Toy Story was the first ever full-length movie produced by Pixar, way back when they were first getting together with Disney.
Here's how it all began: the Pixar folks actually started out as a branch of Lucasfilm, George Lucas's little company charged with producing visual effects. They worked on a couple of notable money shots, like the "Genesis effect" animation in Star Trek II and a super-cool stained glass window come to life in Young Sherlock Holmes. But this was back in the 80s, and no one was quite clear on what they wanted to do with computer effects. Lucasfilm ultimately sold the division to a group of buyers (including Disney and Apple guru Steve Jobs), under the name Pixar Image Computer.
With John Lasseter driving them forward, the new company buckled down and got to work. Most of their early stuff came in the form of short films: one called The Adventures of Andre and Wally B, showed up in trade shows and animation festivals, and another one called Luxo, Jr. about a pair of lamps.
You might recognize that last one: the little lamp has been a part of Pixar's logo ever since they hit the big time.
But it wasn't until a couple of years later when they finally started picking up steam.Pixar made a short film in 1988 called Tin Toy, which ended up winning an Oscar (kudos!), and caught Disney's eye. Disney wanted to make a full-length computer animated movie (the first one ever) and Pixar had the technological know-how, so they inked a deal with Pixar to create three movies.
Toy Story, which was very roughly based on Tin Toy, became their opening act.
The story of how Woody, Buzz, and the gang got to the big screen is actually pretty amazing. Pixar folks were working hard to pull together a good film, but since they were novices, they were also looking to the hot shots at Disney to give them input on the story and characters. Disney chairman, Jeffery Katzenberg, kept pushing for the characters to go more adult and edgy and Toy Story slowly morphed into a mess of sad, unappealing characters headed by a "sarcastic jerk" named Woody. (Source)
Okay, we would not have gone to see that back in 1995.
Disney thought so, too. When Pixar showed them scenes from the awful in-progress film, Disney responded by shutting down production. (Whoops.) But the original Pixar team fought to keep working on the movie and, gradually, over the course of the next few months, without the "helpful" notes from Disney, Pixar made Toy Story into the sweet little film it is today. There's even a DVD featurette about it called "Black Friday." (Source)
We're sure glad these guys didn't know when to quit—maybe that channeled that moxie into the character of Buzz.