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Culture

How a work from home mom saved 'Toy Story 2' after a Pixar employee accidentally deleted it

Toy Story, Pixar,

"Toy Story 2" got deleted and backups weren't working. Whoops.

A newborn baby saving an entire animated film production from unprecedented disaster? Sounds a bit like the plot of a Pixar short, doesn't it?

Something (sort of) like that actually did happen during the making of "Toy Story 2." (There are a several retellings of the story out there, from an in-depth interview on The Next Web to the simplified, animated version in the "Toy Story 2" extras shown below.)

Here's a basic rundown of what happened:

The film was well underway when an unnamed Pixar employee who was trying to delete unneeded files accidentally applied the "remove" command to the root files of the film. Suddenly, things started disappearing. Woody's hat. Then his boots. Then Woody himself.

Pixar folks watched characters and sequences disappear in front of their eyes. Obviously, this was … not good.

Oren Jacob, the associate technical director of the film, got on the horn to the systems crew with a panicked "Pull the plug!" They did. Were they able to stop the bleed? Nope, 90% of the movie was gone. Surely there was a backup system, though, right?


Yes! But unfortunately, no one had been checking to make sure the backups were actually working. Oopsie. And as luck would have it, the backups were not working, and hadn't been for a month. Nearly all of "Toy Story 2" had gone bye-bye. Big honking oops.

Jacob called the film's supervising technical director, Galyn Susman, to deliver the bad news. Imagine making that phone call. No, thank you.

But this is where the story gets good.

Susman just happened to have been working from home because she'd recently had a baby. (That's right, she was directing one of the most iconic animated films to date while also creating and birthing human life. Respect.) And it just so happened that she had backed up the film on her home computer so she could work on it while taking care of her newborn, Eli.

"As a mother who wanted to see her children, I needed to have a computer at home," Susman says in the animated recreation of the mishap. "And so I would copy the entire film onto my computer."

Jacob and Susman wrapped the computer in blankets to protect it, seatbelted it in to the backseat of Susman's Volvo and drove it to the Pixar studios. (Remember, this was 1998—clearly this process would look much different today.)

"Eight people met us with a plywood sheet out in the parking lot and, like a sedan carrying the Pharaoh, walked it into the machine room," Jacob told The Next Web.

It worked. The film was recovered. (The simplified version makes it sound like this was an instant fix; however, the in-depth version clarifies that there were tens of thousands of technical files that employees had to pore through one by one in a lengthy, arduous process. But still, their bacon was saved.)

Babies and work-from-home moms for the win, am I right?

How Toy Story 2 Almost Got Deleted: Stories From Pixar Animation: ENTVwww.youtube.com

However, this story has a perfectly ironic ending, as the version of the film recovered from Susman's computer ended up being almost completely scrapped anyway. When the Pixar bigwigs took a look at the movie, they decided it simply wasn't good. The film ended up being rewritten and remade into the delightful movie we know and love today.

Bless the Pixar people for their dedication to greatness—and for learning their lesson about routinely checking backups the hard way.

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