Buena Vista goes Hi Tech for animated ‘Toy Story’

Buena Vista and the computer animation firm Hi Tech Toons confirmed late last week that “Toy Story” will be the Disney studio’s animated release for summer 1995.

The project, which HTT is producing, is a unique example of Disney calling upon an outside production company to animate a film and deliver it to the studio for a negative pickup.

Tom Hanks has expressed interest in providing the voice for the pic’s central character, Buzz Lightyear, and another major star is expected to be cast shortly. Composer Randy Newman is in discussions about writing and performing several songs. John Lasseter is slated to direct from Joss Whedon’s script.

The 27-year-old Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), who’s represented by United Talent Agency’s Chris Harbert, is rumored to be receiving a low-six-figure sum. In general, animation scripts fetch nearly half the money that live-action ones garner because producers view the story and the animation as equally important elements.

“Toy Story” (the film’s working title) is a tale of two toys — the Buck Rogers-like action figure Lightyear and a toy soldier named Woody — and the battle waged over their young master’s affection.

While Disney Animation prexy Peter Schneider acknowledges that Hi Tech is producing, he insists that Disney has “been involved creatively during all phases of the project.”

Other upcoming Buena Vista pictures with animated components are:

o Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas.” Danny Elfman is scoring the pic, scheduled for Christmas release.

n “Pocahontas,” which is slated for next year.

o “The Lion King.” Elton John will be contributing a few toe-tappers to the 1994-95 release.

o “Atlantis.” The animated musical retelling of “The Man Who Would Be King” is in the development pipeline.

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