ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.9 - DECEMBER 1999
Toy Story 2 Is Not Your Typical Hollywood Sequel
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"So where can we go with this emotionally? One thing we realized that we never explored in the first film was what it was like from the toy's point of view to realize that a child will out grow you. Kids grow up and there's nothing you can do about it. Rejection. We realized it was something we could do and give him an option. He could be a collector's item and be taken care of for a long time or he could be taken back to Andy and know it is not going to last. It's a great dilemma. You can't ask for a better ultimate decision for a character to make. So the film sort of evolved along those lines.
Woody and his "Woody's Roundup" co-stars -- Jessie the cowgirl and trusty old pony Bullseye -- get in shape for the whirlwind ride they take in Toy Story 2. © Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios.
"We tried to develop twists in the story so you don't know where it will go. The best thing to do is assume something and then do the opposite. What if Woody had a decision to make that might make him think twice about the decision to go home?
"The toughest time was developing the new characters that Woody meets, his fellow collectibles. We knew they had to be there, his fellow merchandise from the show. They couldn't be just cardboard cutouts. They had to influence Woody somehow. And that's what we had to figure out. When we overcame that we knew they were solid and appealing as characters.
"We had no problem with the rescue mission side of the film. We knew if Woody was stolen, Buzz would lead a rescue party. There would be a lot of comedy potential there. The hard part, the heart of the film, was the emotional journey Woody was taking. That was the hardest thing to figure out."
A Mighty Trio
Although Ash Brannon did a lot of work developing the story, he says "the influence of John Lasseter was important." Lasseter, as the film's executive producer and top director, oversaw much of the production including the animation. In the film's credits Lasseter is given credit as director, followed by two co-directors, Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich. Brannon focused on development, story and animation, Lasseter was in charge of art, modeling and lighting, and Unkrich oversaw editorial and layout. The three tried to work together as closely as possible. Since they met daily to discuss their progress with each other (they wanted to make sure they were all going in the same direction), the boundaries of their responsibilities overlapped.
The triple threat of directors (left to right) Ash Brannon, Academy Award-winner John Lasseter, and Lee Unkrich. © Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios.
"At this point Pixar is growing," says Brannon. "John really wants to play a role in mentoring new directors and helping people grow. That is what happened to me. When the project began as a direct-to-video he thought it was right up my alley since I knew the characters so well." (Brannon worked on the story for the first film.) Time Magazine, in a cover story that appeared about a month before the film's release, proclaimed Pixar has "struck gold" with Toy Story 2, and Brannon is just 29 years-old!
Lee Unkrich, the second co-director, joined the production of Toy Story 2 after completing his work on A Bug's Life. He states, "I had never worked in animation before I came to Pixar. What I brought to the team is a live-action sensibility. We have always found that what we do is a hybrid between animation and live-action. It's obviously animation because artists are hand animating each and every frame of the film, but at the same time the way we stage scenes and block out our camera movement, that comes from a live-action perspective. I think those two elements have combined to give our films the unique look that they have."
Unkrich's role with layout was to determine where the camera was going to be at any given time, which characters were going to be in the shots, the basic blocking of the shots, whether the camera was going to be moving, etc. He designed everything that went into setting the stage for the animators to do their work.
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