Toy Story 4 begs the question, can we have too much of a good thing? I’m all for one more go-round with Woody and the gang, but even the series’ biggest diehards would admit that Toy Story 3 delivered the perfect ending to the trilogy.
After nearly a decade on the sidelines, Toy Story is back in theatres, and ready to prove doubters wrong. This time out, the folks at Pixar are packing a secret weapon: a neurotic plastic spork named Forky. The character (voiced by Tony Hale) isn’t like the rest of Toy Story’s cast. He wasn’t built in a factory; Bonnie, the gang’s new human crafted him while at school. And he looks the part, a googly-eyed plastic spork held together with pipe-cleaner, glitter glue, and love.
This patchwork toy shouldn’t exist, but Bonnie’s love Frankensteins him to life, and he spends the film grappling with his reality. Forky believes he’s a piece of trash and will stop at nothing to end his tortured life. Forky is the film’s emotional centre and the driving force behind Woody’s own self-actualization. The character is elegant in his simplicity, yet his emotional journey is heart-achingly profound.
Hale passed through Toronto while on Toy Story 4’s press tour. That Shelf sat down with Hale, as well as Walt Disney Studios Canada’s VP of Marketing, Greg Mason, to discuss working on Pixar’s latest outing.
Victor Stiff – How did you feel when you saw Toy Story 4 for the first time?
Tony Hale – I’m still overwhelmed. Keanu, me, everybody, we’re so thankful to be a part of this, but we are a very small piece of this pie. The artistry that has gone into this movie is the pie. They have put hours of labour into this, and it is a work of art.
I was looking at it, and it looks like magic to me. I don’t understand how someone can make Bo Peep’s face look that much like porcelain. It’s the lighting, and in the beginning shot, that water. You’re looking at it, and you’re like, “I don’t get that,” you know? It just seems like a masterpiece. It’s just stunning to me.
VS – Ten years from now, looking back at your time on the film and its reception, what will be your takeaway?
TH – I think one [reason] why Toy Story has lasted is you see this gang of characters who are all incredibly different, but they are for each other, and they root for each other, and they have each other’s back. And I love… I don’t know, I just feel like we’re not meant to do this life by ourselves, we need each other. You see this gang of misfits, not even misfits, just very different, who see value in each other. And I love being a part of that kind of journey.
And it was also really cool to share [this] with my daughter who is 13 because she can’t really see a lot of my work because it’s a little more… Veep is very, the language is pretty crass, so it’s nice to share that with her during this time.
VS – Toy Story has been around since the ‘90s, people have literally grown up with it. There’s a younger generation of fans as well as older fans. How does that affect your approach to marketing the movie?
Greg Mason – Toy Story is a very special property to both Pixar and Disney. It’s funny, one of the first films I actually worked on was the original Toy Story. (Because I am that old). And it was a tough sell initially. You talk about the difference between then, and now, initially we came off of, you remember a little film called The Nightmare Before Christmas? Yes, it went on to become a cult favourite, but initially, it was considered a flop, and it did not do well. And when we were selling this new computer animated piece, it was a very tough sell, and people were just not interested. You know what happened in between.
Fast forward to now, to answer your question, there’s just something about these characters and these stories that are definitely being passed on from generation to generation. My 21-year-old son has to see this because he grew up on it and it’s just getting passed down. They’re very special to so many people. So, in terms of our approach, we just want to make sure that the new younger audiences embrace it and there are always new characters, something fresh for that next generation that didn’t necessarily grow up with the first. We think there’s a handoff and we think there’s a nice opening for a whole new audience as well.
NOTE: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Toy Story 4 is now in theatres.