A look at the Toy Story 3 you didn’t see…

I’m guessing, by looking at the box office receipts, that quite a few of you saw TOY STORY 3 this weekend. It’s a movie that has charmed audiences young and old and proved to be another critical and commercial success for Pixar. But it might not have always been this way…

In 2005, then Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner quietly set up an in-house animation studio called Circle 7 (so named because their offices were on Circle Seven Drive in Glendale, CA). The main focus of Circle 7 was to develop direct-to-DVD sequels of popular Pixar films. The creation of Circle 7 was a direct response to contract negotiations between Disney and Pixar in 2004 that ultimately led then Pixar CEO Steve Jobs to publicly declare they were actively seeking a new distribution partner. Disney held the sequel rights to early Pixar films like TOY STORY, A BUG’S LIFE and MONSTERS, INC. and at the time, Pixar was reluctant to proceed on sequels to any of those films. Eager to pressure the Pixar creative braintrust into returning to Disney, Eisner ordered Circle 7, or Pixaren’t as it came to be known, to begin development on a number of “unauthorized” Pixar sequels. Their first priority was TOY STORY 3.

Set to direct the film was Bradley Raymond, no stranger to Disney’s cheap home video sequels, having directed THE LION KING 1 1/2. The first draft of the screenplay was turned into Disney in early 2005 and written by husband-and-wife team Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, who had just written Disney’s animated film TEACHER’S PET (the duo also served as writer/producers on NBC’s “Cheers”). This was not the “Buzz gets recalled to Taiwan” plot that has been floating around the web for years (that was a later draft by Jim Herzfeld). This is an entirely different story….

The story actually starts out quite similar to the TOY STORY 3 in theaters. Woody, Jessie, Buzz and the gang are in a western-style adventure far from the world of Andy’s room. There are some minor differences (in this story Rex, not the Potato Heads, are the villains) but the beats are eventually the same. And just like the version in theaters now, after we’re warped back to Andy’s house, we learn that Andy’s mom is redecorating (Andy’s older but not quite in college yet) and getting rid of some of the toys. This is where things start getting radically different.

Unlike the version you saw this past weekend, Woody and Buzz and the gang aren’t sent to a daycare but instead to grandma’s attic. As they toys arrive, it’s an old, spooky house that the toys are almost immediately uncomfortable in. They meet a pair of sock monkeys in Jack Challenger and Gladiola: the former is an Indiana Jones style adventurer while the latter is slightly lumpy and out of shape. There’s a cat with a taste for toys, a temperamental garden gnome and something like a murder mystery (though no one is murdered but the toys are in a panic as only two toys are going back to Andy’s room).

The project has all the feelings of a direct-to-DVD sequel. It’s not an entirely terrible story (you’ll notice some similar things in the actual film including the toys almost getting destroyed with a bunch of trash) but it lacks any real heart. It’s mostly like CLUE but with the toys and no murders. It also, besides the three “toys” above, features a startling lack of any new characters. Jack and Gladiola are major but the gnome is relatively minor and there’s nothing like the universe of new toys introduced in the actual film. The reveal and subsequent dealing of the film’s villain felt very rushed and forced and is nothing compared to what the toys have to deal with in the official Pixar version.

Just about three months after this script was turned in to Disney, Michael Eisner left the company. The Circle 7 version of TOY STORY 3 was in limbo and just three months later it was officially scrapped by Bob Iger. Once Disney and Pixar started up contract negotiations again and renewed their deal, Circle 7 was officially closed down and the animators were either shifted to Walt Disney Feature Animation or let go to find work elsewhere.

Pixar movies usually go through a rather long development phase but none probably longer than TOY STORY 3 which, in some form or another, has been in the works for six years. Let’s just be happy that we got the version now in theaters instead of some cheap DVD sequel.

Source: JoBlo.com

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