EXCLUSIVE: The Creators & Cast Behind 'Toy Story 4' Discuss The Road From Idea To Film To Toys

toy story 4

When Pixar and Disney announced that they would be making another film in the Toy Story franchise, people were surprised. Toy Story 3 had ended so perfectly that no one could even imagine what would happen in another film. But then Toy Story 4 was released, introducing new characters like Forky, Giggle McDimples and Bunny and Ducky. It also saw the return of Bo Peep, who wasn't in 'TS3.' Moms.com got the opportunity go behind the scenes at Mattel headquarters in California to meet some of the creative team for the movie, a few voice actors and the people who get to make the actual toys our kids play with.

First, we got to chat with the toy makers. With Toy Story 4, they treated the process as if this was an entirely new movie. Obviously, Buzz and Woody are the cornerstone of the franchise, and making those toys as accurate as possible is crucial to their success. In developing the toys (which is an extensive process) the teams at Mattel and Disney discovered that many children play with their Buzz and Woody toys much like Andy does in the early movies. One in each hand, acting out adventures.

We got to go behind the scenes and see how action figures are created, from the initial drawings and molding of prototypes (which is now done mostly digitally) to 3-D printing of more prototypes down the line. We also learned about how the toys are packaged, because as many of us parents know, kids are just as engaged with the box as they are with the toys! Specifically, we saw how the creation of packaging is not only engaging and can be played with on its own, but how they use the world of the movie to influence how toys are packaged.

Here's what the creative team and cast members had to say about being apart of Toy Story 4:

Josh Cooley (Director) & Mark Nielsen (Producer)

Where did Toy Story 4 come from?

Josh: We didn't even think '3' was going to happen. We don't have a Marvel Cinematic Universe planned out. Andrew Stanton [executive producer and writer] had an idea before '3' came out about what could happen with the return of Bo Peep. We knew that having Bo return would be a huge part of Woody's story and he couldn't ignore that because she's such a huge part of his story. It kept evolving and became Toy Story 4. We were finishing Inside Out [released in 2015], and Toy Story 4 overlapped.

How do you come up with the new toys [characters]?

Mark: They all came about for a slightly different reason. We had the story of Woody and Bo as the framework, but it's a great opportunity to introduce other characters that will challenge or help. Forky came up as an idea that was more gag based, like "wouldn't this be funny?" But as we put him in the story, he actually became very relevant to the story we wanted to tell and ended up fitting in far better and becoming a far bigger character than we ever imagined.

Josh: He started off as a joke. We're saying, "in this world toys are alive, so anything a kid plays with is alive." But kids play with rocks, boxes, does that mean they're alive too? So we embraced that. None of the toys have seen it happen, and then that character would not know anything. It would force Woody to explain what it means to be a toy, which can actually drive the story. The carnival came out of looking for places where toys exist that we haven't done before. That's almost the most horrible existence of being a toy is to be a carnival toy. You know you're never going to be won, you're cheap, and you see these kids that want you but they lose and leave. These characters are bitter, but fun.

How do you keep the franchise fresh for a new audience, but keep the heart for those who grew up with the films?

Josh: The audience is already invested in these characters. You've got built in love there, but it's a double edged sword. We've always thought of Woody as a parent. He's let his kid go, and in '4' he's an empty nester. This is a different kid [Bonnie], he doesn't know anything about her or how to help her. The only thing he can grasp on to is helping Forky, that will help Bonnie. We just went with what's the next step for Woody.

Mark: Woody longs so much to have this kid want to play with him and be there for her. And who steps in to fill that void but a piece of garbage from the garbage can.

Claudio De Oliveira (Pixar Animator) & Ana Ramirez (Pixar Visual Development Artist)

What was it like getting to create the new characters?

Claudio: I feel like it was a little bit easier because we were going into new territory. There was no previous interpretation of the character, you don't have to keep that legacy going. [Claudio had a direct hand in the creation of Forky] I felt connected to the character very early on. I had a dozen of them on the table at home, and my wife and kids were sad when they were gone. I was happy because they were connecting with the character without seeing him on the screen.

What was the process of making Toy Story 4?

Ana: Most films take about five or six years from concept. It's usually a director with an idea, and then a writer, and then art department, etc. will join in. The art department is brought in very early on in the process. We don't always get to see final shots, the art department works on everything early on. So it's a surprise for me when I see the final product. I teared up.

Claudio: It's a beautiful, chaotic production line that's very alive. It moves with the rhythm of the work we're doing. There's always someone to help you out (there are approximately 150 animators at Pixar working on several projects at a time), someone to lift you up. One animator can work on four seconds of animation in a week. The Pixar movies have a lot of depth of animation because we're giving it the time.

Kristen Schaal & Ally Maki (Actors, "Trixie" and "Giggle McDimples")

What is it like being apart of the Toy Story family?

Kristen: Being apart of this universe is an absolute honor. It's one of the coolest things. It's just a big ensemble — it's such a huge franchise, I kinda forget I'm apart of it. I feel like Trixie is a little piece of a larger, huger, heartbeat. It's surreal.

Ally: It's surreal. As someone who grew up like, perfectly aligned with the franchise, these characters are what taught me about friends and family and being apart of a team. They feel like part of my family. Buzz and Woody feel like, second cousins or something. So, to be apart of it now, I'm still pinching myself. This will live on in history forever. We were at the premiere and they said "it's time for the legacy picture!" and then everyone from [Toy Story] 1, 2, 3 and 4 came together and they were snapping pictures and I was like, "what is happening?"

How does it feel to know you're making memories for a new generation of kids?

Kristen: I didn't grow up with the Toy Story films, but when I got cast in Toy Story 3, I thought, "better watch 1 and 2!" And I was like, "these are great!" But it's an absolute thrill. Now that I have a baby and I'm watching her play with toys, it's resonating on a much deeper level than ever before.

Ally: It's so full circle. And I think for me it means so much because, growing up there wasn't that much representation on screen. Especially for Asian-Americans or women of color. So for me to now represent as the first Asian-American female within this universe is crazy to me. When I see girls dressing up as Giggle, that's their reality now. And that's something I didn't have when I was their age. It moves culture forward a lot.

What does Disney mean to you?

Kristen: I think they do really good work, and I love that I get to play with Disney! I think storytelling-wise, Disney has perpetually had a message that resonates "good."

Ally: Disney represents where my imagination was created and where it still continues to go. All the universes they create make me, and I think a lot of underrepresented people feel like they can do anything and be anything. They consistently try to push culture forward in a way that's positive. If you look at this Toy Story, you see the diversity, you see the women who are taking charge of the story line, and that changes things for the next generation.

Additionally, Josh and Mark gave us a head's up on the Blu-Ray's special features! There is a great documentary about the evolution of Bo Peep's character from the first movie to her very different turn in Toy Story 4. There's also a really fun interview with Tim Allen and Tom Hanks, who talk about their 25 years (!!) playing Buzz and Woody, and the friendship that has developed as a result. There is also an awesome deleted scenes feature.

Toy Story 4 is available now on digital, Blu-Ray and DVD formats.

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