By Diana Anderson, Contributing Writer
For the actors and creative minds involved with Pixar’s beloved franchise, TOY STORY, it was a joy and an honor to make movies that send positive messages to families.
Since Pixar released its first feature-length movie, the original TOY STORY in 1995, it has achieved a level of unprecedented excellence by consistently producing hit after hit with such astonishing successes as FINDING NEMO, WALL-E, and UP. But the “story” that started it all will soon be making its final curtain call as the adventures of Woody, Buzz, and the entire toy chest of delightful pals wind up with TOY STORY 3.
Though no more stories are planned for Woody and his endearing entourage, John Ratzenberger, aka, “Hamm,” is optimistic about the movie’s legacy.
“I don’t really think it’s coming to an end,” he said. “[Andy's] paying it forward. I’m a big fan of the Judeo-Christian ethic of thinking about other people instead of yourself, and that’s exactly what he’s doing. I love the message at the end of he’s handing it over to another generation.”
Joan Cusack, who voices Woody’s spirited sidekick, Jessie, says that her working experience with Pixar has been a favorite job.
“I think working with Pixar is sort of, like, the top line because it’s so thought out. The people are so creative, and they’re so thoughtful, and collaborative, so it’s like, there’s no negativity about anything that you do with it.”
Jessie, Cusack believes, is a strong female role model.
“She feels things deeply,” Cusack said, “but she learns from her feelings, so it’s not like she’s just feeling things and is out of control. And, she doesn’t feel like being a girl is a plus or a minus. It’s a non-issue. I like too that she believes that kids are important, and that she wants to figure out a way to do something meaningful for kids.”
Lee Unkrich, the movie’s director, added that Pixar is, “very conscious of wanting to have strong female parts in the movie. We work at it. We really worked hard to find a good balance in this film between male and female characters.”
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Much of the cast has children of their own, and realizes the significance of being part of family movies.
“When you have kids, you realize how absorbent they are, and how they learn so much through osmosis,” Ratzenberger noted.
When asked if kids frequently approach them and ask them to speak as their characters, the actors say they are happy to oblige.
“At the airport, a parent came up, and he said, ‘My grandson. . .’ I said, ‘Get him on the phone.’ Hey Jason, this is Hamm the pig,‘ and we had a great conversation. And I do that quite often now. Even for like charity events, I’ll call your kid in my Pixar voices. And luckily it’s all the same voice.”
Jodi Benson (“Barbie”), perhaps most famous for playing Ariel in Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID, counts her identity with the red-headed heroine as a great privilege.
“It’s been the biggest gift from God in my life, that character,” Benson said. “It’s been a huge, huge blessing.”
Lest STORY fans grow sorrowful as they bid farewell to their favorite toys, Pixar has announced that moviegoers can expect to see the lovable gang again in an upcoming short film.
“We recognize that the world loves these characters,” Unkrich explained. “They love Woody and Buzz, and they want to see more of them.”
To see more of Woody and company, check out TOY STORY 3 in theatres Friday. And you can read the Movieguide(R) review HERE.
It’s a glorious, absolutely charming comedy adventure, with a soul-stirring redemptive rescue that is profound, spellbinding and completely satisfying in nearly every way.