January 29, 2014 posted by

In His Own Words: Steve Segal on Toy Story

steve-segal-starBorn in Richmond, Virginia in 1949, Steve Segal began his animation career doing traditional animation for ten years making commercials and educational films. He co-directed the cult film Futuropolis with Phil Trumbo. Moving to Hollywood in 1984, he became fascinated with computer animation. He worked on a variety of projects including the television series Pee Wee’s Playhouse and titles for feature films.

He joined Pixar as an animator on Toy Story. After the film, he worked on CD ROMs based on Toy Story, a film for Walt Disney World, the Pixar short Geri’s Game and some commercials. The last project he worked on at Pixar was A Bug’s Life. When he left Pixar, he concentrated on teaching and raising his two children.

“I love watching animation and exposing people to it,” Steve told me. “I once visited Ward Kimball at his house and he showed me his toy and train collection. That is still a high point in my life for me.”

In the Spring of 1997, he dropped by the Disney Institute in Florida to visit some old friends and the Animation Team at the Institute took him out to dinner. I was an animator instructor at the Disney Institute at the time.

Before hand, he showed all of us a reel of some oddball stuff for Toy Story (including a scene where Buzz lifts his head but they forgot to give the command to move the eyes as well so two blinking eyes were floating on Buzz’s chest) and told some stories.

Jim Korkis: I am fascinated by the many changes that happened during the development of Toy Story. It seems they really spent time to “get it right” rather than just going with the first idea. Did the characters change as well as the story?

toy-story-teaserSteve Segal: Buzz Lightyear was originally going to be called Lunar Larry. Disney considered having Billy Crystal do the voice and a demo was put together with Crystal talking about a wagon wheel table while Lunar Larry walked under it. Lunar Larry was about a third to a fourth the size of Woody.

Woody was originally designed to be a ventriloquist dummy and the final model of the face even had the lines around the mouth that dummies have to open and close their mouth. They used a bit of Tom Hanks dialog from “Turner and Hooch” with Hanks complaining about the dog in the car as a demo with the Woody model to “sell” Hanks on the project.

JK: Tom Hanks just seems like a real nice guy and is very warm as Woody.

SS: Woody was going to be meaner. Instead of accidentally pushing Buzz out of the window, he was going to do a fake handshake type of bit and yank Buzz out of the window. The demo had the brownish-purple Lunar Larry posing on the world globe when the huge face of Woody (which was about the size of Lunar Larry’s entire body) appears next to him and says, “Andy really loves toys that can fly”. Lunar Larry responds, “Really?” and as he prepares to leap off into the air, Woody spins the globe so that the leaping Larry smashes into the wall instead of leaping off into space. He slides down behind the dresser where he is trapped. Woody readjusts his cowboy hat and leans back for a nap and smiles, “Andy really loves toys he can find.”

toy-story-posterJK: I know there were fake out takes but were there any real out takes from the film?

SS: One out take that was sprung unexpectedly during dailies had Woody grabbing Buzz, opening his helmet and kissing him full on the mouth.

JK: I heard they tried to get Barbie into the film but the company wouldn’t grant approval, although I know “unofficially” those are Barbie legs on one of those mutant toys of Sid’s.

SS: Barbie was going to drive up in her pink Corvette to rescue Woody and Buzz from Sid and say in a Terminator-like attitude: “Get in if you want to live.”

JK: That would have been great. By the way, if Buzz doesn’t think he’s a toy, why doesn’t he just talk to Andy to get help?

SS: If Buzz doesn’t think he’s a toy, why doesn’t he talk and move when Andy or other humans are around? The original script had Woody asking him that question and Buzz’s response was “Just being cautious”.

JK: I understand there were some plans to do some sequences in traditional cel animation.

toy-story-onesheetSS: The opening of “Toy Story” was going to be cel animated. The storyboards show Buzz trapped in unbreakable bonds by the Evil Emperor Zurg as he plots to destroy the world. Buzz breaks out of his bonds and the Emperor unleashed his robot, Mongo, as he escapes. Mongo is the type of robot that fires off things like bolo bonds from his hands to trap Buzz. Buzz eventually defeats the robot and tracks down the escaping Zurg just in time to blow up his rocket ship.

At one point during the story, Zurg tells Buzz that he is going to die and Buzz replies, “Not today!” That’s the same line he uses later in the feature when he and Woody are up in the air strapped to the rocket and Woody cries out, “We’re going to die!” Also, in that same sequence, when Woody cries out that Buzz is flying, Buzz’s original response was “Technically, I’m gliding but let’s not spoil the moment.” It was one of the animators who suggesting the line be changed to “I’m falling with style!”

The cel animated opening was going to end and then the camera would pull back to show Andy and Woody watching the Buzz Lightyear commercial on television.

JK: I know you guys did some test screenings. Did the reactions change anything in the final film?

SS: Originally, when Buzz and Woody had to light the rocket, the match worked perfectly. This got a sort of “ho-hum” reaction from the preview audiences. So that’s why it was restaged so a passing car blew out the match and they had to use Buzz’s visor to light the fuse.

Originally in the opening when Andy threw Woody on the chair, Woody would briefly readjust himself and smile. This bit confused audiences who wanted to know why Woody would act that way with Andy in the room even if he wasn’t watching.

JK: Thanks, Steve, for all this inside information.


  • I’ve always wondered why Buzz Lightyear didn’t talk to Andy, since he didn’t know he was a toy. It’s good to finally have an answer.

  • Jim & Jerry, I am beyond honored!

  • Awesome interview!! I also always wondered about why Buzz froze around Andy.
    Thanks for all the awesome answers!

  • It’s always a bit humbling to realize how many cool ideas they throw away for every one that makes it to the screen.

    • Many good ideas ended up in the sequels.

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