Story is King: Understanding the Toy Story Franchise as an Allegory for the Studio Narrative of Pixar

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


"Toy Story has tracked the history of Pixar, of us as filmmakers and our families too"
- John Lasseter

This paper will discuss the narrative structure of the Toy Story franchise as an allegory for the development and success of Pixar Animation Studios, and the subsequent acquisition of the studio by the Walt Disney Company in 2006.

When Toy Story was released in 1995, analyses of the film suggested it was an allegory for the apparent popularisation of computer-generated animation and the subsequent displacement of hand-drawn methods. In this case, Toy Story’s narrative implies that Disney’s traditional 2D animation, represented by Woody the out-dated pull-string cowboy doll, has been rendered irrelevant by Pixar’s pioneering digital animation, represented by Buzz the new and more advanced space ranger toy. Whilst this is apparent, I would argue that the history and development of the studio is represented by the Toy Story franchise as a whole. Each film marks a notable studio achievement and consequently highlights the significance of the franchise to the fundamental ideals of Pixar, which include the concurrent development of digital technology and CG aesthetics, the representation of community and the precedence given to narrative. Twenty years after the release of Toy Story, Pixar’s filmmakers continue to reiterate the importance of storytelling. Against the backdrop of the industrial analysis of the Disney-Pixar relationship and the narrative development of the Toy Story trilogy, my paper will argue that the films comment on the development of Pixar and the studio’s new position in mainstream animation as a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company.


Catmull, Ed. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. Bantam Press, 2014.

Lasseter, John. Quoted in Mitchell, Wendy. ‘Lasseter Wows Cannes with Pixar, Disney Footage’. Screen Daily. 20 May 2015. 

Paik, Karen. To Infinity and Beyond!: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios. Chronicle Books, 2007.

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. Vintage Books, 2009.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventToy Story at 20 - University of Sunderland, Sunderland, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Nov 201513 Nov 2015


ConferenceToy Story at 20
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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