It's been 15 years since the first Toy Story came out. I have to say, I can't think of many movies with great sequels, let alone movies that are still good by the time #3 rolls around. But from everything I've been hearing, Toy Story 3 is every bit as good as the original, if not better. Having an infant in the house makes it a bit challenging to get to the movies, so I haven't seen it yet, but it's definitely on my list as soon as I get the chance. In the meantime, let's flashback to the movie that put the franchise on the map back in 1995.
You probably know it's common practice for animators to act out a scene or movement to get an idea of how the action would really look. But those green plastic army men obviously don't move in real life, so the animation team had to come up with a creative solution: they glued some sneakers to pieces of plywood and tried to walk using that.
An early version of the script portrayed Woody as a sarcastic jerk who was constantly berating and insulting his fellow toy box members. It just didn't feel right, so writers went back to the drawing board and spent a week making Woody the nice guy we know today.
Barbie is in the movies now, of course, along with her on-again-off-again beau, Ken. But the first time around, Mattel passed on letting their iconic doll be featured in the movie. They claimed that they didn't want Barbie to have a personality defined by a company; they wanted kids to provide the personality when they played with the dolls. Hmm. Considering all of the Barbie videos already out on the market, I call shenanigans on that one. After Toy Story was a confirmed hit, Mattel gave their approval for the sequels. Go figure.
Can you imagine Billy Crystal as the voice of Buzz Lightyear? It could have happened. Disney and Pixar were wooing Crystal, but Billy declined, feeling his voice just wan't a good fit. "It's the only regret I have in the business of something I passed on," he has said. I'm sure Tim Allen is grateful. But no harm, no foul - Crystal went on to voice Mike in Monsters, Inc., which did pretty well at the box office too.
Any Far Side Neatoramanauts out there? If you've seen Toy Story, it's likely you've already spotted this tribute to Gary Larson: it's when the toy shark does a Woody impression, saying, "Look at me, I'm Woody! Howdy Howdy Howdy!" A Far Side strip from the early '80s macabrely shows a vulture wearing a dead cowboy's Stetson, declaring, "Hey everyone, look at me, I'm a cowboy! Howdy! Howdy! Howdy!" Check it out here.
Pixar is famous for their Easter eggs - fun little bits hidden in the movie for viewers to find. Here are just a few of them:
• All vehicles in the movie have license plate stickers that are dated November '95, which is when the movie was first released.
• Woody gets trapped in a milk crate with a toolbox perched on top of it. The toolbox is labeled "Binford," which is the company that sponsored Tim "The Toolman" Taylor's show on Home Improvement, starring, of course, Tim Allen.
• Many of the Easter eggs won't mean anything to you unless you worked on the film or are very familiar with the people who did. For instance, many of the "authors" of the books on Andy's shelves are actually the names of people who worked on the movie. Even the character of Andy has meaning - his name comes from Brown University Professor Andries Van Dam, a computer animation guru who taught many Pixar employees. Similarly, the letter/number combo "A113" is worked into all Pixar movies - this is the room number of the animation department at the California Institute for the Arts, where a lot of staffers went to school. In Toy Story, it's on the license plate of Andy's mom's car.
Toy Story was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2005, the very first year it was eligible for inclusion. By contrast, Beauty and the Beast took 21 years to be inducted.
Buzz Lightyear is named after astronaut Buzz Aldrin, obviously. Buzz Aldrin seems to enjoy this fact, as he pulled a Buzz Lightyear action figure out to great applause during a speech at NASA. NASA likes him, too - on May 31, 2008, a Buzz accompanied the real-life astronauts of the space Shuttle Discovery on a mission. He docked with the International Space Station and became the first toy to walk on the moon. (Image credit: NASA)
Woody is voiced by Tom Hanks, obviously, but in non-movie media, he is usually voiced by Jim Hanks - Tom's brother.
Speaking of the pull-string cowboy, Andy's once-favorite toy was named after Woody Strode, an actor who appeared in quite a few Westerns in the '50s and '60s. Woody the doll does have a last name, but it's not Strode. Editor and director Lee Unkrich revealed on his Twitter that since the very first Toy Story, Woody's last name has been "Pride."