In ABC’s Toy Story That Time Forgot, a post-Christmas play date finds the Toy Story gang in uncharted territory when the coolest set of action figures ever, called Battlesaurs, turn out to be dangerously delusional. It’s then all up to Trixie, the triceratops, if the gang has any hope of returning to Bonnie’s room and the life that they know and love. The cast includes Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz, Kristen Schaal as Trixie, Kevin McKidd as Reptillus Maximus, Wallace Shawn as Rex, Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants, Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head and Joan Cusack as Jessie.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Wallace Shawn talked about what it’s meant to him to be a part of such a beloved franchise for nearly 20 years, what he most enjoys about voicing Rex, how enjoyable it is to help realize the vision of the folks at Pixar Animation Studios, and what’s in store for the Toy Story gang this time around. He also talked about finding out only a day before everyone else that Toy Story 4 was going to happen, and that he’s waiting by the phone for the call to start voice work on it. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Collider: It’s been almost 20 years now, since the first Toy Story movie came out and people were introduced to these characters, what’s it meant to you to be a part of such a beloved franchise and to bring a character like Rex to life?
WALLACE SHAWN: Well, it’s much nicer, I’m sure, than being a part of a hated franchise. I’m sure that would be quite painful. What can I say? I’m very happy when they call me and say, “We’re gonna do something else.” I crawl out of my tragic cave and do something that’s highly amusing for me to do. It’s very nice to think that I’m providing some relief, soothing the suffering of some people out there who get a moment of pleasure from watching the film. It’s great!
What do you most enjoy about voicing a character like Rex?
SHAWN: The characters are in the imagination of the director, really. I am trying, in a way, to get inside that imagination, so that I fulfill their fantasy of what that character is going to be, at that moment. It’s not exactly my fantasy. It’s an animated film, so they don’t say, “Rex can be absolutely anything that you want him to be.” It doesn’t quite work that way. They know what the picture is going to be, roughly speaking. Even though the voice is done before the picture, it has to fit their idea of what the picture is going to be. It’s a little bit more of trying to collaborate with someone else’s imagination than it is leaping into the unknown on your own.
At least you know that you’re in good hands with the folks at Pixar because they clearly know what they’re doing when it comes to animation.
SHAWN: They really know what they’re doing. They’re a very likeable and charming group of people, and it’s very enjoyable to try to realize their vision.
What can you say about the story that’s being told with Toy Story That Time Forgot and what we’ll get to see of Rex, this time around?
SHAWN: Our guys are the innocent Americans that some of us wish we were, and the Battlesaurs are what America really is. It’s a tug-o-war between the impulse to dominate others with brute violence, and Trixie’s attempt to present a more peaceful alternative that’s another way of having fun. The Battlesaurs think that fun comes with violence and destroying enemies, and Trixie is saying, “You know, it’s even more fun to play, in a dreamy way, and to give yourself over to a pleasant ruler – a child.” I believe this myself, that it’s more enjoyable to play in a dreamy way, then to kill other people and fight battles. But it’s an uphill struggle to convince others that that’s a better way, and Trixie is finding it difficult, as well. She does flirt with one of these guys and tries to convert him to her view.
It’s been so great to see these characters kept alive through these various shorts, since the last movie. Now that we know the story is going to continue with Toy Story 4, and we’re going to get to see another full-length feature, when were you made aware of that fact?
SHAWN: Oh, I heard one day before you. I went around for 24 hours with some secret knowledge that would set the world of show business on its ear. I said nothing to anybody. And of course, there have been rumors for years, but I certainly wasn’t counting on it because if they had decided to do it, they would have called us and said so. They obviously didn’t decide until recently.
Have you already started doing voice work on it?
SHAWN: No. I’m waiting by the phone.
Toy Story That Time Forgot airs on ABC on December 2nd, and you can find more details at ABC.