Toy Story 3 Director" /> "It's Toy Hell," Says Toy Story 3 Director - Rotten Tomatoes

"It's Toy Hell," Says Toy Story 3 Director

Lee Unkrich on the precarious journey from idea to Pixar's most anticipated sequel


Expectations don't come much higher than those surrounding this week's Toy Story 3. Arriving 11 years after 1999's Toy Story 2 upped both the box office and creative ante of the 1995 original, Pixar's threequel faces the daunting challenge of matching two predecessors that have a combined worldwide gross of $847 million and unparalleled critical praise (parts one and two currently sit at 100% "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes). More importantly, the films endure as part of audiences' collective experiences; people love this franchise, and it seems only the foolhardy would try and revisit it so many years later. Then again, this is Pixar we're talking about -- if anyone's going to break the curse of the part three, these guys have the best shot. RT spent some time with Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich -- stepping into the hot seat having co-directed part two -- and asked him what it was like to return to the series.


RT: Recently you said that you'd thought about making this film straight after Toy Story 2. At what point did you think, "Let's do it -- this is a really good idea"?

LU: We went about this one a little backwards, in that we had an idea for a Toy Story 3 right after we made Toy Story 2. There was an idea that we were kicking around and [Toy Story writer] Joe Ranft developed a little bit, but because of the political problems between Disney and Pixar at the time we weren't able to make it. Everything was kind of stagnant for a number of years. We went on making our other films and this idea for Toy Story just sat on the shelf. It wasn't until Disney bought us, finally, that all those problems went away and we were able to shut down the version of Toy Story 3 that Disney was doing on their own without us.

Was that going to be straight to video?

It wasn't straight to video. A lot of people have this impression that it was straight to video but it wasn't. It was meant to be theatrical. The straight to video was Toy Story 2 -- that was originally going to be our plan, but at a certain point we decided it was good enough to be theatrical.

People mix those stories up.

Yeah, I think that's what's happening, 'cause Disney's was full-on meant to be a theatrical release.

Were you guys worried about that?

Oh it was terrible. It was the darkest time in the history of our studio. I know they had a script and were doing storyboarding; they were getting ready to make it.

Did you ever look at it?

No. Never. We were very worried about it. It felt like our children had been taken away, like they'd been forcibly taken from us and raised by someone else. Luckily that future didn't come to pass, and Disney bought us and we shut down that version of the movie and we started from scratch. So it was really just over four years ago that we decided to make Toy Story 3. But the interesting thing was, we went away on this two day offsite -- me and John [Lasseter] and Andrew [Stanton] and Pete [Docter] and a few other folks -- to kind of hash out this idea that we had all these years; and within about 20 minutes of starting we shut down the idea completely.

What was the original idea?

You know, I'm sure everyone's interested in what it was, but we're not talking about it because we found that over the years there have been a lot of ideas that aren't the right ideas at the moment , for one reason or another, but they oftentimes show up in another form later. Like, we had a movie called Trash Planet that we wanted to make for a long time, and it kind of never went anywhere.

It became WALL-E?

It became WALL-E, ultimately. So this other idea that we shut down, there's probably something in there, because there's a reason we were excited about it.

Are there any remnants of the idea in the Toy Story 3 we see today?

No, really not at all. The only idea is that there was a vague thought that we would have Andy be grown up, in that idea. But once we shut that down, we were kind of left with nothing. And that was a perilous place to find ourselves, because we'd always told ourselves that we'd never make a movie unless we had a great idea first; and here we wanted to make a movie, we wanted to revisit the world of Toy Story, but we didn't have an idea. So we were in a bit of a panic. What we ended up doing was watching Toy Story and Toy Story 2 again. We had no TV there, so we all gathered around a laptop and watched the first two films and felt kind of depressed -- because we thought, "How can we top these two movies?"

When you watched them, did they feel complete to you, as a piece?

They did, completely. And that's an interesting thing to me now. I liken it to sometimes in a family you'll have a couple of kids and you'll think, "This is it; this is the family -- how can it be any different? This is what's meant to be." And then, for one reason or another, you end up having another child, whether accidentally or by choice, and of course once that child's in your life you can't imagine life without that third child.

It was kind of like that with the films. When we finished Toy Story 2, we tried to end that story. I mean, the toys knew that Andy was going to grow up some day and they'd made peace with that fact; they were totally confident that they were going to enjoy the time they had left with Andy. Someday it's going to come to an end, but at least they have each other by their side. Satisfying ending. Now, in retrospect -- now that we've made 3 -- we can see that they don't know what's coming. It's one thing to make peace with something that's gonna happen in the future and it's another thing to actually be there directly confronting it. So, we thought we need to put the toys in that situation; we need to have Andy grown up and leaving for college and the toys not knowing what the future holds for them. It just felt like the most emotionally resonant point at which to tell the story.


Comments

Splitter

Matthew Burge

The way he describes the dump scene is giving off Brave Little Toaster vibes. I like. I like very much.

Jun 15 - 07:03 PM

August M.

Agustin Macias

Well most of the Pixar staff worked on that movie. It's the closes thing for a hand-drawn film for Pixar.

Jun 15 - 09:42 PM

Elaine g.

Elaine green

why

Jun 16 - 08:42 AM

Hannah C.

Hannah Caldwell

Yeah, I thought it was a LOT like The Brave Little Toaster. Only slightly more terrifying. I spent the majority of that movie crying in the fetal position.

Jun 20 - 08:49 PM

Bob M.

Bob Mark

Haha, so let me get this straight, Disney tried making a Toy Story movie WITHOUT Pixar? Thank God that didn't happen. I can only imagine that it would be as bad as Chicken Little.

Leave the 3D animation to Pixar, Disney, and you guys stick to the 2D animation. Life works better that way.

Jun 15 - 08:00 PM

The.Watcher

The Watcher

Bolt was alright...

Jun 15 - 09:51 PM

Splitter

Matthew Burge

Bolt is superceded for being directed by John Lassetter.

Jun 15 - 10:56 PM

August M.

Agustin Macias

It was executive produced by Lasseter(Also Meet the Robinsons and Princess and the Frog), not directed.

Jun 16 - 06:47 AM

Jennifer F.

Jennifer Filips

I agree.

Jun 22 - 12:39 AM

Johnny W.

Johnny Wu

If you check out Toy Story 3 on wikipedia, they actually give you the plot summary of the story that Disney was going to make without Pixar! Something about Buzz Lightyear was being recalled and Andy's toys had to go rescue him. It sounded like a pretty good idea, but I'm glad that Pixar shut down Disney's version of Toy Story 3.

Jun 15 - 08:49 PM

August M.

Agustin Macias

The deceased Circle 7 company, "Pixaren't". The plot made no sense, it was a cheap version of the second one.

Jun 15 - 08:59 PM

Mr. Dufresne

Chip McNair

I remember reading that years ago (before this version of Toy Story 3 was announced), and trying to get excited for it (I didn't know at the time that Disney was behind that story). I had wanted a Toy Story 3 for so long, but I was not intrigued by that plot at all. Still, I was disappointed when I learned it was cancelled. But when the Pixar version was announced, and when the plot was later revealed. I was much more intrigued.

And the movie obviously turned out great. Toy Story just wasn't meant to stink.

Jun 19 - 01:34 PM

Jennifer F.

Jennifer Filips

I completely agree.

Jun 22 - 12:42 AM

August M.

Agustin Macias

The deceased Circle 7 company, "Pixaren't". The plot made no sense, it was a cheap version of the second one.

Jun 15 - 08:59 PM

August M.

Agustin Macias

Went to Alcatraz to research for Sunnyside instead of Day-cares?! WOW!!!

Jun 15 - 09:05 PM

Throw An Onion

Crornk Kaleidescope

Can Pixar do anything wrong?

Jun 15 - 09:20 PM

nate2709

Nate 2709

According to Armond White, they do everything wrong.

Jun 16 - 12:22 AM

AlexDeLargeisHere

Harold Warren

Almond White also gave Transformers 2 a positive review. Proving his opinion are the equivilant in value, or the lack thereof, as a teenager.

Jun 16 - 04:41 AM

Mr. Dufresne

Chip McNair

Hey, I'm a teenager, buddy, and I know Armond's a moron!

Jun 19 - 01:34 PM

August M.

Agustin Macias

Well most of the Pixar staff worked on that movie. It's the closes thing for a hand-drawn film for Pixar.

Jun 15 - 09:42 PM

The.Watcher

The Watcher

Bolt was alright...

Jun 15 - 09:51 PM

Splitter

Matthew Burge

Bolt is superceded for being directed by John Lassetter.

Jun 15 - 10:56 PM

August M.

Agustin Macias

It was executive produced by Lasseter(Also Meet the Robinsons and Princess and the Frog), not directed.

Jun 16 - 06:47 AM

Splitter

Matthew Burge

Bolt is superceded for being directed by John Lassetter.

Jun 15 - 10:56 PM

August M.

Agustin Macias

It was executive produced by Lasseter(Also Meet the Robinsons and Princess and the Frog), not directed.

Jun 16 - 06:47 AM

raheell a.

raheell abbas

well am lil bit crazy abut animation ,, so lets try this alsO >>>> Toy Story :D

Jun 15 - 11:20 PM

Hamboner

Brian Lorenzen

All of Pixar's films are so good, it's like I'm almost getting sick of them being so consistently excellent. There must be something wrong with me, because I'm starting to tune the company out. I know they produce quality, I guess I'm just tired of their sensibilities.

Jun 15 - 11:38 PM

nate2709

Nate 2709

According to Armond White, they do everything wrong.

Jun 16 - 12:22 AM

AlexDeLargeisHere

Harold Warren

Almond White also gave Transformers 2 a positive review. Proving his opinion are the equivilant in value, or the lack thereof, as a teenager.

Jun 16 - 04:41 AM

Mr. Dufresne

Chip McNair

Hey, I'm a teenager, buddy, and I know Armond's a moron!

Jun 19 - 01:34 PM

AlexDeLargeisHere

Harold Warren

Almond White also gave Transformers 2 a positive review. Proving his opinion are the equivilant in value, or the lack thereof, as a teenager.

Jun 16 - 04:41 AM

Mr. Dufresne

Chip McNair

Hey, I'm a teenager, buddy, and I know Armond's a moron!

Jun 19 - 01:34 PM

BLaCKWoLF

BLaCKWoLF .

I personally hate it when people dont give Disney enough credit. 3D or not, they once set the standards by which all animation was measured by. Just because Pixar has succeeded them as the deserved, undisputed Kings of animation as of late, does not mean that Disney is not capable of producing good work on their own.

Jun 16 - 04:52 AM

August M.

Agustin Macias

If only Disney Channel got rid of all the crap they give with ACTUAL Disney programing and movies, it will receive less criticism. Remember, Disney Channel is Disney in name only, not quality.

P.S. Without Disney, animation would have never developed into the quality we appreciate today, they set the standard; First in Animated Film(Snow White). First in Stop-Motion film(Nightmare Before Christmas). First in CGI(Toy Story).

Jun 16 - 06:54 AM

manwithoutfear19

Daniel Raimondi

Disney did set the standard for animation and movies i wish the channel would realize that

Jun 16 - 12:01 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Gotta remember the Disney Channel is aiming at very young kids and very young kids are for the most part morons. It's not like Sesame St is an epic masterwork, but it's good at what it does i.e. distracting children for a couple of hours so their parents can have sex.

Jun 18 - 09:07 AM

Jennifer F.

Jennifer Filips

Toy Story was Pixar too!

Jun 22 - 12:44 AM

Respiked

Keith Cable

Disney's tentpole features have been and remain timeless masterpieces (with some notable execptions, particularly several from the late 90's early 00's) but the problem is they constantly dilute their brand and image with all of the Hannah Montana, Zach and Cody, Jonas brothers BS because, let's not kid ourselves, that crap sells more and costs less than a feature film.

Of course I always tell the story... My wife and I went to Walt Disney World for our Honeymoon in '04 (we love the place, sue us) and the place was PLASTERED with Hillary Duff. 5 years later we took our son in '09 and it was PLASTERED with Miley Cyrus... what the hell happened to Hillary Duff? Anyone know (or care)? And where is Miley Cyrus going to be in another 5 years?

Jun 16 - 07:47 AM

manwithoutfear19

Daniel Raimondi

i went there in '00 and none of that was there lol

Jun 16 - 09:59 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Again you've gotta remember those programs aren't aimed at you. I'm assuming your a legal adult, so you can't really judge the product. Remember your own parents opinions on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers. Same principle applies. Those programs are aimed very specifically at a certain demographic and that demographic adores them. As much as we'd like it to be, the world isn't solely designed to amuse 20-40 something comicbook fan movie buffs. Only RT World is, and even they feed our hate with the occasional chick flick and get you guys riled up with Twilight.

Jun 18 - 09:10 AM

Bucky

Matt Buchman

there is no arguing the greatness of disney, it is just the fact that they were going to make a toy story 3 without pixar. that was just wrong.

Jun 16 - 08:54 AM

Emerald1234S

Stephen Murphy

Yes Disney are the single most important company in terms of progressing animated films in cinema history, but for the past 15 years or so they've been massively outdone in the animation department by Pixar and Studio Ghibli. Disney values are just outdated. In their entire history the only original film they made was The Lion King, whereas Pixar and Ghibli generally (not always in Ghibli's case) make original films. That has some bearing I think

Jun 19 - 01:38 PM

August M.

Agustin Macias

It was executive produced by Lasseter(Also Meet the Robinsons and Princess and the Frog), not directed.

Jun 16 - 06:47 AM

August M.

Agustin Macias

If only Disney Channel got rid of all the crap they give with ACTUAL Disney programing and movies, it will receive less criticism. Remember, Disney Channel is Disney in name only, not quality.

P.S. Without Disney, animation would have never developed into the quality we appreciate today, they set the standard; First in Animated Film(Snow White). First in Stop-Motion film(Nightmare Before Christmas). First in CGI(Toy Story).

Jun 16 - 06:54 AM

manwithoutfear19

Daniel Raimondi

Disney did set the standard for animation and movies i wish the channel would realize that

Jun 16 - 12:01 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Gotta remember the Disney Channel is aiming at very young kids and very young kids are for the most part morons. It's not like Sesame St is an epic masterwork, but it's good at what it does i.e. distracting children for a couple of hours so their parents can have sex.

Jun 18 - 09:07 AM

Jennifer F.

Jennifer Filips

Toy Story was Pixar too!

Jun 22 - 12:44 AM

Respiked

Keith Cable

Disney's tentpole features have been and remain timeless masterpieces (with some notable execptions, particularly several from the late 90's early 00's) but the problem is they constantly dilute their brand and image with all of the Hannah Montana, Zach and Cody, Jonas brothers BS because, let's not kid ourselves, that crap sells more and costs less than a feature film.

Of course I always tell the story... My wife and I went to Walt Disney World for our Honeymoon in '04 (we love the place, sue us) and the place was PLASTERED with Hillary Duff. 5 years later we took our son in '09 and it was PLASTERED with Miley Cyrus... what the hell happened to Hillary Duff? Anyone know (or care)? And where is Miley Cyrus going to be in another 5 years?

Jun 16 - 07:47 AM

manwithoutfear19

Daniel Raimondi

i went there in '00 and none of that was there lol

Jun 16 - 09:59 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Again you've gotta remember those programs aren't aimed at you. I'm assuming your a legal adult, so you can't really judge the product. Remember your own parents opinions on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers. Same principle applies. Those programs are aimed very specifically at a certain demographic and that demographic adores them. As much as we'd like it to be, the world isn't solely designed to amuse 20-40 something comicbook fan movie buffs. Only RT World is, and even they feed our hate with the occasional chick flick and get you guys riled up with Twilight.

Jun 18 - 09:10 AM

Elaine g.

Elaine green

why

Jun 16 - 08:42 AM

Bucky

Matt Buchman

there is no arguing the greatness of disney, it is just the fact that they were going to make a toy story 3 without pixar. that was just wrong.

Jun 16 - 08:54 AM

manwithoutfear19

Daniel Raimondi

i went there in '00 and none of that was there lol

Jun 16 - 09:59 AM

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