Academy Awards: 'Toy Story 3's' Lee Unkrich and the alternate future that almost was
Pixar Animation vets tend to be a little obsessive about their creations. That protectiveness leads to bizarre conversations like when “Toy Story 3” director Lee Unkrich was telling the film’s writer, Michael Arndt, that, no, Mr. Potato Head just wouldn’t talk to Mrs. Potato Head like that, so can you please rewrite that bit of dialogue?
So you can imagine what Unkrich was thinking seven years ago when then-Disney chairman Michael Eisner, in the midst of contentious contract renewal talks, commissioned a third “Toy Story” movie without any involvement from the franchise's Pixar originators. (As part of its original deal, Disney controlled the rights to characters from Pixar’s first seven movies, all the way through “Cars.”)
“We felt like we had come home one day and our children had been taken from the house and were being raised by another family,” says Unkrich, whose movie has been nominated for both best picture and animated feature, as well as adapted screenplay. “And God bless those guys, they were just doing their jobs, but how do you carry the torch for characters you don’t really intimately know?”
The non-Pixar version of “Toy Story 3,” drafted by “Meet the Parents” writer Jim Herzfeld, had the toys shipping themselves to Taipei to rescue Buzz Lightyear, who had been recalled. The screenplay included Buzz offering a twist on his signature catchphrase, exclaiming, “To infinity and be-yotch.”
Needless to say, the line doesn’t pass the smell test with Unkrich, though, again, he harbors no ill will toward Herzfeld or anyone else involved, he said during an interview for a longer story.
“Someone asked me recently if I was ever interested in seeing what they did,” Unkrich says. “We stayed away from it, wanting to make our movie as if that had never happened. But now that we’re all done, I would like to see it. It’d be like high-end fan fiction, a glimpse into an alternate future that never came to be.”
-- Glenn Whipp
"Toy Story 3" photo from Associated Press / Disney