Nissan's new commercial takes a page from ''Toy Story''

By David Poland
Updated October 25, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

The joyriding dollies in the new Nissan car commercial.

Just like in Toy Story, the secret life of playthings is revealed when macho Nick jumps into a convertible and speeds over to Roxanne’s. A far foxier and more fickle woman than Barbie, Roxanne quickly ditches hapless housemate Tad for a ride on the wild side.

Unlike Toy Story, this isn’t computer animation. ”We didn’t let our computers near it,” says David Altschul, president of Will Vinton Studios, which created the stop-action spots using custom-built dolls for the ad agency TBWA Chiat/Day.

To avoid a lawsuit by the makers of Ken, Barbie, and G.I. Joe, the studio hired models to create the spot’s characters. Director Mark Gustafson says casting Nick and Tad was easy, but Roxanne was harder: ”Everyone had a different idea of what a hot-looking doll should look like.”

Goodbye driver’s-side air bags, hellooo Hollywood. ”With the changes in media, advertising’s only ability to survive is to be more like entertainment and less like trying to sell you something,” says TBWA Chiat/Day’s chairman and chief creative officer, Lee Clow. And according to Clow, the ad gets your motor running. ”People are in a bar and the bartender tells everyone to shut up when the ad comes on,” says Clow. ”Everyone cheers at the end. You get that feedback, and you know you did something right.”