Check Out Our New Look

Exclusive Book Excerpt: ‘The CG Story’: How Pixar Saved ‘Toy Story’ From Becoming A Disney Disaster

By | Sunday December 8, 2013 @ 7:00pm PST

The history of special effects and CG in film and their close relationship with today’s top-notch digital animation is the focus of author Christopher Finch’s new lavish 368-page book The CG Story: Computer Generated Animation and Special Effects, which peels the curtain back on CG pioneers like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, and Pixar founders John Lasseter and Ed Catmull and their respective contributions to film. As part of Deadline’s weekend programming, read an exclusive excerpt from The CG Story, available now via The Monacelli Press (large format hardcover, $75), detailing the near-disaster that almost was when the upstarts at Pixar pacted with Disney to make their first feature: Toy Story.

The CG Story Book PixarGo motion may have been extinct overnight, as if by a meteor bombardment, but Phil Tippet reinvented himself as the head of a CG studio, and many of his go-motion animators were quick to retrain as CG animators, adapting their old skills with relative ease to the new way of working. During the early 1990s the shift to computer-generated animation was seen as a matter of urgency in many sections of the industry. Technologies such as motion control remained in use where they were cost effective, but this was the period when CGI began to take on the dominant role in visual effects. In the world of pure animation, it was about to make its mark with even greater decisiveness.

Ed Catmull explains that at Pixar there was a plan to progress from making commercials to producing a television special and then eventually a feature film. Having developed the CAPS system for Disney, Pixar had extensive contact with the feature-animation department there, but in fact they shopped their ideas around to everyone but Disney. One bone of contention was the fact that Disney had made efforts to hire John Lasseter away from the company. Jeffrey Katzenberg, then Disney studio head, had been impressed by the shorts he had seen and was convinced that Lasseter, by then Pixar’s creative director, was the secret to the company’s success. Lasseter, however, turned down the offers because of his belief in Pixar’s future, and because of his bitter memories of his previous tenure at Disney. Those memories were also why he had been adamant about not wanting to take ideas to Disney. “It wasn’t until [then],” Catmull remembers, “that I found out the real problem. For years he wouldn’t let anybody know he’d been fired… On the Queen Mary he had acknowledged that his project had been turned down, but not that he had been fired.”

The fact that Disney now saw Lasseter as a golden boy did nothing to alter his point of view, but finally, after no other studio had taken the bait, Pixar had no alternative but to consider working with Disney. Pixar execsThe initial approach, in fact, came from Disney. In 1991 Catmull received a call from Peter Schneider, president of Feature Animation, suggesting that Pixar make a CG feature that Disney would finance and distribute. It should be remembered that Disney’s animation renaissance was in full bloom at the time — Aladdin would shortly be released and The Lion King was in preproduction. Disney Feature Animation had always been a strictly in-house operation, and the idea of turning to an outside production studio, especially in those glory days, was shocking.

Read More »

Comments (18)

Hammond: ‘Toy Story’ Jumps Back Into Theatres – And 2011 Oscar Race?

By | Wednesday June 22, 2011 @ 4:48pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Toy Story 3 may have picked up a 2010 Best Picture nomination and a couple of other Oscars (for Best Animated Feature and Song), but who knew the Toy Story gang would come roaring back into the Oscar race just four months later? That could be the case as Disney/Pixar is about to release the first of two newly minted Toy Story Toons. Hawaiian Vacation opens Friday with the studio’s 2011 animated feature hopeful, Cars 2. A second toon is planned to go with the release of The Muppets in November, making both eligible for the Best Animated Short Oscar this year and creating a situation where Disney/Pixar could be competing against itself. Several other ideas for future installments are also in development at Pixar.

For those who can’t get enough of the Toy Story brand (Toy Story 3 grossed over $1 billion worldwide since its release a year ago), the six-minute Hawaiian Vacation picks up where TS3 pretty much left off, with the characters now living together in new owner Bonnie’s bedroom where they plan a makeshift romantic island getaway for Ken and Barbie after Ken screwed up travel plans in the dead of winter. The short reunites the entire impressive cast including Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Joan Cusack, Jodi Benson and the rest.

“It’s amazing; it was one of the key issues we had in going ahead,” director Gary Rydstrom told me this morning. ”We wanted to do it with all the cast, all the characters, so it was important to get all the actors on board with it, which they happily did. I don’t think it would have been possible without them.” Read More »

Comments (5)

‘Twilight’ Saga Facebook Page Now Has More Fans Than ‘Iron Man’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Transformers’, ‘Toy Story’ Combined


eclipse premiere

THE TWILIGHT SAGA Facebook page now has 6.665 million fans. (Above, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart sign autographs at last night’s Eclipse premiere.) It’s the largest of all the film pages, with more fans than Iron Man, Harry Potter, Transformers, and Toy Story Facebook pages combined.

Comments 37