Unkrich Talks Toy Story Trilogy
BD: It was your rite of passage.
LU: It was. For many of us, it was our first feature and we knew we were doing something new and unlike anything anyone had seen before. I personally felt very fortunate to be on it because I had been a big fan of John's shorts and I pinched myself everyday for the opportunity. So, it's very strange for me to have directed this film because, when I first came on, I was hired as an editor, as you know, and it was just a short-term job: I was only supposed to be at Pixar for four weeks helping on the movie. And it's very surreal to find myself in this position all these years later.
But we're a very different studio now: the original group has split up, especially with Andrew [Stanton] off making John Carter. And everyone's very busy on their own projects. And as much as I wanted everyone returning and coming together again like a band reuniting to make Toy Story 3, that just wasn't a reality. So I really had to do my best to summon that spirit and do my best job to make a film that felt like we had all worked on it. I know it never will: If John had directed this movie, it would've been a different movie; if Pete and Andrew had been involved, it would've been very different, but I just had to do the best I could to make a movie that was worthy of sitting alongside the other two.
It is a homecoming in a lot of ways, though, because so many people who worked on the original Toy Story clamored over themselves to get to work on the film. And I didn't know if that was going to be the case. When I first started assembling a crew, I didn't know what the reaction was going to be; I didn't know if people at the studio would be apathetic about it and not want to work on it 'cause they wanted to work on something new. But the truth was that everyone wanted to work on it. It was the heritage of the studio; there were people at the studio who had been there since the first film and desperately wanted to be a part of it; and there were young people at the studio, who, frankly, were kids when we made Toy Story, and Toy Story was the film that inspired them to become artists and filmmakers themselves. And I guess it's the same as if I had gotten to work on a Star Wars sequel. Star Wars came out when I was 10 and that's what got me excited about wanting to be in movies. And the fact that it turned out well and that people who have seen it so far are embracing it, it does feel very much like… What was the word you used? Like a summary?
LU: To me, that sounds like we were coming to an end, with things wrapping up.
BD: No, it's more in keeping with what happens at the end of the movie: one door closing and another opening.
BD: It's an opportunity to step back and look at what Pixar has accomplished and what it represents -- and all the life experiences.
LU: That's true: Another interesting thing is that the world sees our films as [films]. That's all they have to go on. But behind those films are people and people who have been living lives for the past 15 years and going through all kinds of experiences: having kids, raising those kids, losing friends -- losing Joe [Ranft]. All kinds of things have happened, and all those experiences are inexorably woven into the movies, so when we look at the films we don't just see the films -- we see everything happening behind the scenes and everything that went into making decisions on the films. For us, they are our lives.