Meet the Creator: The 19-Year-Old Behind That Shot-for-Shot Live-Action “Toy Story”

Buzz Lightyear and Woody went beyond infinity and into our world for a shot-for-shot live-action remake of “Toy Story.” Now, one of the creators speaks with us about how it was done.

Meet the Creator: The 19-Year-Old Behind That Shot-for-Shot Live-Action “Toy Story”

In Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind, two video store goofballs played by Jack Black and Mos Def produced “sweded” versions (read: homespun remakes) of classics like Ghostbusters, which proved to be wildly popular with store patrons. Years later, the director himself even tried doing the same thing in real life with a sweded take on Taxi Driver. However, neither the fictional nor real-life efforts Michel Gondry perpetrated were made with anywhere near the fidelity to the source material, and perhaps the reverence, that Jonason Pauley and Jesse Perrotta put into their recent shot-for-shot remake of Toy Story.


Unleashed on the internet to great acclaim earlier this week, the new live-action Toy Story is clearly a labor of love. Although the strings controlling Woody and Buzz Lightyear may be visible in nearly every frame, you can also see the creators’ giddy affection for the source material, and for the craft of filmmaking in general. An enormous amount of work went into putting the film together, including finding a moving van to borrow for filming the climactic chase scene. It was perhaps the most ambitious undertaking of its kind since those kids in the 1980s remade Raiders of the Lost Ark. (All but the first 10 minutes of that project is lost to the ages.)

During the making of their Toy Story, Perrotta and Pauley continually updated the project’s Facebook page to tease their progress. It’s no surprise then that its release was greeted with much fanfare on January 12th. Even Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich is apparently a fan.

One of the film’s creators, Jonason Pauley, who is 19 and a film student at the University of Northern Arizona, spoke with us about how he and his collaborators reached for the sky with this project.

Co.Create: What made you want to recreate Toy Story?
Jonason Pauley: We wanted to re-create Toy Story because we loved Toy Story ever since it was in the theaters (I was almost 3 years old then). We wanted a new project to work on that we knew people would enjoy watching. I wanted to watch it. No one has ever done anything like it before, and probably for good reason.‬

You initially unveiled part of this project in 2011? What happened between then and now?
‪We released videos of behind the scenes and one clip from the movie while we were still working on it so we could get people excited about it (and to help convince people to be willing to help). We also remade the ending of Toy Story 3 for the same reason.‬

How many people were involved and long did it take?
Most of the time it was myself, Jesse, and whoever else we needed for the scene we were planning on filming. Our friends Amy and Kim, our actors TJ, Victor, Delani, the dog trainer, the guy who lent us a moving van, the list goes on. The whole thing took two years to film, and I edited as we went along. ‬


What was the most difficult part? The most fun?
I usually will say that the most difficult part was coordinating everyone’s schedule. But that’s not really a fun answer. It was frustrating when we lost part of the movie and had to reshoot a scene. As for the most fun, I was thrilled to move to different locations after being in Andy’s room for so long. The Pizza Planet and gas station scenes were fun to shoot.‬

‘Fess up: did you already own these toys, or did you have to get them?
Ha ha, well I already said I’ve been a Toy Story fan since I was three; you don’t just throw away Toy Story toys. I had many of the main toy characters, but yes, we did have to buy some of them. Luckily they were easy to find right after Toy Story 3 was released. A few we had to make ourselves. ‬

[Image: Flickr user Bridgette Wynn]