Just minutes away from Pixar Animation Studios stands a tall unassuming building that houses the incredible artwork from the company’s rich history – this is the Pixar archives.
Unlike the studio, the archives are not open to guests or employees – however, during our recent trip to the studio, we were given a rare peek inside for an exclusive tour to celebrate Toy Story’s 20th Anniversary.
We were greeted by Lead Archivist, Christine Freeman, and Pixar Historian, Juliet Roth who first led us through a room that held various art including, a life-size version of EVE (from WALL-E) and two sculpts of Mr. Jones, the dog-like Iguana from Toy Story of Terror! (featuring his facial features with a wide-opened mouth).
As we stepped into the larger room of the archives we noticed rows and rows of meticulously kept art — including a large collection of framed concept art from the short Boundin’ hung on the walls. As our group gathered around a large white table, I continued to glance around the room and recognized additional artwork from For the Birds, Sanjay’s Super Team, and my personal favorite short One Man Band.
To celebrate Toy Story’s 20th Anniversary, Christine and Juliet were kind enough to pull various original art pieces from the film – including works from Tin Toy (the first-ever Academy Award-winning animated film in 1988) and the unmade, Tin Toy Christmas (which was eventually altered to become Toy Story).
With a gentle touch and precision white gloves, Christine Freeman began her presentation by showcasing 10 original storyboards of Tin Toy by John Lasseter and an original sketch from Tin Toy Christmas featuring Tinny with a Christmas tree by Joe Ranft.
In addition to the sketches, a couple of sculpts were lined on the table showcasing various character concepts of Dummy (who would later evolve into Woody) from Tin Toy Christmas – along with a sculpt created by Pete Docter of Mr. Merkel (Tin Toy Christmas) who looked similar to Carl (Up).
We were shown numerous variations of Buzz and Woody from different artists and it was exciting to be able to correctly guess (as they quizzed us) the artists as we have admired the artistic point-of-view of Jeff Pidgeon, Bud Luckey, and Ralph Eggleston for many years.
An interesting note was that many artists often doodle on the backside of production notes, various flyers, or even feature test scripts! One of the sketches just happened to be on the backside of the Toy Story feature test script dated February 24, 1992, lucky for us Christine read aloud a couple of lines from the sheet:
“…a beam of flashlight shines on the dresser…Lunar Larry blinks at the blinding light…”
It was a real honor to hear an original line from the film back from when Buzz Lightyear was still named Lunar Larry.
We were delighted when we were shown original unfixed color scripts completed by Ralph Eggleston of Andy’s room (pictured above) and Sid’s room. An interesting fun fact about the Andy’s room piece is that there is an additional panel stapled on top of one of the scenes in the color scripts (located second from the right). It was explained that this addition was made during production and there are only a limited group of artists that know what the original panel looks like underneath the staples!
The stories were plentiful as the archivists shared another regarding an early concept sculpt of Buzz Lightyear (shown in the photos above with a glass helmet). The team explained that once a sculpt is made, several molds are then produced in order to persevere the piece for not only the archives but for traveling shows as well as showpieces within the studio.
This particular sculpt featured a glass helmet which was bought at a local lighting store for $7.95 making it easy for the team to keep several helmets on hand in case of breakage. However, things wouldn’t remain simple as the 7″ neck-less globe became discontinued at the local store and the team now has the glass helmets hand-blown in Italy when re-creating further sculpts.
As our tour came to a close the duo opened up the floor for questions. I had so many questions swirling around my head and was lucky enough to ask a few. I inquired if the archivists help assist artists and directors pull various sketches and pieces to publish in the “Art of” books for the films.
The archivists do share input, in fact, the upcoming book Funny! Twenty-Five Years in the Pixar Story Room (UPDATED: read our review here) was a labor-intensive job as the team pulled over 500 pieces of art to be considered for the book.
I also inquired if the archives contain art and materials from canceled projects such as Newt and various other shorts and features. It was great to hear that those works are indeed in safekeeping as well as items from the now-closed Pixar Canada studio.
The Pixar archives will be relocating to a larger facility that is closer to the studio this fall – making art transfers an easier task for the team. We hope to one day visit the updated archives as well. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we wholeheartedly recommend purchasing any of the “Art of” books geared towards each Pixar film to get a glimpse of what it was like walking through the Pixar archives — it literally is the next best thing.
For the ultimate Toy Story fan, the coveted and highly sought-after Toy Story – The Sketchbook Series is a great look into the visual history of the film with much of the same concept artwork we saw on the tour included for reference. Read our review of the book and view photos here.
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The Toy Story Sketchbook is often expensive now, but you can check for copies on Amazon or eBay using our pre-filtered links.
Read our review of Funny! Twenty-Five Years In The Pixar Story Room, or pick up a copy on Amazon.