BARCELONA – Tom Hanks is making a return to his loveable and loyal cowboy alter ego Woody in Toy Story 4 and, just as the latest installment in the Disney Pixar saga gears up to hit the silver screen, said the secret to the films’ success may be found in our childhood imagination and our secret yearning that our favorite toys actually could spring to life.
The Academy Award-winning actor sat down with EFE in Barcelona to discuss everything from the secret lives of toys, the role of female figures in the new Toy Story, television and the advent of Netflix.
“I think that there was a magical element to toys coming to life when they’re on their own, that everybody wants to believe it actually happens and, in fact, we can’t prove that it doesn’t,” Hanks said with a chuckle when pondering the reasons behind Toy Story’s astronomical success. “For all we know, that’s actually what toys do.”
“I think there’s also the inner life of the toys as they’ve been imagined by the folks at Pixar, really just makes an awful lot of sense,” he continued. “There are all of the elements to fantastic stories and adventures and yet they are in the room of our dreams and they are the relationships we believe we’ve had with them since we were children.”
But the challenges that Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Bo Beep and their entourage face throughout the movie series strikes a chord with adults, too.
In the latest installment, the familiar faces link up with some new characters, like Forky, a toy made from a spork, for an adventure on the road.
“The only magic that you have to believe in is that toys have lives, you know, there’s no magic spells, there’s no witchcraft, there’s no poison well or anything like that, it’s literally just toys getting up and trying to figure out how to deal with the problems that they’re facing,” Hanks said.
In the age of the MeToo movement and the general push for equal rights in Hollywood, Hanks said it was about time the gang of animated toys was led by a female figure, in this case, Bo Beep and her three-headed sheep.
“Yeah, I think that it’s right on time in a lot of ways. I think there’s two elements to it, first of all, the experiences that Bo Peep has had warrants her being in charge,” Hanks, who was lauded for his roles in “Forrest Gump” (1994) and “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), said.
“The other aspect of it is Woody is smart enough to let her lead. Woody is hip enough or I guess experienced enough to realize that he doesn’t know and he needs to trust somebody and somebody has to be in charge and the natural candidate is a woman and its Bo Beep and its not that big a deal,” he said. “It doesn’t matter a whit to him.”
In that sense, Hanks said, Woody proves himself a demonstrable example of what it means to live in a meritocracy.
Hanks, who is 62 and was born in Concord, California, has won the Oscar for Best Actor twice, for “Philadelphia” (1993) and “Forrest Gump.”
Active since the mid-1980s, he was asked about the growth of online streaming networks, such as Netflix.
“Netflix is a business model all unto its own and I think Netflix does a couple of things extremely well. It can put out huge amounts of product and I think they’re much better at doing long-form television series that are 10 episodes a year for four or five years but I don’t think Netflix has made a film that lasts only two hours or so that enters into the Zeitgeist in the same way,” he said.
He touched on the difference between television and the movie industry, too, saying films were often confined to strict time limits that TV series are free from.
“A television show when you make it can exist on television for a million years and people can come to it over and over again or not see it for another 7 years and still be just as grossly involved in it as the first time,” he said.
“Whereas if you’re finally catching a movie that you didn’t see when it first came out four years ago it actually might be somehow dated or locked in that time where television isn’t necessarily the same way,” he added.
Toy Story 4, directed by Josh Cooley, is set for release on June 21, 23 years after the original installment captured the imaginations of viewers the world over.