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Toy Story 4 Interview: Josh Cooley & Mark Nielsen Explain Toy Life Rules

Toy Story 4 Josh Cooley and Mark Nielsen Interview

Toy Story 4 is getting record review scores and a record opening weekend, but it's a movie some thought never would happen after its predecessor offered a worthy conclusion to the trilogy. Toy Story 3 however, was missing a few key things, like Bo Peep, and a real end to Woody's story.

These ideas provided the outline for director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen to begin years of work developing Toy Story 4 into what it is today, a film that offers another ending of sorts, but also a movie we believe opens up so many possibilities for the future. And on top of that, it also adds the rules and lore of what I'm calling the "Toy Story Cinematic Universe."

Related: Toy Story 4's Post-Credits Resolves the Movie's Most Glaring Cliffhanger

We had the opportunity to interview Josh Cooley and Mark Nielsen for Toy Story 4 and ask the hard questions: can toys create toys? What happened to the Battlesaurs? And what's next?

First of all, congratulations guys. You made a story that, when I described it on Twitter, I said Toy Story 4 had the most emotional beats and also the most funny bits of the whole franchise.

Director Josh Cooley: Oh, thank you.

I want to go back to the beginning. Was the pitch from the start always to do a road trip, with an antique store and a carnival as the main set pieces?

Josh Cooley: Not from the very beginning. From the very beginning the outline was about Bo Peep, and how we can bring her back into the picture, just to see kind of where she’s been as the seed of the idea. And then we realized that we could use her as a way to show Woody how big the world is. It was an opportunity to try and get out of the tri-county area, get out of the kid’s room, and see these characters out in the world – which we have seen as they go across town and everything but seeing Woody in the middle of nowhere, in nature, was pretty.

And with the story you guys got to play with some pretty exciting, totally new characters. Were there any other toy ideas you were considering that didn’t quite make the cut?

Mark Nielsen: We considered so many ideas, right, because it’s four or five years that we’re hammering at this thing and going down different roads but everything that we felt was worthy and needed to be in there to support Woody’s story made it into the final film. There will be deleted scenes that we’ll include in the home video release but the stuff that’s in there was all kind of the stuff that was most essential to telling the story.

Forky and Woody Pride in Toy Story 4

The introduction or origin story of Forky to me raises some interesting philosophical questions [laughs]

Josh Cooley: What do you mean? [laughs]

[all laugh] About the meaning of toy life! But also the birth of toy life because Bonnie creates Forky. My question for you is this: Can toys create life? Could Woody have built Forky?

Josh Cooley: I don't think so.

Mark Nielsen: But in a way..

Josh Cooley: He was responsible.

Mark Nielsen: He was almost a co-author, a little bit.

Josh Cooley: He made it possible.

Mark Nielsen: He made it possible. He got everything out of the trash and provided it all to Bonnie, so maybe.

Josh Cooley: But I do think that - what I believe - is that because Bonnie put so much importance into this item and wrote her name on it he has a purpose now. And that purpose is what brought him to life.

Gotcha. This film also almost crosses that line where the toys are getting closer and closer to revealing themselves to humans, and they interact in little bits.

Josh Cooley: A couple of times, yeah.

Do you think Pixar will ever cross that line and fully see the toys interact with humans?

[All laugh]

Josh Cooley: That would be a weird movie. Well, we've already done it! In Toy Story 1, Woody literally talks to Sid.

(L-R) Producer Jonas Rivera, director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen attend the world premiere of Disney and Pixar's TOY STORY 4 at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

I guess you're right. They do scare Sid, don't they?

Josh Cooley: He even says we have to break a few rules to do this.

That's true, but we haven't gone back to that. By they end of this story, and I guess with Toy Story 3 as well, the characters are left in some interesting positions. There are different groups of them. Are you guys straight up creating the Toy Story Cinematic Universe?

[All laugh]

Mark Nielsen: You know, we've been solely focused on the Toy Story 4 universe. Just this one film --

Josh Cooley: -- It's hard enough to do one movie

Mark Nielsen: [Laughs]

Josh Cooley: I can't imagine doing a mini series like that. We just wanted to make sure that this film was a continuation of the giants before it and felt like kind of the completion of Woody's arc as a character.

I'll wrap up with one last question. What are the Battlesaurs up to?

Josh Cooley: Oh!

Mark Nielsen: Man! [Laughs]

Josh Cooley: Did you see the Battlesaurs nod in the film?

Battlesaurs: REPTILLUS MAXIMUS in Toy Story That Time Forgot
Battlesaurs debuted in the 2014 Christmas special Toy Story That Time Forgot

Yeah! I saw the bag at the beginning which made me think of it.

Mark Nielsen: Yes, the lunch box.

Josh Cooley: Umm, I don't know!

Mark Nielsen: I haven't checked in on them lately.

For the future then.

Josh Cooley: I love that you love them. That's awesome!

Mark Nielsen: That's really great [Laughs].

I had to ask. Congrats again, guys, and thank you for your time.

Next: Does Toy Story 4 Have A Post-Credits Scene Right At The End?

Toy Story 4 synopsis: Woody (Tom Hanks) has always been confident about his place in the world, and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. So, when Bonnie’s beloved new craft-project-turned-toy, Forky (Tony Hale), declares himself as “trash” and not a toy, Woody with his long-lost friend Bo Peep (Annie Potts). After years of being on her own, Bo’s adventurous spirit and life on the road belie her delicate porcelain exterior. As Woody and Bo realize they’re worlds apart when it comes to life as a toy, they soon come to find that’s the least of their worries. Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story 4 is directed by Josh Cooley (“Riley’s First Date?”), and produced by Mark Nielsen (associate producer “Inside Out”) and Jonas Rivera (“Inside Out,” “Up”).

Key Release Dates
  • Toy Story 4 (2019) release date: Jun 21, 2019
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