In early April we were lucky enough to travel to Pixar Animation Studios and learn all about the development process and screen approximately 30 minutes of Toy Story 4. Over the next several weeks, we plan on sharing posts with you which will highlight all that we learned, and bring you along our journey leading up to the film’s release in theaters.
In our first post, we’re sharing seven (of the many) interesting facts which we pulled from our conversation with Toy Story 4 Director, Josh Cooley and one of the Producers, Mark Nielsen.
In addition to the points listed below, you can also listen to the full interview (as part of Episode #65 of the Pixar Post Podcast) to get even more details about the filmmaking process, what it meant to Josh to work on a Toy Story film, and even talk a bit about Tom Hanks and the joint recording sessions with Annie Potts (Bo Peep’s vocal actor). Listen to the full audio embedded below the seven facts & listen to Josh and Mark answer 15 questions.
1. WHY MAKE TOY STORY 4?
Much like many theatergoers, Josh assumed that Toy Story 3 was the end of the franchise. Andrew Stanton (not in attendance at this meeting) had noted that the first three films were a three-volume set that you could put on a shelf — it was all about life with Woody and Andy. The idea for Toy Story 4 sprung from the idea of a new beginning and ushered in the idea of a new chapter for Woody. Josh noted, “We knew there was a lot more Woody could learn and there were ways that he could grow.”
2. HOW DON RICKLES VOICED MR. POTATO HEAD
We learned that after Don’s passing, his family reached out to Pixar (since Don had already officially signed on for Toy Story 4) and asked if there was any way that Pixar could create his performance from the 25 years of material that he completed. Josh noted what an honor it was and praised the editorial team for pulling together audio from the films, television specials, Disney parks, and even the Disney on Ice performances to craft his lines for the film. We love that his family wanted to honor his previous work.
3. INSIDE THE VOCAL BOOTH
Josh and Mark dove into a discussion of how great it was to work with Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, and more of the existing actors, but also expressed their passion for the new vocal talent. Tony Hale expressed his interest immediately after being told the character was questioning what it means to be alive — Josh said he got it right away. They also expanded on how this was the first time that Tom Hanks and Annie Potts recorded any lines together — I guess that makes sense because Bo Peep only had 7 minutes of screentime between Toy Story and Toy Story 2 – but not in this film!
4. ORIGINS OF A SPORK NAMED FORKY
Josh noted that in an early story room session, attendees were joking about how children sometimes play with the box a toy comes in before officially playing with a toy. They asked, “wait, so does that mean the box comes to life? How would that work?” Josh noted, “we were going down this bizarre path and said, ‘what if Bonnie make a toy?’ — we’ve never seen that in a Toy Story film.” Forky was born out of that discussion. Later Josh noted how he had to work with the artists to make Forky look worse — his animation needed to be choppier, his blinks needed to be removed, he needed to feel much more handmade than the other toys.
5. ARE PARTS OF TOY STORY 4 LIKE A HORROR FILM?
Well, the film isn’t scary just to be scary, but Josh noted his passion for suspenseful films and that during their research trips to antique stores he observed something creepy, “Every single antique store we went into had a ventriloquist dummy in the corner just staring at you — he jaw was literally hanging there — so we had to put that in.”
6. WAS BO PEEP ALWAYS THE MAIN CHARACTER?
Yes, Bo was always the main character in this film and the working title for the film was always “Peep”, noted Mark Nielsen. Since Bo only had 7 minutes of screen time between Toy Story and Toy Story 2, they knew there was a lot they could develop with her. Mark continued, “It was really intriguing to us in digging into the story to develop a back story for her. Where did she go? What is it like out there? Has she been with a kid? Is she living on her own? It was just a rich thing to explore.”
7. IS THIS THE OPENING FOR MORE TOY STORY FILMS?
So, is this the next saga for Toy Story? For fans who may be hoping for more, we’re not sure yet. Josh noted, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I like to think that even if no additional films are made that you would feel that story continue anyway.”
Want to learn even more and hear from our conversation — listen to the full interview below.
In episode 65 of the Pixar Post Podcast, we dive into the full discussion with Josh Cooley and Mark Nielsen — actually answering 15 questions (of which we highlighted 7 above) all about Toy Story 4.
Before we dive into the episode fully, we also highlight some of the latest news from the studio — show notes below.
We kick off the episode with Toy Story trivia and then offer a high-level overview of our trip (highlighting all that we’re going to share over the next few weeks). At 15:28 into the episode, we cover the recent trip we took to Canada to visit Toys R Us and the product videos we’ve been having a blast creating.
At 25:34 into the show, we discuss the Toy Story 4 French premiere at the Annecy Film Festival on June 14 and at 28:02 we discuss the new Toy Story-themed table-service restaurant which was recently announced for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. At 31:56 we talk about Mychael and Jeff Danna scoring the upcoming (March 2020) release of Onward and then dive into a follow-up discussion on Disney+ and the Monsters at Work show (at 33:44). We also touch on Billy Crystal’s historic honoring at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater and his impressive nod to Mike Wazowski (at 40:30). Finally, before the interview, we provide some updated comments to our prior podcast (episode 63) asking if Pixar’s short films are no longer happening and now transitioning to SparkShorts exclusively.
The fantastic conversation with Josh Cooley and Mark Nielsen kicks off at 46:51 into the episode. Listen along as they answer 15 questions over 30 minutes to dive deep into Toy Story 4.