How Toy Story Influenced The Creation Of The Emoji Movie

The Emoji Movie

When you are an animator in search of inspiration, turn to Pixar. It's not a cheat to reveal that the animation giant has triggered numerous creative stories since going on its epic run in 1995. And while Disney, Sony, DreamWorks and other animation giants have evolved their storytelling processes over the years, few are afraid to admit that it was the gold standards of Pixar that pushed them to raise their own bars. Tony Leondis had a similar inspiration. The writer and director of the upcoming The Emoji Movie was opening up to CinemaBlend about his process of coming up with the cellphone-based comedy, and he said it all started with Toy Story:

I was thinking of my next project, and the real truth is, I was like, 'Boy, that Toy Story is so good. What are the next toys?' Is that OK to say that? [Laughs] ... People do think of Inside Out, because of the expressions, but really, it was Toy Story. And it was like, 'Gosh, I love that they made a movie about toys. What are the new toys?' And I looked on my phone and saw the emojis and thought, 'Oh my gosh, emoji are the new toys. They are how we express ourselves nowadays.' What I love about emojis is that in this human world of technology, the heart has found a way to connect, and so it means something when you get an emoji. It really does. When my mom sends me kisses, it actually makes me [get warm]. 'Awww, mom sent me kisses!'

Every idea has to start somewhere. And it was wise of Tony Leondis -- whose previous animation credits include work on films like Igor and Lilo & Stitch 2 -- to look to a universally beloved and groundbreaking movie like Toy Story. Because when Pixar first released Toy Story, to idea that toys would come to life inside of a kid's room whenever the kid wasn't around was pretty genius. And now The Emoji Movie steps back, looks at the current landscape, and asks, "What is a relevant tool that we can use to tell an original story?" They settle on the emojis we use to communicate in our phones.

It looks like this:

One other area where The Emoji Movie resembles Toy Story is in the casting of illustrious voice actors. Just like we can no longer see Buzz Lightyear or Woody without picturing Tim Allen or Tom Hanks, I'm not sure I'll ever look at the poop emoji again without thinking of Sir Patrick Stewart. I'm sure he is thrilled! The Emoji Movie opens in theaters on July 28. We'll have more coverage of the film on CinemaBlend as the date approaches

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.