Disney Review: The Toy Story Films, an Animated Journey

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Features, The Disney Review

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Published on September 01, 2012 at 12:19 am with 5 Comments

In a nod to the Art of…books by Chronicle, Disney Publishing has released a large, coffee table-style book about the Toy Story films. Any Disney fan of the past few years knows about the rise of Pixar and how they revolutionized the animation industry. Does this new book go behind-the-scenes enough to tell the whole story or is it just a sugar-coated fluff piece?

That shiny cover was so hard to photograph!

The Toy Story Films: An Animated Journey by Charles Solomon is 192-pages, slightly larger than the typical Art of…books and, at first glance, appears to be worth every penny. Written by Charles Solomon, a noted animation historian, this book is a must have for Toy Story and Pixar fans. Solomon takes us inside the company to share the evolution of Pixar and the Toy Story franchise. I’ve looked at four of Solomon’s other books on animation:

We start with a look at the very beginning, when Lasseter is let go from Disney and makes his way to Lucasfilm. Eventually, Steve Jobs purchases Pixar and the company makes commercials to stay afloat. Lasseter starts to make animated shorts to show off the Pixar workstations and they start winning awards and the attention of Disney. This leads to the development of the world’s first digitally animated feature film, Toy Story. Of course, the road to Toy Story wasn’t paved with riches at first; the company strugled internally and externally to fit their culture inside of Disney.

Before we hit the part of the book about Toy Story, we spend time looking at the multitude of short films they made. It is really eye opening to see the processes the company went through at the beginning and how they changed over the years and changed filmmaking. Each short and several of the commercials are discussed along with stills and artwork. As inspiring as the shorts were, they almost appear barbaric today. It is hard to step outside of the mindset of current animated films to think about how revolutionary the shorts were.

The majority of the book goes deep into the development of the three films. Not only do we see the development of the characters and the story, but we see how a small studio works itself almost into the ground to create the the groundbreaking film and how they changed to fit the times and changed the times.

As can be expected, there are some beautiful illustrations. As spectacular as the final films are, the concept artwork is just as breathtaking. For a computer animation company, it is really interesting to see how a majority of their pre-production art, sketches and storyboards are all hand drawn. Some of the full page watercolors and pastels created for the films are simply staggering.

The evolution of the films and the technology is apparent when you read this book. Pixar revolutionized how modern animated films are made and pretty much sounded the initial death knell for most hand drawn illustrations. Solomon does discuss the relationship of Pixar and modern animation. As you near the end of the Toy Story trilogy, Solomon discusses how Pixar not only changed animation but changed Disney.

Charles Solomon, because of his background as an animation historian, is in a unique place to look at Pixar. He interviewed the key Pixar employees and their individual stories help create a larger look at the Toy Story films, which not only represent Pixar, but the growth of the individual employees. He is also able to place these films in an accurate historical context.

Toy Story, The Animated Films really takes you deeper into the process of modern day filmmaking. The insight you gain from reading (and viewing the art) will spur your appreciation of the films and the artistry. As I mentioned at the top of the review, get this book if you love the Toy Story films and/or Pixar films.


By George Taylor

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About George Taylor

George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

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5 Comments

Comments for Disney Review: The Toy Story Films, an Animated Journey are now closed.

  1. Any commentary on Hayao Miyazaki’s foreward? Even though it looks short based on the table of contents you showed, in my view it’s one of the book’s more interesting features. For my money, Miyazaki is the greatest animator, past or present. I suspect Lasseter might say the same.

    -A

    • The foreward is very short. :(

      There’s nothing telling, it is more praise than anything else. I agree. The Studio Ghibli stuff is amazing.

  2. The world is conspiring to keep me poor. Another must-have book!

    • It is a good one!