If Toy Story 2 were a computer program, it would have to be labeled ”version 3.0.” Why? Because what landed in theaters Nov. 24 was the third incarnation of the picture, the result of some dramatic, expensive, right-up-till-deadline overhauls.
”People were sort of freaking out at all the late additions,” says director John Lasseter. ”But we were determined to just keep reworking it and reworking until it was as good as we could make it.”
Backing up to the start, here’s Story’s story: Disney initially planned Woody and Buzz Lightyear’s follow-up as a straight-to-video movie. But when Mouse execs saw a very rough cut in October 1997, they agreed the story could work—and make more cash—in theaters. So the upgrade to version 2.0 began. The running time jumped from 60 minutes to 75, necessitating a flurry of plot revisions. ”It was a good-news, bad-news thing,” says codirector Ash Brannon. ”It was like starting over from scratch.”
By November 1998, it was clear that some segments still lacked punch. Lasseter and codirector Lee Unkrich—who’d been tied up with A Bug’s Life till then—jumped in to help create version 3.0. Over the next several months, the filmmakers inserted several major new characters into already-constructed sequences: Wheezy, the cast-off squeakerless squeeze toy; Buster the dog, whose remarkably convincing fur coat is an offshoot of technical work going into Pixar’s next feature, Monsters, Inc.; and ”the cleaner,” the old man who shows up to repair Woody. True, the relatively late-in-the-game tweaks weren’t cheap (TS2’s final cost falls somewhere between $75 million and $100 million, say the producers, roughly triple the original Toy Story’s price tag). But with animation, says Unkrich, you’ve got a ”unique opportunity” to fine-tune because ”you’re not locked into a final script that you shot with real actors.”