Toy Story 3 - Now A Reality

Even before Toy Story 2 was released in theaters in 1999, we were hearing rumors of Toy Story 3. The buzz, if you'll forgive the term, was that Pixar was less interested in making the second sequel in the Toy Story saga than Disney because the creative team was disappointed with the other offshoots Disney had produced - the Buzz Lightyear video and children's TV series - and further that they simply didn't have their hearts in the project. After all, this is a creative bunch who much prefer to try new things than to rehash a well-worn concept.

However, in the intervening years since I originally wrote this article in outrage at the original plans Disney had for this amazingly popular franchise, everything changed in the Toy Story landscape. Most significantly, of course, is that Disney purchased Pixar Animation Studios in January of 2006, following the resignation of Michael Eisner who had been at odds with then-Pixar CEO Steve Jobs over the buyout. What that meant was that the Toy Story 3 project was entirely rejuvinated by the addition of Steve Jobs on Disney's board of directors and John Lasseter, the original creator of Toy Story, was made Chief Creative Officer for both Disney and Pixar animation. Toy Story 3 was resussitated, produced and released in 2010 as a 3-D movie. In addition, both the original Toy Story and Toy Story 2 were re-released a year earlier, also in 3-D. So now all of us Toy Story fans can heave a sigh of relief that Disney has come to its senses at last.

Toy Story 3: A Compacted History

Tom Hanks and Tim Allen were reportedly very willing to consider reprising their roles as the voices for Woody and Buzz Lightyear a third time, which astounded me because actors are usually even more reluctant that writers to reprise a character in a first sequel, let alone a second. But obviously, these are fun-loving guys who get a kick out of working with the Pixar team. If you watch any of the "Making Of" films, you can't help but see how much fun all of the actors were having.

So we see Toy Story 2 come and go in 1999. The video/DVD release is a blockbuster hit. Pixar follows up with two more hit movies - Monsters, Inc. in 2001 (despite being released just weeks after 9/11 it did well both in theaters and on home video) and the mega-hit Finding Nemo in 2003 which was a smash hit both in theaters and on DVD. And then in 2003, the negotiations for renewing the partnership between Disney and Pixar goes into a deep funk. Finally, in February 2004, Pixar CEO Steve Jobs announces the negotiations are over and Pixar is looking for a new distribution partner. Pixar wanted a much larger share of the profits than they were entitled to under their original agreement with Disney and to also make Toy Story 3 one of the five films they were obligated to produce under the old contract. For details on the Disney/Pixar contract and the money matters, see the Business Week article Toy Story 3: Out for Blood.

Meanwhile, back at The Mouse Factory, CEO Michael Eisner was facing a proxy battle with an array of formidable forces lining up behind ousted VP of Animation and Walt's nephew, Roy Disney, the Company has just had a hostile take-over offer from Comcast Communications, the Winnie The Pooh lawsuit is going to cost the Company mega-millions, and the ABC television network has quietly fallen to fourth place behind CBS, NBC, and Fox - all converging in an impending stockholders meeting in March. So, to bolster their public image a bit, they announce a possible increase in the stock dividend and let loose with the story that they're beginning internal production processes on Toy Story 3 on their own, exercising their rights to produce sequels and derivative works under the old contract. Is it a ploy to pressure Pixar to play ball or are they just so desparate to find something for the animation division to do while they're all waiting for their resume's to be Xeroxed? Is it a disaster in the making? Can Buzz and Woody save the day again? Now we know the whole story.

Update: February 2004 - If it's going to happen, it probably wouldn't be before 2006 - which seems like eons, doesn't it? The rumors I hear say the new movie would tell the story of what happens when Andy grows up and the toys from Andy's Room all end up in a pre-school nursery. This, of course, turns out to be absolutely true.

Update: August 17, 2004 - Pixar's annual stockholders meeting is August 20. We'll be attending the meeting and will report any news. CEO Steve Jobs' health problems will likely keep him from presiding as he normally does, but I'm sure we'll hear from him at least indirectly on his plans for the company. We're going to try to press company officials into commenting on the state of negotiations with Disney. There are rumors that there have been informal contacts between the two sides over resumption of the process. And we're anxious to pick up any details that might emerge about the projects that directors Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter are working on.

Update: August 23, 2004 - We attended the Pixar Annual Stockholders Meeting. Sadly, CEO Steve Jobs was still recuperating from cancer surgery and could not attend. That made for a very dull meeting. The stockholders did pepper the President with questions about the negotiations with Disney and other studios for a distribution deal, but no information was released. The most interesting comment when the president was asked about Disney producing Toy Story 3 on their own, he said that Disney and Pixar were co-owners of Toy Story 3, and left me with the impression that Pixar felt they had a veto power over that project. I would be surprised if Disney had gone very far in developing Toy Story 3 yet. They would certainly understand that it would be best to have Pixar's enthusiastic cooperation in making that film, even if it was limited. So the ball hasn't moved very far in the past few weeks.

Update: November 11, 2004 - In a recent press conference in New York City, Tom Hanks expressed some reluctance to providing his voice again for the lead character Woody if Disney produced Toy Story 3 without cooperation from Pixar. The gist of Hanks' remarks indicated that he thought Pixar's creative team was crucial to maintaining the quality of the Toy Story films. While its pure speculation, I would not be surprised if Tim Allen, the voice of Buzz Lightyear, would support Hank's position if only to avoid appearing to be willing to sell out for a fast buck. Without these two actors, I don't think Disney would risk spending enough money to produce a feature film. If they were to go ahead with Toy Story 3 on their own without Pixar, Hanks, and Allen, the odds are that it would be another direct-to-video production.

Update: August, 2007 - Here we are now with Pixar a fully-owned subsidiary of Disney and Toy Story 3 under production with John Lasseter back in charge. At long last some relief for fans. However, the rumors tell us that the movie won't hit theaters until 2010, so we have a long wait ahead of us.

Update: May 2008 - The production of Toy Story 3 is now in full swing with the Pixar team fully in charge. To bolster the interest in the third movie, Disney has announced that they will re-release the original Toy Story and Toy Story 2 to theaters in 2009 in 3-D! That's spectacular news! If you saw "Nightmare Before Christmas" in 3-D, you'll know that it really adds to the experience in a way that you simply can't duplicate with home video systems. And since these movies were all computer-generated, the 3-D effects should be very realistic and give these movies a new lease on life.

Update: August 2008 - Veteran actor Michael Keaton has joined the voice talent on Toy Story 3. He will be the voice of Barbie's plastic boyfriend Ken. I've always thought Keaton was an underappreciated actor. He was dark, brooding, and stoic in the first two Batman movies by Tim Burton, but many of his other performances have been superb as well. He was zany and totally in character in one of his first roles in 1982's "Night Moves" with Henry Winkler and Shelley Long. The farking bastage was brilliant as the slick bumbling imitation of Jimmy Cagney, "Johnny Dangerously" where no curse word was left unmangled?

Update: July 2010 - Obviously we've now seen Toy Story 3, and it was great to see it in 3D. I'd seen the first two Toy Story movies in 3D at the D23 Expo in Los Angeles in September, 2009. We'll be replacing this page with pictures from the new movie in the near future. We're just glad that John Lasseter was able to take the reins again and give us a final episode in the Toy Story series that was worthy of the legacy of Pixar.

Update: July, 2011 - Toy Story 3 was a big enough hit that Toy Story 4 is now in the works. Apparently, Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have signed on once again. I'll post more details as they emerge.

Update: July 2014 - The studio has a tentative release date in November, 2015, so we should start to hear lots more Buzz! So far we know that the working title is "Toy Story 4: Last Play" and Kristen Stewart will be a voice. Woody is stranded on a desert island in the Pacific (ala "Castaway") and the gang comes to his rescue. We'll see…

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