By Zach Johnson
From the moment of his creation, Forky (voice of Tony Hale) experiences an existential crisis. As he tries to explain to Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) in Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story 4 (in U.S. theaters June 24, 2019), “I am not a toy! I was made for soup, salad… and then the trash!” Because unlike Bonnie’s other toys—Buzz Lightyear (voice of Disney Legend Tim Allen), Jessie (voice of Joan Cusack), Rex (voice of Wallace Shawn), and Hamm (voice of John Ratzenberger), to name a few—Forky wasn’t manufactured. Bonnie crafted him during kindergarten orientation, and he instantly became her favorite toy—a fact not lost on Woody, who wants her to be happy.
The Toy Story films are built upon the idea that everything has a purpose, director Josh Cooley says: “A toy’s purpose is to be there for its child, and a cup’s purpose is to hold water. Being that he’s a spork, it’s like, ‘Soup, salad, chili. I’m single use.’ Now he has a whole new purpose.”
Because of Forky, Cooley adds, “Woody has a new purpose as well.”
To bring Forky to life onscreen, animator Claudio De Oliveira picked up sporks from his local pizza place and created different iterations to understand how each element—googly eyes, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, etc.—could be animated. “I would be trying to glue down an eye, and all of a sudden, the eye would turn and look at me,” he says. “Straight into my soul.” After involving his kids in the crafting process, De Oliveira realized, “Even though he’s so limited, we would be able to find ways to convey emotion and make him feel like he belongs in this world.”
De Oliveira says early access to Hale’s voice recordings helped artists figure out Forky, as they were all working with “very limited resources” at that point in the production. For example, De Oliveira recalls how Hale’s different line readings of the word “trash” were so imaginative they inspired artists to finesse Forky’s design. “He just reminded us that we could find a way to do it.”
In retrospect, producer Jonas Rivera says adding a character like Forky to the mix was a no-brainer. “One thing I remember kicking around was the idea of kids at Christmas. Sometimes my kids will open a toy and then play with the box more,” he says. “I thought, ‘If you were a toy, that would be the worst insult.’” Just as Woody was initially wary of Buzz in Toy Story, he adds, “There was something about it amplifying Woody feeling replaced by the dumbest thing.”
“And it’s the ‘toy truth’ of it, really,” Cooley says of Forky gaining sentience via Bonnie. “Our kids, they do make craft projects and they play with them, so they could be alive in this world.”
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