Exclusive: Wallace Shawn on the Toy Story Trilogy


This Friday, two Pixar Animation classics, Toy Story and Toy Story, are joined together for a triumphant return to the big screen as part of two-week special engagement in Disney Digital 3-D. The double-feature marks the first time since 1995 that the original “Toy Story” has been available on the big screen, opening the experience to children who have grown up on Pixar films but never had the chance to catch the original theatrical experience and paving the way to next summer’s Toy Story 3.

ComingSoon.net caught up with two of the voice stars of the trilogy at a special Los Angeles press conference; Wallace Shawn (voice of Rex) joined Estelle Harris (voice of Mrs. Potato Head), fielding questions about the re-release and staying very quiet about any Toy Story 3 details.

“You know, it’s all so secret,” said Harris when asked about the third chapter, “And it’s partially secret from us, too because we’re in the midst of it. They keep on changing lines and making them better.”

Despite dodging any spoilers about the upcoming film, Harris still managed to have the room in stitches with a story about her trip to the premiere of WALL•E. “John Lasseter is a f**king genius,” said Harris simply, in her sweet-old-lady voice, “I told him that… We were invited to see ‘WALL•E’ and I went and it was not my cup of tea. I mean, I thought it was beautifully done and clever, but it was not my cup of tea. Now, I don’t lie. I’m too stupid to lie. Because if I lie, I’ll forget that I lied and I’ll f**k myself up. So he’s waiting down there for me to tell him what I thought and I just didn’t know what to say. I looked at him and smiled and said, ‘You’re a f*king genius’. And he took it that I liked it. ”

After the press conference, ComingSoon.net caught up with Shawn for an exclusive one-on-one interview:

CS: You have both “Toy Story” films making a return to theaters in 3-D and, just a few weeks ago, Criterion released a new DVD edition of “My Dinner with Andre.” How does it feel going back and reexamining these older works?

Shawn: Well, you know it’s always nice to have one’s work in print and have the things you did in the past available to people who are alive in the present. It’s absolutely terrific. I’m very delighted about it.

CS: You’ve played so many iconic characters — everything from Rex in “Toy Story” to Vizzini in “The Princess Bride” to the Grand Nagus on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” Who’s the one character you find yourself recognized as the most?

Shawn: Well, certainly the character in “The Princess Bride”… I live in New York and people are out on the street a great deal. You meet people and yes, an enormous number of people come up and talk to me about that film. Although a lot also come up and talk about “Clueless.” In certain neighborhoods and in certain strange locations, I meet people who have seen even “My Dinner with Andre” or “Vanya on 42nd Street.”

CS: Is there something subtlety different you do to your voice when you’re playing Rex?

Shawn: It’s my voice, but of course, I started doing it fifteen years ago and I suppose I had a higher voice. Let’s be frank: as we age, sometimes our voice gets a bit lower. I suppose that if I sound too tragically old, they say to use my higher register.

CS: Has Rex changed at all going into “Toy Story 3”?

Shawn: Oh, I don’t think so. He’s made of plastic. I don’t think he changes.

CS: Well he can still change as a character. Buzz and Woody learned to like each other. He hasn’t had to deal with Andy getting another dinosaur?

Shawn: I think he retains his innocence. I wouldn’t say that he’s changed a great deal.

CS: Unlike the gap between “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2,” there seems to a sizeable amount of time that has passed for the characters going into “Toy Story 3.” Do you find yourself at all nostalgic stepping back into the character’s shoes?

Shawn: Well, I think that everyone else ages, but the toys themselves do not really age. That’s part of what they’re doing in continuing the series, which is very interesting. They’re measuring the change in the humans against the un-change in the toys.

CS: As a viewer, how do you like the 3-D process?

Shawn: As a viewer? Well, I put on the glasses and after a few minutes I was just watching the story, really. I wasn’t terribly aware of how many dimensions there were.

CS: So you’re not thinking about doing a “My Dinner with Andre” in 3-D?

Shawn: (Laughs) That would be exciting.

CS: Do you have a Rex at home?

Shawn: I do, yes. (Motioning to toy Rex in room) This Rex that we’re now looking at seems a little bit bigger. A little bit bigger than the one I have. But that’s the way our country works. The recipes in “The Joy of Cooking” are bigger. The portions are bigger. I think that’s been true since the book originally came out.

CS: You also have another film coming out very soon; You’ve got a part in Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story.”

Shawn: Yes, I am. I haven’t seen it [yet]. I’m going to see it on Monday.

CS: Can you tell me a little about what you’re doing in that one?

Shawn: As far as I know, I’m just talking with Michael Moore. You know, we talked for many, many hours and I’m sure he only uses three words of me. But I do know that I was not cut out. I’m still in there somewhere. I’m going to go and see it on Monday. I love Michael Moore and I think he’s a great man of our time.

CS: Not only are you in the “Toy Story” films but you also had an appearance in “The Incredibles.” Are there any other roles that Pixar has come to you about?

Shawn: I’m more than available. But we actors consider it bad form to use interviews to beg for work. Ordinarily, we don’t do that. We can say, “We’re available!” Probably to say, “We’re desperate!” goes too far. So people don’t usually say that.

CS: Do you have a dream role or some project that you’ve always wanted to do?

Shawn: No. I never planned to be an actor and I’ve been one even though I never planned to be one. I never grew up thinking, “one day I will play so and so” because I wasn’t expecting to be an actor at all.

CS: Do you think of yourself now as an actor first and foremost?

Shawn: Not really. I know that I am one and I’ve made a living as an actor and I enjoy being an actor, but when I’m not actually doing it, I forget that I do it. Because I was a writer long before I ever acted and I still think of myself more as a writer. I wake up in the morning with that mind. When somebody comes up to me and says, “Hey! You’re the guy in that movie!” at first I sort of think, “I am?” and then I think, “Oh, yes. That was me.” But it sort of interrupts the self that I probably thought I was when I was walking down the street.

CS: Tell me a little about your writing process. Do you have a very strict, regimented writing schedule?

Shawn: No. I don’t really know how I do what I do. It’s a very chaotic process. There’s nothing regular about my life at all, really. I don’t keep a regular schedule and every day is different. It’s all rather chaotic. You know, I haven’t written as much as most other writers. Certainly maybe those who keep a more regular schedule accomplish more.

The Toy Story 3D Double Feature hits theaters this Friday, October 2nd.