Toy Story 4 begins just after Andy gave his toys to Bonnie. But Woody, Buzz and the rest are challenged yet again when Bonnie creates a new toy named Forky from arts and crafts she’s rescued from the garbage.
Forky is having identity issues and can’t accept that he’s a toy, so the others try to help him understand how to be one.
When Bonnie and her family go on a road trip, Forky escapes and Woody goes to save him, becoming separated from the group near a small town. As Buzz and the others try to find Woody, Woody encounters Bo Peep among the toys in the town's antique shop, and she gives him a new outlook on what being a toy is really about.
Our own Bonnie Laufer (who’d loved to have had her own Forky as a kid) spoke with Tony Hale about part of the Disney legacy.
Original-Cin: How does one get into the mindset of playing a spork? Not quite fork and not quite a spoon.
TONY HALE: “Good question. Well first of all, I think that sporks are very underrated.”
OC: I agree!
TH: “Thank you. You know, spoons, knives, forks they get all of the attention, but sporks, come on people, it is a very good utensil. It’s like the unicorn of utensils that need more attention.
“When they initially brought me up to Pixar in Oakland, they described him as a character that has a neurotic energy, and I crossed that off the list, thinking, ‘Check, been there, done that.’
“He asks a lot of questions, he’s gullible and then they showed me his picture. I just loved how not only does he see the word simply, but he’s very simple. He’s made from pipe cleaners, a spork and popsicle sticks and I just loved that fresh simplicity about him.”
OC: He fits in so well with his fellow toys, especially with Woody who takes him under his wing.
TH: “I know, right? It’s so touching how Woody feels responsible for him and looks out for Forky.”
OC: As a voiceover actor you don't often get to work with any of your co-stars. For someone like you, who is so used to sparring with so many talented comedic co-stars, it’s got to be a bit of a challenge to get that right energy.
TH: “It's tricky, but it's fun I've been fortunate enough to do other animation work so you get kind of used to it.
“Typically when you do animation or any voiceover, you're kind of separated and there’s a sheet of glass, and then you have your headphones on. You do it and then everything goes quiet.
“Then all you see through the glass are these mouths talking about you, and there's a wave of insecurity that comes over you. However with Pixar, we weren't with the other actors but we were all in the same room. So it was like the directors, producers and writers were all together, and it felt very much like a collaboration. They kind of created this kind of community vibe which really helped.
“With typical voice over you can’t spar. What I try to do is I would act as if I was doing an on-camera performance I'd do the same physicality and then just hope it would be channeled into the microphone.”
OC: It just amazes me how Pixar continually keeps stepping up the animation in these movies. You immediately get lost in the film and think that you are watching something real. The opening scene, the water looked so real…
TH: “Yes, right? The water is unbelievable. That’s exactly what I keep saying it’s so beautiful. We voice actors we are a very small piece of this pie, because most of the pie is what we see on screen. The artistry that has gone into this movie and the hours of labour is extraordinary.
“I feel that the animators are the ones that should be getting the attention. It's visually stunning and when I watch it it feels like magic, especially how they have brought in Bo Peep’s face to life with the porcelain china is just so gorgeous.”
OC: As usual, you steal every scene that you are in. Forky is such a wonderful break-out character and you have really done him justice.
TH: “That’s so kind of you to say! It comes from a lot of pain!” ( laughs)
OC: I mean it! Why do you think Forky fits in so well and why are kids are really going to relate to him?
TH: “I think he will relate to kids because he is very overwhelmed. I'm very overwhelmed that I'm even sitting in front of this poster, it’s Toy Story!”
OC: You’re part of a Disney legacy!
TH: “Genuinely a legacy! When I first became an actor I moved to New York in 1995 and that was the first Toy Story. I remember seeing it and I never would have thought I would have been a part of this franchise.
But it’s truly overwhelming. Forky’s always asking, ‘Why am I here?’ and I feel like I'm constantly asking myself, ‘How did I get here?’ So he and I are very much on the same wavelength.”
OC: I just loved your performance as Gary on Veep, congratulations on a well deserved Emmy.
TH: “Thank you so much but poor Gary, so misunderstood.” (laughs)
OC: Well, by Selena, that’s for sure. Julia (Louis-Dreyfus) has admitted that whenever she did scenes with you, she could never get through them because she would be continuously laughing. How do you stop yourself from breaking?
TH: “I don't, I don't stop myself. I’m so unprofessional. (Laughs) There was this one time that I couldn't stop laughing during a particular scene and Julia turned to me and she said, ‘Tony you know you're not watching the show you're in the show.’ I was like, ‘Okay, I hear you, but it's very funny.’
“I was so close to her so anything she did I just couldn’t control myself. I will say I had my bag and if you watch that particular scene over you will notice that you will see the top of my head because I am laughing into my bag.”
OC: I’ve always wanted to know what was really in Gary’s bag?
TH: “Well, in Gary's world it's full of pockets that he has sewn and everything she needs. In my world it was filled with scripts and water bottles.”