Published Jun 18, 2019For over two decades, the Toy Story franchise has been the jewel in Pixar's crown, with each new sequel raising the stakes by balancing hilarious hijinks with tear-jerking sweetness. But these aren't just children's movies; according to new cast addition Tony Hale (who voices new character Forky in Toy Story 4), there's actually a powerful political lesson to be learned from this gang of animate toys.
"It's all these characters that are so different," Hale explains, "yet they have found ways to be there for each other, and to have each other's back, and to work together."
In today's fraught political climate, Toy Story shows the power of cooperation and the value of diversity. "Look at Buzz Lightyear and Woody," Hale points out. "They're polar opposites. To me, it's a celebration of their differences rather than a separation. Our world needs that, and this franchise has been this constant light. I think that's possibly what makes people gravitate towards it."
Toy Story 4 offers even more delightful camaraderie from the cast, as a new toy joins the group. Forky is a spork that's been fished out of the garbage and turned into a toy by their owner Bonnie. Forky then comes to life, and it's the gang's job to teach him how to be a toy and a not simply a piece of trash. He's wide-eyed and naïve — the perfect counterpoint to the wisdom of Woody (Tom Hanks) and the bravado of Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen).
"He's a blank slate," says Hale, of Forky. "He asks so many questions, everything is new to him. His view to the world is parallel to the way he's made. He's pipe cleaners, a spork, popsicle sticks, some clay and googly eyes. That's it. The whole package is just very simple."
Forky offers a wonderfully absurd mix of highbrow philosophy and lowbrow humour: the character asks big questions about where he comes from and what his purpose is on Earth, and more often than not, he finds the answer by flinging himself into the garbage bin and rolling around in trash. It's an adorable identity crisis — which is not unlike the feeling Hale himself had when he joined the cast of Toy Story 4.
"As an actor, I was very overwhelmed that they even asked me," he admits. "Like Forky, I feel like I'm asking, 'How the hell did I get here?'"
For Hale, who has been watching the films since the get-go, becoming a part of the Toy Story universe is the fulfillment of a dream many years in the making.
"I moved to New York in 1995 to become an actor, and that was the year the first Toy Story came out," he recalls. "I remember watching it, and like everybody else, I was blown away. It was animation no one had every really seen before. It's crazy, looking back on that and thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I might one day be a part of that franchise.' That's pretty cool to think about."