Sporks are going to be the newest sensation, thanks to Pixar. Typical of them, right?
THREE-IN-ONE – He’s not a fork. He’s not a spoon. And most of all, Forky is not a toy! At least that’s what he thinks. Bonnie created him from an assortment of supplies Woody’s retrieved from the kindergarten trash can. So, it’s no wonder Forky feels strongly that he’s trash and not a toy.
I got to make a Forky of my very own while at Pixar! Mine was a bit plain, but then his eyes became lopsided and he started to resemble Bonnie’s Forky. Just a little bit. I regret not taking advantage of all the glitter we were given.
Animator Claudio De Oliveira supervised our arts and crafts session, and he walked us through Forky’s creation. The studio’s artists made many versions of the spork-turned-toy before settling on his final design.
De Oliveira began by focusing on Forky’s limitations because ideas would flow from there. And flow they did. Truth to materials is the principle that was touched upon repeatedly in each presentation, and that’s what Forky’s design adheres to as well. De Oliveira had to explore the ways Forky would be able to convey emotion with his minimal movement. Since he has googly eyes he doesn’t blink, and he has to move a certain way because of his plaster/Popsicle stick feet. At first, De Oliveira was somewhat ambivalent about the character because he wasn’t sure how Forky would be powerful, but his potential was unlocked when De Oliveira was working on him at home. Suddenly one of those googly eyes moved and Forky was alive!
But it was Tony Hale’s performance that added the extra bit of life and emotion. Seeing him in the recording booth was honestly such a treat. His expressions provided a wealth of inspiration for animators.
“Tony’s performance as Forky is a comedy salad of confidence, confusion and empathy…served by hilarious spork.”
Claudio De Oliveira presents details about the creation of the character Forky, as seen on the Toy Story 4 Long Lead Press Day, on April 3, 2019 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)
The most side splitting moments of the film, at least of the footage that was screened, involve Forky saying ‘trash’ with longing and jumping into any available trash bin. And actually getting to see Hale squeal and shout just that one word made me laugh even harder as I pictured the movie scenes. Gaining sentience positiviely freaks Forky out, which is why he’s so adamant, in Cooley’s words, “to fulfill his purpose as a spork, but now has a new toy purpose thrust upon him.”
So can you guess where my Forky ended up? That’s right, the trash. He didn’t survive the airport (his legs broke off), and then eventually the rest of him did too. There’s no doubt in my mind that movie Forky would have welcomed such a fate. How does he even stay intact through the entirety of Toy Story 4 anyhow?! There are so many more questions about Forky, too. Producer Jonas Rivera addressed these concerns in a recent interview with Yahoo! Sports. Though Rivera cautions us not to think too deeply about the logistics of the toy/Toy Story universe, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.
“[Forky] is a wrench thrown into the works of the Toy Story universe.”
Now I can’t help but think of an actual wrench with googly eyes and pipe cleaner arms…
Forky creations are photographed on April 4, 2019 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)
The Toy Story 4 art gallery, as seen on March 18, 2019 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)
Getting to make a Forky of my own made me feel like a kid again. And I’m pretty sure lots of people, including adults!, will be gluing googly eyes onto sporks after the film is released. De Oliveira was able to share Forky with his family too. His young children made their own versions of the character and were so ecstatic about him that it’s clear Forky is going to be a memorable and beloved addition to the Toy Story family. What’s more, he also spoke about how young kids will be able to connect to the character because they can make Forky themselves. This idea is further reinforced by Bonnie. She made Forky on her first day of kindergarten when she was feeling anxious, and he instantly brought her joy and comfort. Because Forky is so important to Bonnie, Woody makes it his mission to keep him from harm. And the trash.
Toy Story 4 comes out exactly one month from today, and to mark this, Pixar have released their final trailer for the eagerly anticipated sequel. And guess what? It’s incredible! You can watch it below:
There’s a lot to take away from this trailer: instantly classic lines from old characters, some more glimpses of all sorts of beautiful scenery, a better idea of the plot, and a few moments of wonderful humour. Pixar are always great at teasing us with new footage but not spoiling the whole movie for us.
The trailer alone really demonstrates how much Woody’s character has evolved over the years. He’s gone from selfless to a fault (“Andy needs me!”) to just…admirably selfless (“Bonnie needs Forky!”). He’s still the same old toy, with the same qualities, but he’s learned from his mistakes over the years.
Seeing Bo in different scenes with interesting lighting shows off how Pixar have managed to update her ‘ceramic look’. It’s stunning. And the way Woody is looking at her, I think he might agree.
It’s not all fun and games though: those terrifying ventriloquist dolls (Gabby Gabby’s henchmen?) look like they’re heading towards being even scarier than the cymbal monkey in Toy Story 3.
We have a feeling that this month will just fly by. We’ll all be queuing up to see Toy Story 4 on June 21st before we know it!
It feels like it was only yesterday that Up premiered in cinemas and we fell in love with some of Pixar’s most iconic characters: Carl and Ellie Fredricksen, Russell, Dug, and of course, Kevin. It’s unfathomable to think it’s been 10 years since we all laughed, cried, and went on one of the biggest adventures of our lives as we followed Carl on his epic quest to reach Paradise Falls.
There are obviously a lot of amazing things about Up that still hold the test of time: the breathtaking reveal of Carl’s balloon house as it soars out of the city for the first time; the sweet depiction of Dug and his adoration for his humans; even the delicious villainy of Charles F. Muntz. But the greatest part about Up, and one of the finest moments in animation history, is the opening sequence, otherwise known as Married Life.
What makes the sequence so special is the fact that Up’s director, Pete Docter, decided to tell the story of Carl and Ellie’s relationship without dialogue. I’ve always been a firm believer that you don’t need dialogue to tell a story – so much can be achieved with a subtle glance or the character’s body language, how they carry themselves across the screen or interact with the world around them, that 10+ pages of dialogue can never achieve.
The Married Life opening depicts the entirety of the couple’s relationship without words but through images of their life together, little snippets of the good and the bad parts of any relationship – starting from Carl and Ellie’s wedding and ending with Ellie’s funeral. Their relationship could’ve spanned at least half of the film, there’s even a feature length film in there somewhere about the duo, but it was told brilliantly in less than five minutes. We didn’t need dialogue to tell us that Carl and Ellie were in love and what they went through in the course of their time together. Instead, with the clever way the talented folks at Pixar animated the sequence, we saw their love for each other in the brief glimpses of their relationship as they built their dream home and worked at the zoo. We saw their hopes about the future and their goals of traveling to South America and starting a family. We saw how they were able to overcome adult problems like home-owning and having a flat tire, and we even saw their struggles with infertility and how that affected them both in different ways.
Another reason why Married Life works so well is because of Michael Giacchino’s heartbreaking score; the sequence simply wouldn’t be the same without it. If you closed your eyes while listening to Giacchino’s Married Life theme, you could almost picture the story, scene by scene, in your head. The melodies that follow Carl and Ellie on their journey together are simple and just as unique as the old-fashioned couple; the score perfectly follows the ups and downs of their relationship, giving us some lighthearted and catchy tunes while also pulling at our heartstrings at the more somber moments. Michael Giacchino even went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Score for his work on Up at the 82nd Academy Awards.
I have no doubt in another 10, 20, or even 30 years, the Married Life sequence in Up will still break our hearts and fill us with as much joy and devastation as it did the very first time we watched it. The opening sequence is a testament to the brilliance of animation and that with this art form, there are SO many ways to tell a story; not everything has to involve dialogue or spelling it out for the audience.
So, happy 10 Year Anniversary, Up! And congratulations again to all the amazing and incredibly talented people who worked on the project many moons ago. Adventure is out there!
Learning how Pixar movies get made is a little daunting. For anyone who doubts just how rigorous this process is for animated films, let the artists, writers, technicians, and animators lay those doubts soundly to rest! During my Pixar visit last month, I was wowed by the way a specific scene in Toy Story 4 gets made. Read on to learn more and wow yourself!
From Start to Finish: Creating a Scene in Toy Story 4
This presentation was moderated by nine people, which is still just a small portion of the crew who worked on this particular scene, Meet Gabby Gabby. Things start off even smaller with just four people: the writer, director, story supervisor (Valerie LaPointe on this film), and editor. The writer and director have a basic story and it’s LaPointe’s job to detail that story, with the concept and characters. LaPointe supervises a team of story artists, who contribute gags, character ideas, and key narrative points, in addition to drawing the film!
There’s many steps involved in building a scene, but the first and most crucial begins with the script. Everything is written and broken down into about 30 sequences. Then the artists draw the scene. By this point, the director (Josh Cooley), writer (Stephany Folsom), story artist, and LaPointe read the script, give feedback, toss out ideas, and ask questions. With all of that material, the story artist can now visualize all of those ideas on the pages, which is called ‘thinking on paper.’ This includes shots, acting, and posing. Remember that animated films are made entirely from scratch; the actors in any given scene are the animators giving physical performances through the characters; the sets, shots and props have to be created too, all inside the computer.
“When you’re a story artist, you’re taking the first stab at everybody else’s job on the film with thinking through the entire scene.”
The story artists, in a truly stunning feat, draw every frame of the shot. There’s anywhere from 100 to 300 storyboards/drawings in the sequence. These drawings get pitched digitally to the director, writer, editor, and story team, which is similar to how LaPointe presented the drawings to us in Pixar’s theater. If you’ve ever watched the special features on Pixar’s home releases, you have an idea of what these pitches involve. The drawings are displayed as the artists use sound effects and special voices to “sell the scene” they’re working on. They receive feedback and changes from the rest of the team and then it’s back to the (digital) drawing board. When those changes are complete, the scene goes to the editorial department, who are responsible for making a watchable movie.
The folks in editorial add more sound effects, as well as scratch (temporary) voices for the characters before the actors record their lines. A reel with the drawings, sounds, and voices represents the film, which goes through lots of rewrites and drawing fixes. This process lasts one to three years, but the typical timeframe is two.
Now we are ready to meet Gabby Gabby! Some background on this scene: Woody and Forky wind up in an antique store, where they come across the vintage doll in a baby carriage. She’s out on her morning stroll with her henchman, Benson, a ventriloquist dummy. LaPointe provided the scratch voice for Gabby in this early stage, and she sounded great! Christina Hendricks voices the doll in the completed film, and that’s who I thought we were hearing at first.
Think of scene building as you would of the set design in a live action movie or TV show. The story is the set and all the props are what the editorial department add to the scene. In this case, the “props” are dialogue, sound effects, and music. Axel Geddes, who’s been editing Pixar films since Monsters, Inc. in 2001, was the sole representative from editorial for this presentation, but in reality, there’s a large team of editors and assistant editors who put the film together repeatedly. Editorial is really the center of every department as shots go through the production pipeline. A shot moves through the pipeline but it is frequently returned to editorial to make sure it contributes to the overall film.
So what’s the editing process like? Well, a stack of virtual images from the story department is sent to editorial. As previously mentioned, the reels are the film, and they contain the storyboards, which act as the foundation. The editorial team uses their temporary dialogue as building blocks for the scene which determine the performances and other aspects, like how long to hold a specific pose. And those performances are the tools to build each shot. As Geddes explained, the editorial team are the second actors for these characters; they inhabit them. Once the performances are timed out, the scene can be edited.
Animation editing is similar to live action, but editorial decisions are made on each frame rather than each shot. Live action films utilize latent production sounds, but they have to be created for animated films. Sound effects go a long way in establishing the mood and atmosphere of a scene. In Meet Gabby Gabby, the mood was eerie; the creaky wheels on the baby carriage helped with that. Music also strengthens the tone. The editors use preexisting soundtracks before Pixar’s trusted composers are brought in.
We watched Meet Gabby Gabby more than once, and it had evolved each time. Geddes said it was boring to watch the same shot multiple times (“Which is exactly what my job is like”), but I can honestly say that I didn’t find it boring at all. I not only got a glimpse into what he does, but I did it myself! Sort of. The editorial team does a lot of repetitive work, but that’s to ensure that the most compelling version of the story is being told. Variations of the film, some of them vastly different, are screened for internal audiences over a four year period. Meet Gabby Gabby was just one version of the film where the goal was to introduce a brand new villain into Toy Story’s universe.
Supervising technical director Robert Moyer works closely with most of the departments to build assets and shots for the film. After meeting Gabby Gabby, we got some insight into how she was brought to life. She’s a 1957 pull string talking toy who was made around the same time as Woody. The challenge was to make her look doll like rather than human, like animators had to do with Bo Peep. There was a lot to think about: making her look as if she was made of hard plastic and not flesh, how her eyeballs sat in their sockets, the crease of baby fat, and even how her head fits into her neck. Gabby Gabby’s hair also had to look thicker and more metallic, as did the iris of her eyes, so she could appear alive.
Forky is the other challenging character. He had to be believable as something made by a child, but also appealing and consistent with the rest of the Toy Story characters. The crew made Forkys of their own in workshops to determine the basics of his design. Forky looks simple, but he’s made up of more materials than any other character.
We also got to learn about those dummies. Four of them were built, and the crew studied their internal structures which were very complex. Moyer was able to show us why the dummies move the way they do; they had to look as if they’re being supported by someone else. Essentially, everything about them had to feel slightly off, which only enhanced their creepiness.
Location, location, location (sets!)
Pixar sets are usually massive. From the ocean to outer space to the inner workings of the mind, they’ve taken us almost everywhere. In Toy Story 4, there’s the antique store, which is impressive despite its ordinariness. It’s an exciting place for a toy, because they get to stay hidden while moving around and being alive. Set supervisors Thomas Jordan and Stephen Karski walked us through the creation of the antique shop, which is 8,000 square feet and houses more than 10,000 items. A lot of those items were custom made for the movie, but some others were recycled from earlier Pixar films. This set took two years to build.
The antiques mall in the film feels like a city to a toy, not unlike boxes in a basement resembling a sprawling city to a bug! Not only did the antiques mall feel like a city, it looked like one too. The rugs in the aisles are where the customers shop, and toys avoid those. But the items are all arranged by theme and take on the appearance of a city complete with alleyways and neighborhoods.
Camera and Staging LAYOUT – To create a sequence in Disney and Pixar’s “Toy Story 4,” members of the camera and staging team use the storyboards to further explore how best to shoot the sequence. This team determines placement of the virtual cameras, which informs the sets teams where to place set pieces and props. Camera and staging also roughly choreographs the movement of the characters, considering framing, composition, lens, camera angle, stage lines and screen directions. This image shows the team exploring camera placement within the virtual set.
From the sets we moved on to the cinematography, which was managed by layout supervisor Patrick Lin. There is a virtual camera inside the computer which is mathematically true to a physical camera and even mimics the movements of one. So the camera works just like one used on a live action film. Staging places the camera and character on the set and is also concerned with choreographing movements in a scene. And at the same time, Lin is also paying attention to other factors, such as framing, composition, and lights.
This process begins with the story reel which is broken down into shots that form the shooting script. Just like live action, there’s a location scout. In this case, the characters are placed in the antiques mall. Lin and his team worked with sets to find a special area for the moment when Woody and Gabby Gabby meet. Something else we wouldn’t think about are the locations of the story beats, like the route of the carriage ride through the mall, and how it stops at the right moment when the clock chimes in the scene. According to Lin, it’s the most complex set he’s seen in his 22 years at the studio.
As we learned, editorial actually makes the film twice: first with story and second with camera and staging.
Now that we know how and why each of these disciplines contribute to this scene, we can see how the characters are animated, courtesy of supervising animators Scott Clark and Robert Russ.
“As animators, we craft the physical and emotional performances of the characters you see on the screen.”
The expressions and movements are influenced by the emotions and vice versa. Like Bill Reeves said at an earlier presentation, animation is Pixar’s crown jewel. That doesn’t make the other departments any less important, as I hope this post demonstrates! They are all responsible for the success of this scene just as much as the animation, and Toy Story 4 overall.
Every piece is working in tandem to tell the story. We got to see different versions of this scene and how the changes made were more effective in communicating emotion. On the technical side of things is truth to materials, a principle that Pixar takes very seriously. Although it’s a limitation, that’s a good thing: the animators work twice as hard to achieve specificity for a character.
Lighting is one of the most appealing things about all of the studio’s films! Director of Photography Jean-Claude Kalache informed us that the lighting emphasizes the animation performances. For example, by turning the lights off, the characters have to perform through silhouettes. Lighting was so important because of its relation to the film’s theme. According to Josh Cooley:
“Our purpose in life is a moving target. The only constant is change.”
Toy Story 4 is a story all about change, as Woody discovers that there is much more to being a toy than what he’s always strongly believed. The lighting had to reflect that transition of our beloved cowboy.
LIGHTING — To create a sequence in Disney and Pixar’s “Toy Story 4,” the lighting department is responsible for lighting the scene in a way that supports the story—in this case, using shadow and color to help convey the tone of the sequence as it progresses from uncertain to mildly menacing.
Some of the lighting techniques for Meet Gabby Gabby began dark and then ended brightly. Soft light turned harsh, cool tones became warm. The doll herself even has her own villain color, a sickly green that signifies her presence at any point in the film. Gabby Gabby is physically trapped, so there was a lot of light on her eyes. Woody is mentally trapped, so his eyes are shadowed. The antiques mall, which took three months to light, was also a major shift from Bonnie’s room. There’s no real sense of location or geography there, and even all the dust had a purpose, for chase scenes and for simplifying the backgrounds.
There isn’t a specific order to this process after the script because all of the departments overlap with one another. The goal was to recreate the intimate level of collaboration from the first Toy Story all those years ago. It’s easy to take all of this for granted, Pixar’s stories unfolding before our very eyes. And it’s all the more impressive when you realize that you never really have to think about this stuff, until Pixar gives you the opportunity to see how it’s all done. That doesn’t lessen any of the magic; it’s actually made a lot more tangible.
Maybe you’ll be thinking about all of this when you meet Gabby Gabby when Toy Story 4 opens next month. And don’t forget to check back here for more posts about my incredible time at Pixar!
Unbelievably, Up turns 10 years old at the end of the month. There’s nothing like one of your favourite movies reaching a monumental birthday to make you despair over the relentless passage of time. 10 years is a long time. Pete Docter, the director of Up, has since become the chief creative officer at Pixar, which just goes to show you how much a person can grow over the course of a decade.
This got us thinking: where would Carl, Russell, and the crew be 10 years after the events of Up? Obviously there’s not just one answer to this, so let’s explore the different possibilities for each character.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: NO. CARL IS NOT DEAD. That option is not going to be considered. Carl Fredricksen is currently still enjoying the adventure of his life and you can’t convince me otherwise. During the main events of Up, Carl is 78, so now he’ll be at the grand age of 88. Charles Muntz was 92 and still a fully-functioning owner of a blimp full of talking dogs. Who knows what Carl could still be capable of?
We can see from the stills during the end credits that Carl fully embraces his new role as Dug’s master. I think because he understands so deeply the loneliness that elderly people can experience, Carl would find a lot of happiness in training up Dug’s pups to become loving companions to those in need.
Carl and Russell are no doubt looking forward to the next Star Wars movie too, and hopefully they’re enjoying all the spin-offs.
Russell was a sweet 9 year old Wilderness Explorer, so now he’ll be 19! I can imagine Russell still getting a lot of enjoyment from learning about the huge diversity of animals on the planet (“There are no tigers in South America. Zoology.”), and he’ll definitely want to explore the world one day. Finally earning his ‘Assisting the Elderly’ badge (and, of course, the Ellie badge), might have put things into perspective for him a little though. Maybe Russell is making the most of his time with Carl, maybe he’s volunteering in a care home, or maybe he’s become a Wilderness Explorer Leader, training up a whole new generation of helpful wildlife enthusiasts.
Whatever he’s up to now, he’ll be doing it out of kindness and curiosity because, wow, he’s a good kid.
Let’s assume Dug was a young dog during the events of Up, because no one likes to think about dogs not being alive any more. A decade later, Dug is probably enjoying a slower pace of life alongside his master, Carl (and possibly alongside some of his puppies). Hopefully that talking collar is still functioning! Dug had a hard start in life, so what he really deserves is a great long life just doing what normal dogs do: lounging in the garden, chasing squirrels, begging for food, and insisting on sleeping on the double bed at night.
Kevin, as ever, is a mystery. Who knows how long the mythical ‘Snipe’ lives? Bird can live for a pretty long time (ostriches can live up to 45 years), so let’s all agree that Kevin is alive and well and raising her 15th brood of chicks. The tropical ‘Snipe’ population in Paradise Falls will have had a boost through conservation efforts sparked by Carl and Russell’s awareness campaigns. Maybe Kevin still thinks about her human friends sometimes, or maybe she just misses chocolate.
Up did an amazing job of showing that all of life’s ventures are adventures in themselves. Yes, perhaps on paper – or on screen – Carl and Russell’s trip to Paradise Falls was the most exciting event of their lives, but I’m sure that experience has taught them that every memory is of value. It’s 10 years later, and their adventure has only continued.
Ellie would be proud! And I can imagine their house still sitting right beside Paradise Falls, slowly returning to nature with plants growing over the windows and birds nesting in the chimney. I don’t think Ellie would want it any other way.
This is just one post out of a series to celebrate Up‘s 1oth anniversary. We’d love to hear your memories and thoughts – leave us a comment, or tweet us and use #Up10th! Where do you see the cast of Up now?
The next exciting addition to Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure has been revealed!
Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
The new ride couldn’t have a more fitting name – Inside Out is an emotional whirlwind in itself. Guests will be able to have a whirlwind tour of the shelves of memories by jumping onto one of 8 ‘Memory Movers’. It looks like the ride will be doing a great job of reflecting the colourful look of the movie it’s based on. Pixar Pier will look more magical than ever when the ride is opened this Summer!
The ride has even come with a bunch of beautiful posters, each representing the different areas of Riley’s mind. Take a look at the ‘subconscious’ poster below (where Sadness and Joy encountered all of Riley’s worst fears: Granny’s vacuum cleaner, broccoli, the stairs down to the basement, and Jangles the clown) – is that an oddly familiar ventriloquist doll hiding behind Jangles? A Toy Story 4 reference perhaps?
Well folks, Toy Story 4 is coming to cinemas June 21st, which is NEXT month! And that only means one thing: we’re going to be showered with numerous campaigns and merchandise and all things Toy Story 4 related for the next 43 days and honestly, we cannot be more excited.
Here’s a round-up of some charming Toy Story 4 centred events and products you can pick-up in stores:
If you’re going to be visiting Orlando anytime in the near future, check out the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival at Walt Disney World – where you’ll see stunning Toy Story 4 topiary set-ups like the one of Bo Peep below:
Do you love cereal? And most importantly, are you a Toy Story fan? (I mean, you have to be, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this). Well, you’re in luck, because Kellogg’s has released their own Toy Story 4 cereal in preparation for the film’s release. They’re calling their new product “Carnival Berry” which is Kellogg’s spin on the delicious and sugary berry Froot Loops taste.
And finally, there’s a new set of adorable Toy Story 4 books on the market focused on 3-6 year olds. The books are called, Toy Story 4 Toy Box: Words to Play By and there are 5 books that focus on the famous Toy Story characters while highlighting their most inspirational and hilarious “words of wisdom.” The books were written by Suzanne Francis and illustrated by Jerrod Maruyama.
It’s safe to say we’ll definitely be buying ALL the Toy Story 4 cereal boxes and picking up copies of Words to Play By for all of our friends and loved ones. We can’t wait to see what new merchandise products Disney/Pixar release soon. To infinity, and beyond!
Just like Trixie, we have a lot of questions about Pixar’s new teaser trailer introducing the Canadian daredevil Duke Caboom. Watch below and prepare to be blown away with awesomeness:
First of all, how many poses can Duke Caboom really do? Is he Canada’s only daredevil? How does he style his goatee so perfectly? And why is he so freakin’ cool?
In the teaser, we watch a vintage style advert showcase Duke riding his motorcycle, doing dangerous jumps through hoops, and somehow managing to pose on his ride as he soars through the sky. The trailer then cuts to a child playing with a Duke Caboom toy as she attempts to replicate his famous jumps through a hoop set. We quickly find out, a la typical Toy Story fashion, that these toys can’t do what they’re advertised for. Just like in the original Toy Story, Buzz discovers he can’t really fly but Duke Caboom already seems to know that everything’s all a facade, as he utters the line: “It’s a commercial, it’s not real! I can’t jump that far!” It will definitely be interesting to see how Duke interacts with Buzz, Woody, and the rest of the gang and what role he has in this new adventure. Duke Caboom is also voiced by real life action star Keanu Reeves, so we’re all definitely in for a massive treat.
In addition to the teaser, Pixar also released some stunning new character posters that show Buzz, Woody, and Bo Peep giving their best action hero pose as we near even closer to Toy Story 4‘s June 21st release. It seems like everyone is inspired by Duke…
Toy Story 2. Finding Dory. Cars 3. Incredibles 2. Toy Story 4.
What do these films have in common? They’re Pixar sequels with female protagonists. In Toy Story 2, Woody was still the main character, but Jessie very nearly stole the show. She was just so spunky, vivacious, tough and vulnerable. If Pixar universes did overlap, I like to think she would be Ellie’s favorite doll! (And Ellie would’ve kept her forever). Dory was the focus of Finding Dory. Andrew Stanton was compelled to return to that world because there were so many questions he needed answers to about the blue tang. Cars 3 justified its existence with the inclusion of the sunny yellow Cruz Ramirez. Last summer’s Incredibles 2 gave Helen Parr the spotlight. “Parenting is a heroic act.” So she was always a hero even before the Deavors let her have her own glory.
When it was announced that Bo Peep would return in Toy Story 4, I was ecstatic, but not surprised.
It’s why I ignored much of the hand wringing over Toy Story 4. I know Pixar doesn’t make films solely for the box office returns, and I wasn’t worried about the direction the studio was headed. People say there’s too many sequels. But there are also original projects. And Pixar is still taking risks. Toy Story 3 ended on such a perfect note; the series was the rare trilogy where every film was excellent. So Toy Story 4 does represent a great risk. How will they outdo themselves? Seeing Pixar’s track record of introducing or centering female characters in its sequels made me all the more eager to see Bo Peep again.
The filmmakers began their Bo Peep research by watching the first two films in the series. Bo was confident, flirty, and Woody’s voice of reason. She was his confidante. And as they began to think of ways to bring her back for the fourth film, they knew she would have to be the driving force behind Woody’s change. The challenge then became to turn her from a tertiary character into a main one.
The goal was to give Bo dimension. In one of the film’s clips, we see her take the lead in staging a toy’s rescue. Just as Woody was the leader of Andy’s room, she was the leader in Molly’s. Unlike Woody, she can’t be in the room forever. She’s part of a lamp; a baby lamp at that. She doesn’t have the long life of a toy like Woody and Buzz. Once that baby grows up, she’s gone. The story team, led by supervisor Valerie LaPointe, also thought about Bo’s life in the intervening years. Where were the most unexpected places they could take her? Would Andy’s mother have donated her, or would she be tossed out? How did the antique shop, one of the new locations in the film, shape her? Could she even be a Robin Hood type? And would she have given up toy life or want to remain one? There was something else to consider too. Bo Peep is made out of porcelain, so maybe she just wanted to be safe.
Eventually, they decided that Bo chose to live as a lost toy. But getting lost is such a terrible fate for a toy. How did that become something positive?
This is the Bo Peep we’ll be reunited with on June 21st: she’s someone who didn’t want to sit on a shelf and just wait for life to happen to her. She takes chances and is a bit unpredictable. Bo doesn’t play by toy rules and she even breaks away from her original toy mode. From what I saw at Pixar, the story team has stayed true to Bo. They used knowledge from Toy Story and Toy Story 2 as the base for molding her into a character with more to do. She’s playful, silly, a little sarcastic, but still caring too. And Bo, unlike Woody, knows the realities of the world. He’s been sheltered for so long. Another goal for the story was to figure out the effect she would have on Woody, and the realizations that they each impart on the other.
It’s also worth noting that this presentation was moderated by women only, so that’s one reason why they were so successful in redefining her.
When it came to redesigning Bo, the artists had to strike a balance between reinventing her while also staying true to her original look. Pixar films usually involve research trips, and for this one, they went down to a doll factory in LA. There, they studied how the makers prototype the dolls and all of the thought put into hair, clothing, and shape.
We also saw the original Bo maquette that’s currently in the Pixar archives. They used that sculpt for their redesign of the character.
Drawings by character designer Daniela Strijleva were a huge inspiration in creating Bo’s new design. A Rosie the Riveter inspired drawing also helped them in reshaping her personality. Unfortunately we don’t have a clearer photo of director Josh Cooley’s concept art of Bo, but I hope my description can do it justice. She looked a lot rougher and even had a robot arm!
Another task for the artists and designers was refashioning Bo into an action heroine. They also had to achieve a balance where she could be athletic but still feminine. She needed to be instantly recognizable to audiences. So her dress was flipped inside out and used as a cape. Tiny versions of Bo’s iconic dress were sewed onto dolls for reference too. Viewers had to be reminded that Bo is only 10 inches tall, since her proportions are so human like. Her movements were also decreased to make her appear toy like.
Animating Bo Peep
As supervising animator Patty Kihm explained to us, certain characteristics determine how a character behaves in the world around them. A clear distinction had to be made between classic and modern Bo. Classic Bo was feminine with a dry wit, and prepared to always stay in Molly’s room. Her movements were reserved likely owing to the restrictive dress she wore. Modern Bo still has that dry sense of humor, but she’s matured and is much more independent now. She’s comfortable living on the road and is confident with her new life as a lost toy, along with being a leader. Her new outfit allows her to move freely.
Voice actress Annie Potts was another source of inspiration for the animators. And they added a subtle reminder to the audience that she is indeed porcelain with the crack in her hair. As I mentioned before, Bo is still feminine. The filmmakers wanted her to remain that way, because athletic or heroic women are often portrayed as masculine. (Keep in mind that they weren’t disparaging women who appear masculine, as one of the presenters, directing animator Becki Tower, was pretty masculine herself! Just another example of Pixar’s diverse workforce). One of the things I hoped for with this movie was that Bo wouldn’t evolve into a character lacking warmth or softness, because too often, action heroines are portrayed with masculine personality traits. Thankfully, my hopes were fulfilled! Bo was always sassy, and she still is.
We were very lucky to see the reference footage used by the animators. They studied gymnasts and dancers for their grace and strength to model how Bo Peep would move. Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman was just one gymnast they studied. They noted that she was powerful with strong lines and protected her body. Bo’s staff is also an extension of her body, for her poses and movements. It is not just a prop or accessory. They studied footage of martial arts for her staff movements as well. Bo’s feminine athleticism also adds an interesting layer to her character. The other layer is her knowledge that she knows she can break, but she still chooses to live as a lost toy anyway.
Towards the end, we got to ask questions. I had to mention how Pixar sequels make the female characters more prominent, and asked if it was intentional or part of a pattern. Valerie signed on for the film because Bo Peep was the biggest lure. Although her absence in Toy Story 3 was tastefully done, reminding us that we often lose the people we care about, Valerie still felt that it wasn’t fully addressed. And it just felt natural to make her a multidimensional character. And there’s always been something to mine in her relationship with Woody.
I found myself falling in love with Bo Peep all over again, and it’s clear that the film crew did too! And you all will do the same in just a month’s time.
The advertising for Toy Story 4 is really picking up speed now that we’re entering the final stretch – it comes out in just over a month, and Pixar are making full use of their remaining time to get people talking about the latest Toy Story sequel. Disney and Pixar have invited an amazing total of 14 brands to join in with their promotions campaign.
1. Alaska Airlines
In June, Alaska Airlines will be launching a Toy Story-themed plane featuring the film’s main characters. This is becoming a fun theme now – specially-themed planes have now been created for Toy Story,Coco, Incredibles 2.
2. Babybel® and The Laughing Cow®
These snacks will feature Toy Story characters on their packaging for a limited time, celebrating the release of Toy Story 4. In-store promotions are also set to start rolling out, as well as family activities on Adventure4Family.com – participants will have a chance to win prizes and Toy Story 4 exclusives.
3. Best Western® Hotels & Resorts
4. Blue Diamond Almond Breeze®
Bounty paper towels will be available in a Toy Story 4 print for a limited time – what better way to announce your love for Pixar by giving even your kitchen essentials a Pixar touch?
6. Chrysler Brand
The brand new ‘Chrysler Pacifica’ minivan has a new TV commercial starring the cast of Toy Story 4. Notice how Woody chooses to listen to Radio Disney. Nice. Watch below:
7. The Clorox Brand
9. Go RVing
Interestingly, as Toy Story 4 is following a bit of a ‘road trip’ plot, Disney and Pixar have teamed up with Go RVing to inspire people to take RV road trips of their own.
The craft store JOANN will be holding multiple events and stocking licensed Toy Story 4 craft kits across the US – be on the look-out for Forky craft kits!
11. Juice Juice®
In Walmart stores, specially marked boxes of Kellogg’s® cereal will include a free Toy Story 4 window decal. There will be 5 in total to collect. These special boxes will be available from May 10th.
Toy Story 4 Happy Meals! A total of ten Happy Meal toys will be up for collection – collect them all and you’ll be able to create a whole carnival.
As if it wasn’t already hard enough not to think about Toy Story 4, all these advertising campaigns will ensure that Pixar’s new movie and its release date (June 21st) will never stray far from the forefront of our minds. Not long to go now. Let us know if you come across any of these special promotions while you’re out and about!