At its heart, the Toy Story franchise has always featured pretty heavy meditations on mortality, loss, and letting go. For every slapstick gag or cute, squeaky, three-eyed alien zealot, there’s a bunch of beloved characters confronting death by staring straight into its inevitable, uncaring, fiery eyes... often right before getting saved by all those cute, squeaky, three-eyed alien zealots. Knowing this, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a Toy Story 4 Easter egg is gaining traction on Reddit for apparently referencing a very real, barely avoided Pixar-pocalypse.
In a screenshot posted to the r/MovieDetails subreddit earlier this week by u/Numerous-Lemon, audiences can spot a car’s license plate reading “RMR F97.” As it turns out, “RMRF” was part of a deletion line command that a Pixar employee accidentally entered into the main computer unit housing the sequel production’s entire file archive back in 1997.
Did you just feel the bottom drop out in your own stomach, too? Imagine that poor bastard.
As filmmaker Austin McConnell explained via his YouTube channel a few years back: The entire story can be found in Creativity, Inc., a book on overcoming artistic roadblocks co-written by Pixar Studios co-founder, Ed Catmull. Back then, cloud storage obviously wasn’t a thing, so “all of the movie’s assets [were] kept in a big computer drive which the animators work out of.” Those assets were then accessed by a network of computers, but if something were to happen to that centralized unit.... Well, you get the idea.
And, of course, something did happen. During “a bit of routine storage cleanup,” a mercifully unnamed employee entered a command resulting in an entire memory wipe of the Toy Story 2 project.
“Wouldn’t anyone in their right minds back up a $500 million sequel on a separate, central housing unit?” many of you may be asking yourselves. Hypothetically, yes. But the accidental deletion apparently occurred after a month of IT issues that coincidentally involved—you guessed it—Toy Story 2's backup files. Disney and Pixar execs, in an understandable panic mode, quickly assembled to debate their options, ranging from starting completely from scratch to simply scrapping the entire project entirely (which probably would have meant the end of Pixar, too).
Luckily, Toy Story 2's supervising technical director (and future Pixar producer), Galyn Susman, following the birth of her newborn son, had created her own backup files to use from home, because women never get a goddamn break in this country. After retrieving her computer and booting it up at the studio, the team restored all of the film’s assets, ensuring no one (to our knowledge) was fed to Disney’s on-site wolves.
...And yet, somehow no one thought to “RMRF” Cars 2 at any point during its production.
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