Toy Story 4 was just released and so we took the opportunity to look back at the evolution of the animation since the first part of the saga was released in 1995. This is clear proof of the technological progress made by Pixar over the past 20 years.
Many newer Pixar fans don't know it, but Toy Story is the very first feature film made by the famous animation firm. At the time, the studio had never exceeded 5 minutes in its productions, even if their animation qualities were renowned.
Before the release of the first part of the famous toy saga in 1995, Pixar had no artistic director or scriptwriter, and employed a total of about twenty people. Today, 24 years old, four Toy Story films and an amusement park later, the company has 1,200 employees and reigns supreme in the world of entertainment.
Why a story about toys?
At the time of its release, Toy Story was a real animation revolution. Beyond the cinematographic quality of the work, the obvious proof of the ability of animated films to speak to both children and adults, the studio's technical mastery was extraordinary.
Bill Reeves, technical director of Pixar since the studio was founded in 1986, recently told AFP that it was the limitations of their animation software that pushed them to tell a story about plastic toys. ‘Plastic was our friend, it was the only material that our program handled well. That's probably one of the reasons we chose these toys as characters for our first feature film.’
Software that has evolved
Since then, RenderMan, the famous software developed by Pixar in their offices in Emeryville, near San Francisco, California, has evolved enormously. The most visible difference between the different parts of the saga is probably in the definition of humans.
‘Over the years, we've improved. The tools are better,’ Bob Polly, chief decorator at Pixar, told AFP. ‘And I think we've reached a stage where humans are much more attractive and no longer look strange.’ The 11-year gap between the second and third Toy Story films has improved this aspect of the animation. And in the fourth film, the toys themselves have amazing visual details.
Beyond the brilliant performances of actors to embody the voices of the toys, such as those of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, and numerous references to the history of cinema, it is the quality of the animation that has enabled Pixar to win 9 Oscars for 20 films since the very first Toy Story.