As It Happens

Brothers spend 8 years recreating Toy Story 3 in stop motion animation

Brothers who love Woody and Buzz Lightyear spent eight years recreating Toy Story 3, frame-by-frame, using live action and stop motion animation.

'What Toy Story 3 would look like if it wasn't animated and it was in our real world,' says Morgan McGrew

Morgan McGrew, left, and his brother Mason, right, created their own live-action version of Toy Story 3 using stop animation. (Submitted by Morgan McGrew)

Morgan and Mason McGrew can finally put Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Rex back on the shelf.

Over the last eight years, the two brothers from Des Moines, Iowa, have painstakingly made a shot-for-shot, frame-by-frame, remake of Toy Story 3

But with a twist.

"It's supposed to look like what Toy Story 3 would look like if it wasn't animated and it was in our real world," Morgan told As It Happens host Carol Off. "But ironically, we did have to use animation — stop motion animation."

On Saturday, they released their remake of the 2010 animated movie on YouTube. Toy Story 3 In Real Life uses real toys and combines live-action with stop motion animation techniques.

"It feels really nice," Morgan said. "And it also feels a little weird because it's been so long, off-and-on, working on kind of a tedious project."

They started the project when they were teenagers. Now Morgan is Morgan is 23 and Mason is 21.


Calling the project tedious is an understatement.

To stay as true as they could to the original film, Morgan and his brother went to great lengths to recreate each scene and match every detail. The stop animation was particularly challenging.

"It could get pretty crazy," Morgan said. "Three seconds or whatever of film would be like eight hours straight of shooting."

Morgan says trying to source all the toys and elaborate set pieces also proved difficult. 

"There's a sequence in Toy Story 3 where Ken does a fashion show for Barbie and has a whole bunch of outfits," Morgan said. "We had to locate all of those."


But Morgan says taking on such an ambitious project, and finally seeing it come to life, has been a rewarding education in filmmaking.

"We always have been really inspired by the world that Pixar creates through their films and especially through the Toy Story films, and we kind of wanted to bring that to our world and kind of explore that," Morgan said.

"I think it was kind of an interesting opportunity to hop on when we were crazy enough, as kids, to begin something that allowed us to develop our filmmaking skills."

When the brothers first tried to upload their film to YouTube, it was flagged and blocked by Disney for copyright infringement. But Morgan says the brothers appealed that decision and asked Disney to reconsider their project as a celebration of the film, rather than imitation.

"We were expecting that," Morgan said. "But we filed a statement and they lifted it."

Over eight years, Morgan says the coming-of-age narrative in the film sometimes mirrored his own life as he grew older. It was a constant balance finding time for the project alongside school, jobs and freelance work.

Morgan credits his family and friends — including those who star alongside him in the remake — with helping him see the project through to the end.

"We've been so incredibly grateful for all the support that they've given us," Morgan said. "Always there whenever we wanted to give up or feel like maybe it wasn't worth it."


Written by John McGill. Interview produced by Sarah Jackson.

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