Last month, Collider and a few other journalists trecked to Pixar Studio’s San Francisco campus to learn about the ins and outs of making the highly-anticipated Toy Story 4. In addition to being the most Silicon Valley-esque ode to film tech you can imagine—there’s a case of Oscars when you walk in the door, which is quite the flex—the place is just an absolute dream for animation lovers. Spend a few hours at Pixar and you’ll quickly realize that, in addition to director Josh Cooley and writers Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton, the latest chapter is being crafted by a veritable army of animators, storytellers, artists, designers, photographers, and craftspeople larger than you can possibly imagine.
We got the opportunity to chat with a bunch of them, as well as screen a portion of the film’s gorgeous opening half. Here are 35 plot details, story specifics, and behind-the-scenes facts we learned.
- The film opens with a prologue set between the first Toy Story and Toy Story 2. It’s a dark and stormy night—with Pixar’s state-of-the-art rendering power, that rain looks nearly photorealistic—and Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of the toys have to save RC Car, who was left outside in the flood.
- After the rescue, a friend of the Davis’ comes to collect Andy’s sister’s sheep nightlight and with it, Bo Peep (Annie Potts). This explains the character’s absence from every Toy Story between the original and Toy Story 4.
- Back in present day, Woody accompanies his new owner, Bonnie Anderson, to her first day of kindergarten, where she constructs a Frankenstein’s monster-like “toy” made of a spork, some googly-eyes, and popsicle sticks. With her name slapped on the bottom, “Forky” comes to life, voiced by Veep star Tony Hale.
- If you’re wondering what constitutes a “toy” that can be brought to life, director Josh Cooley isn’t up to ruin the magic. He compares the process (with a laugh) to George Lucas‘ overly-scientific Star Wars prequels. “I almost feel like it’s a bit of a Midachlorian question,” he told us. “Like ‘Explain why that happened!’ ‘Eh, just because.'”
- Forky was a favorite of the animation department because of how gorgeously minimalistic his design is. “Forky is kind of like the punk rock character for me,” said supervising animator Scott Clark. “He’s the opposite of Buzz. He is literally not manufactured, he’s hand-made. There are so many realistic computer graphics out there…We wanted to animate him in a primitive way that felt almost hand-made and that a kid could’ve animated it.”
- Cooley and producers Mark Nielsen and Jonas Rivera shied away from the romantic-comedy label that had been used to describe the film several years ago, comparing it more to an animated Indiana Jones film. “I kind of think of like, Raiders of the Lost Ark isn’t a love story but it has that great romantic element in it,” Cooley said.
- Bo Peep’s return is a huge aspect of the film. Since we last saw her, she’s become a “lost toy”, plaything without an actual kid or a place to call home, which essentially makes her “the thing that Woody is ultimately most afraid of”, says Cooley.
- Once the toys lose Forky on a road-trip—the furthest the franchise has ever traveled from the neighborhood—the film’s first half takes place primarily in two massive, incredibly-detailed locations: A carnival and the antique shop right next door.