With regards to his producers, Cooley states, “We worked together on Inside Out, and Up before that. So, it’s interesting, because those were new and no one had any expectations. People loved those films and we’re proud of them, but it’s such an interesting contrast to be on Toy Story 4 where everyone, even the TSA guy at the airport, was like, ‘Don’t mess it up!’”
“And they say it… they’re not afraid to say it,” adds Rivera, a Pixar veteran who as producer, shared the 2015 Best Animated Feature Film Oscar with director Pete Docter for Inside Out. “Families… everyone! But that’s kind of cool at the same time, because people are invested and love Toy Story films. They want more, they just don’t want you to mess it up.”
And so the pressure is on. “We know that the world cares about these characters because we hear it constantly,” Cooley notes. “And we do too. More than probably anybody, we love the world of Toy Story and everyone in it. So… I can safely say nobody put more pressure on me than me.”
With Toy Story 4, Pixar once again returns to Woody’s world, a world that made Pixar a household name and spawned a new generation of computer animators cranking out a succession of more and more sophisticated CG animated films that today count among the most financially successful movies of all-time. Toy Story’s incredible success established Pixar as the most important and successful CG animation studio in the world. Toy Story was directed by John Lasseter from a story he wrote with Pete Docter, Joe Ranft and Andrew Stanton, four animation legends responsible individually and collectively for practically every studio success of the next 20+ years. Toy Story was the studio’s first feature film as well as the first fully computer animated feature film ever made. It’s almost inconceivable today to consider that just prior to the film’s release, many Pixar employees were polishing up their resumes, assuming they’d be looking for work once the film was released… and bombed at the box office.
“Toy Story is the birthplace of Pixar,” Rivera explains. “It’s immensely important to this place. I always think of Woody and Buzz, as the Mickey and Donald of Pixar. So, that was part of the pressure as well, taking on these really important characters. They have incredible meaning, not just to audiences but to everyone at the studio. Moving forward, I feel a little bit like we’re their guardians. This is the end of the Toy Story movies, for the sake of argument, as we’ve always said that each one was kind of the end. But, there’s something really powerful in them… that goes beyond the movies themselves. I grew up loving old Disney movies and animation. To have kids now playing with toys of the things I’ve had a hand in creating, right alongside toys of the things I watched when I was a kid, you can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed when you think about the impact and importance of these positive, sweet characters to the company and to audiences. It’s so much bigger than we are.”
Toy Story 4 marks the cinematic return of Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), two of the most popular and enchanting characters in all of animation, who along with Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark), Hamm (John Ratzenberger) and Rex (Wallace Shawn), share a new adventure with their kid, Bonnie, a family road trip that sees them reunite with Bo Peep (Annie Potts) as well as meet a new set of toys, led by Forky (played by Tony Hale), Duke Caboom (played by Keanu Reeves) and a pair of carnival prizes, Ducky and Bunny (played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele).