Toy Story is the first computer-generated animated featurefilm in the history of motion pictures which came out in 1995, and is the firstanimation to be created completely by CGI (Computer Generated Imagery). Thefilm was developed by Disney and Pixar and directed by John Lasseter and likemany great works of popular culture, the film sustains a dynamic vitality, attimes even vulgar and anarchic. It even proved instantly appealing to differentaudiences, who continue to find the film engrossing and invigorating (Tom, 2015).Through its modern 3D style and surprising story, the film uses a unique way ofconveying a story that gives a sense of freedom and imagination that suspendsus from our conventional expectations by tricking our minds (toys springinginto life).
The film stimulates our capability to envision alternativerealities and different perspectives to see the world from another scale andconjuring our memories and spirit of childhood play. It became the top earning film in 1995 and claimed up tothree Academy Award nominations, including one in the Best Original Screenplaycategory, a first for animated feature films. Pixar was given $26 million dealfor three computer-animated, feature-length movies, but its filmmakers andengineers had yet to pull off a single one. Succeeding would mean creating thesoftware and hardware they would need as they went along, and inventing a newkind of movie altogether (Julia, 2015). They knew what computer animation coulddo as well as its strengths and weaknesses, so they looked at subject mattersthat played to the strengths of computer graphics at that time.
Part of whatmade the film so magical was how Disney incorporated all the latest technologyof that time and letting that innovation stimulate the illustrations. No onehad ever tried to make a 3D animated feature-length film before them so thetechnological capabilities guided much of their creative process. ‘We kind ofmade a list of what we didn’t want our movie to be,’ Lasseter said.
(Susan,2015). They didn’t want to copycat what Disney animation was doing at the timewith its Broadway-style musical and fairy tale animated films. Also, they wereworried that it might be too juvenile for older kids and adults so they did alot of research of the types of toys that were around when they were kids. Steve Jobs, John Lasseter and computer graphic engineer EdCatmull initially worked on making computer softwares, then soon they also madeshort films and commercials – using film-makers Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter.The computer scientists at Pixar along with Ed Catmull (now Pixar and DisneyAnimation President), built the software that animators could use to design thefilm, like RenderMan, which originated from Catmull’s studies at the Universityof Utah, and modelling environment, which the programmers developed for Pixar’s1988 short Tin Toy (Julia, 2015).
RenderMan, Pixar’s software used for taking computer-animated footage andincorporating it seamlessly into live-action, has been used in many recentblockbusters, such as the first two Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and PearlHarbor. Their goal was to allow the animators, without much engineeringbackground to control movement and to “rig” their own characters. During thattime, working with computers opened new possibilities such as letting animatorsadd details they never would be able to and working with 3D integratedcharacter models in computers. In addition to looking entirely different fromthe film’s animated predecessors, Toy Story was the first movie in which it waspossible to store digital characters, settings, and scenes in computers so thatanimators wouldn’t have to re-draw each cell – but it has its limits. Usingtoys in the film helped a lot such as perfectly geometric objects, blocks,bouncing balls – the type of things found in a stash of toys. The software which lent itself nicely to amovie about plastic objects springing to life. Toys always hung out in a kid’sroom, which let animators do their illustrations on a perfectly flat floor thatwas simple to render (Julia, 2015). The team was going to avoid humansaltogether for the film like choosing to keep them just out of the frames oroff the screen.
Eventually human presence was too hard to ignore, as a resultviewers could put a face to Andy – a face that showed improvements ofRenderMan’s rendering capabilities. Also, the idea that something computer animated couldphysically express emotions was deemed nearly impossible with those relativelyuntested computer technology that they have during that time. Not to mentionthe even harder task of simply writing complex enough characters that anotherhuman could identify with what they’re going through emotionally – which isjust astonishing and Pixar managed to do both at the same time in its veryfirst feature-length film. The film’s commercial and artistic success launched computeranimation as an exciting new medium, creating a successful alternative toDisney that inspired more companies to invest in animated features, therebycontributing to what many considered a new golden age of animation (Tom, 2015).
After the film’s debut, many industries were interested in the technology usedfor the film. Graphic chips manufacturers desired to compute imagery similar tothe film’s animation for personal computers, game developers, video games,artificial intelligence and many more. The film also has two sequels whichdistinguished themselves no less than the original, as the first film gainedgreater emotional depth in each iteration. The second film ‘Toy Story 2’established a capacity to combine surprising and alluring action whileremaining faithful to the expressive currents of the first film. The third film’Toy Story 3’ developed the first film’s theme of loss into a stirringexploration of maturity and closure. Compared to Disney’s great animated features, with theirfine arts style and fairy tale naturalism, Toy Story looks like a veritablework of Pop Art, dominated by glossy, brightly coloured commodities (Tom,2015).
At that time, Disney was doing a Broadway-styled musical and colourfulfairy tale animated style in their films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfsand Beauty and the Beast, whilst the artists on this film made it lookglimmering with reflective surfaces, vibrant and shiny toy packages, glowingcolours, and industrial plastic forms. As with Andy Warhol and other PopArtists, the Pixar film-makers sought to counter or challenge the dominantconventions that had developed in their respective mediums (Tom, 2015). The film-makers did not draw upon theinfluence of the Pop Artists, rather they kept a similarity to the relatedmotives, within their mediums, inspiration, and recognising the other assets. Disney’s animated films typically featured lush, greentopography or natural settings, like Bambi (1942), The Jungle Book (1967) andSleeping Beauty (1959) to the vivid fantastical seascapes of the Little Mermaid(1989) (Tom, 2015). The animators at Disney worked with fine arts tradition,creating imitative characters, idealised and using colours that has hewsclosely to a natural spectrum. These results to the tendency of classicalDisney artists to romanticise nostalgic sets by employing soft edges, balancedcolour and lighting tones.
The film also flipped the conventional Disney relationshipbetween films and their ancillary merchandising (Tom, 2015). They producedmerchandise of their fairy tale and folksy characters such as stuffed dollsfrom the Jungle Book, plastic figures from The Little Mermaid – it’s a tacticextending all the way back to Mickey Mouse products that they did before. Allthese toys attributes to the story world of the films and brought that worldinto the lives of children. Toy Story on the other hand, takes merchandising asits very subject and projects it into a narrative world (Tom, 2015). Toy Storyrepresents an acknowledgment of the meaning of toys (industrial commodities) asthings in themselves rather than what it means as the narrative world fromwhich they came from. Toy Story brought computer animation – a profoundinnovation, to the large screen because it was faster and cheaper compared tothe standard traditional animation.
It proved that computer animationtechnology was not only feasible from a technical perspective, but also farmore efficient and cost-effective than previous animation processes. The advantagesof computer animation have dramatically influenced the aesthetics of animatedfilms, and it also means that animators can truly make fantasy into a realitylike the depth and complexity of the live-action world. Computer animated films are thus infinitely more engagingthan their traditional counterparts and Toy Story perfectly demonstrates itsboundless power. At a time when cinemas are overwhelmed with Computer Generatedcharacters and animated films aiming at kids and adults, it’s easy to forgetToy Story. In the present time, toy Story’s graphics may no longer berevolutionary-looking anymore, but it was still the first full-length film todemonstrate that computer animation was a feasible cinematic medium for bothstory and art. From the Disney – Pixar developed programs moving computeranimation forward to the modern world, it’s no surprise that the Pixar markedits place in the history of animation and the film – Toy Story was a movie thattook animated filmmaking “to infinity and beyond.”