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Originally published June 17, 2010 at 1:16 PM | Page modified June 17, 2010 at 3:22 PM

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Scarecrow suggests | Like 'Toy Story 3'? Find out more about John Lasseter, the man behind the toys

Find out more about John Lasseter, co-writer of "Toy Story 3," director of the original film and head of Pixar. And for other DVDs featuring toys brought to life, check out "Pinocchio," "The Indian in the Cupboard" and "Small Soldiers."

John Lasseter — executive producer of "Toy Story 3," director of the original film and head of Pixar — is a pioneer of computer animation and a natural for reinvigorating Disney.

As a young man, he practiced his joke-telling skills as a tour guide on Disneyland's Jungle Cruise and studied animation at the Disney-founded CalArts. He started his career at Disney working on the featurette "Mickey's Christmas Carol," but was fired while trying to persuade company executives to develop "The Brave Little Toaster" as the first computer-animated feature (it was later made without him and using more traditional methods).

Finding his footing at the George Lucas-owned software company Pixar, he helped create the first computer-generated movie character, a stained-glass man in "Young Sherlock Holmes" (1985). He and his colleagues poured their hearts into a series of award-winning shorts as showcases for Pixar's technology: "Luxo Jr.," "Red's Dream," "Tin Toy" and "Knick Knack" (all included on the "Pixar Shorts" DVD). Those films helped them develop their artistic skills and their obsession with bringing life to inanimate objects, all of which led to "Toy Story."

In 2006, after a long relationship between the two studios, Disney bought Pixar and chose the once-fired visionary as chief creative officer for both animation studios and as principal creative adviser at Walt Disney Imagineering.

Lasseter has overseen the return of hand-drawn Disney animation ("The Princess and the Frog"), closed its direct-to-video sequel shop (sorry, no "Dumbo II") and started a popular redesign of Disney's California Adventure theme park (including rides based on "Toy Story" and "Cars"). So in case having directed a classic such as "Toy Story" isn't enough of a legacy, he's helped reinvent an art form, a studio and a theme park.

Before moviegoers met Woody, Buzz and the rest of Andy's toys, the most famous toy ever to come to life on screen was Pinocchio. Since his first appearance in an 1883 book by Italian author Carlo Collodi, the story of a marionette that became a real boy has been adapted seemingly countless times.

We're fond of the 1984 episode of Shelley Duvall's TV series "Faerie Tale Theater," which stars Paul Reubens as the titular puppet along with James Coburn as the Evil Gypsy, Lainie Kazan as the Blue Fairy and Carl Reiner as Geppetto. But the undisputed definitive version is Disney's 1940 "Pinocchio." There's nothing not to love about Disney's second animated feature-length film, which gave us Jiminy Cricket and the Academy Award-winning song that's now synonymous with the entire Disney empire: "When You Wish Upon a Star." If you have the means, watch it on Blu-ray.

Muppeteer Frank Oz directed "The Indian in the Cupboard," a 1995 fantasy based on the children's book by Lynne Reid Banks and adapted for the screen by "E.T." writer Melissa Matheson. On his ninth birthday, a boy named Omri receives a small cupboard, a set of antique keys and a small model Indian. He locks the model up in the cupboard and the next morning discovers it's a living, breathing Iroquois named Little Bear.

He shares the discovery with his best friend, Patrick, who then brings a cowboy named Boone to life. Though delighted with their new walking-talking toys, the boys soon discover that interfering with real-life creatures has far greater and more dire consequences than merely playing with toys.

Look for an early film appearance by British comedian Steve Coogan as a miniature World War I medic, years before he would play a tiny Octavius in the "A Night at the Museum" movies.

For older kids, there's "Gremlins" director Joe Dante's "Small Soldiers." It begins when a large corporate toy company, looking to get an edge on the market, programs two factions of action figures — one an alien race known as the Gorgonites, the other a pseudo-G.I. Joe team called the Commando Elite — with top military technology. Their plan goes a little too well when they end up embroiled in combat with the theater of war being a suburban household and its residents (both toy and human) becoming collateral damage.

Legendary visual-effects and makeup artist Stan Winston designed the incredibly realistic-looking action figures voiced by Frank Langella and "Spinal Tap's" Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean (The Gorgonites), while Tommy Lee Jones, Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown and George Kennedy lend their voices to the tough Commandos.

They interact with a cast that includes Jay Mohr, David Cross, Kirsten Dunst and Phil Hartman. Though it's filled with plenty of goofy humor, the MPAA deemed the fight sequences too scary for younger viewers and gave the film a PG-13 rating.

Contributed by Scarecrow Video, 5030 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle; 206-524-8554 or

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