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The Three Brilliant Movies That Inspired Pixar Before Toy Story

Since the making of Toy Story, Pixar has reached legendary status in the film industry. The studio has not only collected eight Academy Awards, but produced some of the greatest animated movies ever made. It makes you think about all of the decisions that were made right at the start and the directions that were chosen that could drive their success on the big screen - and it turns out that The Wizard Of Oz, Star Wars and Snow White were immensely influential in those choices.

Earlier this year, I joined in a small roundtable interview with director Andrew Stanton and producer Lindsey Collins during an early press day for Finding Dory, and it was during a discussion about the nascent years of Pixar that the Wall-E filmmaker revealed how the three aforementioned movies played a key role in the studio’s development. When making Toy Story, they recognized their limitations from a technological standpoint, and decided to look at other projects that succeeded despite these challenges. Watching The Wizard Of Oz, Star Wars and Snow White, Stanton, John Lasseter, and the other key creatives in Pixar’s early days found the gateway to their future:

We used to say this when we were trying to figure out who we wanted to be after Toy Story… The only thing that got us through Toy Story was because we didn’t think we were going to get to do it again. We knew the technology better than anybody, but we knew that it was going to be the ugliest picture we ever made… So we said, ‘What are the films that are so clearly technologically limited, but we still watch?’ And it was Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, and I’m forgetting the other movie now. Snow White. And we said, ‘That’s because it’s the story.’ So, we said, ‘Alright, we’re going to put all of our eggs in the story basket.’

Clearly this strategy wound up working quite well for Pixar, and even as technology has progressed it hasn’t really changed. At this point animation can be stunning and photo real, but the fact that Pixar consistently puts its story and characters above everything else that makes most of their movies emotional and wonderful.

Obviously the elemental focus on story has wound up being incredibly important for Pixar’s development, but Andrew Stanton also noted another lesson that the creatives took from The Wizard Of Oz, Star Wars and Snow White - even if the filmmakers behind those movies weren’t thinking about it themselves. Noting the longevity and timelessness of those classics, they began not just focusing on making movies for the kids of today, but for the grandchildren of tomorrow:

We took a broad view, thinking this was our one shot, and we used to say, ‘We’re in it for the grandkids, not the kids’ - meaning I’m actually in this for the long haul. I’m hoping that it will go past one generation to the next, without any of the hoopla of [being] the first computer animated movie ever. If you strip all of that away and the context of everything in the world changes, and this is just found on a chip somewhere and watched, will it be watched, and that was what our phrase, we’re in it for the grandkids.

It won’t be long until we get another taste of Pixar’s particular brand. Finding Dory, the long-awaited sequel to the Oscar-winning Finding Nemo, is arriving in theaters in just a few weeks, on June 17th. Be sure to stay tuned for more of our coverage of the movie in the weeks ahead!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.