The ‘Toy Story’ franchise remains an integral part of Pixar, and we just want the fourth installment to succeed.
Over the years, Pixar Animation Studios has developed a penchant for delayed gratification when it comes to expanding their existing slate. To be fair, if anyone remembers the Circle 7 days, the journey to a Pixar sequel or prequel hasn’t always been easy.
But as the studio focuses on padding out the existing stories of their established characters, more often than not we see films like Toy Story 3, Monsters University and Finding Dory go through that arduous process for ten years, minimum. Long-time fans who grew up being invested in these properties in the first place are then kept anxiously waiting. Even The Incredibles 2, one of the most highly-anticipated movies of the summer season, is so buzzworthy because it’s taken so long for it to arrive on the big screen.
Well, Pixar may be cashing in on the nostalgic memories of millennials everywhere, but their movies actually turn out pretty damn amazing. Toy Story 3, Monsters University and Finding Dory are among the top 20 most profitable animated films of all time, and they were each met with immense critical acclaim upon release. We have no reason to believe that The Incredibles 2 is going to suck either; as evidenced by the footage so far, it seems very likely to knock our socks off and be the ideal follow-up to its 2004 predecessor.
Yet despite Pixar’s immense successes in cultivating their original content into mini-franchises, one sequel has clearly been far more troubled than the others, and that is Toy Story 4. The film firstly suffered multiple delays; its initial 2017 release date was pushed back a year before being swapped out entirely for The Incredibles 2, and it is now expected to hit theaters on June 21, 2019.
Toy Story 4 also lost several members of its primary creative team for various reasons. John Lasseter stepped down from his co-directorial duties on the film in July 2017, handing the reins entirely to Josh Cooley of Inside Out fame. The film’s writers, Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, left the project as well due to “creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences” that stemmed from the lack of support for the women and people of color at the studio itself. Stephany Folsom stepped in as their replacement.
Since then, a Radio Times interview with actress Annie Potts has further revealed an integral detail behind Toy Story 4‘s delay. Potts — who voices Woody’s love interest Bo Peep in the first two Toy Story movies — was always locked in for a bigger role in the latest sequel. One of the biggest selling points of Toy Story 4 several years ago was the fact that it would operate as a standalone sequel that addresses Bo Peep’s absence in the series’ third installment. In what was then deemed a romantic comedy, Woody and Buzz Lightyear would’ve gone out into the world in search of a missing Bo Peep.
Major story changes have evidently taken place since Folsom came onboard to rework the script. Nevertheless, Bo Peep’s role thankfully remains significant. Potts says:
“[Toy Story 4] was supposed to come out this year and then they threw out three-quarters of it and rewrote. Usually, it takes — from start to finish — two years. But because they threw most of it in the bin and started over [my time on the project has] been extended a little bit. I’ve done a lot of work on it.”
Throughout the interview, Potts details the intense and “painstaking” nature of the Toy Story 4 process. Radio Times even states that she thought the film had been canceled altogether for a time; according to Potts, “I didn’t hear from [the studio] in a year and a half.”
Of course, scrapping basically an entire story never sounds like the most prodigious thing. Yet maybe we can seek solace in the fact that the film’s original love story angle remains intact; it certainly keeps the hook of the narrative fresh and provides a new perspective on the lives of these toys. Furthermore, Potts’s excitement over having completed work on Toy Story 4 since the production upsets began (“I have a big part! I’m thrilled!”) definitely feels like some much-needed encouragement amidst the seemingly constant stream of bad news plaguing the production.
Most pertinently, I mostly hope that Potts’s revelations are an indication of a continued upswing for the movie because beyond Toy Story 4 as a film on its own, they would bode well for the legacy of Toy Story as a whole — the importance of which cannot be overstated. The series is so intertwined with Pixar’s reputation as a leading animation studio altogether. Toy Story was an immediate hit, borne out of the efforts of a young studio that needed to prove itself. Toy Story was not only a milestone in the art of animation itself but stuck in our hearts and minds as prime family entertainment that remains smart and relevant more than 20 years after it was released.
And so I’m trying to be as optimistic as possible about Toy Story 4 as the vital next step for one of the most formative franchises out there. Thankfully, the reassurance from Potts’s interview and Pixar’s consistent success rate could help the studio weather the storm of its production woes.