It’s hard to know quite what to talk about with regard to this Pixar. It was a very interesting panel, but primarily because I’m a huge Toy Story fan (I am actually Andy, caught between cowboys and space rangers) and they showed some of the early buggy animation that included things like Buzz’s eyes positioned on his chin, the floating head of Andy’s mom, and Woody’s legs floating parallel to the ground while his upper body moved [mostly] correctly.
Pete Docter, Galyn Susman, and Eben Ostby (subbing in for an ill Ed Catmull) made up the panel of Toy Story creators, moderated by fellow Pixar associate Jim Morris. A lot of the talk turned towards the challenges of the early tech; a short documentary video at the opening of the panel told about how the early Pixar folks were creating the first modern computer animation tools as they went, and the panelists talked about that, too. In fact, when they began creating Toy Story, they hadn’t even created the most basic tools we’d consider essential today; instead, the entire project was inputted through code, making educated guesses with graph paper to give a computer coordinates for the location of objects in space.
They also spoke about how badly the panel underestimated their needs to create the project; in total (counting rendering computers and staff), they underestimated their needs by about 400% when they began the project. Which makes it kind of amazing the thing got done at all. As a point of comparison, that was still no more than 50% of the number of staff that works on a modern Pixar effort.
The initial concept and characters also changed a lot in the process of making Toy Story. Woody was originally a ventriloquist’s dummy, and before Buzz came into the picture, Woody feuded with a tin man one man band, a holdover from Pixar’s pre-Toy Story christmas short Tin Toy. The idea for Buzz didn’t come about until the idea that Woody would be jealous of a new, super-cool toy came about, and Pixar needed something more modern than a tin toy. Early concept sketches shown at the panel reveal Buzz was also massively smaller than Woody, although this seemed to mostly be from before Woody wend from ventriloquism doll to pull string toy.
During the Q&A, Toy Story 4 also came up. The idea of continuing past the ending of Toy Story 3 has had a lot of people nervous, and Susman stepped in to try to allay those concerns. She sympathized with the idea that, at first, the idea of a Toy Story 4 was anathema to her, but said once she saw the story John Lassiter wanted to tell, she was immediately won over. “I love it.” No one was giving details yet, but the panel did say it would be very separate from the existing trilogy of Toy Story films, and Susman added, “It’s a very personal story.”