The first Toy Story movie came out in March 1996. I remember it well.
In a story too long-winded to tell, my friend and I had accidently driven over 150 miles from Glasgow to the Metro Centre in Gateshead in a Mini with holes in the floor. When we got there, we had a wander around and spotted that Toy Story was about to start. Yeah, we thought. Let’s see it.
I’d long been a fan of Pixar, from the first time I saw Luxo Jr on a BBC2 programme about computer animation in the late 80s. Toy Story was a huge deal, and I was a big kid, so it was no surprise that, when I saw the film, it blew me away.
Now, my kids are growing up with Woody, Buzz and friends. Not just the three movies, but also the Toy Story Toons. They love them all.
The newer Toy Story shorts look fantastic. Clearly, computer animation has moved on massively, and nobody is better than Pixar at taking advantage of these technological leaps to deliver beautiful work. The thing is, however, the beautiful work of the later films is making the original look a big dated.
Let’s compare these two picture, for example. The first is from Toy Story (1996), while the second is from Toy Story That Time Forgot (2014).
Look at how much smoother and warmer the later image is. Woody and Buzz’s features are far less harsh and pixelated. They’re also less shiny. The lighting in the latter is also far more complex. The shading helps bring the characters alive.
Again, look at these two stills from the same films.
In the second picture, there’s far less glare and the light is more diffused. It’s quite beautiful to look at.
Nowhere is this more evident than when we compare how the humans look in Toy Story and Toy Story 3 (2010).
By the time the third Toy Story movie came out, Pixar had gone from the slightly jerky Andy of 1996 to the heart-melting big-eyed wonder of Bonnie. The difference is stunning. Look at the detail in her hair, for example. It’s incredible.
Now, I know that Pixar movies have a lot of heart. There’s a lot of merit in the argument that it’s the story that matters, not the shininess. But it’s equally true that, with every movie Pixar has done, they’ve pushed the technological boundaries to deliver the best movie that the tech will allow them to deliver.
And now that the tech has moved on so much, wouldn’t it be kind to revisit the first Toy Story and give it a re-render? Keep the same storyline, the same voices. Don’t change a single shot. Just use the modern rendering and lighting techniques and updated, more detailed models to make it look as lush as it’s sequels. Give it a new lease of life.
After all, if we can remaster The Beatles and renovate the Sistene Chapel, can’t we give Toy Story a loving polish so it can stand proud next to the other Pixar films? I say yes!