From Disney•Pixar and director Angus MacLane (Small Fry) comes a spooky new tale featuring all of your favorite characters from the Toy Story films. Toy Story OF TERROR! starts out as a fun road trip for the gang, but quickly takes an unexpected turn for the worse when the trip detours to a roadside motel. After one of the toys goes missing, the others find themselves caught up in a mysterious sequence of events that must be solved before they all suffer the same fate. The voice cast includes Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz, Joan Cusack as Jessie, Carl Weathers as Combat Carl/Combat Carl Jr., Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants, Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head, Wallace Shawn as Rex and Kristen Schaal as Trixie.
I have to admit, Toy Story OF TERROR! is so much fun that after watching it, I immediately wanted to watch it again, so naturally, I jumped at the chance to talk to football star turned actor Carl Weathers about his experience making the 30-minute film. During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, he talked about what made him want to be a part of the Toy Story franchise, what he thought when he saw what Combat Carl and Combat Carl Jr. would look like, that the recording process took four days, two of which he got to spend at Pixar, and how he hopes Combat Carl will make another appearance, in the future. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
CARL WEATHERS: It’s really well done. For my part, having been involved in a few animated projects, nothing has quite been as well done. People do their best, but first of all, the Toy Story franchise is such a wonderful franchise and great family entertainment, and it’s such great storytelling. I loved this because all the characters have such well-drawn and well-defined characterization. You know who they are. But even more importantly, it’s such fun. If you could throw yourself back to when you were a child, and you got a chance to sit and watch this in the evening, in your living room or on your computer, or wherever kids can watch stuff nowadays, and you turn the lights off, this might actually scare you, but in a fun way. I thought it was just so well done, and I was just so happy to work with the really talented people who were involved with this.
Had you expressed interest in voicing an animated character for Pixar, or did they come to you with this character?
WEATHERS: In this case, I was approached. I find, so often, having been around long enough now, you look at material and it just doesn’t live up to what one thinks is possible and what one would like to project out into the world. When I was approached by this and sent a concept, and then sent the idea of these characters, I absolutely flipped. First of all, for any actor to have a character that’s rendered on something that you’ve done already, that’s fairly iconic, I guess you could say, with guys who are out in the jungle and fighting things and dressed in camouflage. And then, to have him called Combat Carl, it is just funny, right off the bat. But when you then get such wonderful rendered characters in a story that is fun and traditionally scary, in the horror genre way, but with this wink, here and there, it’s just exciting. I only hope that a lot of kids get to see this because it’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s something that kids can then talk about. They can talk about their favorite characters, what went on in the story, if they were really scared, and all that stuff. I just think it’s great fare.
WEATHERS: Very often, when you get really good material and it’s humorous material, you find yourself laughing while you’re doing it, and really having to control your laughter. If it’s really funny, and it hits your funnybone in just the right way, it’s undeniably charming. When I saw Combat Carl, I just howled because, of course, he’s incredibly muscular, he’s handsome, and he’s got this mustache and this Afro that’s something out of the past. And Combat Carl Jr., with that voice, is me, but then they electronically alter the voice, and that was just funnier than you could have imagined, going into it. I laughed all the way through this.
How did you decide the way you wanted Combat Carl to sound?
WEATHERS: The director, Angus MacLane, was really fantastic and gave me such great direction. He allowed me to just run with it, at times. But, he had a really clear idea of the entire piece and how all of it was to sound and look. So, he guided me, but I was given an awful lot of lee-way, in terms of how Combat Carl was going to sound. Clearly, they wanted Combat Carl to sound like Carl Weathers. They didn’t want it to sound like somebody doing the voice of someone. It was a pleasant surprise because, in a lot of animation, they’re doing voices, instead of having the actors sound like who they sound like. In this, you’ve got Tom Hanks and a host of really wonderful actors, sounding like themselves. So, for Carl Weathers to do Combat Carl and actually sound like Carl Weathers was just a blast.
WEATHERS: I was involved, in total, for about four days. I did a couple days in Los Angeles at Disney, and a couple days at Pixar in [Emeryville]. The people there were just so wonderful and warm and fun to be around, and so inventive and smart. Those four days, two of which were at Pixar, were just so spectacular. I love the Bay Area anyway, so to go up and be on campus and do the work there was just a joy. It really is a great expression of their artistic spirit. At the end of the day, when you look at Pixar product and the movies that Pixar does, it reflects that. It reflects people who are actually enjoying what they’re doing. It was a great journey, with the director and the producers on this.
Do you find yourself taking naturally to the process of bringing a character to life using only your voice, and not having physicality to fall back on to express something?
WEATHERS: It’s interesting work. So often, I’m in places where somebody will say, “I recognized you from your voice.” And that happens literally at least once a week, and sometimes more often. Clearly, there is something in either the deliver or the tone and timbre in my voice that people recognize. So, it’s not that difficult and, in some ways, it’s far more enjoyable and challenging. The idea is to create and to craft a character who has all the range of emotion and expression that one would normally have when you’re excited and can see the person. But in this case, you have to take that, and then have the animators and all the technicians involved create a character and give that character the expressions, emotions and feelings that you’re trying to suggest with the microphone. It’s a lot of fun. It really is.
WEATHERS: From your mouth to God’s ears! I love Combat Carl. One of the things I loved about it most was when Combat Carl was trying to coach Cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack) and get her spirits up. I laughed every time we did that. And then, when I saw it all put together, I just couldn’t stop laughing. I just think he’s a wonderful character. The entire piece is so grounded. All of the characters are so strong that you can see the possibilities for any one of those characters to have stories written about him or her, and I just think that’s wonderful. It’s wonderful to see the cowgirl be the strength of this piece when she musters up the courage to do what she has to do. You don’t see a lot of gender specific stories in animation, or at least I don’t. And to see the cowgirl do what she does, and take charge and be strong, is so cool for all the little girls who will possibly watch this, and all the little boys. So, I’m just really, really pleased to, first of all, have been asked to be a part of it, and then to have it look as good as it looks and sound as good as it sounds and have storytelling that’s so wonderfully done. I couldn’t be happier.
Toy Story OF TERROR! airs on ABC on October 16th.