‘Toy Story 4’ Timeline: What We REALLY Know So Far

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I felt the need to write this post for myself as much as for the other Toy Story fans out there.  There have been so many unfounded rumors going around lately about Toy Story 4, that I often end up searching through past articles and interviews for a reminder of what we truly know about the movie to date.  I thought it would be helpful to have all the relevant quotes – from reputable, official sources – saved in one spot for future reference.  So, grab a cup of coffee (or whatever your choice may be), get comfy, and travel back with me through the past ten months to review what the Toy Story 4 cast and crew have given us – there’s more than you might think!

Director John Lasseter works with members of his story team on Disney•Pixar's
The first photo released of the ‘Toy Story 4’ team at work.

November 6, 2014.  Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, announced Toy Story 4 at a quarterly earnings webcast, stating that John Lasseter would direct and the film would be released in June 2017.   Later that day, Disney provided more details:  the script was being written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack; the film was being produced by Galyn Susman; and the actual release date would be June 16, 2017.  Lasseter offered a statement of his own:

“We love these characters so much; they are like family to us,” Lasseter said.  “We don’t want to do anything with them unless it lives up to or surpasses what’s gone before.  Toy Story 3 ended Woody and Buzz’s story with Andy so perfectly that for a long time, we never even talked about doing another Toy Story movie.  But when Andrew, Pete, Lee, and I came up with this new idea, I just could not stop thinking about it.  It was so exciting to me, I knew we had to make this movie – and I wanted to direct it myself.”

The “love story” element, however, was added by the L. A. Times:

“Lasseter told The Times that ‘Toy Story 4′ will be a love story and will pick up where ‘Toy Story 3′ left off, when Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and the rest of the series’ toy chest of characters were handed down to a little girl named Bonnie.”

“They have such a great sense of character and originality,” Lasseter said of Jones and McCormack.  “And I wanted to get a strong female voice in the writing of this.”

After dropping the bombshell of the new movie, Pixar’s focus then shifted to promoting Toy Story That Time Forgot, which aired in December.  Even so, Toy Story 4 was touched upon in several of the articles about the television special.  Wallace Shawn, the voice of Rex, mentioned in an interview that he had been notified of the sequel only one day before the general public:

“Oh, I heard one day before you.  I went around for 24 hours with some secret knowledge that would set the world of show business on its ear.”

And in an interview with Galyn Susman, she shared her thoughts:

“As you might expect, I’m not really in a position to talk about ‘Toy Story 4’ right now.  What I can say is that – while I was ready to say goodbye to these characters at the end of ‘Toy Story 3’ – the story that was pitched to me for the next feature-length installment of this series was so smart and so strong that I understood immediately why John wanted to revisit the world of these characters,” Susman enthused.  “Beyond that, what else can I say about ‘Toy Story 4’ ? Well, if people go to see this new Pixar movie in 2 & ½ years, they might see a new toy.”

Also in December, Pixar President Jim Morris was in Brazil for Comic Con, and while there spoke briefly about Toy Story 4.  The Pixar Brasil Blog provided this (translated) statement from him:  

“The original trilogy of Toy Story is very good and is full, so [we] did not want to make a sequel unless we had a fantastic story in [our] hands.  The idea finally emerged, it is a new chapter in the life of the characters.  The film is scripted by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, who brought a very contemporary approach to the film.”

And another (translated) Brazilian article quoted Morris as well:

“This will be a different chapter.  It will be more about the characters than their interaction with their owner, the child who plays with them.  It is a love story, but also has a different approach, because many writers are ones who are working on them.  They are writing a novel much more contemporary.”

Nothing else was heard until March 2015, when news hit that Jim Morris had again touched upon Toy Story 4 in an interview with the Disney Latino blog:  

“We are putting together a very nice story.  It is not a continuation of the end of the story of Toy Story 3.  Temporarily it is, but it will be a love story.  It will be a romantic comedy.  It will not put much focus on the interaction between the characters and children.  I think it will be a very good movie.”

“The third movie ended in a beautiful way and completed a trilogy.  I think this movie is not part of this trilogy.  It is a separate story, which in turn I do not know if it will be continued.  Never begin a project with that in mind.”

According to my translation (unfortunately, the link to the original article, in Spanish, is no longer working), if correct, the team was on their third script reading at that time.  One more tidbit was given to us that month, on March 11, when Josh Cooley was named as co-director alongside Lasseter.

Then things went somewhat quiet again on the Toy Story front.  In May, John Lasseter made a brief statement at Cannes:

“I am very excited to be directing again.  We’re in the early stages of the film, but it’s shaping up nicely. It’s funny.  The story is not as much a continuation of the past films, but a brand new chapter in the ‘Toy Story’ world.”

In June, a those who attended the “Insider Access” early showing event for Inside Out were treated to a illegible peek at concept art on the the Toy Story 4 Story Room wall.

“Now, you can’t see what’s in there yet. But soon we’ll be telling you all about this.”
“Now, you can’t see what’s in there yet. But soon we’ll be telling you all about this.”

And a remark, made by Don Rickles in an interview that was posted on July 22, let us know that Mr. Potato Head would be back and voice recording would soon be underway:

“They just signed me to do the fourth Toy Story… We start [work on it] in September, and I’m very delighted with that.“

But the info drought wasn’t to last too long.  I had hoped that the D23 Expo would give us something significant, and it didn’t disappoint.  I woke on the morning of August 14 to learn John Lasseter had announced that Toy Story 4 would be a love story about Woody and Bo Peep.

“It’s a love story with Woody and – and this is news – Bo Peep.”

Later that day at the Animation presentation,  he went on to say that Woody and Buzz would go looking for Bo, and that the story was inspired by his wife:

“We have the old characters back, and some great new characters we’ll tell you about in the future.  We’re so proud of Toy Story… What we did not realize while we were making the films is that each of the movies is a different genre.  And in Toy Story 4 it’s a genre we’ve never done in that world, a love story.  It’s a love story between Woody and Bo Peep.  Bo returns for Toy Story 4, as Woody and Buzz Lightyear head out into the world to find her.  It’s very special and a very personal story for me, because it’s inspired by my wife, Nancy.”

Many interviews with Lasseter popped up in the days following the Expo, and further explained his wife Nancy’s influence on the story – including one posted by Us Magazine, which hinted that we might learn more about Bo’s past:

“I love Bo Peep.  And we never got to know her backstory.  She wasn’t in Toy Story 3 at all, so it really set us up nicely for her to come back.  It’s a very special story.”

“Bo Peep really reminds me of my wife Nancy in many ways.  And my wife Nancy has an incredible emotional story, before I met her, so it’s a very personal story – as is every film at Pixar. But that’s what this one is for me.  It’s a very touching story that’s inspired by my love for my wife.”

But this one, found on ComingSoon.net, was possibly the most detailed:

“We came up with an idea, and Andrew Stanton and I worked it together, and Andrew wrote this incredible treatment, and now we’ve got the great screenwriting team of Will McCormack and Rashida Jones working on it with us, and it’s very special.  The story is a love story, which we haven’t done before.  And it’s bringing back Bo Peep – which, I love Bo Peep, and she was not in Toy Story 3 – so it’s really, really exciting.  And so Woody and Buzz Lightyear go out to find her and bring her back.  And it’s really inspired – it’s a very personal story for me, because it’s inspired by my wife Nancy.  She had a pretty amazing story before I met her, it’s always been very special to me; and it’s just the incredible strength of this woman, and I love her so much. It’s sort of an homage to her, cause Bo Peep reminds me of her in many ways – the strength of this character belies the pink bonnet, you know, how strong this character is.  And so it’s a very special, personal story. But it’s also very funny, and you’ll hear in the future about new characters and amazing things about it.  We’re so excited.”

He even shared a little technical detail:

“Wait til you see the look of the toys with our new rendering system. It’s spectacular.”

Also after D23, Kristen Schaal confirmed that we’ll get to see Trixie again:

“Yeah, Trixie is going to be returning… I have no details at all.  They just told me I was back and I was thrilled.”

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Celebrating ‘Toy Story 4’ and ‘Toy Story’s 20th Anniversary at D23.

So that’s pretty much where we stand right now.  Regardless of the sensationalized gossip that has been running rampant the past several weeks – projecting that Toy Story 4 will reveal not only that Andy’s mom is Emily, but also the whereabouts of Andy’s dad – there has been nothing even hinted at by Pixar to suggest this is a possibility.  If anything, Pixar’s acknowledgement that the third film tied up the toys’ story with Andy perfectly leads me to believe that any mention of their old owner will only be in relation to what happened to Bo Peep.

Other rumors have going around that the movie will be a prequel.  I think it’s safe to say that, especially with Trixie returning, there’s no way it could be set before Toy Story 3.  Both Lasseter and Morris have said that the fourth film will pick up where the third left off; it is the theme, however, that doesn’t continue what the trilogy started.  So, while we could maybe see a flashback or two of Woody and Bo – perhaps of the fateful day where she was sold or given away – I don’t think there’s any chance of it being set anytime but post- Toy Story 3, as Bonnie’s toys.

For now, I’m fairly satisfied with the amount of information we’ve been given.  And even though I’m a huge fan of Buzz and Jessie as a couple, and would have been thrilled to see them as the stars for a change, I didn’t expect Pixar to deviate from Woody being the focus.  I was happy to hear that the new film would bring back Bo Peep – I’ve always wanted to see her reunited with Woody, and if it was to be about him, that was the storyline I was hoping for most of all.  But what I really want to know now (besides whether Annie Potts will return as Bo), is how Toy Story 4 will fall in relation to the specials and shorts.  Toy Story of Terror was said to be set six months after Toy Story 3, which would place it in roughly February.  (Or is it?  The calendar in Ron the Manager’s office says October.)  Hawaiian Vacation had snow on the ground, which would indicate winter, along with the Christmas setting of Toy Story That Time Forgot.  Small Fry and Partysaurus Rex are more season-less.   My guess is, that since Hawaiian Vacation was most likely made before Toy Story 4 was even in development, it might just be the oddball that doesn’t fit (I’m not criticizing it; it’s probably my favorite of the Toons).  Perhaps one of the reasons that both television specials were set away from Bonnie’s room, with a select group of characters, allowed for the possibility that Bo Peep was there all along, as part of the gang, just not chosen by her new owner as an participant in those particular adventures.  Time will tell.

In summary, here’s what we REALLY know about Toy Story 4:

  • In theaters June 16, 2017.*
  • John Lasseter directing, with Josh Cooley co-directing
  • Galyn Susman producing
  • Rashida Jones and Will McCormack writing, with a strong female voice
  • Don Rickles, Kristen Schaal confirmed most recently (although Lasseter said all the cast is returning)
  • Picks up where Toy Story 3 left off, but is a new chapter for the toys, not a continuation
  • Love story/romantic comedy about Woody and Bo Peep
  • Woody and Buzz (and hopefully the others! Jessie too, please!) go in search of Bo, and meet new toys along the way
  • Inspired by John Lasseter’s wife Nancy
  • Voice work should be underway (or close to it) by now

Stay tuned.  I’ll share whenever I hear something new – and official!

*UPDATE:  Release date has been changed to June 15, 2018.

Images © Disney/Pixar.

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