Disney Brings Toy Story 3 Into Play

The Hollywood Reporter today brings word that Disney is indeed diving back into the toy box to craft a new adventure for Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Potato Head and their plastic pals. Pixar Animation Studios produced the first two films in the franchise but will not be involved in this latest outing.

Under Walt Disney Feature Animation president David Stainton, Disney is reportedly establishing a computer animation facility in Glendale, Calif., and hopes to staff it by luring top talent from other studios and vfx houses. Also involved in the project is Andrew Millstein, former head of Disney’s defunct Orlando facility.

Disney’s resolve to exercise its rights and further exploit the Toy Story franchise indicates that the company has relinquished all hope for an extension on its partnership with Pixar, which expires after next year’s release of John Lasseter’s Cars. While Lasseter and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs have expressed a reluctance to turn over creative control of Toy Story, they’ve said in the past that they are more interested in creating new characters and stories like this year’s Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. Toy Story 2 was the only sequel Pixar has made and that was originally slated to be a direct-to-video release.

Though DreamWorks proved this summer that there’s gold in sequels, Pixar’s The Incredibles has captured the imagination of moviegoers and is on track to become the studio’s biggest hit yet. The superhero family comedy earned an estimated $144 million in just two weeks.

While the Toy Story brand and characters are likely to draw big crowds at theaters, it will be interesting to see what percentage of the original voice cast comes back to continue the saga without Pixar. John Ratzenberger, the voice of piggy bank Hamm, for one may exhibit loyalty to Pixar since he gets voice work in every film the studio makes.