Toy Story 3 is one of the most beloved Pixar films, but it could have looked extremely different if Disney went forward with their original version. Released in 2010, the third installment of the Toy Story trilogy received unanimous praise from critics and grossed over $1 billion at the worldwide box office, seemingly ending the series on the highest of notes... until this summer's Toy Story 4 added yet another worthwhile chapter to the incredible legacy. For many people, Toy Story 3 played as the ideal conclusion to the story many had been following since 1995.
Nearly 10 years after the third movie's release, the narrative is well-known by now. The main group of toys had to come to grips with the lingering conflict that was hinted at in the second installment: Andy was now a young adult and heading to college, outgrowing playing with toys long ago. The gang had some misadventures in a day care, escaped a traumatic incinerator experience, and eventually ended up in the loving care of Bonnie, who happily added them to her collection. But several years before Toy Story 3 became the tear-jerking blockbuster it is, Disney had a completely different idea in mind.
Buzz Got Recalled To Taiwan
First, some backstory. Under the original agreement Pixar had with Disney, the Mouse House owned all Pixar characters and had sequel rights. Pixar, of course, had the ability to work on any followups to their films, but had right of first refusal. When Disney first entertained the idea of Toy Story 3, it was going to be handled by their Circle 7 Animation studio. Production was slated to begin in 2006 in order to meet a planned 2008 release. Meet the Parents scribe Jim Herzfeld was hired to write the script.
The main plot of Disney's Toy Story 3 revolved around Buzz Lightyear malfunctioning and Andy's mom sending the space ranger action figure back to Taiwan so he could be repaired. Looking up information online, the other toys are surprised to discover that Buzz figures everywhere are having problems and there's a recall on the line. Woody and the rest of the gang decide to travel to Taiwan themselves so they can save Buzz before he's destroyed. The globe-trotting team included the usual mainstays of Andy's collection: Woody, Jessie, Bullseye, Mr. Potato Head, Rex, Hamm, and Slinky. The "B-plot" here would be Buzz encountering other toys that have been recalled. On-paper, it essentially reads as a version of Toy Story 2's rescue mission, only Buzz (instead of Woody) is the one who goes on a journey to confront his own mortality as a toy.
Buzz Dies (But The Toys Bring Him Back)
The Toy Story franchise is no stranger to emotionally poignant moments that make people of any age cry. Whether it's Jessie's song in Toy Story 2 or Andy bidding farewell to his trusty friends at the end of the third one, people know to bring tissues when they go to see a Toy Story film. Circle 7's version of the third movie included a story development where Buzz "died." The circumstances of what caused this are unknown, but concept art from Jim Martin shows a crestfallen Woody cradling the corpse of his friend and the other toys doing what they can to save Buzz. One illustration had Buzz on a makeshift operating table while Hamm looked something up on a computer (possibly how to fix Buzz).
Odds are, the film would not have ended with Buzz's death. Toy Story movies feature melancholy, but this is still an animated family picture trying to appeal to children. The finale of Toy Story 3 made people sob in the theater, though there was still a feeling of happiness about it. It was tough seeing Andy part with Woody, Buzz, and the others, but viewers knew the toys were going to be with a new kid that would love them. It would be something completely different if the trilogy wrapped up with the demise of a beloved fan-favorite - that would be tough for even adults to handle. Plus, Disney was already laying the foundation for a fourth movie while Circle 7's Toy Story 3 was in development, and it's hard to picture doing a Toy Story installment without Buzz. He's one of animation's most recognizable and popular characters.
There Are Other Star Command Toys
Fans never got to see the full extent of the Buzz Lightyear product line in Pixar's Toy Story films. Besides Buzz, the only one audiences know about is Emperor Zurg, Buzz's sworn enemy. It's unknown if there were other space rangers that collectors could have teamed up with Buzz (think the Woody's Roundup gang), but that likely would have been revealed if Circle 7 was able to make their film. More concept art from Martin shows Buzz coming face-to-face with a bigger toy that resembles something out of Star Command (the insignia on his chest is very similar to the Star Command logo). It's possible Buzz is part of a line designed for younger kids, while others were for older kids or even adult collectors. If Buzz was going through a recall, it wouldn't be surprising if there were a bunch of Star Command toys dealing with problems.
Another piece of concept art depicts Buzz having a conversation with a toy that looks like a Transformer (it has tires for shoulders), and it wouldn't have been a shock if Disney was trying to get some kind of licensing deal with Hasbro. A majority of Toy Story toys are original creations from Pixar, but they have integrated a number of real-life playthings into the movies. Even dating back to the first film (when Pixar was not a surefire lock as it is now), Mr. Potato Head was a primary character. Mattel licensed Barbie for Toy Story 2, and Barbie returned for Pixar's 3 (along with a memorable turn from Michael Keaton's Ken doll). Transformers is one of the most famous toy lines out there, and there would have been a lot of money to make selling Toy Story 3 Transformers. So far, Pixar has yet to incorporate the robots in disguise in their films.
This is an interesting "what if" that didn't get much further than early pre-production. In 2006, Disney bought Pixar and disbanded Circle 7 - effectively killing the Mouse House's Toy Story 3. Instead, Pixar had free rein to do what they wanted, and the rest is history. There's obviously no telling how successful Circle 7's might have been, but it's hard to argue with the results. The real Toy Story 3 won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, is one of the biggest hits of all-time, and felt like a natural continuation of its two predecessors. Pixar clearly knows how to make this franchise click on all cylinders, and it's great the third movie wasn't in anyone else's hands.
- Toy Story 4 (2019) release date: Jun 21, 2019