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There’s Lotso great stories to be found in “The Art of Toy Story 3”

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There’s Lotso great stories to be found in “The Art of Toy Story 3”

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If you read my March 16th non-review of that Showest screening of “Toy Story 3,” then you already know that I’m a huge fan of this Lee Unkrich film. But you know what truly impressed me about this Pixar production? That in the months leading up to the release of this acclaimed animated feature, no one spilled the beans about Lotso's true nature.

Copyright 2010 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Which thrilled the guys at Pixar Animation Studios. Especially since – for the better part of two decades now – they've been itching to fold a villainous teddy bear into one of their projects.

Seriously, folks. the idea for a character like Lotso predates the first Toy Story film. As animation historian Charles Solomon recounts in his terrific new behind-the-scenes book, “The Art of Toy Story 3” (Chronicle Books, May 2010) …

Copyright Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

The original concept for Lotso came from (“A Tin Toy Christmas,” that half-hour holiday special that Pixar was looking to produce in the early 1990s) … the plot was a Rip Van Winkle story starring Tinny, the mechanical musician from Tin Toy. After years of slumbering on a stockroom shelf, Tinny would awaken and discover that the little mom-and-pop store he’d fallen asleep in was now a big, corporate toy emporium. The huge store was like a city, and the different aisles were like different neighborhoods.

"(Also inside of this huge store) was a gang of bad toys led by Lotso ... bargain-bin toys that were defective or couldn’t get sold for some reason and were bitter. They go out for nightly raids on other neighborhoods, “ (“Toy Story 3” director Lee) Unkrich recalled. “Some of the ideas (that were initially proposed for “A Tin Toy Christmas” wound) up in the Prospector’s storyline for Toy Story 2. But everyone (at Pixar) thought the idea of a bitter teddy bear was funny, and he was named Lots-O'-Huggin’ Bear. He shortened his name to Lotso, because it sounded like a good tough-guy name. For Toy Story 3, we reinvented Lotso as a big, pink plush teddy bear.

Ah, but not just any big, pink plush teddy bear. Though Unkrich told Solomon that “I wanted Lotso to be an amalgamation of all those insipid ‘80s product toys,” as you can clearly see by these early storyboard sketches for TS3 …

Copyright Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

… Lee (for a while there, anyway) wanted Lotso to be a Care Bear. Which (you have to admit) is a pretty funny choice when it comes to casting your film’s villain.

Anywho … Over the course of this 176-page hardcover, Solomon unearths all sorts of interesting tales about Lotso. Take – for example – the prototype plush that Pixar had the Disney Store make up in 2008 as they continued their research on “Toy Story 3” ‘s villain. Which was a much more involved process than you might think. As character designer Daniel Arriaga explains:

“It’s really amazing how much thought goes into (the creation of a plush toy), from the way the seams are designed to where the tag is placed to where the eyes go on the head and where to put the pattern in the fur.

Copyright 2010 Chronicle Books LLC. All Rights Reserved

We had the Disney Store people make us some prototypes from our early designs. We wanted to see how (Lotso would look if he were made into) a real toy. When the plush expert came in, he drew seam lines on the clay sculpt (of this character. And) it was interesting to see how those lines helped the construction, even though there’s no skeleton. There are a lot of limitations we didn’t know about.

You can make anything out of plush, but if you want to mass produce it, that’s a different story – and Lotso was meant to be a mass-produced item.”

Copyright Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

Speaking of mass producing ... In "The Art of Toy Story 3," Solomon talks about the dozens of alternate scenarios that the story team at Pixar considered as they struggled to find just the right storyline for this “Toy Story” sequel. Among them was a return to Al’s Toy Barn (which – because it’s under new management – is now know as Hal’s Toy Barn)

Or – better yet – how about an alternative version of TS3's opening sequence? Instead of starting that movie off with a train robbery, Unkrich & Co. originally toyed with beginning their film with a riff on “High Noon.” Where Woody and Buzz would initially meet on a quiet western street, seemingly headed into a classic showdown …

Copyright Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

… only to then have this tension-filled sequence take a radical left turn. As all the buildings in this western town fall on their sides as this showdown sequence suddenly morphs into a “Hannah Montana” –style music video …

Copyright Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved

… which was when we learned that Andy’s younger sister had inherited her brother's toys. More importantly, that Molly is now using Andy’s old playthings to live out her tween fantasies.

That's what's great about Chronicle Books getting an industry vet like Solomon to write this behind-the-scenes book. Given his keen understanding of the animation production, Charles was then able to dig up the fun, insightful sorts of stories that other writers might have missed.

The Art of Toy Story 3
Copyright 2010 Chronicle Books LLC. All Rights Reserved

Which is why -- if you're a Pixar fan -- you should really pick a copy of "The Art of Toys Story 3." For there are Lotso more stories to be found in this profusely illustrated handcover than the handful that I just mentioned above.

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