‘Toy Story 3’ arrives in theaters June 18, 2010, and I can’t wait to see our beloved friends again. This third movie in the super popular franchise finds Woody, Buzz and the rest of the toy box gang dumped in a daycare center after their owner Andy departs for college.
I caught up with Tom Hanks, who plays pull-string cowboy Woody, and got his thoughts about the new film (in 3D!) from Disney/Pixar.
Film Gecko: Why do you think the ‘Toy Story’ films are such classics? What sets them apart from other family movies?
Tom Hanks: ‘Toy Story 3’ brings you back to this lovely, familiar and happy place, and all the ‘Toy Story’ films accomplish what timeless classics aim for – innocent characters facing an endless trail of adventures. We all know the likes of Woody and Buzz, and we wonder who we would be if we were toys. There’s this great logic that John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich and Darla Anderson and all the writers adhere to that makes moviegoers just relax and let themselves be transported to this magical place and time. When you can do that with a movie, it’s amazing.
Gecko: Give us a little advance scoop on what we’ll see in ‘Toy Story 3.’ Because it sounds pretty emotional, with Andy heading off to college.
Hanks: Yes, the filmmakers at Pixar always manage to get you right in the heart. It’s a simple story about a guy growing up and going off to college, but it’s profoundly emotional and you can’t help but have tears in your eyes. But it’s also a big adventure that has you constantly on the edge of your seat. It’s part “Great Escape,” with the same kind of excitement as Dorothy escaping from the Wicked Witch of the West. And yet they take those elements and turn them into something very emotional.
Hanks: Right, we’re talking about toy dinosaurs and Mr. Potato Head, and yet you feel for them and don’t want them to get recycled or stuck with the bratty kids. You want them to be together and played with at the end of the movie. You’re worried for them.
Gecko: This is your third time playing Woody. What makes him so lovable?
Hanks: Woody is a passionate guy who throws himself into every action. As soon as he has an instinctive thought like “I have to help them” or “I have to run away,” he does it with 100 percent commitment. You’ve gotta love that about anybody. What’s great is that I get credit for the way the character and the humor come off. I have kids that are now in college who come up to me and say, “When you told that neighbor kid to play nice, that really meant a lot to me.”
Gecko: And there’s the great relationship between Woody and Buzz. How has that evolved over the course of the ‘Toy Story’ franchise?
Hanks: Well, they started off as pure adversaries, but learned how to accept each other’s strengths, forgive each other’s failures, and respect each other as individuals. Opposites definitely attract in this case, and I love the way their relationship has grown.
Gecko: It really has, and it’s such a cool friendship. It’s never dumbed down for the audience, which is one reason I love it so much. If you weren’t playing Woody, what other character would you like to play?
Hanks: Wow, good question! Quite frankly, I am of the Slinky dog persuasion. I think Slinky can go places other toys can’t go, and he can do things other toys can’t do because of his ability to stretch. That’d be a lot of fun.
Gecko: What’s it like working on an animated film – or maybe I should ask, what’s it like working on a PIxar film, because they’re in a whole class by themselves.
Hanks: I’ve been working on Pixar movies on and off for a long time, and it constantly astounds me every time it takes about four years to create these films. It seems like every two weeks they call you in to record, but it turns out to be about every six months. When I did the first ‘Toy Story’ film, I had two kids. I now have four kids. [LAUGHS]
Gecko: It’s so true – and for audiences, too. People have grown up with these movies and now we get to share them with our own kids. What’s Pixar’s secret to making incredible films? They’re just amazing works of art, really, that appeal to all ages.
Hanks: The Pixar people continuously amaze me. They come up with something that actually looks as though it takes place in this happy – and real! – world. Every storyline is not just plausible; it’s oddly authentic. The stories are full of adventure, humor and love, and the characters have a great human dimension about them. I don’t know how they do it, but they constantly astound me.
Gecko: Thanks so much for your time! I can’t wait to see the movie with my kids.
Hanks: Thank you!
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures