Toy Story's 20th Anniversary: A Look Back at 1995

November 22, 1995 was a monumental day in the history of animation — Toy Story made its national theatrical debut (Hollywood premiere was November 19 at the El Capitan Theater). At the time, the determined Pixar crew had no idea that their film would forever change the face of animation and ultimately inspire countless artists from around the globe to want to work for the studio. Sure, they knew they were on to something new and fresh, but I don't think they ever could have imagined the level of success, merchandising and press attention that would soon follow. (Read on and explore our personal connection to the film (and the beginnings of our website, some fun facts from 1995 and much more.)

Even leading up to the film, the media was intrigued by the first 100% computer-generated film. In a 1995 Wired article titled, The Toy Story Story, Burr Snider explored the early history of the company, the technology and profiled the then 38-year-old, John Lasseter as the film was rounding the home stretch. Below are a few highlights from that article, although the entire article is definitely worth a read to flash back in time and get a sense of the humble beginnings of Toy Story and the Pixar crew.


  • It was a big deal for Toy Story to be the first 100% computer generated film, as even Jurassic Park (released in 1993) featured a cumulative 6 minutes of total computer generated imagery.
  • The film required 800,000 machine-hours to produce a final cut.
  • The Renderfarm at Pixar was comprised of 300 Sun processors — for contrast Monsters University utilized 2,000 computers with more than 24,000 processor cores.

It should be noted that no matter what anyone says about the amazing technology that helped create the beloved film, it was never going to be a great film if the story wasn't exceptional. Pixar's CEO, Steve Jobs said, "It's not just that the pictures look cool. The characters really come to life, which is at the heart of what animation is all about." Plain and simple, this film is as important as it is because of the thousands of pieces that fell into place — Ed Catmull's initial technology, the years of determination at Lucasfilm, Steve Jobs' purchase and continued investment into Pixar, the hiring of Ralph Eggleston, the vocal work of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen — the list goes on and on, but you can't deny the synergy and spark that ignited the Pixar crew and audiences around the world.

Side Note - Watch this fantastic video of Pete Docter explaining the animation process on Toy Story (many more videos on Pixar's Toy Story page).


What were some events that also happened 20 years ago? Below is a summary of some major events (from & other noted sites).

  • Cost of a gallon of gas - $1.09 (2014 average from AAA was $3.34 -Nov 22, 2015 average is $2.08). The cost of a gallon in the movie was $1.29.
  • Average income - $35,900 (2014 average from the U.S. Census was $51,939).
  • Average home cost - $113,150 (December 2014 average from the U.S. Census was $373,500).
  • Windows95 was released - kicking off Microsoft's dominance in the operating system market for years to come.
  • The now ubiquitous online auction site, eBay opened its virtual doors. The company was originally named AuctionWeb but changed its name to eBay in 1997.
  • The DVD format is announced.
  • The 1994-1995 Major League Baseball strike ended on April 4, 1995 (after missing 232 days and the cancellation of the 1994 World Series) - Wikipedia. The Atlanta Brave won the World Series in 1995.
  • The Rock and Roll hall of Fame opened in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • The famed "Soup Nazi" episode of Seinfeld aired on November 2, 1995.
  • The top 10 grossing movies of 1995 were (from Box Office Mojo) - Toy Story took the #1 spot with $191,796,233.


While I've talked about this many times on our podcast, I can't help but recount my tale of seeing Toy Story in theaters. I was a Junior in High School in 1995 and the teacher I had for my media arts class adored the film. He spent the entire hour talking about how amazing the story and direction was and broke the characters down, discussing how much love you start to feel for these animated figures even though they're, well, made up. He reiterated the power of a good story and urged anyone that hadn't seen it to see it that weekend. 

One of my favorite animated scenes - great timing & humor

After I saw the film, I was so mesmerized by the story, animation and music that I immediately went to a music store to buy the soundtrack and listened to it over and over in the coming weeks. I went out of my way to talk to everyone I knew about the film and spent my afternoons dreaming of Rex, Buzz and the gang. I'm not sure if any other film had stuck with me so much - did my toys come alive when I wasn't there? Should I feel guilt for putting some of them in boxes? Let's just say that I unpacked a few and visited the ones that stayed packed away a little more often.

The bottom line is that it made me feel like a young kid again (although I was still a kid really at 17). It opened my imagination again and cemented my love of animation. Looking back, it laid the groundwork for so many other Pixar encounters. Julie's and my first movie date was Toy Story 2 and the first stock market purchase I ever made (after saving up) in 2003 was Pixar - my first purchase was a whopping 4 wasn't much, but it made me feel like I was even more a part of the company I loved so much. It led to Julie writing a detailed letter to Andrew Stanton after we saw WALL•E and his kindness in writing back ensured us that the people that worked at the studio were just as heartfelt as the films they produced. In the end, it ultimately led Julie and I to start this website and spread the news of Pixar — the company that captured my imagination in theaters in November 22, 1995.

If you don't already own the Toy Story Blu-Ray, DVD or Legacy Collection Complete Soundtrack, you can pick them up on iTunes or Amazon.

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Pixar Post: Toy Story's 20th Anniversary: A Look Back at 1995
Toy Story's 20th Anniversary: A Look Back at 1995
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