Toy Story 4 Was Secretly Being Written Before Toy Story 3 Released

When Toy Story 3 was released in 2010, the response was that Pixar had stuck the landing. This animated film series had the perfect ending for a trilogy and would stand the test of time. Even director Lee Unkirch said it plain as day: “We don’t have any plans for Toy Story 4.”  Speaking with director Josh Cooley and producers Mark Nielsen and Jonas Rivera about Toy Story 4 though, we now know that this wasn’t exactly true….

“Andrew Stanton one of the writers, who’s written on all the Toy Story films, one of the godfathers of Toy Story, he actually started the outline for number 4 while 3 was still finishing,” Cooley said. “And but he kept it secret. We didn’t know, I’m speaking for all of us.’

Only Stanton and a select few others at Pixar even knew he was writing an outline, but other projects got in the way of full development, that being the Oscar winning Inside Out. Even the people at Pixar had the same reaction to the idea of a Toy Story 4 that you likely did, “Why?” Stanton stood his ground though, convinced that they could branch off into something new.

RELATED: How Toy Story 4 continues the series’ tradition of referencing The Shining

Rivera elaborates, “That started to light us up a little bit, and slowly, we started to crack that open and go, ‘What would happen if Woody did everything right, he survived it all, he landed on his feet with Bonnie.’ And what we realized in that discussion was the end of 3 is really the end of Andy’s story, but the story of Toy Story is Woody….Now that I’m saying it, I’m realizing Andrew’s kids had gone off to college and moved out. So there’s definitely some of that in there. Like, what do you do when you’ve done everything right and your life’s not over? You have to reinvent yourself. And that was kind of the crack in the nerve, like okay, how would Woody do that? That was interesting to us.”

This deeply personal journey for Woody wasn’t the primary thing that Stanton brought to his original idea, his primary point was the return of Bo Peep to the franchise.

“It had Bo returning. That was pretty much it,” Cooley adds. “It wasn’t until after you work on it for a while, you start to understand this is what the movie’s telling me it should be, and also that’s me in the movie as well. So it’s not like Andrew sat down, ‘I’m going to tell a story about being an empty nester,’ he just sat down like, ‘What if Bo Peep came back?’ That was it.”

From there the beats of the new sequel began to take shape, how Woody’s new owner Bonnie wouldn’t be the same as Andy, and they couldn’t just make him the defacto favorite toy again. That alone leads to an interesting path for him as a character.

“It was interesting. We know this character. What would he do in this new situation? So we just kept going down these different paths, and just a random thing of coming up with Forky. And then we were like, ‘Well, actually, Forky forces him to explain what it means to be a toy.’ And so, all of these things just started to kind of fall in line very slowly over time. And just speaking about that part of Woody on the road with Forky talking about basically what it means to not have your kid living at home anymore. When Andrew wrote that, I read it and was crying because it was just so awesomely written. And I even told him like, ‘Nobody else could write this. You’ve experienced this and I could feel it on the page there.'”

Toy Story 4 opens in theaters this Friday, June 21! Get your tickets by clicking here!


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