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(Credit: Disney)

Film

How 'Toy Story 2' was saved by someone on maternity leave

One of the most significant steps in the evolution of American animation, the 1995 gem Toy Story marked the beginning of Pixar’s legacy. A critical and commercial success, director John Lasseter received a lot of acclaim for his vision while his team was lauded for the massive technological jump that the art of animation had taken due to their efforts.

The first fully computer-animated feature, most modern animated films owe a lot to the innovations championed by Toy Story. Since its release, Toy Story has become a franchise with multiple instalments that have captured the imagination of children all over the world. A bonafide cultural phenomenon, the series might have faltered with Toy Story 4 but its legacy remains vibrant.

The premise for these films are so effective because they are in accordance with the emotions of children as well as adults. A world where toys live secret lives, Toy Story is much more than just a simple action adventure romp. In many ways, it continues the incredibly relevant post-human conversations popularised by films such as Blade Runner.

While describing Pixar’s revolutionary approach to animation, Lasseter explained just how incredibly difficult it was to come up with such a project: “This understanding of the limitations of how films are actually made, and then modelling that within the computer, is classic Pixar. In live action, you get that for free, but we had to create it.”

Lasseter added: “The technology never entertains an audience by itself. And for us, since we invented much of computer animation, we have a pretty good sense of what our tools can do.” This is the reason why the animators focused on the plastic toys instead of the bizarre humans who always looked out of place within those microcosms.

During the production of the sequel to Toy Story, there were a lot of unforeseen obstacles including the fact that the film almost did not make it to the theatres. Instead, it was planned as a “Direct to Video” release and the studio’s so-called B Team was assigned to the project but the executives at Disney changed their minds when they saw the quality of the finished project.

After the completion of A Bug’s Life, Lasseter revisited the sequel to find out that it wasn’t working and the original team returned to rework Toy Story 2. However, the studio almost lost the film when an animator accidentally erased all of Toy Story 2 during a routine storage cleaning. There was no way to recover the files that were being deleted and the backup was considered to be of no use either.

Before the plug could be pulled, almost 90% of the film had already been deleted. Luckily, the Supervising Technical Director – Galyn Susman – had set up an alternate backup system for the files while she was working from home and taking care of her newborn baby during her maternity leave. When she reported that the files were safe on her computer, the device was driven to the studio and the production continued even though some files were never recovered.

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