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Ink & Pixel: Toy Story 2

03.12.2015
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Ink & Pixel is a source of pride and joy for me as a writer and as such, I'm always striving to take this column further for those who read and enjoy it. In an effort to widen the reach of our continuously growing fanbase, Ink & Pixel has been granted permission to broaden its horizons with the inclusion of films from the Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy genres. I hope that you enjoy this bold new direction for the column. Additionally, if you yourself, or anyone you know, helped to make any of the amazing feature films found within this column, I would love to talk to you to further my knowledge. Please contact me at steveseigh@joblo.com so we can discuss it further.

General William Tecumseh Sherman once said to the Mayor and Councilmen of Atlanta, “War is hell.” And well,years later, deep in the biting chill of a January afternoon in 1988, when all of my toys would discover just how much truth General Sherman's words contained. The Real Ghostbusters were positioned high above the tiled battlefield, proton packs at the ready, willing to defend the Bookcase of Many Words even if it meant joining their prey in the afterlife. Below, the Food Fighters  of the 2nd Infantry Mattel Division readied themselves for a good old fashioned culinary battle royale.

By the end of the skirmish there was nothing left but crumbs covered in protoplasm, irradiated by the Ghostbuster's nuclear streams, far beyond salvaging. Books had burned, ghosts were let loose from their containment units, and the ketchup … oh, there was so much ketchup. I often wonder what Andy from Disney Pixar's Toy Story series would have thought of my playtime scenarios. He most likely would have asked that I leave his toys alone, and then make the suggestion that I go play with Sid, his deranged, toy-torturing neighbor. That said, we're not here to talk about Andy's lack of appreciation for my genius. No, we're here to take a look back at Disney Pixar's TOY STORY 2!

Released in November of the year 1999, TOY STORY 2 was the third film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed by John Lasseter, with co-direction by both Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon, TOY STORY 2 once again features the characters of Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and their BPA-Free friends off on an adventure of epic proportions. In this sequel, Woody is stolen by a nefarious toy collector, whose dastardly plan it is to sell the cowboy doll off as part of a vintage collection of characters from the reel-to-reel puppet show Woody's Roundup.

Left aghast by the unlawful theft of their friend, Woody's pals Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Potato Head, and Rex mount a rescue mission to recover the sheriff of Andy's bedroom and bring him back safely, before he's shipped off to a toy museum in Tokyo, Japan. Alas, things take a turn for the strange when  - upon reuniting with Woody - Buzz and company discover that the legendary cowpoke's fresh new friendships and his fixation with his golden days have diminished Woody's desire to return home. As disappointment and confusion settle in, Buzz and the rest of the toys formulate a new plan to convince Woody, and his new found friends, to return to the safety of Andy's toy chest.

On average, depending on the project, it takes about 4 years for Pixar to complete one of their films from start to finish. Now imagine the panic that must have settled in when it was announced that TOY STORY 2 was given a production schedule of only 7 to 8 months. Due to this unfathomable time constraint, many of Pixar's artists, writers, and production staff could be found working anywhere up to 48 hours straight throughout the making of the film. TOY STORY 2 essentially became a ticking time bomb of a film, where every minute of the work day needed to be a productive one, if the film was to meet its unmovable November 24th release date. It's been said by Lindsey Collins -the film's editorial department manager - that during those 8 months, the Pixar offices were a convergance of jangled nerves and frustrated creators. Now, remember that these artists are working with computers, and what do computers have a tendency to do from time to time? That's right, they crash!

TOY STORY 2 was, in part, made using both the Linux and Unix operating systems. These systems are extraordinarily technical, and are capable of being used to both make and un-make countless hours - or even months -of hard work with (nothing more than) a series of commands.  Well wouldn't you know it, several months into the production of the Toy Story sequel, a command known as RM* was given to the film's primary file folder – causing a multitude of errors and erasures to occur. Now, because this is all very technical, I'm going to quote Oren Jacob, former Chief Technical Officer of Pixar, to recap the crisis for you.

The following information was taken from an article written by Matthew Panzarino for TheNextWeb.com “One day, Jacob was in the office of Larry Cutler—along with Larry Aupperle, who was also an associate Technical Director working under Susman. In what is a crazy stroke of luck, they happened to be looking at a directory in which the assets for the character Woody were stored, when they noticed, on a refresh, that there were suddenly less and less files. How Pixars Toy Story 2 was deleted twice, once by technology and again for its own good.

He had an error, I forget the exact [one]. It was like, “Directory no longer valid,” because he’s in a place that had just been deleted. Then he thought to walk up [a directory] and he walked back up and then we saw Hamm, Potato Head and Rex. Then we looked at it again and there was just Hamm and then nothing.

The command that had been run was most likely ‘rm -r -f *’, which—roughly speaking—commands the system to begin removing every file below the current directory. This is commonly used to clear out a subset of unwanted files. Unfortunately, someone on the system had run the command at the root level of the Toy Story 2 project and the system was recursively tracking down through the file structure and deleting its way out like a worm eating its way out from the core of an apple." It was reported that Pixar lost 90% of the film during the time of this particular incident.

Yikes! I can't even fathom the confusion, panic, and frustration that must have settled into the Pixar offices on that fateful day. Thankfully, Galyn Susman, the Supervising Technical Director on TOY STORY 2, kept a backup of all the film's files stored on her home computer. She was able to then transfer them to the main office via the family Volvo, thereby saving the day entirely. What strikes me as even more insane is that the bulk of the film was thrown out yet again, even after the hastened recovery of the original files. Why? Well, to put it plainly, the team felt that even after all they had gone through to recover the film that it just wasn't very good.

Here's Jacobs again with the details of tossing out the vast majority of TOY STORY 2 mere months before its production deadline. “Effectively, all animation and layout was tossed. So all camera work would start from scratch. Lighting was in the film a little bit, but that was tossed as well. We had to build new characters.

Buster showed up at that point, and that character went from being out to being in the screenplay to in the final screen in nine months. That’s a fully animated quadruped…On the fly, and most of the humans in the film and show. All the background extras in the airport at the end. They were all built and assembled, then all the effects work was added to the film. The opening of the film, which is Buzz playing with the robots, which I spent a lot of my time working on, where Buzz blows up a quarter-million robots with that crystal…that explosion. That was all added in that pitch as well. It started from ground zero in January. So the story, effectively, and the film, was probably one of the biggest tests of what Pixar was as a company and a culture we ever went through.”

In my opinion, what sets TOY STORY 2 apart from its predecessor is that it delves even further into the psychology of its robust cast of characters. The film sets its audience up to ponder a number of questions on the aging toy's behalf. What happens to a toy when the desire to play with it is no longer present? Is it possible to be passed on to another child in the hope of becoming relevant again? How would you feel if your friends were periodically being sold at a garage sale for a fraction of their worth? All of these themes and more serve to enrich the story and characters featured in TOY STORY 2, making Woody, Buzz, and their friends all the more relatable to audience members.

Despite losing the bulk of the movie on two separate occasions, TOY STORY 2 was delivered on time, and went on to become the highest-grossing animated film of 1999. Woody, Buzz, and the rest of their friends even enjoyed receiving a few prestigious awards from organizations and awards programs like: The Golden Globe for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy, Kansas City Film Critics Circle's Best Animated Film award, and Best Family Feature Film – Animated at the Young Artist Awards.

By the time the Sherrif, the Astronaut, and the other toy box inhabitants were done not playing around at the box office, their film had garnered a worldwide total of $485,015,179 – and we're not talking about Monopoly money here, folks! Consider for a moment that this CGI adventure was created using only a $90 million dollar budget and you've got yourself a $395,015,179 return! Perhaps the most staggering aspect of all of this is that the Toy Story franchise shows no signs of letting go of its grip on our hearts and wallets any time in the near future.

Not only was TOY STORY 3 a tremendous success, but it's recently been announced that a 4th installment to the series is set to hit theaters on July 16th, 2017. Details about the newly-planned TOY STORY sequel are scarce at the moment, but John Lasseter has recently stated that the next film in the franchise will be a “romantic comedy that moves away from the interaction between the toys and children.”

Oh, okay, so that's … different. Personally, I'm really excited about the franchise heading in an unfamiliar direction. I'm not exactly sure what a “romantic comedy” from the creators at Pixar would entail, but you can bet that I'd be willing to find out. Wouldn't it be something if they did away with the cast entirely, and decided to just start over? Oh the internet and Toy Story loyalists alike would have a field day with an announcement like that. I honestly don't know if Pixar would be willing to make that sort of sacrifice, but just for a moment, think of all the new characters we would potentially be introduced to. It could turn out to be something truly amazing, though I suppose that we'll just have to wait and see. Catch you next time, folks!

Extra Tidbit: What are your hopes for Toy Story 4? Would you like to see the familiar cast of characters return or would you rather be introduced to a whole new batch of toys to play with? Let us know in the comment section below.

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10:56AM on 03/12/2015
I like Toy Story 2 the most. It's fun for the whole family and it's heartfelt. I remember first time watching it that I cried like hell when Jesse's flashback that features "When She Loved Me" by Sarah Maclachlan. That scene was heartbreaking. As for Toy Story 4, I don't know what to expect. I think it ended perfectly with Toy Story 3.
I like Toy Story 2 the most. It's fun for the whole family and it's heartfelt. I remember first time watching it that I cried like hell when Jesse's flashback that features "When She Loved Me" by Sarah Maclachlan. That scene was heartbreaking. As for Toy Story 4, I don't know what to expect. I think it ended perfectly with Toy Story 3.
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