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June, 2019
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Review: The Bittersweet Brilliance of Toy Story 4

Josh Cooley, Review, Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • June 21, 2019

 

Why did Toy Story 4 have to get made? It’s a question that director Josh Cooley asked himself. His answer was that every ending has a beginning. Just because the toys’ journey with Andy was over didn’t mean their journey with Bonnie was. In the nine years that have passed between the third and fourth films, there have been three Toy Story Toons and two TV specials. Life size Lego figures of Woody and Buzz stand beside the reception desk at Pixar. As Toy Story 4 producer Mark Nielson put it, those guys are in the fabric of the studio. How could this movie not get made?!

Toy Story will mark its 25th anniversary next year. For some of the animators on Toy Story 4, the 1995 film is the first they ever saw. I can’t imagine the joy and thrill of being able to animate characters that you spent your childhood with. And not only that, but you get to work on new characters for this world, who may end up being just as iconic and beloved as the original ones.

Those original characters, our old pals, are happily being played with by Bonnie. All except one. Woody, who once enjoyed the vaunted position of the favorite toy, and by default, leader of the rest, is now none of those things. He gets tossed in the closet with toys Bonnie has outgrown and no longer plays with. It’s a dull and lonely existence, but Woody still firmly believes in his purpose to be there unconditionally for his kid. That’s why he stows himself away in Bonnie’s backpack on the first day of kindergarten. He’s not supposed to. Toys aren’t allowed. But Bonnie is having such a tough time facing this newest adventure that Woody just can’t let her do it alone.

So when Bonnie makes a toy out of a spork and names him Forky (Tony Hale), Woody is actually privy to a very special moment. Bonnie loves her little oddball creation immediately. The way she looks at Forky, that love she has for him that he doesn’t even understand or want to reciprocate, are things Woody no longer enjoys. And that’s why he’ll do anything to keep Bonnie from losing Forky.

 

Bonnie does lose Forky quite a bit while on a road trip with her parents and all the other toys – she just doesn’t know it because of Woody’s singleminded pursuit of him. Forky runs longingly to any trash receptacle he can find. “Trash! Trash! Trash!” is his gleeful refrain. He makes his final escape out of the window of the RV, triumphantly yelling, “I’M LITTER!” Yes, it’s just as glorious as it sounds. 

Forky doesn’t get far before Woody finds him, and a heart-to-heart chat about what it means to be loved by a kid convinces Forky to return to Bonnie.

But Woody and Forky have to take a couple of detours before either of them can go back.

The first of these detours takes place in Second Chance Antiques, where a familiar lamp sits in the window. Bo Peep’s lamp. Woody’s love that went away all those years ago isn’t inside the shop, which Woody and Forky find out for themselves when they go looking for her. They meet the unsettling Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) instead, a pretty little doll in a prim dress, and her horde of even more unsettling ventriloquist dummy henchmen. These guys inspire so much terror – the way they move is the worst. People are going to have nightmares and it’s Pixar’s fault.

Woody does eventually find Bo Peep after that frightening horror movie ordeal, and their reunion is awash in sunlight. When we talk about the most meaningful, inspired, symbolic Pixar movie scenes, this is going to be one of them. It’s just a brief interlude where neither of them speak because a child is playing with them, and that’s the beauty of it.

 

Though it’s been 20 whole years since we last saw Bo Peep, though her presence in this series was so slight even before she was written out of Toy Story 3, her inclusion in Toy Story 4 just feels right. It’s the most natural thing in the world. For Cooley, story supervisor Valerie LaPointe and others, this porcelain shepherdess was the reason they wanted to make the film. I predicted that Bo would be so much more significant, but even I couldn’t have guessed just how much! Again I ask, how could this movie not get made?

In addition to reintroducing Bo Peep, the film achieves yet another marvelous feat with its introduction of distinct and lovable new toys. Forky is joined by Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and Ducky and Bunny (Keegan Micheal Key and Jordan Peele). (For anyone who’s seen Peele’s Us, the fact that he’s playing a rabbit in a carnival toy game is eerie and awesome). While it’s a little disappointing that the new toys get more screentime over the older ones, that ultimately served the story best. (This is why we need more Toy Story toons). And then there’s Gabby Gabby. I was so prepared to hate her, but something kept telling me I would be proven wrong. I’m glad I was. Gabby isn’t what she appears to be. There’s always a certain value in stories where the villains aren’t what we expect at all.

Reeves and the comedy duo of Key and Peele are so fantastic that I would love to hear them again in another Pixar feature or a future Toy Story toon! Tony Hale had so much fun recording, that even if I hadn’t seen the footage of him in the booth, it wouldn’t matter; his enjoyment is palpable. Christina Hendricks also does memorable, heartbreaking, versatile work as Gabby. I’d be remiss not to praise yet another cast member in their Pixar debut, Ally Maki, as the impossibly adorable Giggle McDimples. That giggle and voice of hers are so infectious! The veterans, namely Tom Hanks, Annie Potts, and Tim Allen, are still at the top of their game.

Toy Story 4‘s other big feat concerns the plot. There’s so much of it, but it doesn’t once overwhelm the characters or feel unwieldy. Without its precise pacing, the film would suffer, it would just be a lot of noise. With Randy Newman’s subtle updates to his iconic score and the newer pieces, Toy Story 4 feels a lot like home; it’s a comforting nod to the past that is still looking forward. The nostalgia is potent but not overdone.

And it’s unbelievably hilarious too. I can’t remember the last time I heard so much raucous outbreak of laughter in a packed theater before. This movie is much wackier than the three that came before, but it’s just as beautiful, unforgettable, and devastating too. It might actually be the most heartbreaking of them all.

I simply can’t wait to watch it again.

Toy Story 4 is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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Pixar has just announced a new movie!

Pete Docter

Posted by Simoa • June 19, 2019

A single tweet. That’s all. Just one tweet about a brand new, never before heard or hinted Pixar film which debuts in theaters exactly one year from today, on June 19th, 2020.

We are getting two Pixar films next year! Both one word titles that involve mystical journeys, although Soul has a more philosophical bent than Onward‘s fantasy adventure. Oh man. It’s so cryptic! Just a simple logo with the lofty goal of answering life’s most important questions. Which are not simple! Here is one question I have: who is the heroine of this story? Please tell me Soul has a female lead.

A longer description from The Wrap:

Ever wonder where your passion, your dreams and your interests come from? What is it that makes you… YOU? In 2020, Pixar Animation Studios takes you on a journey from the streets of New York City to the cosmic realms to discover the answers to life’s most important questions.

And guess what? Pete Docter is directing! His first film as Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer and his first since Inside Out, which coincidentally turns four today! The similarities to the former film are undeniable. First we were in the mind, now we are venturing to the soul.

There does seem to be another connection to Onward. While that film takes our elven heroes out of a suburb, Soul will leave the streets of New York city. Existential pondering leading us out of the places we know  that can sometimes be a bit stifling into the unknown. At least that’s my take on it.

Let us know what you think! We will update this post with any more details and will be doing lots of Soul searching in the coming year!

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Love in the Details of Toy Story 4

Behind The Scenes, Pixar, Toy Story 4

Posted by Simoa • June 19, 2019

There is something Ling Tu, the Sets Shading Lead on Toy Story 4, said during the It’s All in the Details presentation at the studio back in April that I think is very important. She hoped that we could feel the love that was put into the sets. The intention and purpose of Pixar films are not only the result of painstaking research, but painstaking love too! And that love extends to the locations as much as it does to the characters. The level of detail in Toy Story 4 is so intricate that even the sharpest eyed viewers might not notice – and that’s exactly the point. Regardless, each detail is both deliberate and necessary.

Tu was joined by Characters Shading Lead Alex Marino and Graphics Art Director Craig Foster to give us an in depth exploration of all the details.

As we’ve learned, the goal of the Toy Story films is to allow audiences to see everything from a toy’s perspective. Achieving that in Toy Story 4 relied on a number of factors, like making the sets characters with their own backstories and conveying the journeys of the toys through subtle visual hints. Something that was emphasized throughout were the imperfections in each detail, which allowed for greater authenticity and added a richness that would otherwise have been missing if the filmmakers aimed for perfection.

While it might be impossible to spot them all, here are some details (and Easter eggs!) to keep an eye on when you watch Toy Story 4.

Top 5 Sets Details

  • The leaves in the reunion scene between Woody and Bo Peep make Woody appear smaller and toylike. Pay attention to their texture, as they have the same veins and holes as real leaves do.
  • The reunion scene takes place in a dried creek bed. There’s a sprinkler box there to remind the audiences that this is still happening in the human world.
  • Dust in the antique store is very specific and just the right amount had to be applied. Take a look at the comparison image below – there’s a clear difference between them. The final frame still conveys the store’s age and unique history, but the dust isn’t distracting as it is in the first one.

©2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

  • Another crucial element of the antiques store is that it makes Woody feel out of place. It’s also the last place any toy wants to be, which is why Gabby Gabby is so eager to leave. The subtleties make it feel that way, without the filmmakers being obvious about it.
  • As Tu explained, carnivals draw you in with flashy lights and colors, but they’re actually shabby when you take a closer look. One of the ways they zeroed in on the shabbiness was the carnival prize grid where Ducky and Bunny spend all their time. The image below is fascinating because it’s something we take for granted and it’s distinctly unglamorous. But the filmmakers still took the time to include it for that extra layer of credibility!

©2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved. Lots of Easter Eggs here too!

Top 5 Characters Details

Photo by Marc Flores. ©2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Just like the antiques store, it was important to show how our toys have aged too. This was achieved by taking their journeys and motivations into account. Alex Marino also explained that subtle updates helped integrate the characters into the new settings.

  • Pay attention to Buzz’s stickers – they’re peeling. He’s no longer the glossy space ranger in mint condition.
  • Woody we know, has been through a lot. The micro scratches on him clue us into that and remind us that he and Buzz aren’t new toys.
  • Bo Peep’s porcelain isn’t as pristine as it was before, which makes sense considering that she’s been living as a lost toy. Her garments are a little shabby too.
  • Gabby Gabby is inspired by dolls of the 1950s and 1960s which were mass produced, but her hand painted features and the nylon quality of her hair are a contrast to the more generic features.
  • Since Gabby has been sitting on a shelf for so long, her dress is desaturated. She’s often in the dark, which would explain why her eyes are ominous rather than soft and inviting.

The Toy Story 4 art gallery, as seen on March 18, 2019 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

Top 5 Graphic Design Details and Easter Eggs

Here’s something you won’t see in Toy Story 4: Woody’s Round Up. Craig Foster was deliberate about that because Woody is meant to feel out of place wherever he goes. To that end, no Western style fonts appear in the film either. Here’s a handy list of (more than) five Easter eggs to be on the look out for instead! And these are just the ones we were told about. A good chunk of the 8,000 graphics in the film reference past Pixar films.

Photo by Marc Flores

  • A Victrola in Second Chance Antiques has a record of Ernesto de la Cruz songs.
  • Paintings in the film include one of Alpha which is reminiscent of  John Singer Sargent; the classic ‘dogs playing poker’ with Dug, Muntz and the other hounds of Up; Riley’s dad as a conquistador (?!); and Angel Kitty from “Toy Story That Time Forgot” in Margaret Keane’s signature style.
  • Fun ads in the film include 1940s Triple Dent Gum (and now I’m humming the jingle of course); 1950s era Eggman Movers from the first Toy Story; Hud’s Garage, a reference to Doc Hudson; and “Small Fry’s” Poultry Palace, also from the ’50s.
  • The pinball machine has a tiki theme and naturally, the tiki heads from Finding Nemo are there.
  • A really cool graphic is Duke Caboom‘s maple leaf. Not only is it a symbol of his Canadian heritage, it looks like an explosion too!

As always, this visual storytelling expertly reinforces the film’s main themes. The labyrinthine aspect of all these details doesn’t overwhelm the characters; they blend into the background of the story and beckon us to take a closer look.

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Grab Your New Toy Story 4 Interactive Talking Action Figures This Week!

Disney, Josh Cooley, Toy Story 4

Posted by Nia • June 17, 2019

With only four days to go until Toy Story 4 is finally released in cinemas, there’s no better time than now to peruse your local Disney Store or check out Shop Disney Online and pick up your own interactive action figures of your favorite Toy Story characters!

The ol’ gang is definitely back and ready to play! You’ll be able to find action figures of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Rex, and Bullseye in stores. The exclusive line-up also features the new and improved Bo Peep and the loveable Forky, which you can see in the gallery above. The interactive action figures each have 10 unique expressions when they’re playing alone but when they’re paired with another figure, they unlock special phrases with their new interactive features. The toys are even able to sense when another interactive figure is nearby and they instantly start “talking” to each other, making you believe you’re right in the middle of a Toy Story film.

Has anyone bought their own figures yet? What are some of the special sayings you’ve heard when putting the toys together?

I don’t know about you, but I’m bringing all of mine to the cinema this Friday to watch Toy Story 4! We hope to see you there!

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Toy Story 4 Is Only 10 Days Away – Catch Up Now On All The Teasers And News

Round-Ups, Tin Toy, Toy Story, Toy Story 4

Posted by Joanna • June 11, 2019

The wait is nearly over, Pixar fans – Toy Story 4 is only ten days away! Pixar have done a great job with their advertising as usual: lots of trailers, teasers, sponsors, and merchandise, but not so much that we feel like we know the plot inside out already. Yes, we know Bo Peep is back. Forky is definitely going to play a major role. But how central are the characters of Duke Caboom, Gabby Gabby, Giggle McDimples, and Ducky and Bunny going to be?

It’s difficult to keep up with all the new Toy Story 4-related news when we’re so close to the release date, so here’s a quick ‘Woody’s Round-Up’ to bring you all up to speed.

Teasers Galore!

Here is the latest of many Toy Story 4 teasers that have been posted on Pixar’s YouTube channel. You can catch up on all the others here.

A lot of the teasers don’t feature too much new footage, but you can get a better feeling for the pacing of the different scenes in these shorts clips as opposed to the trailers. Here, you can totally tell that Bo and Duke’s relationship is going to be hilarious.

Best Friends 4 Ever

Tom Hanks (Woody) and Tim Allen (Buzz) explored their friendship, both within and outside the Toy Story universe, in Pixar’s video celebrating National Best Friend Day. It’s heartwarming. It’s charming. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted.

“Oh, but I have the most fabulous line you could ever have: ‘Come on, guys!‘”

We should attempt to count how many times Woody says that in the Toy Story series.

The Best Friend Day festivities even continued at Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World, where a press conference was held alongside a Toy Story 4 screening. And the initial reactions have been amazingly positive!

Keanu Reeves is stood next to a giant Buzz Lightyear and everything is okay in the world. From left to right: Tom Hanks (Woody), Annie Potts (Bo Peep), Tim Allen (Buzz), Tony Hale (Forky), Christina Hendricks (Gabby Gabby), Keanu Reeves (Duke Caboom).

Toy Story 4 To Feature Lots Of Easter Eggs

Pixar is famous for throwing in a few well-hidden Easter eggs into their movies – the Pizza Planet truck is always fun to locate, as well as the Luxo ball, throwbacks to previous films, and hints at future characters (remember when Duke Caboom casually showed up in Jack-Jack’s crib in Incredibles 2?). Apparently Toy Story 4 is going to feature a ton of these fun Easter eggs. The antique shop setting lends itself well to this kind of game.

Hey, doesn’t that tin toy look kind of familiar?

 

We can’t wait to discuss Toy Story 4 with you all when it releases in theatres on June 21st!

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Logo For Monsters Inc. Series ‘Monsters At Work’ Revealed

Monsters At Work, Monsters, Inc.

Posted by Joanna • June 11, 2019

‘Monsters At Work’ is an upcoming animated series exclusive to the  Disney streaming service Disney+ (set to launch in November of this year), and its logo has just been revealed.

It’s simple, and it works! The little nut representing the ‘O’ in work is a nice touch.

‘Monsters At Work’ is being produced by Disney Television Animation. It will take place just six months after the events of Monsters Inc., and it’s already been confirmed that Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and many other voice actors will be reprising their roles. Along with this, new characters include Tylor Tuskmon, Bernard, Val Little, and Duncan. Tylor Tuskmon has made his debut in the image below:

Tylor is a young mechanic who dreams of working alongside Mike and Sulley. We’re rooting for him already!

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Classic Comedians (Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, and Betty White) Cast As Instant Classic Toy Story 4 Characters

Toy Story 4

Posted by Joanna • June 5, 2019

Toy Story 4 has thoroughly proved that it’s going to include a lot of new, original characters. Forky already seems to have embedded himself into the most memorable of Toy Story characters, and Ducky and Bunny are making their mark too. Under a month before its release, we’re still discovering more new characters that we’re going to have the pleasure of meeting.

Courtesy of USA Today, we now know that comedy greats Betty White, Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner, and Mel Brooks will have small roles in Toy Story 4 as toys that Bonnie has outgrown. What’s even more amazing is that these toys have names inspired by the names of the actors lending their voices to them:

  • Betty White is Bitey White
  • Carol Burnett is Chairol Burnett
  • Carl Reiner is Carl Reineroceros
  • Mel Brooks is Melephant Brooks

You can guess who’s who from the character names: Bitey White is a teething toy!

Betty White, Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner, and Mel Brooks are comedy legends (averaging an age of 93!) – we have no doubt that no matter how small their roles are, they’ll light up the whole scene.

Being forgotten about is a fear that Woody is very familiar with: in Toy Story he was afraid of being overshadowed by Buzz, Toy Story 2 introduced the worry of becoming broken and gathering dust on a shelf, and in Toy Story 3 he was set aside with the rest of the gang in a chest of Andy’s old playthings. This must be a fear that this new early-ages cast of toys must have already grown accustomed to. Hopefully the introduction of Forky hasn’t made Woody doubt his place in his owner’s heart again.

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10 Things You Might Not Have Noticed In The New Onward Trailer

Onward, Trailer

Posted by Joanna • June 3, 2019

Pixar surprised us with a new trailer for its first 2020 movie on Thursday. You can watch the trailer for Onward (directed by Monsters University‘s Dan Scanlon) below:

It’s a great trailer – it shows off the movie’s weird but stunning world, and also proves its sense of humour and heart. Very little is ever given away in these early-on trailers, but we’ve been doing some detective work to try to glean every bit of information from what we’ve been given. Here are 10 things you may or may not have noticed from the trailer.

1. The ‘Under Bridge’ Transportation Authority

At first glance, it might just look like a troll is operating a toll bridge booth (because why not?). But if you look more closely, these drivers seem to be paying to go under a bridge. This is probably a reference to the ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’ fairytale, in which a troll lives under the bridge that the three goats want to cross. Notice how the sign underneath the troll worker says ‘cash or riddle’!

2. The skyscrapers have turrets

Take another look at the city in the background – the skyscrapers have turrets! To begin with, it looks like the city itself lacks a lot of the fantastical design, but it seems like fantasy is everywhere. Also – that design on the construction cone? Lovely.

3. Residents of New Mushroomton have satellite

It’s so cool seeing a suburban setting except with mushroom houses. New Mushroomton seems to be the name of elf brothers Ian and Barley’s hometown, and look – they have satellite! A lot of the mushroom houses have been fitted with satellite dishes, but also phone lines and electrical wires.

4. Even New Mushroomton’s garden ornaments are mushroom-inspired

Look behind this pool-lounging mermaid – she has little garden lamps on her lawn, and they look just like toadstools! As an aside – I wonder how mermaids live in the suburbs? Is she trapped in this make-shift pool forever, or..?

5. The plane has a mythical creature logo

We can’t totally make out what the creature is, but if you peer closely at that plane, its branding is definitely based off of a mythical creature. Perhaps a sitting dragon? A unicorn? What do you think?

6. Even the simplest objects look fancy

Once you start looking at a screencap from this trailer, it’s hard not to get wonderfully lost in the details. Even things like lawnmowers and microwaves look like they’d belong in The Lord of the Rings somehow. There’s a kind of floral, elvish design that runs through Ian’s whole home.

7. Barley’s a fan of some great-sounding bands

If you look closely at Barley’s clothes, it’s covered in badges and logos – the one that you can see below is more than likely spelling out ‘HYDRA’, as evidenced by the font’s many dragon-like heads. A hydra is a mythical beast with mutiple, or even multiplying, heads (think back to Disney’s Hercules). Pixar are so amazing at going the extra mile – I’m sure this movie’s going to be brimming with genius logos that many of us will probably never notice.

8. Is Barley’s car called Gwynivere?

The registration plate on Barley’s car spells out ‘Gwniver’, suggesting that it has a name that would fit in great in any classic fantasy novel. The car make is ‘Valor’.

9. The car radio brand is ‘Siren’

When Barley starts up his car, you very briefly get to see this logo on his car’s radio system. It looks like the brand, and it’s called ‘Siren’. This would make sense since sirens, in myth, were said to be dangerous creatures, half-bird and half-woman, who would use song to lure lost fishermen off course. They would then climb onto their ships and kill them, presumably.

10. Halt!

And last but not least – the stop signs in New Mushroomton are not stop signs at all, but rather ‘halt signs’. Very Dungeons and Dragons. This sign can be seen as Ian shoos away those feral unicorns.

 

So – did any of you spot all these details? I think it’s great that even a simple trailer under 2 minutes long has so much to dissect. It just goes to show you how much work goes into a Pixar movie.

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