4 Ways 'Toy Story' Movies Were A Behind-The-Scenes Nightmare

4 Ways 'Toy Story' Movies Were A Behind-The-Scenes Nightmare

This week sees the release of Lightyear, the latest Pixar production that apparently answers that age-old question: "was the Buzz Lightyear toy based on a cartoon series, and if so, was said cartoon series based on a science fiction movie about a guy who looks exactly like the sentient action figure but conveniently sounds nothing like Tim Allen?"

The Toy Story spin-off will no doubt be a big (albeit still kind of confusing, to be honest) hit – after all, the beloved franchise has endured throughout the decades, facing its fair share of overwhelming obstacles – beyond simply Randy Newman's stubborn refusal to use a decongestant nasal spray – such as how …

The Original Toy Story Script Was So Bad That Disney Shut Down Production

Rather than fully explore the tragic backstory of that bouncing lamp character, for their first film, Pixar decided to focus on toys, stemming from their Oscar-winning 1988 short film Tin Toy, starring a tin soldier and a CGI baby with the face of Willem Dafoe.

As the project was developed, the lead character became Woody, a … giant ventriloquist dummy, who was basically the Schwarzenegger to Buzz Lightyear's Danny DeVito.

Pixar, of course, was making the movie mostly thanks to the funding and distribution of the Walt Disney Company, home to future Quibi genius Jeffrey Katzenberg. For some reason, Katzenberg thought Pixar's output should be more "adult" than the typical Disney fare and instructed the Toy Story crew to ensure that their story about literal children's playthings would have more "edge." The resulting story involved Woody, the previously "affable and easy cowboy," A) being a giant piece of crap to everyone around him, and B) straight-up trying to murder Buzz Lightyear.

When the storyboards of Woody's attempted toyslaughter screened for Disney execs, it didn't go over well. Production on the film was shut down until "an acceptable script was written," and the meeting was later referred to as "Black Friday" – because it was sad for the crew, not because anyone got trampled to death while trying to score a cheap flatscreen TV.

Toy Story 2 Was Deleted And Only Saved Thanks to a Baby

A lot can go wrong on a film set from injuries to camera malfunctions to looking Christian Bale directly in the eye. But Toy Story 2 was nearly obliterated from existence in less time than it takes to microwave a burrito. Once Toy Story became a massive worldwide hit, it was pretty obvious that they were going to make another one. Originally, Disney suggested making Toy Story 2 a straight-to-video sequel, in the vein of other shoddy follow-ups like Pocahontas II: Now We’re Really Screwing With History.

While Pixar eventually pushed back at this idea and secured a theatrical release, unfortunately, while working on the sequel, a Pixar employee hit a key command that accidentally deleted the entire movie in just 20 seconds. At first, no one panicked since they had back-ups of everything and would only “lose a half day’s work.” After all, it wasn’t all that unusual; during the making of A Bug’s Life, at one point “most of the ants got deleted” and had to be restored.  

But because the late ‘90s were apparently basically the goddamn Dark Ages, all the backup data was stored on tape. It turned out that they had maxed out the 4GB limit, and because Pixar “did not continuously test their backups,” the new data was “pushing” out the old files, and no one noticed until it was too late. Which meant that literal years-worth of work was suddenly gone.

Luckily, this major studio release was saved by a literal baby. The film’s supervising technical director was occasionally working from home following the “birth of her second child” and had set up a “back-up program” at her house. So they raced there, wrapped her computer up in blankets, and carefully drove it back to the studio where it was “carried into Pixar like an Egyptian Pharaoh” – thus saving the further adventures of Woody and Buzz … and also Stinky Pete’s regrettable casting couch bit.

Toy Story 3 Was Almost Made Without Pixar And Shockingly Racist

In the early 2000s, the relationship between Disney and Pixar was about as warm as Mr. Freeze’s boxer shorts; Disney tried to claim that Toy Story 2 didn’t count as part of their five-picture deal with Pixar since “the agreement encompassed only original features, not sequels.” Making things somehow even worse, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner launched a new animation division; Circle 7, which was created in order to “exercise the studio’s right to make sequels” to Pixar films without their “input.”

And what Circle 7 came up with seemingly wasn’t super-great. In addition to Monsters Inc. 2, they also took several cracks at developing Toy Story 3. One proposed plotline involved a “murder mystery centered around missing toys” while another found Buzz malfunctioning, recalled by his manufacturer, and shipped back to Taiwan – which, judging from the concept art, would have been surprisingly tragic.


Then things would have gotten … crazy racist? If we’re to accept the authenticity of the script pages that have leaked online, this version of Toy Story 3 included a moment where Woody yells: “So solly! Me no speeky Taiwaneesey!”

Tom Hanks likely wouldn’t have been involved in this production, and thus wouldn’t have been forced to perform the required “bad Chinese accent.” Tim Allen on the other hand was reportedly game. Thankfully Circle 7 was killed, and Pixar was allowed to make their Toy Story 3, which … was also pretty tragic.

Toy Story 4 was Delayed By Multiple Scandals

While it may have seemed unnecessary at first, Pixar went ahead and made a fourth Toy Story movie, featuring yet more toy-based adventures and several crippling existential crises. But while the movie turned out to be excellent in the end, it was plagued by some serious real-life scandals behind the scenes. 

For starters, Toy Story 4 was originally going to be co-directed by John Lasseter, until he announced in 2017 that he was stepping back from that role, purely due to his busy schedule. That reasoning may not have been the whole story, given that later this year, Lasseter faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct – things were so bad, that female Pixar employees reportedly developed a defensive move they dubbed "the Lasseter" to prevent any unwanted touching. 

These revelations also seemed to explain another behind-the-scenes hiccup; Rashida Jones and writing partner Will McCormack had signed on to pen the Toy Story 4 script, but then unceremoniously quit the project. In light of the Lasseter allegations, a lot of people retroactively assumed that the pair’s departure was motivated by some sort of “encounter” with the disgraced executive. But Jones later and McCormack clarified that it wasn’t due to any advances from Lasseter, clarifying in a statement that they took issue with how the studio fosters a “culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice” as “demonstrated by their director demographics.”

Which obviously added a whole other layer of unpleasantness to this production. According to Annie Potts, the voice of Bo Peep, the filmmakers “threw out three-quarters” of the script and “rewrote” the rest at the last minute. All of which is a pretty dramatic turn of events for a movie about a talking spork.

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Top Image: Disney/Pixar


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