Tim Jones, one of the bloggers at JimmyAkin.org, notes that there are several striking parallels between Toy Story 3 and The Brave Little Toaster, a children’s story that was first published in 1980 and then became an animated film in 1987.
The most interesting thing about Jones’s observation is that Pixar chief John Lasseter, who personally directed the first two Toy Storys (1995-1999), actually pitched a computer-animated version of The Brave Little Toaster to the powers-that-be at Disney when he was an animator there in the early 1980s — and he was promptly fired for his efforts. Lasseter himself describes the experience in the following clip from The Pixar Story (2007), starting at the 1:38 mark:
Of course, as Jim Hill noted a few years ago, if Lasseter hadn’t been fired, he might have missed his chance to join Pixar in its early days, and he might not have gotten around to revolutionizing the industry so thoroughly that Disney ended up buying Pixar outright and putting Lasseter in charge of its animation division. (Add to this the Oscar that Lasseter won for 1988’s Tin Toy, and the nominations he got for a few other computer-animated films, and his story brings to mind a great line from Francis Ford Coppola to the effect that “the things you’re fired for when young are often the same things you’re given awards for later in life.”)
So it’s striking that Toy Story 3 — the first Pixar film that was conceived after the company’s merger with Disney — might be an homage of sorts to the story that caused the original rift between Lasseter and Disney nearly 30 years ago. The animator and the studio have come full circle, as it were.
Of course, this also raises, once again, the question of whether Pixar movies, despite their reputation for originality, tend to recycle the plots of other movies, especially those produced in the 1980s and early 1990s.