This month we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first fully computer animated film, Toy Story! The film’s success upended the entire animation paradigm. When was the last time you saw a 2D animated film in theaters? 3D was the way of the future, and the animators who worked on Toy Story pushed the envelope as far as they could with the technology at the time.
Humans at the time were very difficult to animate, so the team had to take some short-cuts to make them work. The kids all had short hair while the mom’s hair was tied in a ponytail. If I remembered correctly, Monsters Inc. was Pixar’s proof-of-concept that they’d finally figured out hair physics. Liquid animation was still primitive, so the team tried their best not to show it. Character models are repeated and recolored to save on modeling time.
The film was hardly a sure thing. Mattel, whose Barbie would’ve been Woody’s love interest, dropped out of the film because they though the movie would be a failure. She would be replaced with Bo-Peep, a totally original character. Hasbro would drop out, too, when they learned that Sid would be blowing up a GI Joe. The guy would be renamed Combat Carl. Even Steve Jobs wasn’t so sure about the film, at one point considering selling Pixar.
Toy Story would go on to three sequels —- and the worst anyone can say of the least of those is “maybe not as good as the previous entry.”. The movie went on to be a huge success, cementing Pixar’s rep and pointing to the future of animated feature films for the next 25 years. Toy Story proved that there was an audience for CG cartoons.
It also, in a way, cracked the near monopoly of Disney animation and it’s seeming reliance on fairy tale adaptations. Now animation could be taken into different directions, whether it be a surprisingly engaging film centered around Lego…
… or an adventure through a world based on the Day of the Dead…
… or an adaptation of Beowulf with a distractingly CGI Angelina Jolie.
Today’s prompt: what is your favorite computer animated film?
Next week: non-Marvel/DC superhero films