Behind the Scenes: The Making of Toy Story

In 1995, Pixar released its first full-length feature film, Toy Story. It was a groundbreaking film that changed the animation industry forever. But how did Pixar make Toy Story? In this article, we will take a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Toy Story and discover the innovative techniques and hard work that went into creating this beloved classic. From the early conceptualization stages to the final renderings, we will explore the process that brought these characters to life and the impact it had on the animation industry. So, let’s dive in and see how Pixar made Toy Story!

The Vision Behind Toy Story

The Genesis of Pixar

Pixar Animation Studios, now a subsidiary of Walt Disney Company, was founded in 1986 by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, filmmaker George Lucas, and animator Ed Catmull. The vision behind Pixar was to create computer-animated feature films that would push the boundaries of traditional animation techniques and offer a new cinematic experience to audiences.

In the early years, Pixar faced numerous challenges in developing the technology necessary to create computer-animated films. The company had to overcome technical limitations, such as rendering and shading, to achieve the photorealistic quality required for feature films. Pixar’s team of engineers and animators worked tirelessly to develop new software and hardware that would enable them to create realistic character models, textures, and lighting effects.

Despite the obstacles, Pixar’s first film, “Toy Story,” released in 1995, was a critical and commercial success. The film’s groundbreaking animation, combined with a compelling storyline and memorable characters, established Pixar as a leader in the animation industry. The success of “Toy Story” not only validated Pixar’s vision but also paved the way for the company’s future endeavors, including the creation of such beloved franchises as “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” and “Up.”

The making of “Toy Story” was not without its challenges, as the animation technology was still in its infancy. The animators had to work around limitations such as limited frame rates and limited color depth. Despite these limitations, the team was able to create a visually stunning film that captured the hearts of audiences worldwide.

The genesis of Pixar was marked by a combination of technological innovation, artistic vision, and sheer determination. The company’s founders saw the potential in computer animation and were willing to invest time, money, and resources to make it a reality. The success of “Toy Story” proved that their vision was not only feasible but also capable of producing world-class entertainment that would stand the test of time.

The Pitch to Disney

When John Lasseter, Pixar’s co-founder and the director of Toy Story, first pitched the idea of an animated film about toys that come to life when humans aren’t around, it was met with skepticism from Disney executives. They were unsure if audiences would be interested in a film about toys, and there were concerns about the technology being able to create believable characters and environments.

However, Lasseter was determined to make the film a reality. He and his team spent months creating storyboards and animations to demonstrate the potential of the film. They also worked on developing new animation software that would allow them to create more realistic characters and environments.

In the end, Lasseter’s persistence paid off, and Disney agreed to back the production of Toy Story. The film was released in 1995 to critical acclaim and box office success, and it marked the beginning of a new era in animation.

The Production Process

Key takeaway: The making of Toy Story, the first fully computer-animated feature film, required a meticulous process of storyboarding and animation, voice casting and sound design, and post-production and release. The film’s groundbreaking technology and innovative storytelling garnered critical acclaim and commercial success, paving the way for a new era of animated films. The legacy of Toy Story extends far beyond its initial release, with its impact on popular culture and the animation industry being enormous. The film’s success taught valuable lessons to Pixar Animation Studios, leading to their future successes.

Storyboarding and Animation

Creating an Animated Masterpiece: A Look into the Storyboarding and Animation Process of Toy Story

Toy Story, the first fully computer-animated feature film, was a groundbreaking achievement in the world of animation. Behind the scenes, the making of Toy Story required a meticulous process of storyboarding and animation that involved a team of talented artists and technicians. In this section, we will delve into the details of the storyboarding and animation process that brought the beloved characters of Toy Story to life.

The Art of Storyboarding

Storyboarding is the process of creating a visual representation of the film’s sequence of events. It is an essential step in the animation process as it helps the animators to plan out the scenes and determine the timing and movement of the characters. The storyboarding process for Toy Story was a collaborative effort between the writers, directors, and animators.

The storyboard artists would work closely with the writers to translate the script into a series of images. They would create sketches of each scene, indicating the camera angles, character placement, and movement. The storyboards would then be reviewed by the directors and the animators to ensure that the scenes were visually appealing and conveyed the intended message.

The storyboarding process was critical in ensuring that the pacing of the film was perfect. The storyboard artists had to carefully consider the timing of each scene to ensure that the film flowed seamlessly from one scene to the next. The storyboards also helped the animators to plan out the movements of the characters, ensuring that they were believable and realistic.

Bringing the Characters to Life: The Animation Process

Once the storyboards were approved, the animators would begin the process of bringing the characters to life. The animation process for Toy Story was a complex and time-consuming task that required a high level of skill and expertise.

The animators would start by creating the basic character models, which would then be refined and improved upon throughout the animation process. They would use computer software to create the characters’ movements, using keyframes to indicate the start and end points of each movement.

The animators would then use the keyframes to create the in-between frames, which would create the illusion of movement. This process was known as “tweening” and was critical in creating the smooth and seamless movements of the characters.

The animators would also work on adding details to the characters, such as their facial expressions and body language. This was essential in conveying the emotions and personalities of the characters, making them more relatable to the audience.

In conclusion, the storyboarding and animation process of Toy Story was a complex and meticulous task that required a team of talented artists and technicians. The storyboarding process helped to ensure that the pacing of the film was perfect, while the animation process brought the characters to life, creating a visually stunning and emotionally engaging masterpiece.

Voice Casting and Sound Design

Casting the Characters

To bring the toys to life, the filmmakers needed to find the perfect voices to match the characters’ personalities. The role of Woody, the pullstring cowboy, was originally offered to Jim Carrey, but he turned it down due to his commitment to another film. Tim Allen was eventually cast as the voice of Buzz Lightyear, the space ranger. Tom Hanks, who was a big fan of the movie’s concept, also signed on to play the role of Woody. The rest of the voice cast included Don Rickles, Annie Potts, and Wallace Shawn, among others.

Recording the Dialogue

Recording the dialogue for an animated film is different from recording for a live-action film. Instead of acting out the scenes, the actors record their lines in a sound booth while watching the animated scenes on a screen. This allows them to match their performances to the actions of the characters. The actors also recorded additional lines and sounds, such as laughter and grunts, to be used during the film’s many action sequences.

Adding Sound Effects

Sound effects are an essential part of any film, but they are especially important in an animated film, where the characters and environments are entirely computer-generated. The sound designers added a wide range of sound effects to create a more immersive experience for the audience. For example, they used the sound of a squeaky toy to represent Woody’s voice, and the sound of a metal rattle to represent Buzz Lightyear’s voice. They also added ambient sounds, such as the hum of a toy motor or the clatter of a toy train, to create a sense of atmosphere.

Music and Soundtrack

The film’s score was composed by Randy Newman, who had previously worked with the Pixar team on the short film “Toy Story.” The score is heavily influenced by Americana, with elements of country, western, and jazz music. The film also features a number of popular songs, including “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” which was written by Newman and performed by Newman and the film’s main cast. The song became a hit and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Post-Production and Release

The post-production phase of Toy Story was marked by intense effort and attention to detail. The animators worked tirelessly to ensure that every frame was perfect, and the editing team carefully pieced together the various scenes to create a cohesive narrative. The final product was a testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire team.

Toy Story was released in 1995 to widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. The film was a groundbreaking achievement in the field of computer animation, and it paved the way for a new era of animated films. The movie’s success was due in large part to the painstaking efforts of the production team, who had worked tirelessly to bring the characters and world of Toy Story to life.

In addition to its technical achievements, Toy Story was also a commercial success. The movie grossed over $360 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing animated film of all time at the time of its release. The film’s success was a testament to the enduring appeal of the story and the endearing characters that Pixar had created.

Despite the success of Toy Story, the production team was not content to rest on their laurels. They continued to push the boundaries of computer animation, and their subsequent films would go on to become even greater achievements in the field. However, the making of Toy Story remains a defining moment in the history of animation, and it will always be remembered as a groundbreaking achievement.

The Legacy of Toy Story

Critical Acclaim and Box Office Success

Upon its release in 1995, Toy Story marked a significant milestone in the world of animation and filmmaking. The film’s groundbreaking technology and innovative storytelling garnered critical acclaim from both audiences and critics alike.

Revolutionary Technology

Toy Story utilized state-of-the-art computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology, which allowed animators to create lifelike and expressive characters. The film’s use of CGI not only set a new standard for animation but also paved the way for future advancements in the industry.

Innovative Storytelling

The film’s unique blend of humor, heart, and action captured the attention of audiences worldwide. Toy Story’s narrative was not only entertaining but also thought-provoking, tackling themes such as friendship, growth, and the power of imagination.

Commercial Success

Toy Story’s critical acclaim translated into impressive box office success. The film grossed over $361 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing animated film of all time at the time of its release. The film’s success also sparked a new era of animated films, leading to the creation of countless animated franchises and sequels.

Long-Lasting Impact

Toy Story’s legacy extends far beyond its initial release. The film has since spawned three successful sequels, numerous spin-offs, and a dedicated fan base. Its impact on the animation industry and popular culture cannot be overstated, cementing its status as a timeless classic and a landmark achievement in the history of cinema.

The Birth of the Modern Animated Film

In the late 1980s, Disney’s animation department was facing a creative and financial crisis. The traditional animation process was costly and time-consuming, and the company was struggling to compete with the rise of blockbuster movies and cable television. Disney’s then-CEO, Michael Eisner, saw an opportunity to revive the company’s fortunes by investing in new technology and taking a risk on a new type of animated film.

The film was called Toy Story, and it was the first feature-length computer-animated film ever made. It was directed by John Lasseter, who had previously worked at Disney as a traditional animator, and produced by Pixar Animation Studios, a small software company that had developed a revolutionary new computer animation system.

The making of Toy Story was a massive undertaking, and the team faced numerous challenges along the way. One of the biggest challenges was creating believable computer-generated characters that could emote and interact with each other in a realistic way. The team spent countless hours developing the software and refining the characters’ movements and expressions, using a technique called “motion capture” to capture the actors’ movements and translate them into digital animation.

Another challenge was creating a compelling story that would appeal to both children and adults. The film’s writers spent months developing the script, drawing inspiration from classic fairy tales and children’s literature. They also worked closely with the animators to ensure that the story and the animation were seamlessly integrated.

Despite these challenges, Toy Story was a massive success, both critically and commercially. It was the first computer-animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award, and it spawned two sequels and a franchise of animated shorts and TV shows. The film’s groundbreaking use of computer animation also paved the way for a new generation of animated films, including Pixar’s own hit movies like Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

In many ways, Toy Story can be seen as the birth of the modern animated film. It showed that computer animation could be used to create compelling, emotionally resonant stories that could appeal to audiences of all ages. It also demonstrated the power of collaboration between technologists, artists, and storytellers, and set a new standard for the animation industry as a whole.

Toy Story as a Cultural Phenomenon

  • The release of Toy Story in 1995 marked a turning point in the animation industry, paving the way for the emergence of computer-animated films as a viable form of storytelling.
  • The film’s groundbreaking visuals, coupled with its compelling narrative and memorable characters, made it an instant hit with audiences of all ages.
  • Toy Story’s impact on popular culture was swift and far-reaching, inspiring countless imitators and spin-offs in the years that followed.
  • The film’s influence can be seen in everything from the explosion of Pixar-inspired animated movies to the countless toys, books, and other merchandise that bear its characters’ likenesses.
  • In addition to its commercial success, Toy Story also earned critical acclaim, earning several awards and nominations for its innovative use of computer animation and storytelling.
  • The film’s impact on the animation industry was such that it has since become a benchmark against which all other animated films are measured.
  • The film’s legacy has also extended beyond the realm of animation, with its influence felt in areas such as advertising, video games, and even fashion.
  • Overall, Toy Story’s impact on popular culture cannot be overstated, making it one of the most significant films of the 20th century.

The Evolution of Pixar Animation Studios

Lessons Learned from Toy Story

While the making of Toy Story was a groundbreaking achievement for Pixar Animation Studios, it was also a steep learning curve for the company. The production process was filled with challenges, and the film’s success paved the way for Pixar’s future successes. Here are some of the lessons learned from the making of Toy Story:

  • Embracing Uncertainty: Pixar’s early days were marked by uncertainty and risk-taking. The company was founded on the belief that computer animation could be used to create compelling stories, and Toy Story was a significant gamble. The film’s success showed that audiences were ready for something new and different, and Pixar continued to push the boundaries of animation with each subsequent film.
  • Collaboration and Communication: The making of Toy Story required close collaboration and communication between Pixar’s technical and creative teams. The film’s pioneering use of computer animation required both teams to work together to solve technical problems and ensure that the story and characters were brought to life effectively. The success of Toy Story demonstrated the importance of collaboration and communication in the animation industry.
  • Storytelling and Emotion: While the technical aspects of Toy Story were groundbreaking, the film’s success was ultimately due to its compelling story and characters. Pixar learned that audiences respond to stories that evoke emotion and that characters should be developed with care and attention. The lessons learned from Toy Story’s success informed Pixar’s future films, which focused on creating memorable characters and telling emotionally resonant stories.
  • Attention to Detail: The making of Toy Story required meticulous attention to detail in both the technical and creative aspects of the film. Pixar learned that every aspect of the film, from the character designs to the backgrounds, needed to be carefully crafted to create a cohesive and immersive world. The attention to detail paid off, as Toy Story’s high-quality animation and storytelling set a new standard for the animation industry.
  • Innovation and Experimentation: The making of Toy Story was a significant innovation in the animation industry, and Pixar learned that experimentation and risk-taking are essential for driving progress. The company continued to push the boundaries of animation with each subsequent film, exploring new techniques and technologies to create unique and memorable stories. The lessons learned from Toy Story inspired Pixar’s future films, which have become beloved classics in their own right.

Future Plans and Innovations

In the years following the release of Toy Story, Pixar Animation Studios continued to push the boundaries of computer-generated animation. They invested heavily in research and development, exploring new techniques and technologies to enhance their storytelling capabilities. Some of their most ambitious projects included:

  • Developing new software: Pixar continued to refine their proprietary software, known as “Presto,” which allowed animators to create more realistic character movements and facial expressions. They also explored new techniques for simulating cloth, water, and other elements, resulting in more lifelike visuals.
  • Experimenting with new animation styles: In addition to their signature computer-generated animation, Pixar began experimenting with other styles, such as 2D hand-drawn animation (as seen in 2009’s “The Secret World of Arrietty”) and stop-motion animation (as seen in 2015’s “Sanjay’s Super Team”).
  • Integrating live-action elements: Starting with 2015’s “Inside Out,” Pixar began incorporating live-action elements into their films, blending computer-generated animation with real-life performances. This allowed them to create more complex and nuanced stories, while also showcasing their technical prowess.
  • Embracing virtual reality: In recent years, Pixar has shown interest in exploring the potential of virtual reality (VR) technology. They believe that VR could offer a unique and immersive storytelling experience, allowing audiences to step inside their films like never before.
  • Expanding into new mediums: In addition to their feature films, Pixar has also begun producing content for television, short films, and stage productions. This has allowed them to experiment with different formats and styles, while also reaching new audiences.

Throughout their history, Pixar has remained committed to pushing the boundaries of animation and storytelling. With each new project, they strive to create something new, innovative, and entertaining, ensuring that their films continue to captivate audiences of all ages.


1. What was the inspiration behind Toy Story?

Toy Story was inspired by a simple idea: what if toys came to life when humans weren’t around? The film was also influenced by the creative minds of its creators, including John Lasseter, Pixar’s CEO and the director of Toy Story, and the writer of the film, Joss Whedon. They wanted to create a story that would appeal to both children and adults, and that would showcase the possibilities of computer animation.

2. How was the animation technology used in Toy Story?

In 1995, Pixar used a software called “RenderMan” to create the computer-generated imagery (CGI) for Toy Story. The software was developed specifically for Pixar’s use and was the first software to be able to produce photorealistic images. The film was also shot on film, rather than digitally, which was a relatively new technique at the time.

3. How did Pixar approach the character design in Toy Story?

Pixar’s approach to character design in Toy Story was to create characters that were relatable and had human-like qualities. The characters were designed to be simple and recognizable, with distinctive features that would make them memorable. The team also worked hard to give each character a unique personality, which would help to bring them to life on screen.

4. How was the voice cast chosen for Toy Story?

The voice cast for Toy Story was chosen based on the actors’ ability to bring the characters to life and to create a believable dynamic between the characters. Tom Hanks was chosen to voice Woody, and Tim Allen was chosen to voice Buzz Lightyear. Other actors, such as Don Rickles and Jim Varney, were also chosen for supporting roles.

5. How long did it take to make Toy Story?

Toy Story took over two years to make, from the initial concept to the final release. The production process was long and challenging, but the Pixar team was dedicated to creating a high-quality film that would be both entertaining and groundbreaking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *