Taken from the Studio Stories series included on the Blu-ray versions of Toy Story 1 & 2, here’s a short story about how Toy Story 2 was almost erased before the film could be rendered for theaters.
Woody’s hat disappeared. And then his boots disappeared. And then as we kept checking, he disappeared entirely. Woody’s gone.
Update: Over at Quora, Oren Jacob (the guy in the video) explains in more detail what happened.
First, it wasn’t multiple terabytes of information. Neither all the rendered frames, nor all the data necessary to render those frames in animation, model, shaders, set, and lighting data files was that size back then.
A week prior to driving across the bridge in a last ditch attempt to recover the show (depicted pretty accurately in the video above) we had restored the film from backups within 48 hours of the /bin/rm -r -f *, run some validation tests, rendered frames, somehow got good pictures back and no errors, and invited the crew back to start working. It took another several days of the entire crew working on that initial restoral to really understand that the restoral was, in fact, incomplete and corrupt. Ack. At that point, we sent everyone home again and had the come-to-Jesus meeting where we all collectively realized that our backup software wasn’t dishing up errors properly (a full disk situation was masking them, if my memory serves), our validation software also wasn’t dishing up errors properly (that was written very hastily, and without a clean state to start from, was missing several important error conditions), and several other factors were compounding our lack of concrete, verifiable information.
The only prospect then was to roll back about 2 months to the last full backup that we thought might work. In that meeting, Galyn mentioned she might have a copy at her house. So we went home to get that machine, and you can watch the video for how that went…