Toy Story Throwback: Lee Unkrich’s ‘Toy Story 3’ Formspring

lee-unkrich

We passed the two-year countdown mark for Toy Story 4 back in June – down to 20 months now – but we still have a long way to go.  And since news on the upcoming sequel continues to be light these days, I thought I might as well share another of my “throwback” posts while we wait.  It’s as good a time as any to reminisce about the previous Toy Story film, as we anticipate the next one and ponder what secrets its story holds for us.

I think it’s safe to say that anyone who was a part of the Toy Story fandom during the days surrounding Toy Story 3‘s release in 2010 can remember director Lee Unkrich’s account on Formspring.  The now-defunct social media site’s format was strictly Q&A, and although I never had the nerve to ask him anything myself, I can remember checking often to see if he’d answered anything new.  Sadly, he deleted the account – and all the goodness it contained – not too long thereafter, so I never had the chance to screencap or jot down the questions that were asked and their replies, which were fascinating to a fan like myself.

The Toy Story 3 director’s Formspring Q&A has long been a quest of sorts for fans.  However, the site no longer exists in its original form, and since users were required to log in to access all content, it’s not even possible to use archive sites like the Wayback Machine to find old posts – believe me, my friends and I have tried, with no success.  So it was quite a challenge to find any actual images or quotes from six years ago, but I did manage to track down a few on various forums and message boards throughout the web.  Here they are, with some of my thoughts on their content…

Formspring Bo Peep

This was one of the questions that started me on my search – and was the only one I found an actual screencap of.  After the announcement that Toy Story 4 was going to be about Woody going in search of Bo Peep, and all the speculation swirling around on the internet about what happened to her in the first place, a friend’s hazy memory that Unkrich had dealt with that very subject on Formspring sent me hunting.  And his reply opens up questions about the direction the new film will take, and the methods the toys will use to locate Woody’s lost love.  If Bo did go to a relative who had recently had a baby, perhaps the story will take them back to Andy’s – his mom is confirmed to be in it, after all – to pinpoint the address and head out on their mission to find her and bring her home.

Q:  One thing that alot of people on the internet have been confused about was the relationship between Woody and Jessie.  We all know that Buzz and Jessie are together, but are Woody and Jessie the best of friends or are they more like brother and sister?

A:  They’re good friends and share a sibling-like relationship.

The other questions I was most hopeful to find were those that provided insight about Jessie – particularly her romantic relationship with Buzz, and her platonic/familial friendship with Woody.  I had remembered Unkrich referring to them as siblings, and I also remembered there being a question about why Jessie only calls out Woody’s name when they’re on the conveyor belt – to which he answered, it was just the way the line was written, she was worried about Buzz as well.  Unfortunately, I only was able to find the one reply above, but one is better than none!  And it’s the more useful of the two, in my opinion.  It never fails to irritate me that people don’t comprehend (or pay attention to? or respect?) who the canon couples of Toy Story are, so I’m always happy to see official remarks clarifying that Woody is with Bo, Buzz is with Jessie, and Woody and Jessie are, for all intents and purposes, family.

Q:  I’m probably not the first person to ask this, but where is Andy’s dad?

A:  This is our most-asked question.  We all have our own ideas, but we’ve decided that any one answer opens a can of worms and raises too many other questions.  We think it’s best to leave that particular question forever unanswered.

Q:  There have been rumors that Andys mom is jesses previous owner.  Is this true?

A:  No.

Q:  Ok I’ve seen Toy Story 3 5 times, scouring for easter eggs, but is most important one right in front of our faces?  Is the girl in the day care holding the cat “kitty”, and goes boo to the other toy she’s holding really a grown up BOO??

A:  Nope, sorry.

Ah, the fan theories.  I’m not going to get into the Pixar theories – especially the Toy Story ones – because people have fought me viciously about them on social media in the past.  I, personally, choose to believe the word of the filmmakers over things the fans have dreamt up (and that have spread like wildfire online as fact), but that’s just me; everyone’s free to look at these ideas as they choose.  At least we have statements to debunk some of the most pervasive rumors, straight from the director himself.

Q:  Is the Zurg in Toy Story 3 the same one that was in Toy Story 2?  If so, where’s his son Utility Belt Buzz?

A:  It’s a different Zurg.

Q:  Watched Toy Story 3 for the third time and just realised something.  How did Slinky get off the magnetic conveyor belt at the dump?

A:  All the toys banded together and managed to pull him down.  We had storyboarded a beat showing them getting him down, but I decided it was slowing things down and was not necessary.  I thought it was better to have Woody surprised that the toys were no longer on the belt.

Q:  Why is Andy or his mom not suprised that the toys appeared out of nowhere right after Andy was all worried that his mom had lost them?

A:  Andy IS surprised. Mom is purposefully out in the hall and not quite aware of what Andy is talking about.

Q:  In “The Art of Toy Story 3” there is a colour-line of Lotso’s gang and Trixie is with them.  Was Trixie originally going to be a bad guy?

A:  We came up with the idea of a triceratops toy before we had a name or a gender.  It seemed to me that Lotso would have surrounded himself with “tough” toys to do his bidding, and a triceratops fit the bill.  After we designed her, though, she was really appealing and I thought it would be a shame for her to not end up Rex’s friend at the end of the movie.  So we finally decided to make her one of Bonnie’s toys.  There was also a time when we considered Buttercup being one of Lotso’s tough gang.

Q:  What did you do with Spanish Buzz in Spanish speaking countries?  Did he become French Buzz?

A:  In Spain, Spanish Buzz begins speaking Andalusian Spanish, a dialect from southern Spain, home of bull fighting and flamenco dancing.  This switch is very funny to Spanish audiences.

Q:  I hear Barbie and Ken don’t appear in the ‘Toy Story 3’ game, and I noticed they didn’t appear in the ‘Toy Story 3’ graphic novel, either.  How come?  They’re such incredible characters!  😀

A:  We have an agreement with Mattel to use Ken and Barbie in the movie.  Beyond that, it’s up to them to decide where else they can appear.

The rest of the Q&A responses I found weren’t that monumental, just some interesting facts and trivia.  The Barbie and Ken question does make me wonder about their presence in Toy Story 4 – although having been the focus of Hawaiian Vacation, and with the popularity of the franchise in general, I find it hard to believe that Mattel wouldn’t approve Barbie and Ken making more appearances in the series.

Twitter Lee Unkrich

Formspring wasn’t the only place the director offered info and updates while Toy Story 3 was in production.  Tweets also provided insight, such as the one above about Woody’s full name.  Social media has expanded so much in the years since Toy Story 3 – with the growth of Instagram and Facebook especially, along with Twitter – that there should be even more potential to get sneak peeks and teasers nowadays, in the months leading up to Toy Story 4.  Besides some cryptic tweets, though, like the possible concept art from last year, there hasn’t been much shared so far.  But a fangirl can dream, that eventually we’ll see the same sort of online presence that other recent Pixar films have received.

Lee Unkrich spoiled us with all that he shared back then, and I’m very appreciative that he did.  As I watch him now tweet little tidbits about the progress of his latest film, Coco, in the same way he used to mention Toy Story 3, I can’t help but wish we’d get similar treats in regards to Toy Story 4.  With John Lasseter directing, I know updates won’t be coming directly from him; he’s far too busy to interact with fans on social media.  I’ll still hope that maybe, somewhere, as the movie’s release gets closer, someone else in the filmmaking pipeline will share some behind-the-scenes snippets about how things are progressing.  If they do, I will be eternally grateful.

Do you remember these Formspring posts?  Have you found any reference to them yourself?  If you’re aware of any other responses out there that I missed, please share!

Photo © Disney/Pixar.  I found and compiled these Formspring quotes so long ago, I honestly can’t remember what sites I found them on – I don’t mean to shirk giving credit where it’s due.  

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