My Wee Part in Toy Story
Not An Offical Toy Story Page, But
Toy Story opened
nationwide on 22 Nov 95, worldwide in March of 96, video in October
96, and it's been doing great in fact, it's brought Pixar multiple Oscars and
become the biggest box-office winner of 1995!
As you surely know, the film was
made by Pixar Animation
Studios in conjuction with Disney. The paper
name for this collaboration was "Hi Tech Toons" or HTT
(watch for the license plate HTT1195).
Your humble correspondent was fortunate to
have worked on Toy Story from May 93 through completion,
and has also had the pleasure of contributing to the Nintendo, Sega,
and two CD-ROM
incarnations: the Toy Story Animated Storybook and Toy Story
Toy Story is the
result of a lot of work by a lot of really great people at Pixar. As
put it, "They're actually okay just as people as show
business people, they're 99th percentile!"
Doing what? My own contributions
are scattered throughout. I built and shaded Rex,
Etch-a-Sketch, and an assortment of props; wrote shaders for various
parts of Andy's room, Sid's room, Sid's yard, and the gas station; was
layout lead artist on ~300-400 shots, including the truck chase; and
performed tons of animation support and "little fixes."
- Did you use NatPix software on Toy Story?
- No. Pixar already has really great software,
known as "Marionette" or "MenV"
(pronounced "Men-Vee"), superbly
tailored to Pixar's character-animation tasks and environment.
- Did you use any Mac software?
- Yes! During the early days, and on some sick days, I modeled a few
things using two Mac programs, VIDI ModelerPro and
Macromedia Macromodel running on my aging but
trusty Mac IIx. Sadly, I used the old 68xxx versions
of both of these programs, and neither of the new versions
do what I need....
- I built Andy's livingroom TV set, the bamboo table, VCR, tapes, and a
videogame console and controllers using VIDI. I converted the model into
Pixar's "mdl" format from VIDI's "VPUB" format
using a custom program running under Unix.
- I build Etch-A-Sketch using Macromodel, then output the file as RenderMan
RIB. This was converted into "mdl" by a program written by
and subsequently hand-edited to add animation controls for the
spinning knobs and Etch's waddling walk. The "Virtual
Realty" signpost was also built in MM.
- ..and of course, the ubiquitous Photoshop....
- Rex was built using Pixar's in-house Pet software;
I made a quickly-tossed-out rough preliminary version of him in
about four hours, using VIDI.
A few models (the toybox, the army bucket) were actually programs;
and all other modeling was done with
- Did you use any Amiga software?
- [gulp!] No. And I do have more than one Amiga at home.
Forgive me, kids.
- What exactly does a Layout Artist do?
- Bridge the gap between the storyboard and what's actually going
to be animated. Pick the lens. Put the camera in there. Put Woody here,
and Buzz down there. Move Woody over there.
Make sure you're not looking at the part of the room
that was never modelled. Make it read in the simplest graphic way,
played back as complete scenes with sound. Work with the director
and the editors to be sure the story plays clearly.
Animation tradition calls
the job "layout," but in live-action it would probably be called
"staging" (Fun Fact: in France, a layout person is
knowns as un layoutiére).
- Are there anime influences in Toy Story?
- Yes, but don't read too much into them.
- After it was mentioned in the New York Times,
I've received a lot of email asking: "Does John Lasseter really
have a signed Totoro poster?" Indeed he
displayed prominently behind his desk. John is one of many Miyazaki/Ghibli fans at
and the only one to have written a testimonial that is included in
Ghibli's own Ghibli ga Ippai Laserdisk set.
first moments of the Takahata Graveyard of the Fireflies
were once run by John for the directing animators because
of the marvelous silence that prefaces the firebomb
attack. John has also repeatedly cited Laputa as one of
the finest examples of animation that shows weight-from-timing,
also a Lasseter specialty.
- Other influences are probably clear in Buzz Lightyear's design the
spacesuit toy design had joint linkages influenced by a toy powered
spacesuit I'd had for many years, called a "Twinklehead"
(from the obscure show Round Vernian Vifam)
the designer of Buzz's suit also had
magazine cutouts on the wall showing a lineup of Giant
- A couple of Hobby Japan "We Love Figure" books
also circulated through the art department in the early days of
Toy Story production (a fascinating look at how cartoon
characters can be fleshed-out in 3D, but not an approach Pixar followed),
along with a copy of Miyazaki's Day Dream Data Notes.
- Keen eyes may find minute traces of Taiho Shichauzo in
the truck chase. But even more traces of The Road Warrior
and even Bullitt...
- Does this mean the otaku-tachi are in charge of the
asylum? No, just that good animation is good animation, regardless
of its origins. Anime is part of that spectrum.
- So where is Björke in the big book
Toy Story: The Art and Making of the Animated Film,
- Look closely at the top of page 62, and you shall find the answer.
Keep an eye open for Isaac's
first on-screen credit, too.
- So what about the Web?
- Believe it or not, every single shot in Toy Story has its
own web page, on Pixar's in-house-only server.
- So what about the next movie from Pixar?
- There is one, called Bugs.
Yes, I worked on it, and yes,
we did sit down and watch Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa
during layout preproduction.
There is a sequel to Toy Story
now in production, but I didn't work on that show...
too busy on Bugs.
- Is Pixar a great place to work?
- The East Bay Guardian called it the best place
to work in the Bay Area. Disney Adventures
called it "The happiest place on Earth." Would they lie?
back wing housing the animation dept has the highest density of
former CalArts students of
any single square mile north of Val Verde...
- So how do I get a job at Pixar?
- What do you want to do? Mail me, but do be aware
that since October 1998 I've been working at Sqquare USA
Toy Story is © 1995 Pixar and © 1995 The Walt
Updated Nov 98
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