How Pixar Almost Deleted Toy Story 2

If you know a thing or two about Unix, then you know to be careful with the ‘rm’ command. Those two letters – short for the word ‘remove’ – can delete files faster than you can think twice, shout “no, stop!” and hit CTRL-C.

Pixar had something very similar happen to them when they were developing their hit movie Toy Story 2. A mistyped rm command inadvertently deleted the entire movie. Then, to make matters worse, they discovered their backups were all bad. This short video, narrated by two of the technical leads from Pixar, explains how the whole thing went down and the one random thing that saved the whole project.

A good reminder to everyone: whether you’re developing the next great app or producing the next blockbuster movie, backup often and make sure your backups actually work.

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  1. Ignacio says

    There’s nothing wrong with “rm *”. It’s just the people who use it. Furthermore, you can just alias rm as “rm -i”. Don’t be so alarmist. It is stupid to compare it with a button saying “PRESS HERE TO IRREVOCABLY LAUNCH DEATH MISSILE”. Unix people has been working having that command at hand for the last couple of decades without having any trouble.
    Just be realistic, people: CHECK YOUR BACKUPS EVERY NOW AND THEN. “rm *” is just one of the many things that could have happened. With such important things, you should keep 2 backups in different physical locations, that is, one at the datacenter building and the other at the producer’s home, for instance. What if a fire broke through?
    Anyway, it’s too bad they had backups of that horror film.

  2. DM says

    In many places I’ve worked, ‘rm’ has been aliased to ‘rm -i’ by default to at least give users one last shot at aborting.

  3. says

    @Caleb, that works fine until you forget to remove the leading slash in front of the directory. “rm lib/*” is very different from “rm /lib/*”.

  4. says

    And from this I have taken two important lessons:

    1. Do not programme a “GET RID OF EVERYTHING. YES, I MEAN IT. EVERY SINGLE THING. DON’T EVEN BOTHER CHECKING. AND DO IT NOWWWWW” command as standard. It’s about as stupid as having a “PRESS HERE TO IRREVOCABLY LAUNCH DEATH MISSILE” big red button on your workstation next to your coffee-mat. Its only possible use is if you have to dump a whole lot of incriminating data before the police make it up the stairs. If you’re evil enough to need this function, damn well programme it in yourself. Seriously, people.

    2. Working mothers are awesome.

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