NAU student creates live-action Toy Story

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To infinity and beyond! Many of us can appreciate this famous slogan coined by the one and only Buzz Lightyear in the childhood movie where toys come to life. Andy, Woody, Mr. Potato Head, Rex and Sid are all legendary characters in the 1995 animated movie, Toy Story.

Over the 2 years, Jonason Pauley bought, borrowed and built every single toy used in Toy Story.Photo by Sean Ryan

Over the 2 years, Jonason Pauley bought, borrowed and built every single toy used in Toy Story.
Photo by Sean Ryan

A long-time fan and student at Northern Arizona University (NAU), Jonason Pauley has made it possible for everyone to relive their youth with these characters. With help from friends, the sophomore electronic media and film major spent about two and a half years recreating the beloved Disney Pixar movie and posting it on YouTube titled “Live Action Toy Story.”

All of the voices, sound effects and music were kept the same, but Pauley and his friend, Jesse Perrotta — a music teacher at several elementary schools in the east valley — used real toys, real suburban neighborhoods, real people and a real dog for their film.

“The very first thing we did was Jesse made a list of every single thing in the movie,” Pauley explained. “We also decided to keep all the voices the same — Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, all of them — because it made it a lot more watchable.”

With support from Pauley’s family and friends, the duo incorporated everything from the original Toy Story into their video, including Andy’s bedroom wallpaper, the alien claw machine and Sid’s demented toys.

“Once we started building the set and gathering props and actors and things, we realized we couldn’t quit, and my parents realized that too,” Pauley said.

Going into their senior year in high school, Pauley and Perrotta discovered they shared an obsession for the Toy Story series and decided to begin their filmmaking journey with no expectations of booming success.

“We wanted to make movies together, something that people would really like to watch, so it just kind of happened that way,” Pauley said. “We wanted to get better at filmmaking and we wanted to have fun and just bond as friends.”

The friends completed the final project during the summer of 2012 and hosted a premiere for the hundred people who helped make the film. Before posting the video on the web, Pauley and Perrotta contacted Disney and Pixar, letting them know what they were doing in case there were any copyright issues.

“Even though we didn’t get an official ‘go ahead and do it,’ they knew what we were doing, and if Disney or Pixar say it’s not okay, we will take it down,” Pauley explained.

Their video went viral on Jan. 13; it averaged about a million views a day during the first week of being up, making it to the home page of YouTube.

“I knew a lot of people wanted to see it, but I didn’t think that many people in that short of time,” Pauley shared. “A lot of people are saying, ‘Why isn’t it monetized? Why are there no ads?’ … We’d start getting in trouble for copyright stuff [if] we’re making money off it. We never planned on making money on it anyways.”

Thousands of people have commented and shared feedback on Pauley’s YouTube account, and it has been noticed by NBC, Entertainment Weekly, and Yahoo news. Even so, Pauley cherishes commentary from average people and families the most.

“People who say ‘I watched it with my kids tonight and it was awesome’… Those are the best comments to read, because that’s who we’re aiming for,” he said.

Although the talented filmmakers were in no rush to finish the film, Pauley and Perrotta were not expecting it to take as long as it did. According to Pauley, what they thought was going to take weeks ended up taking months, but in the end, their perfectionism paid off.

Soon after the video was posted, Good Morning America and Channel 12 in Phoenix contacted Pauley and Perrotta, and on Jan. 21, they were both guests on Good Morning Arizona.

The success of “Toy Story Live Action” has far exceeded everyone’s expectations, but Pauley said he has no plans to make another video like this anytime soon.

“If you’ve seen Toy Story 2, it’s impossible,” he said. “It’s not a semi-truck anymore, it’s an airplane.”



Coconino Community College
Student Housing at NAU