According to this article, the 4K release of Toy Story has been upscaled from the original resolution it has been rendered at. They also cropped the video instead of letter-boxing it.

If it were shot on video (not film which can be re-scanned) I could understand why Disney would choose to upscale it, however this is a CGI movie and they still have the original files. In fact, according to this Quora Q&A, they have already re-rendered it at some point in time according to a Pixar employee. In addition, the Wikipedia article summarises how they created a second camera for each shot using the original files. Because of this, I don't understand the reason they upscaled the movie instead of re-rendering it.

Edit: I received a comment asked if they had the original files. I've already mentioned this but you can read here in this New York Times article.

The process of taking the original files from the first two movies and getting them to a place where they could be enhanced was one that Mr. Lasseter called “digital archaeology.” “We had to have some very, very smart people at Pixar go back in and write some software and figure out a way to make it so that those files would render on our current computers,” he said.

Emphasis added. This was done for the 3D re-release so they could have built off of what they did for that to make a 4K re-release. They've already put the work into it. That's why this baffles me so much.

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    Do they have all the data for the assets to render from still? Is it possible to load the 25 year old data inner software, or to run the original software? Rendering software was extremely custom back then, and has gone through rapid changes overtime
    – HorusKol
    Jul 25, 2020 at 11:11
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    "they still have the original files" - source on that? Even if they did, it's far far cheaper to up-scale than to re-render the whole thing.
    – OrangeDog
    Jul 25, 2020 at 11:53
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    Regarding the aspect ratio, Toy Story would almost certainly have been exhibited theatrically at 1.85:1 by cropping the top and bottom of the 1.66:1 rendered frame, more or less the same as any "flat" 1.85:1 film would be matted to 1.85:1. I assume the frame was opened up slightly to 1.78:1 for home video, a negligible difference. The 1.66:1 ratio probably also allowed them to create the 1.33:1 version with less pan-and-scan cropping back in the VHS days.
    – Carl Fink
    Jul 27, 2020 at 19:52
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    @CarlFink That's a good point. They probably planned for cropping all along. I've updated my question to be less biased against the cropping vs letter boxing which regardless of the reason I shouldn't not have let my bias into the question. Jul 28, 2020 at 4:30
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    @wip I understand where you are coming from regarding difficulties running the software however they already resolved this for the 3D re-release. Also in theory they could run a virtual machine to help with this if needed. Aug 29, 2020 at 0:30

1 Answer 1


According to his review of Coco on the Digital Bits, author Bill Hunt spoke with Pixar's Lee Unkrich who reported that "Pixar has tested rendering their animation at full native 4K and found that there isn’t enough of a visual benefit vs 2K. Doing so would also increase both the processing power required and rendering time significantly."

This appears to be a blanket statement about Pixar's rendering process generally, and not specific to Coco.

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    I've accepted this because although it's not specifically about Toy Story I think it's the best answer we will get unless someone comments specifically on Toy Story. Basically I think Pixar is basically making the humans can't see 4K argument which is true only in some situations (it depends on viewing distance and vision acuity). I don't think the processing argument applies to the original Toy Story since the Quora answer I linked to stated that the re-render went pretty quickly but it could still be company policy. Jul 29, 2020 at 3:18

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