Toy Story 3: 9 Fascinating Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Beloved Pixar Sequel

The toys gathered in Pixar's Toy Story 3

Earlier this summer, Toy Story 3 celebrated its 10th anniversary. It's hard to believe that the third installment in this groundbreaking animated trilogy is in the double digits now, especially with Toy Story 4 released just last year, but it's to Pixar's immense credit that they take their time with their sequels, putting lots of care and effort into making sure they're as good as they can be (with perhaps one or two notable exceptions). 

It's for that reason in particular that Toy Story 3 is celebrated as being not only as good as its previous two installments but arguably better. With this long-delayed third installment, Pixar produced an intensely emotional, grandly profound mediation on this animated trilogy's overarching themes on love, loss, deterioration, and impermanence, richly satisfying long-time fans while also keeping the younger audiences entertained. It solidified the Toy Story franchise as one of the all-time greatest cinematic trilogies.

To celebrate its tenth birthday, we're here to list just a few fascinating behind-the-scenes facts about the making of Pixar's acclaimed Toy Story 3.

Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 3

There Were Plans To Make A Version Of Toy Story 3 Centered Around Buzz Lightyear Being Sent To Taiwan (It Featured Transformers)

It took a full 11 years before Toy Story 3 followed 2 and temporarily closed the series. Pixar took their sweet time bringing the sequel to the screen, and it was certainly worth the wait. But in another reality, the second sequel came out a lot sooner from a notably different team of animators. In 2004, as Disney and Pixar were at odds, Disney formed a sidebar company called Circle 7 Animation, which was tasked with making Toy Story 3. The story followed Buzz Lightyear being recalled and sent to Taiwan, where the other toys must rescue him. Although it's a nice reversal of Toy Story 2, it sounds like retreat ground. It's likely better we got the version we got. Still, this one had Transformers.

Slinky Dog from Toy Story 3

It's The First Toy Story Movie Not To Feature Jim Varney As Slinky Dog

In the decade-long gap between Toy Story 2 and 3, Pixar was fortunate to have many voice talents reprise their lovable toy characters. Sadly, there was one prominent performer who couldn't return to the voice booth. In 2000, after a terminal battle with lung cancer, Jim Varney passed away at 50. 1999's Toy Story 2 was one of the actor's final films, and the last one to be released before his death. When a voice actor passes away, the filmmakers have to make a tough decision: play snippets from the late actor's past recordings (which is what Pixar did for Don Rickles in Toy Story 4) or have another actor voice the character. The latter is the direction they took, with Varney's friend Blake Clark voicing Slinky Dog. Clark detailed the process in this clip:

Andy giving Woody to Bonnie in Toy Story 3

Lee Unkrich Insisted John Morris Reprise The Role Of Andy, Even Though He Quit Voice Acting In 2001

In addition to all the actors who returned to lend their voices to this new animated sequel, John Morris also returned to play Andy — as he once did in Toy Story 1 and 2. While this seems like a given, particularly with Andy being older himself in this third installment, it required director Lee Unkrich and the other filmmakers to do some tracking to find the former child voice actor, as he quit the profession back in 2001. After they found him, they asked if he'd return to the role. He was apparently very honored to do so. Morris would continue to voice Andy in Toy Story 4 and Toy Story 3's video game. Here's how Unkrich explained the process of getting Morris back in the voice booth for Digital Spy.

I thought it was really important. Once we decided to have Andy grown up, I had to figure out who was going to play him. And I really, frankly, could've hired anyone to do the voice, but it was important to me to maintain a continuity. But we didn't know where John [Morris] was, because we hadn't spoken to him since he was 14-years-old. But we did some research and we tracked him down and, luckily, he still sounded really young. Because he could've easily sounded like a 50-year-old man, and that would've been a disaster. But he sounded really young, which was perfect, and he was very honored that we asked him to come back to keep that continuity.

Steve McQueen - The Great Escape

Toy Story 3 Was Influenced By Prison Escape Films, Including Cool Hand Luke, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Great Escape

As moviemakers, Pixar storytellers are students of film, and they've incorporated several nods to classic cinema throughout many of their hit movies. When it comes to Toy Story 3, the filmmakers were influenced by one genre in particular: prison escape movies. While this might possibly seem odd on the onset, in the context of the movie, it makes a great deal of sense, as we're watching our familiar toy ensemble try to escape from the dreaded daycare center in order to reunite with Andy before he leaves for college. A big influence on Toy Story 3 was 1963's The Great Escape, though 1967's Cool Hand Luke and 1994's The Shawshank Redemption were also sources of inspiration throughout the filmmaking process, as Lee Unkrich noted.

The daycare center from Toy Story 3

Lee Unkrich Is The Voice Of The Toy That Yells "New Toys!"

There's something knowingly fun about a director's cameo. While some of them are more egregious and egotistical than others, there's a winking quality to many of them that's fun if you're in-the-know. They're typically placed in bit roles, meant to serve as passerby characters or one-line wonders who make a brief (but often memorable) inclusion into their own movies. When it comes to Toy Story 3 and director Lee Unkrich, he found the chance to include himself in the fun as the toy who exclaims "new toys!" whenever Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang arrive at Sunnyside Daycare early on. You could hear this line in the trailer, and it can be heard prominently in the movie too. When you're the director, you can cast yourself in your story — in roles either big or small.

The toys in the trash from Toy Story 3

The Trash Sequence Is One Of The Hardest Things Pixar Ever Animated

As an animation studio, Pixar is constantly trying to innovate itself, pushing itself in bold new directions — narratively, technically, and cinematically. When it comes to Toy Story 3, similar to Toy Story 2, the studio proved that they could return to one of their most famous and beloved properties in a fresh and thematically compelling way. The results can be splendid and spectacular, entertaining and emotional. They're always aiming for excellence.

When it comes to Toy Story 3, it required a lot of hard, dedicated work from its talented team of storytellers and animators, and one of the toughest sequences in the movie became a very memorable moment in the series. Notably, the famous trash sequence was one of the hardest things Pixar has ever done. It reportedly took over a year — possibly pushing into two — to bring it to life, though it'd be hard to imagine the film capturing the same emotional heft without its inclusion.

The toys falling out of a box in Toy Story 3

It Was One Of The Most Expensive Movies Of All-Time

Animated movies aren't cheap. To make everything that's presented on the screen from scratch, you need a scratch. That's certainly the case for Pixar. As the studio behind some of the most state-of-the-art CG animated movies, they require lots of time and lots of capital. When it comes to Toy Story 3, the studio needed to fork over $200 million in order to bring the sequel to the screen, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made (opens in new tab).

The toys holding Woody up in Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 Was The First Pixar Movie To Earn A Billion Dollars

While it cost a pretty penny to make Toy Story 3, it certainly paid off in the end. It became not only the first Pixar movie to make a billion worldwide, but the first animated movie to reach that milestone, which is certainly an incredible achievement. It makes sense: Toy Story 3 is an all-audience affair in the truest sense. It brings out audiences both young and old, nostalgic or fresh-eyed, to see this third and once-final chapter in one of the greatest film trilogies in history.

While there were a number of factors that played into this success, including 3D surcharges, Toy Story 3 was clearly a grand success, in many respects, and thus, people came out in droves to see it. For a time, this Pixar sequel was the highest-grossing animated movie ever, though that hasn't been the case in recent years. Nevertheless, Toy Story 4 barely dethroned this sequel by making $1.073 billion dollars worldwide.

Lotso from Toy Story 3

Disney Was Sued Over Lotso

Alas, when you make that much money, you are bound to get people's attention. Specifically, there was one New Jersey toy factory named Diece-Lisa Industries who felt they were cheated on their earnings, and they weren't happy. In 2014, the company sued Disney over trademarking issues, as they had been licensing "Lots Of Hugs" teddy bears since 1995. The toy manufacture pointed out that Disney couldn't feign ignorance over their toy brand because the company had previously licensed their patented "hugging technology" to Disney's Bear in the Big Blue House toy. Thus, they felt they were due some compensation for their trademarked toy property, particularly with the animated sequel earning over a billion dollars worldwide.

Do you love Toy Story 3? What are some fascinating facts you know about the Pixar sequel? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Will Ashton

Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.