"Movie-based games seem like they're destined to fail," says Jason Katz, story supervisor for Pixar's latest animated film, "Toy Story 3." "It's like putting a giraffe in human clothes."
But Pixar's collaboration with Avalanche Software on the "Toy Story 3" video game, released this week by Disney Interactive, demonstrates a fresh approach to the typically dreadful movie tie-in. Like most offerings in the genre, the game includes an interactive retelling of the film's plot. But Avalanche has also taken Buzz, Woody and the rest of the cast and put them in an open-world playground, called the Toy Box, that feels even truer to the spirit of the franchise.
The Toy Box, in which supporting characters like Hamm the Piggy Bank, Rex the Dinosaur and Slinky Dog help build a thriving Wild West town, "embraces how a kid plays," Katz says.
"Avalanche didn't try to remake the movie," he says. "Instead, they riffed off the movie."
The game studio was on board early in the production of "Toy Story 3." "They saw the first pitch in 2007, when we were still fleshing it out," Katz says. "They could always plug in and see where we were at, and while we were actively improving the story we could give them hot-off-the-presses adjustments. It was very fluid."
Even with all the give-and-take, Katz was confident from the start that Avalanche's designers had the right idea. "We saw the enthusiasm they brought to the project," he says. "They were making a game like we make movies."
Toy Story 3 is being directed by Lee Unkrich, another one of Pixar's creative masterminds who previously co-directed Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo. The screenplay was written by Michael Arndt, the Oscar winning screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine who is a newcomer to the Pixar family. Disney will be bringing Pixar's Toy Story 3 to theaters everywhere in both 2D & 3D starting on June 18th in summer.