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Josh Cooley & Mark Nielsen Interview: Toy Story 4

After raking up $1 billion at the global box office and stealing hearts worldwide with new characters like Forky and Gabby Gabby, Toy Story 4 is now available for home viewing. With a digital release on October 1 being soon followed by a Blu-ray one October 8, audiences will get to rewatch their favorite moments and learn fascinating details about the filmmaking process through audio commentary and featurettes such as ‘Bo Rebooted’.

In anticipation of the home release, director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen sat down with Screen Rant to discuss the storytelling transition between Toy Story 3 and 4, the transformation Bo Peep underwent, and the close relationship between Pixar’s animators and Mattel’s toy designers.

Congratulations on Toy Story 4.

Josh Cooley: Thank you.

It was amazing. I was particularly impressed with how seamless it was a transition from Toy Story 3, despite it being a decade. How did you guys hit on the perfect story and theme to continue?

Josh Cooley: Well, you know, that's kind of the thing that got me excited about this movie. What would be after Toy Story 3? Woody’s in a new bedroom with a new kid and new toys. It's almost like two companies merging in a way. And so, the dynamic is going to be completely different from what we've seen before. So, already I’m like, “Okay, there's something here that's different than any of the other Toy Story films.”

And we just kept building on that. What if what Woody’s not the favorite toy? He can't be with Bonnie, because he already was with Andy. It wouldn't feel right, or it would just feel forced if it was like that.

Mark Nielsen: Bo Peep’s also such a big part of this. We wanted to start the movie off with a bang and remind you of the Woody and Bo relationship. We haven't seen her in such a long time; she hasn’t really been in the movies since Toy Story 2, which was 20 years ago.

And so, we wanted to draw you in, remind you of that connection, and then kind of answer the question of where she went and where she's been.

Speaking of Bo Peep, I was harboring resentment because I loved her so much and then she was taken from me.

Mark Nielsen: Then we brought her back to you.

How did you guys think to do that? What made you make that leap from taking her out of Toy Story 3 and then making her such a central part [of Toy Story 4]?

Josh Cooley: You know what's funny? I didn't realize there was so much love for Bo Peep. I've always loved Bo Peep, but I remember when [Toy Story] 3 happened, they were like, “Where’s Bo?!” People were so angry.

So, it was really cool to be able to bring her back. And I don't remember the exact [reason]. there were just so many toys in Andy's room, and I think part of the reason – I wasn't on the story team for 3, but I remember the thought was that we need to kind of pare it down to just the core ones that are part of that group of the Andy's toys to hand over. It was kind of like a blessing in disguise be able to bring her back in this big way.

Of those core toys, or any of the toys really, who would be your Woody? Who's your best friend that you'd want to take with you everywhere?

Josh Cooley: From the toys in Toy Story?

Mark Nielsen: From the classic toys in Toy Story 4, I love Slinky Dog. I know, he's underrated. But he's consistent. He's funny. He's lovely. He helps out the friend toys when they're in need. I just love Slinky. He'd be my guy.

Josh Cooley: I'll have to say from Toy Story 4, it’s Benson, the ventriloquist dummy. The reason I say this, and the reason he's in the movie, is I had a ventriloquist dummy growing up that I loved.

Mark Nielsen: What was his name?

Josh Cooley: Willie Talk. It’s a pun.

Mark Nielsen: Get it?

I just got it when he said it was a pun.

Josh Cooley: So, I have a very close connection with Benson. People tend to fear him.

I think I would use him to send off Chucky, for example. I heard that the development of the toys with Mattel was also sometimes happening in conjunction with the story development. What kind of conversations did you guys have back and forth?

Mark Nielsen: We meet with Mattel early on to talk about what the new characters are. It's kind of a long process to develop the toys and to make sure you're getting them right. And so, we're doing information sharing throughout the whole process. As things change in the story, and as characters come and go, we needed to very quickly communicate that to Mattel. There's a fair amount of lead time to get those things ready to come out at the right time.

Josh Cooley: We also met with them just about creating our characters in the computer for the movie. For example, Bo Peep has a new outfit – or even Gabby Gabby, just because she's a brand-new doll. We needed to know what dolls from the era’s materials are made of and how the dress would be, because we're going to be getting so close that we wanted it to look correct. We would meet with them just on how toys are even made so that we can put that into the movie.

More: The 10 Best Toy Story 4 Quotes, Ranked

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