I was invited by Walt Disney Studios to the Toy Story 4 press junket however all opinions are my own.
Every once in a blue moon we get the chance to take a journey with an amazing franchise. Toy Story 4 is the culmination of a wonderful franchise. However, behind every wonderful film, there are great directors, producers, and voice actors portraying the characters we all love and adore.
Last week I was able to attend the Toy Story 4 press junket, and it was an incredible experience to be in the same room as some of the characters. I’ve dreamed about this moment over the past 24 years.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me backtrack a little bit so you all can understand some of the back story from the Toy Story franchise.
The Beginning of the Toy Story Franchise
Pixar developed Toy Story back in 1995 at the helms of John Lasseter, and was actually the first fully animated movie. We all immediately fell in love with both Woody, Buzz, and the whole toy gang. It’s quite the understatement to say that Pixar had created a very successful movie.
Toy Story 2 was released in 1999 directed by John Lasseter again and produced by Pixar for Walt Disney Pictures. It is the sequel to Toy Story and the second film in the Toy Story franchise. In this film, Woody is stolen by a toy collector, prompting Buzz Lightyear and his friends to vow to rescue him, but Woody is then tempted by the idea of immortality in a museum.
Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Jim Varney, Annie Potts, R. Lee Ermey, John Morris, and Laurie Metcalf all reprise their character roles from the original film. They are joined by Joan Cusack, Jodi Benson, Kelsey Grammer, Estelle Harris, and Wayne Knight, who voiced some of the new characters introduced.
And the Toy Story Legacy Continues…
Toy Story 3 was released in 2010. It was directed by Lee Unkrich, the editor of the first two films and the co-director of Toy Story 2. Written by Michael Arndt, while Unkrich wrote the story, along with John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, who respectively director and co-writer of the first two films.
This story was about how Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and their friends accidentally are donated to a daycare center as their owner, Andy prepares to leave for college. In the film’s ensemble voice cast, Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, R. Lee Ermey, John Morris, and Laurie Metcalf reprise their roles from the first two films with Joan Cusack, Estelle Harris and Jodi Benson also reprise their roles of Jessie, Mrs. Potato Head and Barbie, from Toy Story 2.
Jim Varney, who voiced Slinky Dog in the first two films, died 10 years before the release of the third film, so the role of Slinky was passed down to Blake Clark. Joining in this film are also Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton, Whoopi Goldberg, Timothy Dalton, Kristen Schaal, Bonnie Hunt, and Jeff Garlin who voice the new characters introduced.
Toy Story 4
Fast forward to this month and Toy Story 4 comes out June 21st 2019! This will be the fourth installment of the Toy Story franchise and the sequel to 2010’s Toy Story 3. It is directed by Josh Cooley (in his feature directorial debut) from a screenplay by Andrew Stanton (who had co-written the first three films) and Stephany Folsom. The three also conceived the story alongside John Lasseter (director of the first two installments in the franchise), Rashida Jones, Will McCormack, Valerie LaPointe, and Martin Hynes.
The film stars the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, and Joan Cusack.
The film continues from Toy Story 3, where Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear, among their other toy friends, have found new appreciation after being given by Andy to his sister, Bonnie. They are introduced to Forky, a spork that has been made into a toy and embark on a road trip adventure. The film is dedicated to Rickles (passed away of kidney failure in 2017) who voiced Mr. Potato head and animator Adam Burke, who died from lung cancer in 2018.
The Toy Story 4 Press Junket
The press junket was broken up into two sections. For the first part, we were able to interview:
- Tim Allen (voice of “Buzz Lightyear”)
- Keanu Reeves (voice of “Duke Caboom”)
- Christina Hendricks (voice of “Gabby Gabby”)
- Director Josh Cooley
- Producer Jonas Rivera
- Producer Mark Nielsen
Both Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves are new to the Toy Story franchise; however, their characters fit them perfectly. Director Josh Cooley said that when they cast these roles, they didn’t want to see faces. Their process to cast actually starts in the casting department where they bring in a bunch of recordings. They then turn over the headshots so they don’t see who the person is behind the voice.
Christina, who voices Gabby Gabby said that she hit it off with the producers and director as she likes all kinds of weird things. She even joked that as a child she wanted a ventriloquist. (which she never got) However, as an adult, she finally got herself one. She thought it was quite funny since Gabby Gabby has a couple of henchmen by the name of Benson who just happens to be ventriloquists.
Keanu, who voices Duke Caboom, was honored to be part of such a wonderful legacy. In Toy Story 4, Duke Caboom is similar to Evel Knievel but Canadian. In real life, Keanu grew up in Canada, and so the Pixar family was ecstatic to learn he would be voicing the part!
Tim Allen, the veteran of this group, was happy by the legacy that director Josh Cooley, and producers Mark Nielsen and Jonas Rivera, were able to bring to life. Having played Buzz Lightyear for 25 years, he never thought it would ever turn into something as big as this franchise or even a section of a theme park.
During the second part of the junket, we interviewed:
- Tom Hanks – (voice of “Woody”)
- Annie Potts (voice of “Bo Peep”)
- Tony Hale (voice of “Forky”)
- Director Josh Cooley
- Producer Jonas Rivera
- Producer Mark Nielsen
Another new character we get to see in Toy Story 4 is Forky who is voiced by Tony Hale, Tony is also new to the Toy Story franchise. When asked about his involvement in the franchise, he thought it was the perfect fit since he had so many similarities to Forky.
Annie Potts, who voices Bo Peep, said she was thrilled they decided to bring Bo back into the picture for this movie. She has loved the character from the beginning and loves the relationship her character has with Woody.
Tom Hanks returns to voice Woody and was thrilled by how well the franchise has been received from audiences everywhere. Looking back, Tom thought this would never be as big as it is today. There are now dolls and toys everywhere! He also loves that his own children will always see him as Woody.
If you ask me, it is a great legacy to be a part of. To get a scoop on some of the questions that were asked during the press junket, here is my youtube video you can watch.
If you want to know about my opinion on the film check out my Toy Story 4 review!