the Mouse House.
Toy Story, like most Disney films, contains a ‘Hidden Mickey’, a Mickey Mouse-like shape subtly inserted into the background animation.
Toy Story’s Hidden Mickey is not so hidden, with a large Mickey Mouse watch-clock on Andy’s bedroom wall.
Also nodding to the film’s Disney connection, Toy Story also features the song Hakuna Matata, from The Lion King, playing in Andy’s mum’s minivan near the end of the film.
6. Randy Newman wrote You’ve Got a Friend in Me in a day
After Disney asked Pixar to Disney-fy Toy Story by introducing some songs to the narrative, John Lasseter was tasked with finding an appropriate songwriter.
The person Lasseter turned to was American singer Randy Newman, who had previously soundtracked films such as Robert Redford’s 1984 sports movie The Natural.
Newman ended up providing both the Toy Story score and some standout tracks including Strange Things and I Will Go Sailing No More.
Newman’s finest Toy Story moment, however, and perhaps the highlight of his career, is You’ve Got a Friend in Me, the film’s theme song. It’s since become an iconic tune – and, incredibly, it’s one that Newman wrote in just a single day.
5. Some of Woody’s most famous lines were actually improvised by Hanks
According to Toy Story’s creators, Tom Hanks got so into the role of Woody that he’s still providing inspiration for them more than two decades later.
According to Lee Unkrich, who served as the first Toy Story’s editor, parts of Woody’s dialogue in Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 and the upcoming Toy Story 4 were recorded by Hanks in 1994.
It’s all thanks to Hanks being a master improviser, says Lasseter: “We found out that if we gave him props, he would just come up with ideas.”
The sequence where Woody plays around with Buzz’s detached arm in the window was improvised by Hanks after Lasseter borrowed a fake severed arm from one of his kids.
4. Disney wanted more human characters
Once the initial script for Toy Story was drafted, Walt Disney Studios brought in some ‘professional writers’ to take a look at it.
According to Craig Good, a supervising layout artist for the film, Disney ended up doing more harm than good by trying to add more human characters (mainly children).
Says Good, Disney just “didn’t get the fact that the movie was about the toys,” and only undermined the original concept for the movie.
The issue was resolved when Joss Whedon came on board to help polish up the script, and put the focus back on the toys.
3. There are references to The Shining all over Toy Story
Lee Unkrich, who edited Toy Story and later co-directed Toy Story 2 and directed Toy Story 3, cites his favourite film as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
That much should be obvious from the fact that Sid’s house features the prominent carpet pattern of The Shining’s Overlook Hotel and – in the French-language version of the film, at least – a doll who says “Redrum” when attacking Sid.
Toy Story isn’t the only film in the franchise to feature a reference to Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic.
Toy Story 3 is awash with references to The Shining’s spooky Room 237, with a rubbish truck, a Sunnyside security camera and an online username (‘Velocistar 237’) all bearing the number.
2. The film features the first of Pixar’s A113’s
Starting as they meant to go on, Pixar included in Toy Story an easter egg that has since featured in every one of the studio’s movies.
If you keep an eye out, you’ll see the licence plate on Andy’s mum’s car reads ‘A113’.
A113 is the name of the classroom in which Pixar’s Brad Bird, Pete Docter, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, as students, learned graphic design and character animation at the California Institute of the Arts.
Toy Story would only be the first Pixar to nod to CalArts: since then, all 20 of the studio’s films have featured an A113 somewhere.
1. The film was supposed to be called something else entirely
Through its tortured production history, Toy Story didn’t just see changes made to its look and concept.
The film’s very name also underwent an overhaul, with the original working title for the project being You Are A Toy.
The name didn’t last long, for obvious reasons: Toy Story had the simple, catchy and timeless quality Pixar was going for with the film itself.
You Are A Toy wasn’t the only placeholder title the film went by. When an early cut of Toy Story went before test audiences in 1995, the film was smuggled in disguised as a screening of Disney’s upcoming Vietnam War comedy Operation Dumbo Drop.