Script to Screen: Toy Story 4

(upbeat music) – We’re so happy to explore
the new adventure of Woody, Buzz, Bo Peep, and some new characters, like Forky, Gabby Gabby, Ducky, and Bunny, and of course, Canada’s
favorite daredevil, Duke Caboom. So to help us understand “Toy Story 4”, and how Pixar keeps making
one great movie after another, please welcome to “Script to Screen” the UCSC Pollock Theater stage screenwriter Stephany Folsom! (audience applauding) – Thank you! (giggles) – So, let’s go back to the beginning. How exactly are screenwriters summoned and recruited by Pixar? – Well, I’d had a general meeting there, shortly after I’d had a script
that made the Black List and I had just got to know Mary Colin, who was in charge of development, and it was just, like,
a very brief meeting, and it was just, I got
a tour of the campus, and then a year or two passed after that, and then I got a call from my agent, and he was like, “Okay,
they have a project “they wanna bring you onboard for. “We’re gonna fly you up “to where the studio is in Emeryville, “and they wanna talk to you about it.” And I was like, “Well,
what project is it?” And he was like, “I can’t tell you, “they’ll tell you when you get there.” And I’m like, “Okay, so
I’m going up for a job “that I can’t prepare for
at all, and it’s Pixar!” Like, this isn’t intimidating at all. So I’m flown up there, and I walk into this
conference room on the campus, and sitting there is Lee
Unkrich, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, the director, Josh Cooley, the head of story, Valerie LaPointe, and I’m like, okay, this is
all the heavy headers of Pixar, and I sit down, and they’re like, “So we’re meeting with you
about writing ‘Toy Story 4’.” And my response was, “Why?” (Matt laughs) “Why are you making ‘Toy Story 4’?” And I, it was just such
an instantaneous response, because I so loved “Toy Story 3” and all the other franchises, and I thought the third one
was such a lovely ending to the franchise, and it
freaking won an Oscar, I mean it won best screenplay! I was like, “Why would
you make another one?” And I didn’t know how to
recover from being so blatant about my honest reaction, and fortunately, they were like, “Well, this
is why we wanna make it.” And Andrew Stanton said, he’s like, “I’d written a treatment while
we were making ‘Toy Story 3’, “because I thought ‘Toy Story 3’ “left Woody’s story unfinished.” And then he kinda pitched me,
like, the brief idea about what they were going to
do for “Toy Story 4”, and it evolved, Woody finding his own way, and reuniting with Bo Peep. And I was like, “Oh, we get to explore the
character of Bo Peep more?” I’m like, leaning forward a little bit, and by the end of that meeting, I was like, “Okay, I’ll do this, “I get why this movie needs to be made.” – So, alright, so how difficult
was it for you and Pixar to take Woody’s most beloved character, the most beloved Pixar character Woody, and have him leave his kid in France? Like what was the story–
– Oh, that was, that was, that was easy!
– arching for that? (Stephany laughs) – No, I mean, I think
there was so much pressure, I mean I know I myself grew up with these toys in “Toy Story”. Like, I grew up with this franchise. I think so many people grew
up with this franchise. And in a weird way, it was kind of like, your cartoon family. Well, at least it was for me. And having this idea that, like, Woody would leave his cartoon
family was really, really, mindblowing and hard for, I think, a lot of the founding members there, because “Toy Story” was the
movie that started Pixar. It’s what brought the founders together, it’s what got the company
sold to Disney, like, it was such a foundational
part of their lives of that company, and of their genuine friendships
that those filmmakers had. And so being like, these
characters that you accepted now need to move on, and do other things, was very, very hard for them, and I think it just came down to the fact that Woody needed to enter
the next stage of his life, and there was no other way to do it. And I think it was innately built into Andrew’s original treatment that this idea that Woody
should’ve left with Andy, but he sacrificed that future
to help the other toys. And so I was like, “Andrew, if that’s your
impetus for making this, “then Woody does have to leave
and go find his own destiny, “like that’s how you complete his arc.” – So we have that, so you really, your opening traumatic
incident is Woody not leaving with Bo Peep.
– Yeah. – So how did you portray in that sequence, and as a question of animation, how do you write, trying to visualize it? ‘Cause the sun in the
scene itself was stunning. – Yes.
– On screen, but how do you write visualizing
that kind of sequence, ’cause that was a really,
the start of the movie. – Well, I think we spent so
many times iterating that scene, and there were so many
different versions out there, because as you said, that really, that inciting incident is like, really, the launchpad for this entire thing. And we had to fill in a
whole emotional backstory for Bo Peep that was
only kind of like a layer within the other films, but the entire movie won’t work if you didn’t buy into that relationship. And the great thing about Pixar, which is a wonderful
experience as a writer, is you get to work with
this entire story team or storyboard artists. And what they do is they do rough sketches of every single scene, and they’re kind of like an
animatics version of the film, and they screened that as reels. So every scene you write is
put into the storyboard artist and they draw it. And you kinda workshop with them on how the scene should play out. And so it’s kind of like
instantaneously being able to shoot your scene and
see what it looks like. And it’s just such a
great insight into like, how things play on the page, and how they’re immediately
interpreted and shown, that you just don’t get if
you’re doing live-action. And you’re able to really
kind of craft the script and craft the image at the same time. – Right, so then how do you work with, if we take that scene for example, how did you work with Tom
Hanks and Annie Potts, you know, in the actual recording it? – Oh, I mean, you have to,
kind of, as the writer, I say like in animation, the
writer’s kind of almost like the story police to a certain extent, ’cause you’re kind of
the keeper of the story along with the director
between all of the departments. And so you’re brought into many aspects of the filmmaking process
than as a live-action writer. You wouldn’t be able to, so you’re a part of the editorial process, you’re part of the
voice recording process. We actually find beautiful moments while the actors are
recording their lines, you know, and Tom Hanks
is recording his lines, and if we key into an
emotional moment there, like, we’ll just start writing more lines, like doing deeper dive into that scene and see how it plays out. And so it’s kind of like
this great back and forth that you get to have with the actors while they’re recording
and you’re writing. You’re doing rewrites while
you’re recording them. – You mentioned backstage, but normally actors
would record separately. – Yes.
– But in this situation, especially in the Bo Peep, Woody scene where she says, you know, “I
have leave,” and he’s staying, how was that process different? – Well, we were recording them separately, which is what you do, just
get a clean audio track, and then you edit it together. And editing them together,
it played just fine, but it wasn’t hitting the
right emotional resonance, because even though the
drawings of those two characters were looking each other in the eye and having this emotional moment, you could tell in their voices that they weren’t visually connecting with each other in a weird way. And so we had to do like a special break where we got them both
in the recording booth. We still had to do a thing
where we isolated their voices and they could be tweaked and everything, but we were able to situate them so that Annie and Tom
were looking at each other while they record those lines. And just making that slight
shift in just their performance actually made that entire scene work, because it was suddenly,
saying those lines actually, literally looking someone in the eye, made them a completely different read than when it was just they were isolated in the recording booth. – Somewhat sounds like live-action actors don’t like green screen. – Yeah, completely!
– If they can, you know, do something where they
better have the actor in front of you. – Well, and I have such respect for any type of voiceover
work, because literally, they are just in a booth with a microphone and just a sheet of paper
telling them what to say. And it’s, they have to
imagine it all, you know. If they’re running, they
have to run in place so it makes it sound like
they’re running, like, it’s a crazy job. (laughs) – Alright, so a trauma affects
characters in different ways in their behavior, so
we’ll start with Woody. He lost Bo Peep, he lost Andy, he’s no longer Head Toy when
he moves to Bonnie’s room. How do you approach Woody’s
character post-losing Bo Peep to redefine his new place in the world? – Well, I think that
was also kind of a trick going into “Toy Story 4”,
because I think Woody, even though he’d struggled quite a bit, I think he didn’t really
have any real trauma until “Toy Story 3”, where he had to really give up Andy, and I think that was a real
formative moment for him. And it was like, how do you make, how do you make what happens
to Woody more traumatic than giving up Andy? Like, that was what
we’re tasked with doing. And we’re like, well, what does
Woody value above all else? Well, he values his relationship with his child above all else. He values his friendship
with his toys above all else. And so it was like keying
into those two things to like, kind of like, put Woody
through the wringer as much as possible, and creating
a reason why he could go. You know, I think having Bonnie, Woody naturally wouldn’t
be the favorite toy, ’cause she’s a girl. You know, she’s not gonna
love the little cowboy, and I think he, I think
we ended up digging up with like all this like,
how do we make things the most traumatic as possible for Woody. We came onto this really idea that Woody had a pretty
privileged life for a toy. You know, he’d always had a kid. He’d always been in a good room. He hadn’t really, he had
a good kid, you know, he didn’t have Sid from “Toy Story 1” that abused his toys. Like, he was in a really,
really good position. And so making him just
not be the favorite toy would be rough, and then we
can give in to a little bit about, like, having his voice
box and what makes him a toy being taken away would
be a whole other level. – Well also essentially, he
assumed, like, a father role, like when you’re looking
through the knapsack at Bonnie. ‘Cause I was thinking of a father looking through the window at school. I found it interesting, ’cause
he became more of a dad, which leads to him adopting Forky. – Yeah. – So Woody has to teach Forky how he is Bonnie’s securtiy trash blanket. How fun was it writing the sequence Woody tries to teach Forky
just to being trash and a toy? – Well, that was actually very hard, because there were a lot
of very disturbing versions of this scene. Because Forky, out of context, Forky is kind of a really
goofy, weird-looking toy, and kind of a little
bit grotesque in a way, and so he very often in,
like, early iterations, came across as almost like
this zombie, awful creature that was like coming out of the sack, and everyone was like, “Ahh!” And you were sitting there, you’re like, “Ahh, that
toy is terrifying!” And I think Andrew and I,
we’re trying to figure out, ’cause Tony Hale’s performance
helped to soften that a lot, but it’s still like, him emerging
from that sack was turning into more of a horror bit
than a funny, fun bit. And Andrew had snuck his dog
into where we were writing, ’cause dogs aren’t allowed
on the Pixar campus, and his dog was actually
hiding under the table, and we’re like, “Come out,
Gilbert, come out, come out!” And Gilbert kind of
like, came out like this, and we were like, that’s, Forky’s a puppy. Forky acts like a puppy, and suddenly it’s not
a horror bit anymore. It’s a cute little, come on, come on, you’re gonna be safe,
you’re gonna be alright. – And, you know, Forky, he’s a fork, so the animators don’t have a lot to do. – Yeah.
– Like, so Tony must’ve had done a lot of work to get the, you know, the character down, because he didn’t have the visuals to go. – Well, and I think that’s just a credit to what a great performer Tony is. Because it was, like,
really, creating humanity with a freaky looking toy
that believes it’s trash. And so much of his lines,
like poor guy was just like, over and over, having
to record, “I’m trash! “Trash, trash, no toy!” And being able to instill that
cost of saying “I’m trash” with actually support emotion
is just like such a credit to what an actor he is.
(both laughing) I thought that, I was like, “Here’s another line
about how you’re trash!” (both laughing) – With little Bonnie,
children are given toys, by usually their parent
or something like that. Bonnie makes her own toy because she’s lonely and scared of school. How important was it for
you to show her proactively working through her fears
of going to kindergarten, in this way creating her own toy? – Well, I think we had to make Bonnie and what she’s going through relatable, because I think
instantaneously we all love, as an audience, Woody so much, and the fact that she isn’t, didn’t make Woody her favorite
toy, and kinda rejected him, your immediate instinct is like, why don’t you like Woody,
like, what’s wrong with you? And I think it was our job to make her a fully fleshed out character that you completely understood
where she was coming from and how she was fearful. And I think that was not only
important for the audience to fall in love with Bonnie, but that’s also why Woody
falls in love with Bonnie. Because I think, at first, he’s bristled, because he’s like, “Why am
I not your favorite toy? “Why don’t you love me?” But then he sees just how she’s struggling and how she’s shy, and she’s just looking for
some kind of connection, and I think he’s just
like, “No, it’s my duty “to be there for a child whether
I’m a favorite toy or not.” And I think that was kind of
a shift for that character that we hadn’t seen in the other movies. – For now, let’s talk Bo Peep. Her trauma being discarded. She becomes a free, independent woman, a leader of toys, you know, lost toys. How did you go about crafting her arc? When you could’ve went
different ways with her, you know, this story trauma.
– There, there, there were different ways, and there was a version
about, when I came on board, and she was just really,
like, this sad, sad, character about being a lost toy, you know, it’s just like going back, “Oh, I’m so sad and
lonely ’cause I’m lost, “oh, Woody, thank goodness
you’re here to save me!” And I mean, as being one of
the few women on the project, I was like, “No, we can’t do that, gang.” Like, no, like, she, I know our ethos is that every toy is defined by their relationship with their kid, and I was like, but she
needs to redefine who she is in the face of trauma. And what it means to be with a toy, what it means to be played with, and what it ultimately
means to be there for a kid. And so it was taking kind
of like the tragedy of, and just playing, just
the complete tragedy of being thrown out, and turning that into what do you do when society
tells you you don’t belong, and you’re thrown out. How do you define yourself,
how do you empower yourself when the rest of the world won’t. And that was kind of like the
seed of getting to Bo Peep where she is, kind of like
for the gang of lost toys, and we play our own way,
and we find our own way. – I like the one where her arm falls off. – Yeah.
– And she just repaired it, nah, what’s the big deal.
(Stephany laughing) – Yeah, exactly. And she just puts it back on. And I mean, I think there is, there is something really
empowering about that, like even if your arm falls of, like, it doesn’t have to
be a big deal! (laugh) Unless you’re human. – Yeah, one– (laughs)
(Stephany laughing) One person, you know, she helped, was Canada’s favorite
daredevil Duke Caboom, who is also kind of discarded,
thrown out as trash. How did you, well, let’s talk
about the initial meeting with Keanu to develop the character, about how did you work with Keanu, and kind of, to create Duke Caboom? – Oh, Keanu is great. I mean, we’d had this idea, the
story team and the director, about this Evel Knievel kind of toy. And we’d seen this YouTube
video of the commercial for the Evel Knievel toy, and it was so obviously like a bad cut, where it was like this toy got like, the kid was like, “I have
the best jumping toy ever!” And reels it back, and it jumps, and then there’s just like a
hard cut that shows it landing, and it’s obviously like
that toy did not land. And we were like, what if,
like, this whole toy’s ego is built around this
idea that this commercial that shows him landing perfectly, but that can never, ever be a real thing. And so we pitched this to Keanu, and he was sitting there,
you know, at the table, and we were in the little
Pixar dinning area, it was me and the
producer and Josh Cooley, and he’s like, “Alright.” He’s like, “I think I
get this Duke Caboom guy, “I think I get where he’s coming from.” We’re like, “Great!” ‘Cause Keanu Reeves would
be perfect for this. And then he suddenly jumps up on the table,
(Matt laughs) and I’m like, “Oh my God,
what’s happening here?” And he starts posing. He goes, (yells) and I’m like, “I don’t, this is amazing, “I don’t know what this is. “Does this mean he doesn’t
want to do it now?” I’m like, “What’s happening?” And he’s like, and he’s just like, and he looks at me, he’s
like, “I’m Duke Caboom! “And I am posing,” he’s like, “I’m posing, “because this is how I’m going to learn “to do my amazing jump.” And then we’re like, “Yes, yes, “that’s of course what you’re doing, “and that’s of course what
Duke Caboom could do.” So the whole reason Duke Caboom
does this whole posing thing is ’cause Keanu Reeves
literally jumped on a table and did that while we were
meeting him for the part. (both laughing) – It’s interesting you mention that ’cause of course I had that Evel Knievel. It’s sad, and I–
– Did it land? – It did land, but not as far. We had a little fire thing–
– Oh, so it was a lie! – Yeah, it was a lie.
(Stephany laughing) But I still loved that thing. But it’s interesting, ’cause that’s one of the
things I was thinking about, because Pixar, obviously,
animation appeals to kids, but also appeals to adults. And like, the thing is, the
throwback and nostalgia, it makes me in my childhood. When you’re writing a movie like this, are you thinking about that, trying to reach different audiences, like appealing through a wider range? – That’s what I, I think that’s
kind of the beauty of Pixar. You know, and this sounds awful, but the audience is never
once taken into consideration. In a way, it’s just all about, like, what organically is going
to fit into the story, and what needs to happen in the story, and what’s gonna be the
biggest emotional moment that we can have in the story. And everything comes from
that pace, and that ethos. You know, I’ve worked on
a bunch of other stuff, and of course, the audience
is taken into factor usually in most storytelling, but they have a very special process there where it’s just all about servicing what that character needs in that moment. – So you’re not gonna
worry about, you know, it’s too dark for kids,
or something like that. – That’s never a conversation. The only time we pulled back on anything is if it just didn’t
feel right for the story, you know, and I think
that’s why, you know, they have, like in “Toy Story 3”, like, the toys were almost murdered in a flaming pit of fire,
like it’s just, you know, I think that there is something
to this idea that kids, there is darkness in the world, and I think this is a way for
kids, in a safe environment, to kind of get a taste of like, some things they’re gonna have
to experience in adult life like loss and tragedy and death, yeah. – All sorts of supporting
characters, Ducky and Bunny, voiced by Key and Peele, those are, they’re brilliant comedians, and prominent filmmakers–
– They’re amazing! – And there was a, and I love this scene, where they’re planning to
steal the keys from the owner, the complex. (laughs)
– Yeah! (laughs) That was ’cause we had a plot hole. (both laughing) so we turned it into a joke.
(both laughing) We didn’t know how toys
could take the keys from the shop opener
without getting caught, ’cause it was just so implausible. So there were a bunch of
really elaborate plans that we’d actually, we’re
supposed to be real on happen, where the toys would steal
the keys off of her belt, but none of it seemed all that plausible, and so then we’re just like, oh, what if we just make it a joke, all these things that we
actually tried to really do. (both laughing) – So how do write for actors like that? Like, what is the process,
because they are so brilliant at, you know, the comedy and stuff like that. – Well, I mean, with them, you know, as a writer, you’re always very nervous when you’re confronted with a performer that likes to improv, ’cause usually it doesn’t go that well, and then you’re like, “That was wonderful, “and here are the lines from the script!” But with Key and Peele,
it was really wonderful, because you were able to
give them, kind of like, tell them what the scene was about, where the characters need to
emotionally go on the scene, and they were just able to riff things that we could actually edit
together and put in the movie. And they just kept one-upping each other, and getting more and more
brilliant with every take. And it was just such a
relief to just see that that process could actually
be all used in the film. It was really wonderful. I mean that song, they made
that up just on the spot. There are so many wonderful
verses to that song, that we weren’t able to put in the film, but that song goes on and on and on, and just keeps getting more
and more brilliant, like. ♪ We want a kid ♪ (both laughing) – So, but you also have
Buzz, who, in some ways, had to be locked up back in this movie to give room for Woody and Bo Peep. How did that approach go
to how much you were gonna, you know, deal with the
Buzz Lightyear thing? – Well, I mean, the thing is, is that, you know, I think Woody,
(laughs) we talk about this. Woody has always had a bit of a co-dependent relationship
with Buzz, (laughs) and I think that this
movie was about Buzz seeing that Woody always having
a need to take care of him and be there for him and
support him was really crippling Woody from
going on his own journey. And I think Buzz, realizing
that he wasn’t the perfect place for himself with the
toys in Bonnie’s room, and seeing that Woody wasn’t, was kind of the key to making that work. And I think the little
game that we had to play was getting Buzz to witness
enough of the relationship with Woody and Bo that he was like, that’s what my friend needs in his life. But not so much where it
became like an awkward date where Buzz was just
sitting there, you know, being the third wheel–
– (laughs) Third wheel. – Where like, they’re having
this beautiful emotional moment and Buzz is like, “Hey, Woody,
what’s going on over there?” Right? (laughs) – So, but it’s interesting ’cause then the whole thing
was great, the inner voice. Like Buzz finding it, but it’s actually, when you talk about more
of the other characters, finding your own voice is
certainly a theme here. How did that emerge? – The inner voice came from Andrew, ’cause the thing with
Buzz Lightyear is like, he’s always a little bit
delusional in all of the films. And, (laughs) you know, it was like, how do we make, keep Buzz true to himself, a little bit delusional, but
has something that plays off into the theme of this film, and Andrew came in and was just like, he thinks like, his
little voice box sounds are his actual conscience
and his inner voice. And we’re like, “Alright,
we could play with that.” And we just ended up playing
with that and developing it, and it ended up working
really, really well. – Now you mentioned Forky looked creepy, but you actually did have Creepy Vincent. – Oh yeah.
– The Stephen King looking doll, (laughs) so
– Oh yeah. (laughs) – He does not find his voice. – No, no, I’m not, that
was always hard to, because you have Gabby Gabby, and to establish her character when she’s around characters
that don’t talk, you know. That’s easy. (laughs) – Which brings me to Gabby Gabby. So kids come up to me all the time and ask me the same question about movies. When is it going to be a kids’ movie that explores the theme of
human organ harvest thing? (Stephany laughs)
It is, it’s a big question
– Yeah. – I always get.
– Yeah. – How are we gonna cover
this theme in a kids’ movie, ’cause every kid knows about it! – Yeah, there are version of those that were really appalling. – How did that come–
(Stephany laughs) How did that come about? – Well, I mean, I think going
back to this whole idea about how do we make something that’s worse for Woody than losing Andy. It’s about identity and how
Woody invests in himself his identity and kind of
what his defining feature as a toy was his voice box. And it was how Andy played with him, it’s how all kids played with him. It’s what defined him as a toy. And to give that up, or
to have that taken away meant he had to give away a
fundamental part of himself. So, but yeah. And it was really hard to make it like they weren’t tearing out his heart. And selling his heart.
– Was there any, was there any decisions
about human sacrifices, or you wanna be–
– There were. There were, there was a lot. There was a version where he
didn’t sacrifice something, that obviously didn’t work all that well. And also, it was a very
hard magic trick of making the voice box something that you could understand what it was, so that’s why we have that
whole scene where Gabby Gabby, like, shows the record and how it plays, because, yeah, otherwise, it’s just like, “I want your voice box in
me,” and you’re like, “What?” (both laughing) Creepy! (laughs) – It would talk like Woody, and that won’t make any sense.
– Yeah. (laughs) – But it’s interesting, ’cause
it was a nice little twist, yeah, Gabby’s been the villain, but actually, you flipped her. How did you approach a scene where you finally have Gabby get a voice, Woody sacrifices himself,
and the child rejects Gabby? – Yes.
– So what was that process of developing that, because that was a nice little twist.
– Well, I mean, I think the whole thing with Gabby Gabby is she believed she has
to be perfect to be loved. And if you fixed her and
made her her idea of perfect, and she got what she wanted, it wouldn’t complete her arc. It would be buying into the lie that she’s been telling herself, which is you have to be
perfect to earn a child’s love. It’s pretty much, you just
have to find your right person in order to find love.
– But it was interesting because like Bonnie creating her toy, she chooses her lost child. I found that was, that one
was kind of your point, like, she would be
proactively making the choice for the child, not just taking Bonnie. – Exactly, yeah. And there was a version where
she just went home with Bonnie and that did not work at all, it was the most boring movie ever. (both laughing) – But it’s interesting, ’cause
Woody’s always had this thing where’s my voice, my voice, he loses it, but now
still finds a new voice. He does help Duke Caboom make
the jump with his eyes closed, one of my favorite sequences. So that was something
you were conscious of, what you gotta make, now we gotta find, Woody has to find
another way to help toys. – Well, completely, and I think Woody, I think that’s what makes Gabby and Woody such a fantastic hero and
quote unquote villain pairing, is because they both believe
the same thing incorrectly, you know, and that’s kind of like what makes them butt
heads against each other, and then they both had
to find their own way, and I think Woody is also
living under this lie, like he has to be just the perfect toy for just this perfect child. He has to have this perfect voice box. He’s also living the
same lie that Gabby is. And it’s about accepting a new world view that Bo’s given him, like you
can be lost and it’s okay. Like, you know, you can, you know, have lots of kids play with you, and bring lots of joy to lots of people, doesn’t have to just be one child, and that’s absolutely fine too, and so it’s just about
opening up the world of both of those characters. – And it was, to me, it
was a scene I was noticing when I was in the theater, most of the tears came for
that scene with the lost child. Like, ’cause we all can
relate to being afraid. – Yeah.
– And just the one before, when she finds Gabby, it
lights up her face, there was, I thought it was one of
the most emotional moment of the movie.
– Yeah, I mean, and there’s the whole thing
also that’s underlined in this movie is this idea of purpose, and what’s your purpose in life and do you define your purpose, or does the world define
the purpose for you. And I think that if you can be of service and help someone else, it’s kind of the message in the movie, then you’ve found your purpose in life. And you don’t have to
be perfect to do that. – I did like Buzz’s line about, you know, “She doesn’t need you anymore.” – Yeah.
– The part about Bo Peep. So what were the conversations about how Woody would say
goodbye to his friends? – Well, I mean, that was a difficult one, because, you know, because the people who’ve built this franchise
had sat with this so long, I think it was hard for them to say goodbye to these characters. And so it was about, kind of,
walking this psychology of, these people who’ve sat with
these characters for 25 years who didn’t say, wanna say
goodbye with Woody as a toy, who didn’t really wanna say goodbye, and feeding all of that into
the actual script together. And I think the key to that ending is that once Woody’s world is opened up to be bigger than a children’s room, he can’t ever go back
to a children’s room. And so I think, kind of
like going down that route got everyone kind of onboard with like, yes, this is just the natural ending, and this is just how it has to go. – It’s interesting, his toy friends went through a dark place, sabotaging, trying to send Dad to prison. – Yeah, yeah.
– And so they really were aggressively trying to help him. Was that always the case,
let’s get Dad in prison, or? – It was… (stammering) It was a one-off joke that
had been in the beginning, when Jess, he was like, you know, debating like, how to stop
the DRV from going away, and it was just a one-off joke
with Buttercup the unicorn, going like, let’s get
Dad thrown in prison! And as we were figuring out the ending, I was like, we should have Buttercup try to get Dad thrown into prison, like that should’ve been a
serious pitch to the other toys. And he was like, “No, we’re doing this.” (both laughing) – So speaking of that,
what was your reaction when you first saw it on screen, Woody give Jessie the sheriff’s badge? Like, turning it over? – That was another little
bit of a battle, and I… That was my idea as well, ’cause it, and myself and Valerie LaPointe, we were very much like, Woody has to put Jessie in charge next, and she kinda needs to
be the next generation that’s gonna be leading
all of the toys forward. And there was a bit of debate going on because there are like, you know, toys can’t give up their accessories, and they were like, well,
he gives off his voice box. He can give away his badge, so. (Stephany laughs)
– I remember Bonnie, Bonnie, earlier, gave Jessie the badge, so when Woody took it back,
– Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
– well, Bonnie gave it back. – Yeah, but Jessica gives it back too, and I think that’s also just showing how his friends are trying
to still make him fit in to this place where he
doesn’t quite belong anymore, and I think, like, him
giving her the badge is just kind of like the ultimate act in kind of paying off their friendship. And of course, it was fun
watching them in the post-credits, now trying to help other toys. – Yeah.
– The new mission, and of course, the laser plant. – Yeah.
– Where did that come from? Jordan Peele?
– No, that was, oh, goodness. (stammers) We had so many joke moments that just did not belong in the movie. And I think it was just like, seeing like, how many of those fun moments
we could get in at the end. (both laughing) – And you always wanted to
end on the existential note, when Forky asks, “How
am I alive?” (laughs) – Well, I mean, that
was the thing, I mean, and that was actually a studio note we kept getting from Disney. They’re like, “Why is Forky alive?” And our response was like,
“Why are any of us alive?” (audience laughing)
(Matt laughs) And so that was kind of like, (laughs) our way of answering that
studio note with kind of a joke. (Stephany laughs) – It was nice, though, I mean, it was also showing Forky’s now no longer poppy.
– Completely. Yeah, he’s no longer poppy, he’s a fully-formed toy, you know. I think on that walk and talk, Forky’s pretty much like,
“No, I have, Bonnie needs me, “I’m going to be a toy!” And then the rest of the
movie is a bit of him learning how to do that. So by the end, he’s like, “I’m a toy!” (Stephany laughs) – So how was it for you when “Toy Story 4” won
best animated feature? – It was fantastic! I mean, I think we were all, you know, I went from being, like,
my initial meeting, like, “Why on earth would
you make this movie?” to it being something
that’s really embraced, and people seem to really love it, and I think there is
nothing better as a artist. And it’s not so much, I
think, the award of it all, I think it’s just seeing
that people are engaging with this movie and getting things from it in a way that you hope that they do, and to see that actually happen, it’s just, it’s beautiful. It’s really wonderful that
people are digging it. (both laugh) – So let’s go back a little bit of time. We have aspiring
screenwriters in the audience. Hoe did you get started? Like how did you get started, you know. – I mean, I always wanted to be a writer, and I went to film school. And then after film school,
I did a couple of just like, development jobs, like I
just worked as, like, a PA, I got people coffee, like,
I did coverage on scripts, and it was a great experience because I learned the business
side of screenwriting, and how executives talk to writers, and how to give notes, which was an invaluable education. But then I also quickly learned, like, you just need a lot of time to write if you wanna be a writer, and I was working like 10 or 12-hour days. So I had to stop doing that, and I just went through the
typical series of just like, awful jobs, while I was trying to write. I ended up producing a few
documentaries on the side, and then I was doing
some commercial writing. And honestly I was about to give up. It’d been like about, I’ve
been out of school like, about five years, and
nothing was happening, and I was just like, you know, maybe I’ll just move into
my parents’ basement. My parents didn’t have a basement, and I was like, oh my God, there not even a basement for me to go to? I’m just screwed! (laughs) And out of that frustration, I was just like, you know,
I’m gonna write a script that I don’t think will ever get made, and it just has everything
I’m passionate about. It was about Stanley Kubrick,
so I’m a big cinephile, it was about Stanley Kubrick, and I love conspiracy theories, and it was about Stanley
Kubrick faking the Moon landing but it was told through the
POV of the female publicist that had to get, rally
him to kind of do this. And that ended up getting
a bunch of attention, and people seem to like it, and that got me my manager, I ended up making this thing
called “The Black List”, and then from there, I
got my first studio job, and then I was like,
“Oh, the door’s open.” I’m like, “I’m a studio hirelist.” I’m like, “They’re never gonna “let them close the door again,” and I just kept working and working, and I wrote a bunch of scripts for studios that never got made. And then I kinda ended up in
the Disney family of it all, and I did a version of
“Thor: Ragnarok” for Marvel, I did some stuff for Lucas Film, and I ended up at Pixar,
so I think it’s just. Yeah, it’s, it was just
a lot of hard work, and a little bit of luck, and some frustration and anger. (laughs) – And then, (stammering) ’cause you did “Star Wars Resistance”. – Yeah.
– And how do you think that helped prepare you for “Toy Story”? Like writing in animation and. – I think that there is just, I mean, animation is its own weird beast, and there’s something
about, with live-action, and, I’m gonna say this,
and you’re gonna be like, “Duh, Stephany, we got this.” Like, when you shoot something, you just shoot it, and
you’re done with it, and you’re stuck with what you filmed. With animation, up to a certain extent, you can just keep redrawing
whatever you want in that frame, and you can keep reworking it. And so it’s just a
different way of working, because, you know, if the
scene isn’t working, you know, and you filmed it wrong, you
gotta try to fix it in the end. But here, if it’s not working, you can just fix it with
the artist and the writer. So it’s just a different
way of making film. – So, but now, you’re on a new project. You’ve done one beloved
series of “Toy Story”, it’s not enough.
(Stephany laughs) You–
– I’m a glutton for punishment – Glutton for punish, you start to go on to the new “Lord of the Rings” series. What’s the experience
like working on that? – That was a lot of fun. That was another one where my
friends were show running it, and they’re like, “We’re
gonna do ‘Lord of the Rings’,” and I was like, “Why?” (laughs) But Peter Jackson
movies were so great, and then they explained to
me what their idea was to do, and I was like, “That
would be really cool, okay, “I’m in, what are we doing?” And that was a lot of fun. I mean, there’s 3000 years of pretend history of Middle Earth, so there is a lot of story
to tell there. (laughs) – It must be hard to try
deem what you would take. Like, what do you throw out, because then you only have
a certain amount of room. – Completely, yeah. – Alright, well, we do have
time for a couple of question. – [Audience Member] Well,
congratulations Stephany, on a beautiful film. You mentioned the Black
List, and I’m curious, what about that script
do you think brought the, these other jobs to you, you know, what skill set or insight
that was in that script or in your other work
that got you this job? – I would say that, I
think that that script, because it was kind of
like a no, conspiracy, and I think I had an interesting way in through a female character,
that was surprising. And I would have to say
that I think, really, the character work that I
did there in that script, I think really got me a lot of attention, because I think, especially
with these big-budget features, you know, it’s not that hard
to get an action scene written. I think the character work
is really the hard stuff. So when they’re hiring people
for these larger franchises, they really look, like, can
you do dialogue really well, can you do character arcs really well. Especially even in TV, like, they very often will
hire playwrights to work with TV writers’ rooms just
because they’re so good with juicy dialogue and
juicy character moments. And I think that, if you can really get that muscle worked out on your writing, you’re much more employable, which I wish I’d known that going in. (both laughing) – Hi, so my question was,
so for me personally, I’ve always really enjoyed
the “Toy Story” series unique settings and how they
find these large varieties of toy-centric settings. So I was curious in the writing process. Is the give-and-take between the conflict and the unique toys and the unique setting more linear, like, is it
the conflict we wanna tell, these are toys that would
be good to experience it, and then this is where
you might find those toys, or is it more fluid and, kind of, one influences the other? – It’s a little bit more fluid, and it really comes from
the character journey and that character arc. And lots of locations
were chosen obviously because where are realistic places where you’re going to naturally find toys, and where can toys naturally be alive and no one will notice. (laughs) Those kind of play into it. So those were the criteria, but the locations were
picked mainly being like, what’s gonna most challenge Woody and his preconceived notions of the world, and then figuring out, you know. I mean, the whole reason
there is a carnival there is because it’s just a natural place where toys are going to be. You know, and the antique store, there’s lots of places to hide, there’s creepy old toys there. You know, I mean, those
locations were chosen because you could plausibly
see toys being alive in them. – [Audience Member] Can
you explain how it is to write with two other
people, or was it just you? – It was myself and Andrew. They had other writers that were on it before I came onboard, and when I came onboard it
was just myself and Andrew that we were writing, and I don’t think it would’ve
been possible to do this movie without Andrew Stanton, ’cause he is so, the fundamental or DNA of this movie. Like I was able to bring in kind of, like, an outsider perspective, and help with the Bo Peep of it all and help bring out the Gabby Gabby, and I think you needed to have that legacy voice in this series because it’s just, he
was there from day one, creating this franchise. – [Audience Member] Hello. Thank you for your time.
– Oh, thank you. – So my question is about Gabby Gabby. When you were explaining her story, I found that there was
a little bit of discord between how you explained
it and how I perceived it, and I just heard some questions about what there is to say about
privilege within her story, ’cause I noticed–
– Oh, completely. – Yeah, I noticed that a lot of the times, she would tell, you know,
the little creepy dolls what to do for her, and
she felt pretty entitled to Woody’s box before
she’d even really met him. So I was just wondering what there was to say there about that. – Yeah, I mean, I think Gabby Gabby learned how to be who she was through an instruction booklet
that was written in 1950. And I think she was play-acting
out what she thought she should be the entire time. And I think, you know, I think… I don’t necessarily think
that it was the idea that she came from a place of privilege. I think she was a factory defect that had to learn how to be a toy because she never had any
interaction with a child, and she only had her instruction
manual that she came with. And I think that’s why it
comes off as so creepy. She doesn’t know how to engage with anyone because she never had to,
or never got chance to, and I think that’s kind of like where we were coming
through with all of that, but I completely see what
you’re saying, yeah, she, She’s, not very nice to the
dummies all the time. (laughs) – Well, we always end
our to the same question. We’re an academic institution, and we do have a lot aspiring
screenwriters in the audience, and so we want you to be
professor for a moment. So what would be one movie
you would assign them to see, or script, that you would
assign our students to examine, as a way to study screenwriting? – Oh gosh, there are so many. For me, I think like, some of
the wonderful things that I, I’m a big William Goldman fan, (laughs) which sounds so cliche, but I think if you read
any of his screenplays, it’s just kind of a great lesson in how to get flow down the page, and how to make something
like a good read, but also make something that’s a wonderful production document. Anything that he’s written. I mean, anything from
“Princess Bride” to, you know, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance
Kid”, like, all of those, it’s really like a masterclass
in how to make something a good read that can also
be made into a movie. – Well, let’s, I just
wanna thank Stephany, and all of you for coming
out for today’s show! (audience applauding)
– Thank you. (laughs) (upbeat music)

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