“Toy Story 3 is about change. It’s about embracing change. It’s about people being faced with change and how they deal with it.”
Director, Toy Story 3
“All the Toy Story films have been about mortality. It’s all about ‘Who am I? Am I going to be replaced?'”
Darla K. Anderson
Producer, Toy Story 3
It’s debatable whether Toy Story 3 was the best film of 2010, but from a filmmaking perspective it’s hard to top the 4-Disc Blu-ray/DVD combo that Pixar created for Toy Story 3. It shows how meticulous the Pixar team ( of “hundred and hundreds of people”) is in creating such wonderful movies. The team discusses how they took four years to create Toy Story 3, first creating a full length animatic story reel (sort of a rough, moving storyboard).
You’ll also learn quirky things in the behind the scene footage like how director Lee Unkrich loves steamed broccoli.
But since this is a blog on screenwriting…on the second disc you’ll find an excellent 8-minute recap by Toy Story 3 screenwriter Michael Arndt on how he came at the story. He explains how he studied other Pixar films Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and The Incredibles to see how they set up their worlds, characters and stories. Here’s a recap of his recap:
—Usually a script is about 100 pages with three acts with the first act about 25 pages long, the second act about 50 pages long, and the third act 25 pages.
—Introduce your main character and the world they live in.
—Introduce character doing the thing they love most. It’s the center of their whole universe.
—Expose hidden character flaw. In Toy Story, Woody takes pride in being Andy’s favorite toy.
—Storm clouds on the horizon. In Toy Story it’s Andy’s birthday party and all the toys being worried about being replaced.
—Baboom! Something comes in and turns your character’s life upside down. The thing that was their grand passion gets taken away from them. Woody gets displaced by Buzz.
—Add insult to injury. Something that makes the whole world seem unfair. Woody doesn’t just get replaced, he gets replaced by a total dofuss.
—Character comes to a fork in the road and a choice must be made. Take the high road (the healthy responsible choice) or the low road (unhealthy, irresponsible choice). If the character chooses the right thing you really don’t have a story.
—In Toy Story, Woody could make the right choice and say—”I had my day in the sun.” We identify with his pain. But he makes the unhealthy choice which leads to Buzz being pushed out the window which leads to other unhealthy choices. Woody then is forced by the other toys to find Buzz and bring him back—that’s your first act break.
—The character sets out on a journey where they have to get back what they lost and hopefully fix that little flaw they had when we first met them.
That sound you heard a while back was the cash register as Toy Story 3 ticket sales crossed the billion dollar mark.
Update 7/1/14: This video is now on You Tube.
Toy Story 3 is that rare film that not only was well received by critics and is winning awards, but at the box office it became the top moneymaker in 2010, the top animated film in history and is currently listed at #5 on the all-time world-wide box office list. All it took was four years, a few hundred talented people, and a little steamed broccoli.
I don’t know if Pixar is as an enjoyable place to work as it looks on the behind the scene footage, but I’d sure like to spend a week there sweeping the floors just to soak in the culture.
Update 1/25/11: Just announced this morning, Toy Story 3 earned a total of 5 Academy Award nominations including not only Best Adapted Screenplay (Script by Michael Arndt/ Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich) and Best Animated Film, but for the big daddy itself, Best Picture. PopEater quoted producer Darla K. Anderson saying, “We did take a lot of risks on this film — we had some moments of loss and poignancy. We risked Andy giving the toys away… And I wasn’t sure how people would respond to the film — but I knew we told the story we wanted to tell.”
Oscar Update: Here’s a video of Lee Unkrich receiving the Best Animated Feature Film of the Year Oscar for Toy Story 3 :
P.S. One of my favorite lines from Toy Story 3 is when the Piggy Bank says: “Let’s go see how much we’re going for on eBay.”
Screenwriting the Pixar Way (Part 1)
Screenwriting the Pixar Way (Part 3)
Screenwriting the Pixar Way (Part 4)
Writing “Finding Nemo”
Screenwriting Quote #129 (Bob Peterson)
Toy Story 3’s Ohio Connection