One of my all time favorite movies and one of the most beloved movies of all time just turned 20. WOW! Congratulations Toy Story, the buddy tale that stood the test of time.

In today’s society our attention spans are so short as we are continually bombarded with messages, more information and the next ‘new thing’ vying for our attention all day long. If you are an Expert or Entrepreneur you want to pay attention anytime something or someone can captivate our attention for this long.

As a Success Alignment™ Expert, my radar is up all the time, curious about what makes one movie, one speaker, one book, one product, stand out from all the rest. I was thrilled when a documentary titled, Toy Story at 20: To INFINITY AND BEYOND, was created about the making of the original Toy Story movie to celebrate its longevity and place it holds in our hearts. Directors, screenwriters, technicians, actors and the creators were interviewed about their experience in the making of this now legendary animated feature film.


* Clapper Board (1500x1500)




Many of the principles, lessons and observations they shared are the very same discoveries I’ve made in my twenty five+ years of Success and Self Leadership study and research, as well as my own career experiences. These are the very same principles I use working with clients when developing their Expert status. Here’s a snapshot of the highlights.


*Toy Story 1 Cover (339x474)




‘We just wanted to do SOMETHING DIFFERENT.’

Ed Catmull, Executive Producer



The creators were very clear that they did not want to make just another animated film. They got clear about what they wanted the film to be by first making a list of what they didn’t want it to be. They knew they didn’t want it to be a fairy tale. They didn’t want it to be a musical. They didn’t want it to be a typical Disney film and they didn’t want to make it the way Disney made their films. They were embarking on new territory using digital animation. This is something that had never been done before in a feature length film.

Finding that something different that you can create is a powerful and critical way of positioning yourself as an Expert.



* Buzz Lightyear (1000x1000)




‘Then we figured out the Buddy picture. It’s a genre that had never been done in animation before.’

John Lasseter, Director


They turned to their own archives for clues about what they had done in this area in short films, landing on a storyline that inspired the creation of Toy Story. It featured a character that was not the most hip and was not a ‘current, popular toy’. The Director, John Lasseter, turned to his own home for his research. He had 5 sons. He would watch them play vigorously with action figures. The team took all the popular features of the most played with toys to create Buzz Lightyear.

As an Expert, look in your own backyard. Use what you already know and dig deeper. Find what gets you excited and extrapolate the best parts.




*Toy Story 2 Cover (333x476)*toystory3international (625x883)












‘We were too stupid and naïve to realize you couldn’t do it.’

Andrew Stanton, Screenwriter/Storyboard Artist


The crew that was brought together had never made a movie before. They were all excited about the project. Their desire to make this project happen outweighed their ignorance. It almost cost them losing the project, but they persevered, worked hard at it, remained focused, brought in new talent, made adjustment along the way and figured it out. Remember, nothing like this had ever been done before. They were genuinely creating and inventing a new technology for animated filmmaking.

Ignorance at times can work in your favor. When you have such a strong passion for what you are creating, you will find a way. When you can trust your gut that there is value to what you are doing, you will persevere. When you know that what you are doing is something you MUST do, you will do what it takes. Experts often find themselves in this position as they are working through their creations. While it doesn’t feel like it at the time, it’s perfectly normal and part of the process.


*Sheriff_Woody (185x294)‘We were all part of something that was the work of some degree of sheer genius.’

Tom Hanks, Voice of Woody


They knew the technology they were striving to create was nothing without a great story. Once they had the Buddy storyline, they had to create the characters. Buzz and Woody went through many iterations before they evolved into how we know them today. In fact, at one point Disney nearly shut down their production because Woody became too snarky, sarcastic and even abusive which made him very unlikeable. They changed Woody’s character because Disney felt the film was becoming too juvenile. By the time it evolved to this state, no one was happy. They were no longer creating the movie they had set out to make.

As an Expert, you will have many people giving you feedback, telling you what to do, letting you know what’s not working. Feedback is important, but you should also be astute enough to know when you are no longer doing YOUR Expertise. You will know when you have compromised your own values in order to ‘appease’ a comment or two you may have heard. You must remain true to your Expert message and the person you are as that Expert, because if you don’t, nobody wins.



*toy-story-cast (1024x768)




‘We believed in what we were doing. We believed in ourselves.’

John Lasseter, Director


Ed Catmull, Executive Producer always had a dream of making an animated feature film using computer animation. His passion was so infectious, it became John Lasseter’s dream as well. Everyone who joined the team, understood the vision. Randy Newman was brought in to compose the music to add emotion to the story that dialogue alone could not convey. After understanding the project, Newman wrote a song that was used in the opening where we are introduced to the relationship between the boy child – Andy – and his beloved toy – Woody. That same song was used at the end of the movie to convey the friendship developed between the two opposite toy characters of Buzz Lightyear and Woody. That song is ‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me’. Randy says that when he plays that song today in concerts, he spots grown kids in the audience who are in their 20’s crying. You know you’ve got it right when you invoke that type of reaction.

As an Expert, you have to be sure of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You cannot ‘fake’ your Passion or your Expertise. An evolved Expert combines both qualities. The audience can feel it. Your results will speak for themselves.



*Storyboard Inspiration One (640x459)


‘We really learned a lesson and that was to trust our instincts.’

John Lasseter

Disney threatened to shut down production deeming they didn’t know what they were doing. They wanted to move the entire crew from San Francisco to Burbank and micromanage them in order to get the project completed they way they liked it. John Lasseter bought them two weeks to turn things around. Two things happened. First, they adopted the mindset that at this point they had nothing to lose so they were willing to lose it all. They knew they had to get the movie back to the original vision. Secondly, they were now working under fear and a pressure to turn things around in those two weeks. This shook things up, everyone re-engaged with the original vision, re-captured their original passion for what they were creating and re-introduced their instincts about what they wanted to accomplish in the first place. They were willing to risk it all. Two weeks later, they went back to Disney to show them what they had and everybody loved it.

Sometimes as an Expert you will find yourself off course. It might take a situation like losing a major speaking engagement or getting misquoted in the press to make you face your reality. It’s not always easy, but it’s always the Experts responsibility to themselves and to their audience to trust their own instincts and remain true to their craft. It’s where your wisdom comes from. You know what you need to do. Trust that.






‘If you do your job right, what you create can last forever.’

Steve Jobs, Co-Founder Pixar


That was Steve’s brilliance. He was a visionary. He was willing to push boundaries. He could see what others could not yet see and he wanted to make it happen. Steve bought into this company because it was the bleeding edge of technology. That excited him because he could see the potential.

Experts are usually visionaries. They push boundaries. They say things others dare not say. They get real when others are telling people what they want to hear. They introduce new things, rather than regurgitating what everyone else is saying. It is not ordinary to be Expert. It takes an extraordinary being along with an extraordinary effort AND it can be done. You have that potential.



*toy-story-gang (650x364)



So many things come and go in our lives. Before you get a chance to remember what you just saw, you forget. It’s so noisy out there, we’re almost oblivious to everything going on around us. It takes something really special to stand out that has a shelf life longer than a season. Experts that are honed to their brilliance have that same lasting potential. These are some of the traits witnessed in the making of this film as expressed by the many experts who contributed to their talent,

  • it was a developed out of a passion to create something new and unique
  • it had heart – in the story, in the characters, in the creators
  • they trusted themselves by going back to their original instincts after nearly losing the project
  • they had a clear vision, they knew what they wanted
  • they made the movie for their own enjoyment. By the end of the project, they had fulfillment and satisfaction regardless of whether anyone else would ever see the movie
  • the team was cohesive, working toward a common vision
  • each respective team member took responsibility for their part – each one expert in their own right



In this very simplistic summation, George Lucas nails it when he says,

‘Toy Story resonates with the audience because it’s a good movie.’


An Expert, like a good movie, has the ability to make a lasting impact, not only for today, but …



*BUZZ & WOODY FLYING (ts_ks2 1000x602)



Of Special Note;

The original Toy Story film released in 1995 picked up three Academy Award nominations: Best Original Musical or Comedy Score, Best Original Song (‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’), and Best Original Screenplay. Director and Pixar co-founder John Lasseter received a Special Achievement Award from the Academy for the film. The film grossed over $191 million in the United States during its initial theatrical release and took in more than $356M worldwide.

Toy Story 2 released in 1999 earned Randy Newman a third Oscar nomination: Best Original Song (‘When She Loved Me’).

Toy Story 3 which premiered in 2010 scored 5 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. The series won its first two competitive Oscars: Best Animated Feature, a category which hadn’t existed during the 1990s, and Best Original Song (‘We Belong Together,’ again by Randy Newman).




Did you enjoy this blog?

Don’t miss the next one.  Go to this link now to subscribe,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked