Perhaps animation veteran Floyd Norman put it best.
Floyd (who's beloved by animation insiders for his bitingly funny take on the biz. Don't believe me? Then find yourself a copy of Norman's 1992 book, "Faster! Cheaper! The Flip Side to the Art of Animation." You can thank me later. Anyway ... ) once drew a picture of Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs duking it out.
And what were the weapons that this cutting cartoonist placed in Michael and Steve's hands? Bags of money. Floyd drew a picture of Eisner & Jobs attempting to beat each other to death with bags of money. And - appropriately enough - Norman titled this toon "Clash of the Titans."
That - in a nutshell - is what's actually going on right now between the Walt Disney Company and Pixar Animation Studio. Michael Eisner & Steve Jobs are duking it out over money-related matters.
To be specific, they're fighting about all of the moola that a third "Toy Story" film could potentially pull in. Based on the worldwide grosses of 1995's "Toy Story" and 1999's "Toy Story II," conservative estimates suggest that "Toy Story III" could pull in $350 - $400 at the global box office. Not to mention the additional cash that could be raised off of the sale of "Toy Story III" merchandise. As well as the hundreds of millions more that could be racked in from the sale of a "Toy Story III" home video & DVD.
So we're obviously talking about a huge wad of cash here, folks. That Disney & Pixar - once all of the production & marketing costs for "Toy Story III" were recovered - would be splitting right down the middle.
So it sounds like a no-brainer for these two companies to green-light production of "Toy Story III," doesn't it? Particularly since all of the actors who provided voices for the first two "Toy Story" films are positively itching to get back in the saddle.
Take - for instance - Tim Allen : While doing press interviews earlier this year to help promote Touchstone Pictures' "Big Trouble," Tim Allen was asked about "Toy Story III." His reply: "Tom Hanks wants to do it. So do I, and Don Rickles and the director and the writers." So what's the hold-up? Tim explained that "It's a corporate and business thing. And it's a shame. (Because) There's an absolutely great idea for a new script."
And Tom Hanks - while doing promotion for Dreamworks' "Road to Perdition" this summer - basically confirmed what Allen had said. He told reporters that voicing Woody was one of his favorite assignments and "... if there are plans for Toy Story 3, I'd be more than willing to talk to the folks at Pixar and Disney about being part of it.
So there you have it. A film sequel that's almost guaranteed to make a fortune. A project that the original voice actors would be glad to be a part of. And then there's that "great idea for a new script." (More on that later).
So what exactly is holding up "Toy Story III"? Well, Disney CEO Michael Eisner wants Pixar Animation to honor its February 1997 agreement with the Mouse House. To the letter.
To explain: Under the terms of this contract (Which supercedes the original three picture deal that the computer animation studio signed with Mickey 'way back in 1991), Pixar has 'til 2007 to deliver five finished feature length animated films to Walt Disney Studios. The movies covered in this agreement are 1998's "A Bug's Life," 2001's "Monsters, Inc." as well as these forthcoming Pixar Animation Studio projects; "Finding Nemo" (Summer 2003), "The Incredibles" (2004) and "Cars" (2005).
You'll note that nowhere in that listing did "Toy Story II" come up. Why's that? Well, that's because it's a sequel to "Toy Story," a film that was covered under Pixar's earlier deal with Disney. And - according to language included in the 1997 agreement - sequels don't count. At least when it comes to those five pictures that Pixar owes Disney.
And why exactly don't sequels count? Because - back in 1997 when Disney and Pixar originally signed this new deal - it was assumed that any and all sequels that would be done to earlier Pixar productions would be done on the cheap. Like "The Return of Jafar," Disney's 1994 direct-to-video follow-up to their 1992 hit, "Aladdin."
Both parties assumed that - if sequels were made to "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life" (or any other Pixar projects) - they'd probably be thrown together very quickly. Made for as little money as possible. With an eye toward making a maximum profit off of a fairly low grade product.
So, while Pixar's A team labored on "A Bug's Life" in early 1998, the B team got to work on "Toy Story II: Collector's Item." Only the script that these folks came up with turned out to be pretty good. And the preliminary animation on "Toy Story II" project ... Well, that turned out to be pretty good too.
And - as the folks at Disney & Pixar began looking at the rough assembly of footage for "Toy Story II" - people at both companies began to realize that this film was just too good to throw away as a direct-to-video release. Which is why - in June of 1998 - Disney & Pixar announced that "Toy Story II" would be coming to the big screen first, THEN going the home video route.
So this "Walt Disney Studios presents a Pixar Animation Studios film" finally hits theaters in November 1999. It garners rave reviews as well as earning $245 million during its domestic release (Which is $54 million more than the original "Toy Story" earned, by the way).
So Steve Jobs reportedly calls Michael Eisner so that the two moguls can gloat over their immensely successful film. Jobs then casually mentions that - since "Toy Story II" was such a huge hit - that he's assuming that Eisner would be willing to count this film as one of the five projects that Pixar owes Disney. So - with "A Bug's Life" and "Toy Story II" already in the hopper - that means that Steve only owes Michael three more ...
Eisner then allegedly interrupts Jobs. "Re-read your contract, Steve," Michael says. "Sequels don't count. You still owe me four films."
Steve was supposedly flabbergasted. How could "Toy Story II" - a film that would eventually go on to accumulate a worldwide gross of $485 million - not count?
Okay, okay. According to the letter of the law, Pixar DID owe Disney four films. I understand that.
But - at the same time - some consideration has to be paid to the hard work and effort that the staff at Pixar Animation Studio poured into "Toy Story II." They COULD HAVE treated this film like it was a throw-away and just made a half-hearted effort. After all, what's the point of busting your ass on "Toy Story II"? Had things actually gone according to plan, it would have only been a direct-to-video film. A lesser product.
Only the folks at Pixar didn't treat "Toy Story II" like it was a lesser product. They kept plussing & plussing & plussing the production until it became the film that totally won over audiences in November of 1999. Me personally? I think that Disney should have done something to recognize all that extra effort ... And a good place to have started would have been by recognizing "Toy Story II" as one of the five films that Pixar still contractually owed to the Walt Disney Company.
Anyway ... It was at this exact moment that the bad blood reportedly began boiling between Eisner & Jobs. Soon after this conversation, Steve allegedly began making noise about finding a new production partner for Pixar as soon as the Disney deal wrapped up in 2007.
Eisner - who, amazingly enough, still seems totally unaware that his insistence that Pixar honor its contract TO THE LETTER will probably result in Jobs refusing to reup his studio's production pact with Disney - actually acerbated the situation by pressing Pixar to go forward with "Toy Story III." Again without offering to count that proposed project toward the five films that the computer animation studio still owed Mickey.
According to Pixar insiders, the only way that Jobs would now agree to make "Toy Story III" was if it would get his company out of its arrangement with the Mouse that much quicker. There are also reports that Pixar has already begun production on the studio's first post-Disney film. This feature - which is supposedly being developed by Jan Pinkava (the director of Pixar's 1999 Academy Award winning short, "Geri's Game") - could be out in theaters as early as the Summer of 2006.
All because Michael Eisner wants Pixar to follow its contract with the Mouse House right down to the last codicil. Rather than honor the spirit of the agreement. Me personally? I just can't understand how a film like "Toy Story II" - a movie that's so incredibly entertaining, that earned rave reviews, a project that earned nearly a half billion dollars internationally - still doesn't count. That's just mind blowing to me.
Okay. Enough about that: What about "Toy Story III"? According to Jobs, "(That) train has left the station. (Our) next three films are spoken for ... We wanted to make a Toy Story 3. But - in the current deal - it's not going to happen. Toy Story 2 was a big success and we never complained (that) it didn't count (as a contracted film). But we can't do (that) again."
As for Disney: Well, if what I'm hearing is correct, Eisner's actually toying with the idea of making "Toy Story III" WITHOUT Pixar's involvement. In an interview earlier this year, Uncle Mike was actually quoted as saying "We have the right to do a sequel irrespective of the two deals (Disney made with Pixar). I don't need a new deal (with Pixar) to make Toy Story 3. I can get (the) five movies (that Pixar owes Disney) plus Toy Story 3."
So would Disney really dare to make a "Toy Story III" without Pixar's direct involvement? The contract that Pixar has with Disney expressly prohibits that studio from taking any of the characters that they created for "Toy Story," "A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc.," "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles" and "Cars" and using them in a non-Disney film. On the other hand, the Mouse does appear to have plenty of latitude when that corporation wants to use the Pixar characters. Which (perhaps) explains the "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command" animated TV series, WDW's "Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin" attraction as well as DCA's soon-to-be-opening "Flik's Fun Fair."
I guess the bigger question is - were Disney to go forward with a "Toy Story III" as a solo project - would they follow the story arc that John Lasseter & Co. have tentatively mapped out for that movie? Because - if they did - it would at least provide a fitting cap to this much beloved film series.
And what might that cap be? Well, let me preface this by saying that I personally am quite happy with the way that the "Toy Story" saga has already wrapped up. The end of "Toy Story II" - with Buzz, Woody, Jessie, Bullseye, Bo Peep and the gang looking on as Wheezy sang "You've Got a Friend in Me" (With a trio of Barbies as the penguin's back-up singers) - was sheer bliss for me. I don't think that you could have ended that story on a higher note.
But the proposed storyline for "Toy Story III" (at least the little bits that I've heard) concludes in such a warm, winning way - leaving all of these characters that we've come to love in a much better place - that I can't help but wish that Disney or Pixar or SOMEBODY would get off their asses & make this movie.
So what happens during "Toy Story III"? Sorry, but that would be telling. You want your movies spoiled years in advance? Go over to Aint It Cool News. (Particularly this week. Where Moriarty just revealed EVERYTHING that there is to know about J.J. Abrams' new "Superman" screenplay. As the good doctor so eloquently puts it, "You will believe that a franchise can suck." Anyway ...)
So - without really spoiling the film - what can I tell you about "Toy Story III"? Well, I can tell you is that the film deals with a subject that Pixar has reportedly gotten a lot of mail about: What happens when Andy grows up.
It seems that hundreds of kids out there have written to Pixar over the years, wondering what's going to happen to Woody, Buzz et al when Andy finally outgrows his toys. Is it going to be a rerun of what happened to Jessie, where she was ignored, forgotten, then eventually given away to charity?
To do that ... would just break the hearts of thousands of kids around the globe. To think that Slinky Dog, Rex and Mr. Potato Head came to such a sad end.
Which is why the folks at Pixar - particularly Lasseter - reportedly wants to end the "Toy Story" story with all the characters in a safe place. So - as "Toy Story III" faded out - it was crucial that Woody, Buzz and the gang would be somewhere where they'd always be cared for. Where they'll always be loved.
So how to do you do this? Well - to get to the end - sometimes you have to go all the way back to the beginning. In this case, that meant digging out of the original treatment for "Toy Story" (written in the Spring of 1991).
How many of you out there have the ultimate "Toy Box" on DVD? Okay. Go get it. Now slap in the supplemental disc & find your way to the original treatment that's archived on this disc. Isn't it amazing how many pieces of "Toy Story II" (Not to mention, of course, the original "Toy Story") can be found in this document? The yard sale that the characters accidentally end up in? The greedy toy collector? The dangerous crossing of the highway? And - of course - the toy penguin with the broken squeaker.
Yes, the original treatment for "Toy Story" is fun to read. But what we're here to talk about is the proposed ending of "Toy Story III." Well - if you read the original treatment for "Toy Story" - you'll get a large-sized hint as to where Lasseter and Co. want to go with the third and (supposedly) final chapter of this much beloved film series.
So what happens at the end of the original treatment of "Toy Story"? Tinny (a tin toy based - appropriately enough - on the title character in Pixar's 1989 Academy Award winning short, "Tin Toy") and his friend, Dummy (A ventriloquist dummy modeled after Charlie McCarthy that occasionally wears a cowboy hat), have survived encounters with obnoxious dogs, obsessive toy collectors, being separated from the kids that love them, even tumbling out a garbage truck into speeding traffic ... And they really deserve a break. After their long ordeal, these characters deserve to find a loving home where there will always be kids to play with them. (For a toy is never truly happy unless it is being loved by a child).
And - miracles of miracles - they actually find this wonderful place. Right next door to where the obnoxious dog lives. It's a pre-school with a kindergarten. Tinny and Dummy (along with their new friends, Slinky Worm and Wheezy) eventually their way into the kindergarten class room. Here, the other toys tell them that their troubles are finally over.
Why for? Because in this room, there will always be children who are willing to play with Tinny & Dummy. And each year, a brand new crop of kids arrives to shower the playthings with affection and attention. And the best part of the deal is ... The children go home every day once school lets out. And the toys get the entire summers off. To rest. To vacation. Play with their fellow playthings. Whatever.
This is where Lasseter & Co. supposedly want to leave Woody, Buzz and the crew to be at the end of "Toy Story III." In a place where there'll always be kids to play with them. Where the audience knows that they'll be loved and cared for years yet to come.
That's not too shabby a way to wrap up the "Toy Story" saga, now is it? Of course, given that it's looking more & more unlikely that we'll never see this movie (Because - according to Michael Eisner's way of looking at things - a film that makes $485 million still DOESN'T COUNT !!!), I guess that we'll just have to make do with the ending of "Toy Story II."
Which is still pretty snazzy. At least to my way of thinking. What with the glitter ball and all.
But I still can't wrap my head around the idea that a film that makes almost a half a billion dollars ... just doesn't count. That just boggles my mind.