While attending the Toy Story 4 Press Event, we had an opportunity to sit down with the cast and filmmakers during 2 interview sessions. With both veterans, Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Annie Potts in attendance, we knew it would be epic. Then add Keanu Reeves, Tony Hale and Christina Hendricks, the mix of newbies, it was such a fun time. Also joining us were producers Jonas Rivera and Mark Nielsen, and Director Josh Cooley. There were so many memorable moments, read on to see some of my favorites from these Toy Story 4 Interviews.
Toy Story 4 – The Cast Interviews
Josh, Jonas, and Mark were in both sessions. The first session also included Christina, Tim, and Keanu. The press conferences were moderated by Brooke Anderson from Entertainment Tonight, and the cast seemed overwhelmed by the environment in which this all took place. Right by Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Christina, Keanu, talk to me about joining this established beloved family that is Toy Story.
Keanu: Yeah. It was a great honor to be invited. For me, I was really excited. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to work with Tim and with Tom. But I knew that working with Pixar and being with these characters and these performers, that I was getting a chance to be a part of something that’s legendary. And so I was really excited. And Pixar gave me a great character with Duke Caboom. And so it was really fun to be a part of this story.
Tim: It’s good that we wrote Tom out. [LAUGHTER]. He’s out. It’s a big surprise. But thank God Woody is finally out of the movie, huh everybody? Exactly. We said sayonara to the cowboy.
Keanu: Tim, he’s still in the movie.
Tim: Right. That’s embarrassing. I didn’t see the final cut. I just saw the part that I did. So is he still in the movie?
Jonas: Yeah. We showed. Tim, we cut off about ten minutes of the end.
Tim: Wow. That is awkward. That is awkward. I love Hanks. No, this has been… the best part of this whole thing is the new guys, the new women, the new stories, the new characters. It really is the coolest part of this to see this whole family rise up. And I said this over and over again. It’s a theme park at Disney World based on this movie that we started 25 years ago. I saw it, I saw the original tensor lamp film school done by John Lasseter. And I loved that computer animation. I saw this done to a terrific story that Pixar came up with. Back then, I wanted these guys, I loved that story. I loved the story so much about how they get family, not family values. I don’t want to make it like that. It’s such a warmth. And if you guys haven’t seen it, if you have seen it, you see what it is, it’s rich and thick and great. And Buzz is so good in this. He’s so good.
Brooke: Christina. Tell us about joining as Gabby Gabby, such an in-depth character with so many layers and so many emotions.
Christina: No, she’s so lovely. I like that, I think when children see this movie, she comes across as sort of like the villain at first. And then you realize that she’s coming from a very loving place. And I think that’s important to sort of say maybe you don’t like someone at first. But how did they get there and why are they there and understanding their story. So I think she’s very special in that way. And then she sort of gets embraced by the group. And then it’s about support and I honestly thought it was a joke that they asked me. I kept thinking there were like three other people up for the same thing.
Jonas: We thought it was a joke you said yes.
Christina: I was super excited.
Tim, you will forever be known as Buzz Lightyear even after countless other roles. How, in your mind, has the character grown and evolved?
Tim: It’s funny to watch this whole transition. At one point, Woody is mean and yells you are a toy. And I had to transition from a… because he’s always been wonderfully ignorant about who he was, that he was a toy. But his transition has always been, okay, that was a terrible moment for me. Let’s regroup. And Buzz got to be the same, his core has always been this little authentic kind of soft-hearted, but no heart at all. And you’ll see in this movie, it’s kind of weird about that. Woody has this inner voice. I think it’s the sweetest part of this movie. But I don’t understand that whole thing. I love this ignorance. It’s not ignorance. He’s innocent. That’s a better way of saying it. And he’s just one of his best friends. And you’ll see through this thing. That’s the journey through this thing is how cool of friends these guys are.
Many us thought Toy Story 3 put such a perfect bow on the trilogy. How did you feel about doing 4? I think a lot of people were surprised 4 was going to happen.
Josh: We had the same questions everybody else has right now. I thought you guys were done. But we had those questions five years ago when we started. Your question was like the responsibility. Yeah. Tons of responsibility, tons of pressure. A lot of sleepless nights knowing that we were going to attempt this. Because we love the end of Toy Story 3. And feel like that’s the completion of Woody and Andy’s story. But there was more Woody story to tell. So that’s how we approached it.
So this one is not the last one either, is it?
Jonas: Well, we sort of joked that we thought Toy Story 2 was the last one. When we finished that one, we thought that one was the end of the story. And how we approached this was, to echo Josh, the end of Andy’s story and Woody’s story, but Woody is the protagonist. This was the final chapter. And as filmmakers, to be honest, we feel satisfied that this is where you can end it. Now there’s an implied future to all these films and we sort of never say never at Pixar. But as storytellers, we’re satisfied with this as the closing of the chapter.
So Duke Caboom is such a unique character because he’s a badass. He’s confident. But at the same time, he is also goofy. He is also crybaby a little.
Keanu: What’s wrong with that?
So Keanu, how do you unleash your crybaby side after being John Wick to being Duke Caboom.
Keanu: I think that all of the characters, I think this is what’s really cool about Pixar and Josh and all of the creators of the stories and the characters themselves and the performances is that I think we can identify. There are so many different kinds of people going through different things. And Duke Caboom just happened to be a crybaby. And super with a big heart and brave who loved life. So I think that there’s a bit of Duke Caboom in all of us.
I’m very happy to see some honorable representation of Canada this film. Was the plan for Duke always to be a Canadian and wear the Canadian flag?
Josh: Yes. From day one.
And that’s why Keanu was perfect the role?
Josh: Yes. That. And also, when we cast these roles, we don’t want to see faces. We have a casting department. They bring in a bunch of recordings. We say turn the headshots over. We don’t want to see who this person. We just want to hear the voice. We don’t even know who we’re listening to. So we’ll listen to a bunch. Who is that? But right away, I think we grabbed, what is that from? One of your movies we grabbed and we were listening to. We all went whoa. Who is that?
Keanu: Who is that crybaby?
Josh: And they said that’s Keanu Reeves. I’m like, that’s perfect. And then we’re just so grateful that Keanu agreed to.
Can you talk a bit about the process of keeping the memory of Don Rickles alive and bringing back Mr. Potatohead for this film?
Mark: Yeah, we love Don. He’s been such a huge part of these films all the way back to the very beginning. And we had signed him on to be part of the project before we lost him. And kind of at the request of his family, and it was an idea we had been talking about as well, we wanted to see if we could craft a performance from all the incredible sessions we’ve had with Don through the years. He recorded for theme park rides and toys and commercials, short films, feature films. A lot that we hadn’t used before. So we were honored to really be able to kind of keep his memory in the film and our editorial department did a great job really creating his performance out of his own voice from past projects.
Been bothering me kind of for 25 years and now staring at him up there on the screen. What kind of haircut does Buzz have? [LAUGHTER]
Tim: That balaclava that he wears? It’s for fireproofing. No, actually he’s got a beautiful head of hair underneath there. It’s rather curly. And he’s got a man bun. Under all that.
Second Interview Session
After we finished up with the first group, the next group arrived and included Tom Hanks, Annie Potts and Tony Hale. Tony Hale voices Forky, the arts and craft project that becomes a toy. It’s one of the best charaters of the film! So hilarous.
Tony, talk to us a little bit about joining this family that is already so established and so beloved.
Tony: Yeah. It’s overwhelming. And which helps because Forky is very overwhelmed. But I remember when they brought me up to Pixar and they kind of described him as he’s kind of nervous. I was like check. He asked a lot of questions. Check. And he’s kind of gullible to a fault now. It’s like bingo. I’m in. So I just love that he sees everything as new. And mainly I love that he’s a character that his home place is trash. That’s all he knows is to help people eat soup. And then Woody comes along and shares that he has a greater purpose. I think just in life, anybody who might see themselves that way and they have worth. They have purpose. That’s just a beautiful message that Toy Story is giving us.
What it’s like to step back in Woody’s cowboy boots, it’s been a quarter of a century that you’ve been Woody. Is it possible to put into words what Woody means to you?
Tom: Woody has been the great gift that I’ve seen play out again and again in my own family as well as sort of around the world, even in a culture that it’s not in my voice. It’s Spanish or Mandarin or what have you. Woody still is this three-dimensional emotional bag that kids carry around with them. What I have truly appreciated is that no matter how old you are now, when you see one of the movies, you’re the same age you were when you saw the first one. And there is not a bump, there’s not a jolt. There’s no nostalgia. Nothing ages poorly. It’s exactly as it was and sort of always will be.
And I think in some ways, it’s like the definitive Disney enterprise is that there are a cohesiveness and an eternal quality to not just the stories and the characters, but the emotional bonds that we all have with each one of them. And I have always been dazzled when they have come back and said we’re going to try another one. The question is always, really? Ain’t you guys bold. Do you think? You think you can match that last one we did. Good luck. Then they say, as soon as they start talking about Gabby Gabby or Duke Caboom or the true catalyst of Toy Story 4 so much that it’s called Toy Story Forky is Tony Hale is a Forky. Because look at that. Look at what he is. He is a bunch of stuff that has been empowered by the imagination of his creator. And that is essential. That’s what being a toy is. That’s the great power of what a toy has. So they did it. These crackpot geniuses up there at Pixar. The 900 or so of them that operate in their darkened rooms and eat takeout food for months at a time.
When you walk into Toy Story Land, Woody is right there front and center. Everyone walks in, that’s the first thing they see. What was it like for you the first time you walked into Toy Story land?
Tom: It’s not just because we have made these movies for the last 25 years. But I think we all sort of know how commerce works right now. And there is this protocol that says you have a movie coming out. So, therefore, you build a land or you put a game on it. Whether the movie is decent or not, you have to put up. You can’t escape it no matter how much you want it. But there has been this interesting thing about Toy Story. It exists sort of by audience demand by way of audience need. If the second movie hadn’t worked out or it had petered out somehow, I think we would have lost the confidence of everybody who has watched it.
So all of these movies exist because they were willed into existence by the audience who was willing to invest it and return right where they were and by the people at Pixar who did not take their responsibilities lightly when it comes down to Toy Story. They have to be able to reach a level of gravitas or import or connection. And that land over there is the example of it as well. They could have banged one of those things out pretty quickly. And it would still be up. But this is now a thing because there is not just iconic graphic images. They’re actually emotional things that people carry with them. And it’s only because these movies have been so important.
We’re on our fifth or sixth generation now. How long does a generation last? Three and a half years? I don’t know. But when the next one comes into consciousness, there is now, it’s almost as though they were just now going to build a 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea or something like that. Because you could view it as being late. But because it has garnered this kind of attention and the attention of you all, that it’s kind of like fitting in proper that it exists now.
Tony: It also makes so much sense to me that Woody is in front at the park. Because your voice, him, he is so welcoming. He’s the father that is guiding you through life. There’s such a warmth that Tom has created in these creators.
Tom: I think I have said these three words more on the Toy Story movies than I’ve said anywhere else in my life. It has always been come on guys. I’ve said come on guys eight billion times in some iteration of all the Toy Story stuff.
Tim Allen said that he was salty that Woody is the big giant thing at the head of Toy Story Land. Are you guys still best friends or no?
Tom: We actually have become very close simply because of the union of Woody and Buzz. After we made the second one, we began to have regular lunches about every three months or so in which he and I sit down. And alcohol is not involved. It’s just we sit down and we talk for about three and a half hours straight every time we get together and we do seek each other out in order to touch on all the aspects of our lives. Certainly professionally. But it would not have come out were it not for him being Buzz and me being Woody.
I think the newbies, I guess you’re the only new one here. There is a profound thing that comes from being Forky or Bo or Woody. That brief story. You’ve been at Disneyland as well. I don’t know if they have it in Disney World. They have that fantastic, you know, whatever. And everybody, fireworks, and there’s dancers. In Disneyland, the closing of the show is the Mark Twain steamboat comes by. And all of the Disney characters are dancing on that steamboat. Belle and Sleeping Beauty and Mickey and everyone. Mulan is there. They’re all there. Captain Hook, Peter Pan.
I was there with my family. My daughter who is in her 30s burst into tears. I said what’s wrong? And she said look, dad. Look. Look at the end of the boat. And it was Woody and Buzz. She said dad. You’ll always be on that boat dancing for the rest of time as long as Disneyland is here. And that’s more than just a cool thing. It’s actually some sort of talisman I think that we all carry with us now just because we were smart enough to say, “How do you think we should do this guys? Come on guys. How do you think we can do it?”
If you guys could portray any other character in Toy Story, who would it be?
Tom: I would go Duke Caboom. I would go there.
Annie: I don’t know. I’m so happy with what I play. I never have thought about that. It’s like asking who else you would like to be in life. I don’t know.
Tony: I would bring Beaker from the Muppet Show into the universe. Because he’s establish my fav.
Every film you’re learning something new or doing something amazing. Can you talk a little bit about what was new, what was developed for this filming and the porcelain look on Bo Peep?
Josh: Yeah. We researched a ton of how porcelain reacts to light, how it breaks. We broke a lot of stuff and filmed it. The technical challenge in this one was the antique store. Because there are 10,000 items in an antique store. It all had to built and shaded and set dressed and everything. And we didn’t even know if our computers could actually render that. There’s so much stuff. So early on, we did some tests. And it turned out pretty good. We’re like okay. We can do this. So that was. And then we needed to just make more stuff to go into that antique store. So a lot of it was made for this film. There is a lot of Easter Eggs in this movie because we just got lazy. And so you can find, I swear, if you pause any frame when they’re in the story, you’ll see something in the background.
Mark: Yeah. From every movie Pixar has ever done, there’s something in the antique store.
Tom: Oh come on. I love that now.
Jonas: Some we didn’t even know. The sets department. I just noticed the other day. Carl and Ellie’s house shrunk down on the shelf from Up.
Josh: Big Bong’s rocket is in the background.
Since we have Disney +, would you ever be interested in exploring Toy Story world on that streaming service for the future? Maybe spin off or shorts or anything like that?
Mark: Yeah. I mean right now, I’m producing some short films for Disney Plus which star Forky, our very own Tony Hale.
Tom: Isn’t that the best news ever? [LAUGHTER].
Mark: So yeah. It’s a series.
Tony: He asks a lot of questions.
Mark: Yeah. It’s a series called Forky asks a question. There are ten episodes that will be on Disney + when it comes live in November.
Josh: I’m not working on them. But they are hilarious. Yeah.
Tony: I love it. These questions that maybe people are embarrassed maybe to ask. But they really don’t know. And I learn so much just from all these simple questions that I probably should know and I didn’t.
Annie and Tom, since you guys had the opportunity to work with each other this time, what did you love about working with her and what did you love about working with him?
Tom: Even separated by two microphones and two stands, the way Annie Potts will look at you with her eyes is kind of like up like that just a little bit. And when she says the words that you might have said more than any other two. Oh, Woody. It gets you every time man. You become a little jar of pudding when that happens. Start quivering a little bit.
Annie: Oh, Woody.
Tom: Isn’t that? Just do it one more time.
Annie: Oh, Woody.