EMERYVILLE, Calif. – Almost 25 years ago, Pixar changed the history of animated films with “Toy Story.” Now, the company is adding a fourth film – “Toy Story 4” – to the mix, a film that, with the beloved characters of Woody and Buzz Lightyear in the forefront, is a new attempt to take things to an even higher level of digital animation.
Pixar invited a group of media representatives, including EFE, to its Emeryville, California, headquarters to learn about more details of the new film that will hit box offices on June 21 and which, above all, must answer a huge question: Does it make sense to come out with a fourth installment of this saga after the huge, emotional and practically unbeatable close of “Toy Story 3,” back in 2010?
“That’s the question of all questions,” said the director of the new film, Josh Cooley, at a press conference.
“We love the end of the Toy Story 3; it ends Woody and Andy’s story perfectly. We realized there was more story to tell, to continue Woody’s story. Once we started going down the path and realizing there is more to tell for Woody, we just kept going and we hit upon something that was worth telling,” he added.
As he had promised, the journalists were able to view about 40 minutes of “Toy Story 4,” which also includes favorite characters such as Jessie and Rex but also several new ones.
One of the most noteworthy situations is the return of Bo Peep, the porcelain shepherdess who was Woody’s romantic interest and who now has become an independent and self-assured woman.
In addition, “Toy Story 4” will present new characters like Forky, who is sure to be one of its greatest stars.
Forky is a toy built from nothing by the girl Bonnie using junk and trash like a plastic spork – a spoon with tines.
The surprise, almost worthy of existentialist debate, comes when this fragile and dumb gadget becomes self-aware and realizes that it’s just another toy.
Producer Jonas Rivera explained that Forky is a reflection of how unpredictable and imaginative children are, saying “One thing I remember kicking around was the idea of kids at Christmas – my kids will sometimes open a toy and then play with the box.”
“We thought that if you were a toy, that would be the worst insult. So there was something about that amplified Woody feeling replaced,” he said.
Another new character in “Toy Story 4” is that of Gabby Gabby, a chilling 1950s doll that lives in an antique store and whose voicebox has broken, so she tries to steal Woody’s voicebox to replace it, and her bodyguards are several of the most sinister ventriloquist dummies.
Besides the new characters, the film has captured the attention of fans and the industry for the incredible perfection of Pixar’s digital animation.
For example, the initial sequence, with an emotional conversation between Woody and Bo Peep, is a technological wonder with its perfectly real-looking rain.
The dust and the cobwebs in the corners, the much more advanced design of the human beings and the animals and the complexity of the illumination and the photography are other examples of the leaps forward taken by Pixar since it released the first “Toy Story” in 1995.
That 81-minute film was a substantial advancement over the maximum 5-minute length of Pixar’s previous short films. In many ways the Pixar team “didn’t really know what we were doing ... we dived into the pool and learned to swim” on the way,” said Bill Reeves, the technological supervisor for “Toy Story” and one of the veterans who has worked on all four films in the saga.
Since then, Pixar, one of the jewels in Disney’s crown, has come out with “Monsters, Inc.” (2001), “Finding Nemo” (2003), “Ratatouille” (2007), “WALL•E” (2008), “Inside Out” (2015) and “Coco” (2017), but its fans have always kept “Toy Story” in a very special place in their hearts.
Not everything in Pixar’s history has been happy, with the firm’s big brain – John Lasseter – having to leave the company in 2017 over inappropriate behavior, including alleged sexual misconduct.
Nevertheless, “There’s people on the show that have said, ‘The first movie I saw was Toy Story, so I don’t want to mess it up,’” said Rivera.
“You know, they’ll say that, and that’s what we want. So it’s a real mix of veterans and newer people that feel the same sense of responsibility for it. So we just do our best to do what we would want to see,” he added.