Top 10 Film Industry Stories of 2010: #4

Buzz and Woody Win the Year

By Kim Hollis

January 28, 2011

You apparently put coins in it. No, he doesn't accept debit cards.

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It had been more than a decade since Woody, Buzz and the gang had enraptured us with their adventures. In 1995, Toy Story set the CGI animation trend in motion as the film earned a fabulous $191.8 million (and $361.9 million) against a tiny $30 million production budget. Pixar and Disney had originally planned for Toy Story 2 to be straight-to-video, but when they realized they had a gem on their hands, they went ahead and put that one into theaters four years later, and the result was a payoff of $245.9 million domestically and a worldwide gross of $485 million. More important, the characters in the films became almost like beloved members of our family. The timeless tale of toys that just want to be played with had emotional resonance and merchandising opportunities galore, and Disney took full advantage of every opportunity those factors provided.

When things began to become contentious between Disney and Pixar and no deal was in place for the two companies to continue their partnership, one of the big concerns was the fact that rights to the Toy Story franchise would revert to Disney, and they fully intended to produce yet another film for the franchise. The good news for everyone is that Pixar and Disney renewed their relationship, meaning that not only Pixar films would be in excellent shape in the coming future, but also that John Lasseter's involvement as Chief Creative Officer for Disney/Pixar would bring greater creativity and quality to Disney's animated output (as proven by the fact that both Tangled and The Princess and the Frog were truly wonderful films offered by Disney in the last couple of years). Ultimately, it was agreed that Toy Story 3 could provide some closure on the franchise and the Pixar gang went to work on a movie that would match the glory of its predecessors.


When I went to see the re-release of Toy Story/Toy Story 2 in theaters (in glorious 3D!) in 2009, I came to realize what the trajectory had to be for the third film, and in fact, director Lee Unkrich and crew went precisely in the direction that the first two films foreshadowed. Someday, Andy would be in college, and would leave behind childish ways. What would happen to the toys then?

Obviously, they'd all have one final, amazing adventure (in 3D!). New adorable characters would be introduced (yes, I do have a Mr. Pricklepants sitting beside my computer on my desk as I type this), tears would be shed, laughter would be shared, and Disney and Pixar would rake in the accolades and the cash. Indeed, Toy Story 3 is 99% fresh at RottenTomatoes (I admit I love How to Train Your Dragon more, but they're both amazing) and it has basically won every award for Best Animated Film that is available. Toys were sold (there was a Buzz Lightyear chattering away at my parents' house at Christmas) and although Toy Story 3 didn't manage to get the opening weekend record, it would become the highest grossing film released in 2010 - and Pixar's biggest movie ever.

When all the receipts were tallied, Toy Story 3 came in with a fabulous $415 million in North America. That number beats Disney's previous highest domestic grosser, Finding Nemo, by a stunning $75 million, and is good for ninth place all-time on the North American earnings list. As far as worldwide totals go, Toy Story 3 became only the seventh film to cross the billion dollar mark, and it currently sits in fourth place on the all-time chart. Once again, it blows Finding Nemo out of the water, beating that movie's worldwide total by $198 million. With home video and merchandise revenues added in, Disney and Pixar can easily justify the $200 million spent creating the film, and its day in the sun isn't really over yet.

Indeed, with both a Best Picture nomination and a Best Animated Film nomination (and likely win) from the Academy Awards, Toy Story 3 is only nearing the end of its journey. Pixar and Disney have stated that the film is the last in the trilogy (and with the way it ends, it should be), but you can never count out big studio pressure to go with what works, especially when you have a billion dollar product.



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