Audiences were first introduced to the world of Toy Story in 1995, and nine years after we last saw them in the third installment of the franchise, the toys are back with an all-new adventure in Toy Story 4, as they take a road trip that leads them on their own journey of self-discovery and helps them find their purpose. With Andy off at college, the toys are now with Bonnie, whose apprehension about starting kindergarten leads her to create Forky (voiced by Tony Hale), a craft-project-turned-toy that’s struggling to understand how and why he’s even alive. As a result, Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) makes it his mission to teach Forky about what it means to be needed.
At a press day at Walt Disney Studios, Collider got the opportunity to sit down and chat 1-on-1 with actress Ally Maki, who voices one of the newest additions to the Toy Story franchise, Giggle McDimples, a miniature plastic doll who oversees the tiny town of Miniopolis and just happens to be best friends with Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts). During the interview, Maki talked about how mind-blowing it is to be a part of this highly anticipated and long-awaited film, how this opportunity came about, the experience of visiting the Pixar campus, how excited her family is that her character is actually in the movie (after an experience she had with getting almost entirely cut out of a TV series), what Giggle originally looked like, and what she most enjoys about the friendship between Giggle and Bo Peep. She also talked about how she ended up at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with Tiffany Haddish, and which theme park experience she’s still hoping to have.
Collider: How cool is it to see things for this movie, like the Giggle McDimples poster and dolls, or to have your own emoji? What’s it like to be a part of a film that comes with all of that?
ALLY MAKI: I know! It’s honestly mind-blowing. I’m still processing all of it because I feel like I’m going through it, as an actor in the movie, but also as a fan girl. It’s just this whole collision of all these worlds coming together. It’s honestly incredible.
How did this opportunity come about? Did you just get a phone call?
MAKI: I actually got a letter, so randomly that it was bananas. It was this fancy letter on fancy, thick paper, and it had The Incredibles on the top with the letterhead that said, “Pixar,” and it came from Emeryville. It was like, “Dear Ms. Maki, we’d love for you to be a part of this film.” I was like, “Hey, who’s pranking me today? Is this a joke?! What’s happening?” And they gave me this box of special merch, with a Pixar hat and all of the films. I honestly thought it was a joke, for so long. And then, I realized, “Oh, I guess this is real and this is happening. Awesome!”
How does something like that just happen? Did you put out in the universe that you wanted to be a part of a Pixar movie?
MAKI: Honestly, it was crazy. The head of Pixar casting had found a video that I had made. It was a super random video, that I made on a weekend with my friends and my dog, with no budget. It was just something that I wanted to make because I thought it was funny, and it barely got any views. But she saw it, and it resonated with her. That’s really the message that I always tell people. Make your own content because you never know who’s watching, or who it will resonate with.
Obviously, one of the coolest things about getting to be a part of a Pixar movie is getting to go to Pixar. What was that experience like?
MAKI: Oh, my gosh, it was so bananas. It’s everything that you want it to be and more. There are secret passageways. There’s a cereal bar that has every type of cereal you could have. There’s the store that has all of the cool merch. They have the Pixar brand, that you can only get in Emeryville. The animation offices are all themed. There’s a tiki bar. It’s just so bananas. When I went there, I was like, “Okay, I can die happy now. This is a bucket list moment.”
I’ve been there twice, and I’ve wondered why anybody bothers to go home, since anything you could want is there.
MAKI: Right? I know! They have an Olympic pool. The food there is seriously incredible. It’s all farm to table. It’s amazing. They make Giggle McDimples lattes.
When you voice a character for an animated movie, do you also feel a sense of ownership for her? When you look at her, does it feel like she’s a part of you?
MAKI: It does. They said that, any character they cast, they want it to just really be that person. When I walked in, I said, “Hey, what do you guys need from me? Do you need me to do a big voice, or a character?” And they were like, “No, we just want you to be 100% Ally.” I was like, “Really? Okay, cool. That’s awesome!” You instantly feel so safe and so protected. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t go to a level 10. It’s like Ally, at a level 12, which is really fun to play with.
Do you have family or friends that are freaking out about the fact that you’re not only a part of a Pixar movie, but also this huge franchise?
MAKI: People are definitely freaking out, especially my family. They knew, but I really downplayed it a lot because, as an actor, you just never know. I had so much PTSD because, when I was 14, I had told my whole family that I was in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and then, I ended up basically getting cut down to a fraction of a second. My uncle was like, “Yo, I told my whole company that you were gonna be on there, and now I’m embarrassed to show up for work.” I was like, “Oh, my gosh, now I’m so embarrassed.” So, when I told everyone, I was like, “I guess I’m in it. I’m not sure.” So then, when they all came to the premiere, everyone was just like, “Oh, my gosh, this is actually real. It’s not just one line. You’re actually a character and a toy in the universe.”
And the smallest, cutest toy.
MAKI: Yes, the smallest toy to exist in the universe.
What were you told about Giggle McDimples, initially? Because animated films evolve so much over time, when did you actually get to see who she would be?
MAKI: Along with that letter, I basically got this really cool black notebook that was the Pixar CIA folder, which I still have hidden in a safe in my house, just because I’m worried that someone’s gonna find it. Inside, it had all of these different drawings of her in different positions and with different expressions, so I already knew that she was gonna be super feisty, but the first iteration of her had a pink bow, and a purple and pink dress. That was the very first idea for her. She was gonna be super cute, but really feisty. And then, over the months, they had me come in and they said, “We have a surprise for you.” I was like, “What?” They said, “We gave Giggle a job.” And I was like, “What is it?” They said, “She’s a police chief. And I was like, “Yes, that’s so awesome!” I love that they think of stuff like that. They said, “We really wanted her to have a presence, especially in a male dominated field, just to show how cool and how powerful she is.” I honestly think that was the most genius idea.
Do you think that the little world that she lives in is enough for her, or do you think she needed more?
MAKI: I know, right? I feel like she did all that she wanted to do in Miniopolis and now she wants to go into the big world. It’s like a rom-com. She’ll find herself in the big city, but then she’ll still want to go back to her roots. She’s livin’ large. I think it helps that she’s got her BFF. That’s her support system. She’s awesome. But I want to know more about Miniopolis, to be honest. It sounds like a cool place.
I feel like there’s a short in there, somewhere.
MAKI: Oh, definitely!
What do you most enjoy about the relationship between Giggle and Bo Peep?
MAKI: I think it’s just awesome how Giggle knows her, through and through. They just understand each other, like when you have that shorthand with a best friend and you don’t even really have to say it because they just already know. I love that about Giggle. Whatever Bo is saying or thinking, Giggle’s already five steps ahead in planning it. Giggle is the one that puts everything into motion and facilitates everything. I love their shorthand. Even if she doesn’t 100% agree with Bo all the time, she’ll still always have her back. That’s what the most important messaging of their friendship is.
They’ve clearly been on some adventures in the Skunkmobile. What do you think they’ve been doing, up until the moment that we meet up with them?
MAKI: Honestly, I feel like they’ve been through a lot together. That’s why they need seven to eight short films, just to explain where they’ve been and what’s happened to them. I want to know more about the Sandbox Crew. I love how the Sandbox Crew of Lost Toys are described as the hippie toys because one kid could play with them one day, and the next day is another kid. That whole sandbox toy hippie life seems really fun. There’s so much to discover.
On an entirely separate note, you recently posted a photo on social media of yourself with Tiffany Haddish at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood. How did that happen?
MAKI: Tiffany and I have the same publicist and publicity team, and I did not know that Tiffany is actually the hugest Harry Potter fan. To go with someone who was actually excited was so much fun. We went in and did the wand selecting together. She literally bought everything. We got to go on all of the rides without any lines, and we had Butterbeer. There was special Butterbeer with these little confections. I was just like, “What world am I living in? This is crazy! We’re here for work. How is that possible?!” It was so fun. She’s so awesome. I hope to work with her, and just hang out with her more, because she’s really cool. No, I just need to go to Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland. That’s literally my dream. We’ll make it happen, and you’ll see it on social media.
Toy Story 4 is now playing in theaters.