Imagine a world where Toy Story 2 never existed. A world where Jessie the cowgirl never entered our lives and Woody never reunited with his horse Bullseye. Doesn’t that sound absolutely horrible?
Well, back in 1997, this saddening thought was almost Pixar’s reality after the film was accidentally wiped from their central database. There’s even an Easter Egg alluding to the incident in Toy Story 4, when we see a car with the license plate “RMR F97.” Redditor Numerous Lemon spotted it and posted a screenshot:
What does that mean? Well, as it turns out, “RMRF” is part of the line command that a Pixar employee accidentally entered into the computer that caused the movie to be deleted in its entirety.
One must remember that these are the days before the advent of iCloud storage, Dropbox, etc., when the technology to backup files 10 times over for safety and security wasn’t as robust. So, once that fateful (and wisely unnamed) employee put that command into the system, it was game over.
How did Pixar recover Toy Story 2?
Filmmaker Austin McConnell talked about what went down on his YouTube page. You can also read more about it in Creativity Inc., which McConnell cowrote with Pixar Studios co-founder Ed Catmull.
The book explains that the movie’s assets were on a computer drive that the animators all worked off. Normally, the files for such an important project would have been backed up, but at the time, Pixar had been dealing with IT issues for a month, issues that directly pertained to those backups, so the stuff on the drive was all they had. When the employee entered the deletion command during “a bit of routine storage cleanup,” it got rid of everything.
This situation sent Pixar into a frenzy as their options were very limited: they could start from scratch or completely scrap the project. If they’d opted to scrap the entire thing, there’s a pretty good chance that Pixar wouldn’t have become the mega-studio it is today, if it still existed at all.
Obviously, we did get the sequel to Toy Story. As it turns out, Galyn Susman, the movie’s supervising technical director at the time, had her own set of backup files. She had just given birth to her newborn son, and like the boss babe she so clearly was, continued to work on things from home. Thanks to her files, the entire film was restored and things worked out just as planned.
But for a moment, there was a world where Toy Story 2 didn’t exist, so thank you to Galyn Susman for making sure we don’t have to live in it.
h/t The A.V. Club