There haven’t been many moments in the history of cinema when one movie single-handedly changed the entire industry and introduced an entirely new way of making movies, but that was definitely the case with 1995’s Disney / Pixar animated feature Toy Story.
From a technological standpoint, Toy Story was the first full-length animation to have been entirely created by computers. It was also only the second Disney animated movie ever to have been primarily made outside of the studio, and the first time the legendary animator John Lasseter directed a full-length project. Above all, Toy Story was Pixar’s first ever feature film, setting the standards of animation and storytelling that the studio would become known for.
With a stellar voice cast that featured Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Don Rickles, beautiful and groundbreaking animation, a compelling plot, and a touch of Disney magic, Toy Story went on to become a classic that yielded three sequels (as Toy Story 4 makes its way into production) and theme park themed areas in Hong Kong Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, FL.
It’s time to revisit your childhood and find out 16 Things You Didn’t Know About Toy Story.
16 IT HAD SEVERAL DIFFERENT WORKING TITLES
There were several title changes before Toy Story settled on its actual name. Working titles such as Made In Taiwan, To Infinity And Beyond, The Cowboy & The Spaceman, The Favorite, Toyz In The Hood, and The New Toy were all taken into consideration at some point in the movie’s production.
Though Toy Story seems catchy and concise enough to have been the obvious choice from the very beginning, Disney and Pixar bounced off several different ideas until they arrived at it. As the title was chosen and the movie went on to become the major success that it became, however, the studios started to like the title so much that they almost went with A Bug Story as the name to A Bug’s Life, Pixar’s second full-length animated film.
15 THE LOW $30 MILLION BUDGET
Even though Toy Story had to overcome major technological obstacles regarding computer animation, had the involvement of Disney, and was made by Pixar – a company backed by Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple – the film had the extremely low budget of $30 million for all that it was trying to achieve.
As a matter of comparison, 1989’s The Little Mermaid had a budget of $40 million and 1994’s The Lion King was given $45 million. The budget for the Toy Story 2 sequel jumped to $90 million, and it became $200 million for Toy Story 3.
Additionally, Toy Story had to be made by a staff of only 110 people who worked at Pixar at the time. Currently, the studio has at least ten times that number of employees.
14 IT WAS THE HIGHEST GROSSING MOVIE OF 1995
Despite having such a low budget, Toy Story went on to become the highest-grossing movie of 1995, which was a very crowded year for children properties and action films. It beat Batman Forever, Apollo 13, Pocahontas, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, and even classics such as 007: GoldenEye, Jumanji, and Casper. Toy Story single-handedly gave Pixar footing to keep going and Disney to take more chances in computer-animated features.
Toy Story opened to a $29 million weekend (losing to Batman Forever’s $52 million and Ace Ventura’s $37 million) and has currently grossed about $373 million worldwide. Although those numbers are quite impressive, the sequels have done even better: 1999’s Toy Story 2 has a lifetime gross of $497 million and 2010’s Toy Story 3 has surpassed the $1 billion-dollar mark at the box office.
13 WOODY AND BUZZ WERE ORIGINALLY MEAN
Like the title itself, the personalities attached to Toy Story’s duo of protagonists – the cowboy toy Woody and the astronaut toy Buzz – only came to fruition after several revisions in the script and notes from Disney executives.
Truth is, during the inception of Toy Story, Woody and Buzz were extremely dislikable characters. They were described as being sarcastic and mean, making the characters impossible to empathize with – especially among kids. Additionally, according to inside stories, Woody originally looked creepy and small. Buzz’s size was about 6 inches and his suit was red.
After many notes from Disney executives, Pixar finally reached a happy medium regarding Woody and Buzz’s personalities and scaled the characters to the sizes we have come to see – Buzz at 12 inches and Woody at 15.
12 REX WAS DESIGNED AFTER JURASSIC PARK’S T-REX
Toy Story was released in 1995, which means that it had been in production for many years before. In 1993, there was one huge summer blockbuster that came out that would eventually inspire an incredibly important character in the Toy Story lineup: Jurassic Park.
That’s right. According to Disney’s official blog Oh My Disney, the appearance of Toy Story’s Rex – the friendly and fearful green dinosaur – was directly inspired by Jurassic Park’s main dinosaur, the T-Rex. While the design similarity is definitely there, the two characters couldn’t have more opposing personalities.
According to a Quora interview with Craig Good, who worked at Pixar at the time, the character of Rex was an idea from Buffy the Vampire Slayer showrunner and Avengers director Joss Whedon. Because of course it was!
11 IT’S THE LAST FILM TO WIN A SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT OSCAR
The Academy Awards, aka the Oscars, is the most prestigious set of awards in the entire film industry. The Academy have shown a lot of love to the Toy Story franchise, and to Pixar in general, throughout the years.
Most notably, 1995’s Toy Story was presented with a Special Achievement Academy Award, a non-annual category that only takes into consideration truly exceptional pieces of filmmaking. To date, Toy Story was the last movie to have received this award, which was also given in 1990 to Total Recall, in 1981 to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and in 1977 to Star Wars, to name a few. The first time it was ever given was in 1972 for The Poseidon Adventure.
The Academy Award for Best Animated Feature category wouldn’t be introduced until 2001, when DreamWorks’ Shrek won.
10 IT HAS 100% ON ROTTEN TOMATOES
This movie’s success story doesn’t just end with huge box office numbers and awards. In the popular criticism aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Toy Story and Toy Story 2 have scores of 100% on the Tomatometer, being the highest-rated Pixar movies ever.
Curiously, Toy Story 3 – a movie that is also lauded as a fan-favorite – has a 99%, as does Finding Nemo. As a matter of comparison, Inside Out and Up have scores of 98%, and The Incredibles has a 97%. The lowest-rated Pixar film to date is Cars 2, which has a 39% on the Tomatometer.
9 THE NAME ORIGINS
Buzz Lightyear, the astronaut toy, actually got his name from a very obvious reference: Buzz Aldrin, the U.S. astronaut who was a pilot in the Apollo 11 mission and became one of the two first human beings to land on the moon in 1969.
The boy Andy, on the other hand, was named after a much more internal reference among Pixar animators. His name came from Andries Van Dam, a pioneer in computer science and animation who taught many of Pixar’s initial employees during his time as a professor at Brown University.
Though it is never actually mentioned in the Toy Story trilogy of films, Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich once revealed that Sheriff Woody has an official last name: Pride. That’s Sheriff Woody Pride.
8 BARBIE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE FIRST MOVIE
Barbie made a cameo in Toy Story 2 and became a major character in Toy Story 3, but she was actually meant to have joined the franchise since the first movie.
Why didn’t she? Well… Mattel, the toy company that owns the Barbie brand, didn’t really believe that 1995’s Toy Story would become a hit. Also, they weren’t sure about allowing their doll to be defined by a particular personality.
Barbie was initially poised to be Woody’s main love interest, but as the plans to include her fell through, Pixar created the Little Bo Peep character as a replacement. The same situation happened between Pixar and Hasbro – the toy company denied the studio to use the G.I. Joe brand, and so the green army men were created as replacements.
7 THE PIZZA PLANET TRUCK IS IN ALL PIXAR MOVIES
As an ongoing celebration of Toy Story, Pixar’s first full-length feature, the studio has made sure to include the movie’s Pizza Planet truck in every single one of its other projects – sometimes going to great lengths to make that cameo work.
The yellow 1978 Gyoza Mark VII Lite Hauler pizza truck has been featured in both Toy Story sequels, A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University, Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, all three Cars, Up, Wall-E, The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out, and shockingly even in Brave, where the truck takes the form of a wooden trinket inside the Witch’s cottage.
Another curious fact is that the Pizza Planet truck’s license plate reads “RES1536,” a reference to the original Toy Story resolution, rendered at 1536 x 922.
6 WOODY’S OTHER VOICE ACTOR
It is widely known that Tom Hanks lends his voice to the Toy Story character Woody. It is also widely known, however, that Tom Hanks is an A-list movie star who is always involved in several projects at any given time.
Wounding several childhoods at once, Tom Hanks admitted in a 2011 interview for BBC’s The Graham Norton Show that, indeed, his brother Jim Hanks does the voice work for Woody whenever Tom is busy – such as in the case of the real-life doll of Woody.
Jim Hanks is also credited as the voice of Woody in the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins direct-to-video movie that came out in 2000 and served as the pilot episode for the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command television series that followed.
5 THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS’ INFLUENCE
There couldn’t be two more distinct animated movies than The Nightmare Before Christmas and Toy Story, but the former actually had a huge impact on the making of the latter.
According to John Lasseter, director of Toy Story and head of Pixar, it was because of The Nightmare Before Christmas’ success that Disney started to believe in Toy Story. That’s because the Tim Burton stop-motion dark musical was the first ever full-length animated movie to have been distributed by Disney but made outside of the studio. The film was made by Skellington Productions, a joint venture between Walt Disney Animation, Henry Selick, and Tim Burton. The company, however, only made one more film: 1996’s James and the Giant Peach.
As The Nightmare Before Christmas premiered to big success in 1993, the way was paved for Pixar to approach Disney about Toy Story, which was released in 1995.
4 IT WAS GOING TO BE A MUSICAL
Of course Disney tried to make Toy Story a musical. According to reports, the studio came to John Lasseter and Pixar with about six or seven songs to be featured in the film, and it was up to Lasseter to break the news that Pixar wasn’t interested in doing a musical.
Both studios agreed that at least one big thematic song was needed. Toy Story was a Disney animation aimed at children, after all. The happy medium was reached in the form of Randy Newman and “You’ve Got A Friend,” which became the soundtrack’s main song and a perfect summary of the feel and message conveyed in the film.
Toy Story 2 featured a more literal musical moment in Jessie’s “When She Loved Me” musical number/flashback.
3 OTHER FAMOUS ACTORS WERE APPROACHED
It is now impossible to see Woody without thinking of Tom Hanks and Buzz without hearing Tim Allen’s voice, but these casting choices weren’t always set in stone.
Before Tim Allen, Disney considered actors Jim Carrey and Billy Crystal for the voice of Buzz Lightyear. The two actors had bigger/hotter careers at the time, and Disney was trying to surround itself with talent and big names to compensate for the risk that Toy Story already represented. The same was true for Woody, as Disney thought of Paul Newman before they landed on Tom Hanks.
While Philadelphia came out in 1993, Tom Hanks only became a big shot actor after the major success of 1994’s Forrest Gump, which means that in 1995 he wasn’t the well-established actor we know him as today.
2 THERE WAS ORIGINALLY A DIFFERENT PROTAGONIST
Besides the plot and casting changes Toy Story went through, the movie had originally a completely different protagonist.
Toy Story was initially an extension of Pixar’s very first animated short film, 1988’s Tin Toy, which was a 5-minute-long story about a mechanical band player toy called Tinny running away from a huge baby named Billy. Tinny, the short’s protagonist, was the original main character in Toy Story, but Disney urged Pixar to move away from the short and focus on producing an entirely original full-length feature.
Pixar holds great affection for Tin Toy as it was the studio’s first major production - so much so that the short’s pink bear character, called Lotso, eventually became the main villain in Toy Story 3 – bringing the franchise full circle.
1 JOSS WHEDON’S WORK
Besides having the idea for Rex, the friendly green Toy Story dinosaur inspired by Jurassic Park, Joss Whedon is actually responsible for some major moments and lines in the movie.
According to a statement from John Lasseter, who now oversees both the Pixar and Walt Disney Animation studios, his favorite line ever in any Pixar movie is from Toy Story and was written by Joss Whedon: “You’re a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity.”
The line is delivered by Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear to Tom Hanks’ Woody, in a moment where the two characters are unsurprisingly disagreeing about what to do. Besides Joss Whedon, the screenplay also credits writers Andrew Stanton (who stayed at Pixar for many other projects), Joel Cohen (not the Coen brother), and Alec Sokolow.
Do you have any other Toy Story trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!