Monday, October 5, 2015

Ask Me a Question: Toy Story 20th Anniversary

Welcome back from the weekend! Ours started on Thursday night in Beverly Hills at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater where we saw awesome nights of Enter the Dragon and Jurassic Park. Tonight, it was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first digital, full length animated film, Toy Story aka 20 Years of Being An Animation Game Changer. This was a bit of a departure as they didn't screen the film and have Q&A, instead it was a two hour discussion/lecture on how Pixar came to be and produced Toy Story, forever changing film. Actor, writer and director Jon Favreau was our host as Pixar luminaries John Lasseter and Ed Catmull took the stage first to discuss the origins of the studio and the road to the film. A trailer for Toy Story played first, which was kind of funny as it was digital then put on film for 35mm projection. Lasseter and Catmull shared the dream of producing the world's first full length digital feature and their journey started in the 80's.  There were photos, sketches and videos to accompany the friends as they talked about working with George Lucas then being spun off and picked up by Steve Jobs. Catmull was witness to Jobs negotiating with Disney which saw Pixar come out with a three picture deal. After testing the waters with the memorable Gummi Life Savers and Listerine commercials, Pixar wanted to do a 30 minute special but were told if they could do 30 minutes, they could do 90.

Toy Story morphed from a little Tin Drummer Boy into space action figure Buzz Lightyear and Woody the pullstring cowboy was inspired by a Casper doll Lasseter had as a child. It was interesting to see that originally Buzz was a G.I. Joe sized, 3-4" action figure while Woody was 12" before they ended up being similar sizes. It was also interesting to hear how the story progressed, that Woody started out as an a-hole and that after their first storyboard session, Disney had little faith in the film. At that point, Lasseter asked for two weeks to work on the story and that's when his team stepped up, basically injecting what they thought was funny and Disney greenlit the film. In the early days they shared one computer and Lasseter was the only animator so a photo of him sleeping at the office was projected. When they started growing, technical wizards like Galyn Susman joined who helped work out the coding work of digital animation while Ralph Eggleston drew it all out with chalk. A funny anecdote from the pair was that to research the scene where Buzz and Woody are riding in the back of the Pizza Planet truck, they drove around at night with Ralph laying in the back, checking out the light as it passed in and out. It was a very educational, entertaining and funny affair, I just felt bad for the little girl behind us in line who thought she was seeing the movie. Oh well!

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