"Toy Story 3" Interviews with Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and John Ratzenberger
In advance of the release of Toy Story 3 on DVD and Blu-ray on November 2, 2010, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has released the following interviews with actors Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and John Ratzenberger on reprising their roles for the movie.
TOM HANKS (Woody) became the first actor in 50 years to be awarded back-to-back Best Actor Academy Awards® in 1994—first as the AIDS-stricken lawyer in “Philadelphia” and then the following year as the title character in “Forrest Gump.” Hanks earned Golden Globes® for both performances, and again for his roles in “Big” and “Cast Away.” Hanks’ film career began in 1984 with a starring role in Ron Howard’s “Splash.” He has since worked several times with Howard, playing astronaut Jim Lovell in “Apollo 13″ and historian-adventurer Robert Langdon, first in “The Da Vinci Code” in 2006, and again in “Angels & Demons” in 2009. In 1995, he gave his voice to the lovable and loyal cowboy sheriff Woody in the computer animated smash hit, “Toy Story.” Hanks reprised his role in the 1999 Disney sequel, “Toy Story 2,” which proved to be a huge hit at the global box office. In 1998, Hanks starred in Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” for which he received his fourth Oscar® nomination. Hanks reteamed with Spielberg in 2002, appearing opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in “Catch Me If You Can,” and in 2004 he starred along side of Catherine Zeta-Jones in “The Terminal.” In 2000, Hanks reunited with “Forrest Gump” director Robert Zemeckis and screenwriter William Broyles Jr. in “Cast Away,” for which he received yet another Oscar® nomination. Zemeckis and Hanks worked together again in November 2004 when Hanks starred in the film adaptation of the Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book “The Polar Express.” Hanks’ other credits include “That Thing You Do,” which he also wrote and directed; “The Green Mile,” written and directed by Frank Darabont; “The Road to Perdition,” featuring Paul Newman and Jude Law and directed by Sam Mendes; the Coen Brothers’ dark comedy “The Ladykillers”; and Mike Nichols’ film “Charlie Wilson’s War,” opposite Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Next up, Tom stars opposite Julia Roberts in “Larry Crowne,” which he wrote with Nia Vardalos, directs and is executive producing.
Tom Hanks is back in the saddle again, lending his voice to the popular pull-string cowboy Woody in the new Disney•Pixar 3D comedy adventure Toy Story 3.
TOM HANKS: The Toy Story films accomplish what timeless classics aim for – innocent characters who face an endless trail of adventures. We all know the likes of Woody and Buzz. We wonder who we would be if we were toys. There’s this great logic that John Lasseter and Lee [Unkrich] and Darla [K. Anderson], and all the writers adhere to that makes moviegoers just kind of relax and let themselves be transported to this magical place and time. When you can do that with a movie, it’s amazing. With ‘Toy Story 3,’ you come back to a lovely, familiar and happy place.
Q: DisneyPixar is renowned for creating story-driven films with a heart. What can audiences expect from Toy Story 3?
TOM HANKS: Toy Story 3 is a big massive adventure that has you constantly on the edge of your seat. It’s part “Great Escape,” with the same kind of excitement as Dorothy escaping from the Wicked Witch of the West. And yet they take those elements and turn them into something that is very emotional. We’re talking about toy dinosaurs and Mr. Potato Head, and yet you feel for them and don’t want them to get recycled or stuck with the bratty kids. You want them to be together and played with at the end of the movie. You’re worried for their essence. The filmmakers at Pixar always manage to get you right in the heart. The story is as simple as growing up and having a guy go off to college, but it is so profoundly emotional that you can’t help but have tears in your eyes.
Q: This will be your third time playing the pull-string cowboy sheriff Woody. After all these years, how would you describe Woody’s character and what makes him so lovable?
TOM HANKS: Woody is a passionate guy who throws himself into every action. As soon as he has an instinctive thought like “I have to help them,” or “I have to run away,” he does it with 100-percent commitment. You gotta love that about anybody. What’s great is that I get credit for the way the character and the humor come off. I have kids that are now in college come up to me and say, “when you told that neighbor kid to play nice, that really meant a lot to me.”
Q: How has Woody’s relationship with Buzz evolved over the course of these three films?
TOM HANKS: I love the way the relationship between Woody and Buzz has grown. They started off as pure adversaries and learned how to accept each other’s strengths, forgive each other’s failures, and respect each other as individuals. Opposites definitely attract in this case.
Q: What are some of the obstacles that Woody must face in Toy Story 3?
TOM HANKS: There is a huge ground shift in the lives of these toys. In one scene, Woody must watch his buddies get inadvertently thrown in the garbage. It is heart-wrenching for him. Another challenge he must face is when he chooses to walk away from his toy friends because of a temporary difference of perceptions. It is a big, tough decision for him. Without giving too much away, there is this tremendous life-shattering and life-saving adventure.
Q: What other character would you like to play if you could not be Woody?
TOM HANKS: Wow, that’s a very, very good question. Quite frankly, I am of the Slinky dog persuasion. I think Slinky can go places other toys can’t go and he can do things other toys can’t do because of his ability to stretch. I think that would be fun.
Q: Toy Story was released in 1995. What are some changes to the animation process that you have experienced over the years?
TOM HANKS: For the first one, we were shown the movie through storyboards mounted on walls. So you walked into a building and about a quarter mile later you understood the movie because they literally walked you through every sequence. This time they did this brilliant thing where they just showed us the entire animatic. An animatic is a process where every voice and every sound effect is added to rough animated drawings and it lasts exactly as long as the final movie. So you actually get to go into a screening room with the rest of the cast and you get to see it all at the same time.
TOM HANKS: I have been working on a Pixar movie on and off for a long time. It astounds me every time that it takes about four years to create these films. It seems like every two weeks they call you in to record, but it turns out to be about every six months. When I started doing the first Toy Story film, I had two kids; I now have four kids. [LAUGHS]
Q: Disney•Pixar has an amazing track record of creating animated films that achieve critical acclaim. What is the secret to Pixar’s success?
TOM HANKS: The Pixar people continuously amaze me. They come up with something that actually looks as though it takes place in this happy, real-world. Every plot line is not just plausible, but oddly authentic. The stories are full of adventure, humor and love. The characters are written with great human dimension. I don’t know how they do it but they astound me.
Q: What do you think of the technological advances in live-action and animated filmmaking?
TOM HANKS: Motion pictures are just beginning to live up to their true potential of being this immersive experience—going from beyond black and white flickering images to fully immersive 3D color high-definition. You don’t even know where the real world starts and the fake world begins. And yet, none of that’s going to matter unless the story and the emotions that they allow us to become invested in are something that we can recognize. Pixar is able to do this in ways that almost defies speculation. And isn’t it grand that the Toy Story films are such a great example of this power to deeply connect with an audience?
TIM ALLEN (Buzz Lightyear) was last seen on-screen in his feature film directorial debut, the independent comedy “Crazy on the Outside,” which is currently available on DVD. Allen made his film debut in 1994, playing the historic holiday icon in the Walt Disney blockbuster hit “The Santa Clause,” which earned him a People’s Choice Award. In November 2002 Allen successfully reprised his role in “The Santa Clause 2,” and again in 2006 in “The Santa Clause 3.” In 1995, he gave voice to the beloved, yet deluded space ranger Buzz Lightyear in the computer animated smash hit Toy Story. Allen reprised his role of Buzz in the 1999 sequel “Toy Story 2,” which proved to be a huge hit at the global box office. Allen’s other credits include the Sony Picture Classics’ drama “Redbelt,” the Touchstone Pictures’ hit comedy “Wild Hogs,” the Revolution Studios’ comedy “Christmas with the Kranks,” the DreamWorks sci-fi comedy “Galaxy Quest,” 20th Century Fox’s “Joe Somebody,” the Touchstone Pictures’ ensemble “Big Trouble,” the Paramount Classics film “Who Is Cletis Tout?” and Disney’s update of the family classic “The Shaggy Dog.” Allen honed his talents as a stand-up comic throughout the 1980s, providing the perfect lead-in to his highly successful ABC television series “Home Improvement,” where he garnered a Golden Globe® Award, an Emmy® nomination, and was honored with the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Male Performer in a Television Series for an unprecedented eight years in a row. In 1999, during the final season of “Home Improvement,” the actor was honored with the TV Guide Award for Favorite Actor in a Comedy Series. Despite a hectic film and TV career, Allen has found time to pen two books. The first book, “Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man,” topped the New York Times Bestseller List. This was followed by his second bestseller “I’m Not Really Here,” which focused on midlife, family and quantum physics.
Tim Allen has signed up for his third mission, once again lending his voice to the heroic space ranger Buzz Lightyear in the new Disney•Pixar 3D comedy adventure Toy Story 3.
TIM ALLEN: The people at Pixar are great storytellers and great movies start with a great story.
Q: What can audiences expect from Toy Story 3?
TIM ALLEN: Toy Story 3 is a remarkable achievement with a story that is so good they could have marketed the storyboard version. Even though I knew the story and had read the ending, it grabbed me in the best possible way. I know audiences are going to have the same reaction. There are great action sequences, but the beauty of the movie is the evolution of the subtleties in the shot selection and how it is directed. Pixar just keeps getting better and better. This is a very simple story about friendships and staying together. I love that the ending is really a new beginning. You realize that one door shuts and another one opens. It’s very, very emotional.
Q: What are some of the obstacles that the toys face as Andy prepares to leave for college?
TIM ALLEN: In Toy Story 3, it is all about second chances. The toys are thrown away by mistake and end up in a daycare center. At first it looks like heaven for these guys, but they are placed with a group of kids that don’t know how to respect toys and they break them. It becomes an absolute purgatory for these toys. So they have to find a way to get themselves back home.
TIM ALLEN: In this third film, Buzz gets to expand his role. When he accidentally gets reset, he speaks perfect Spanish. He’s a conquistador and a bull fighter. It’s pretty hysterical. I really do like being Buzz. He’s a lot of fun to play.
Q: Can you give us a sneak peek at some of the new characters and voices in Toy Story 3?
TIM ALLEN: I like the new toys. Jeff Garlin does a great job with the unicorn, Buttercup. Timothy Dalton plays Mr. Pricklepants who is a theatre-loving hedgehog who takes the craft of acting very seriously. He is just wonderful. And Michael Keaton brings alive the character of the Ken doll. I laughed so hard at the scene where Ken does a fashion show for Barbie. It was hilarious.
Q: What other character would you like to play if you could not be Buzz?
TIM ALLEN: I like Mr. Potato Head quite a bit and I am beginning to really like the new hedgehog character, Mr. Pricklepants. Ken is very interesting and he is real super deluded. However, in the end, Buzz is really who I like to be. It’s a character I developed with John Lasseter.
Q: Friendship is a major theme in the Toy Story films. What makes the relationship between Buzz and Woody work?
TIM ALLEN: I think their relationship works because they accept each other’s limitations. Woody is honest and he wants to do everything for the group; it’s always about other people. Buzz is a doer and a fixer. Give a job to Buzz and he will get it done. There is an overall respect for each other and this makes for a great relationship.
Q: The original Toy Story was released in 1995. Over the course of that 15-year span, what would you say is the best thing about playing the role of Buzz Lightyear?
TIM ALLEN: The great thing for me about working on the Toy Story films is the great friendships I’ve made with all the people at Pixar and with Tom Hanks. Tom and I really like working together and being around each other. I totally respect his talent and I think he feels the same about me. We really do enjoy each other’s company and I value that.
TIM ALLEN: Being in an animated movie is much more difficult than you might imagine, especially for a live performer. As a comedian, I tend to run on and ad-lib because I get bored very quickly. So it can be long sessions in the recording booth. There are also whole days that you just do grunting and panting and breathing just so the animators can match it to the characters. It’s an incredibly complex mechanical process that ends up on screen as an amazing, fun experience. It’s like watching magic.
Q: In Toy Story 3, Andy is going off to college. Could you relate to Andy’s dilemma of having to leave behind his treasured childhood toys?
TIM ALLEN: I did have a box of stuff with toys that I played with in my formative ages. My parents went through a flood and some of it got destroyed, but my best stuff was always protected. I still have the box and now it’s down to six things. This is what the movie is about; a kid is going off to college and what is he going to keep? Now if I were the kid, I would pick a Buzz Lightyear doll because you could say that you collect classic toys and no one would laugh at you. They would think that a spaceman is cool, but if you have a stuffed cowboy…come on! [LAUGHS]
Perhaps best known as Cliff Claven on the long-running TV sitcom Cheers, JOHN RATZENBERGER has been dubbed Pixar’s good luck charm by several of the studio’s producers and directors. He is the only actor to have appeared in all 11 of Pixar’s films ranging from major supporting roles like Hamm the pig in Toy Story and Mack the truck in Cars to bit parts like the Abominable Snow Man in Monsters Inc. and the Underminer in The Incredibles. However, his roles with Pixar and on the hit NBC sitcom (and the many other shows where he and George Wendt reprised their roles) only scratch the surface of a long and varied career in TV, film, and stage, including roles in movies like Superman, The Empire Strikes Back, Gandhi, and TV shows like Captain Planet and 8 Simple Rules. Along the way, he’s picked up two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and won one Legend Award along with several other cast members of Cheers.
JOHN RATZENBERGER: It feels great! Playing Hamm is like getting to play with old friends again. All of the old gang are back together for another amazing Toy Story movie. It’s a lot of fun for me because I’ve grown to love Hamm and his funny ways.
To be honest, it feels like I never left Hamm because I’m constantly asked about the character. I bump into people at airports or I meet people whilst picking up my dry cleaning and someone will always tell me, “My 4-year-old son, Jason, loves Hammie the pig.” I’ll usually say, “Well, get him on the phone.” So we call him up and the mother will explain, “Hi honey, it’s Mommy. There’s somebody who wants to say hello.” Then they hand the phone to me and I’ll do some Hamm for them, “Hey Jason, it’s Hammie the pig. I understand you’re not eating your spinach…” I’ve been doing things like that ever since the first Toy Story came out, so Hamm has never been too far away.
Q: How would you describe Hamm?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: Hamm is a wise guy. He throws his opinion out regardless of whether anyone’s listening or not, which is what makes him so much fun. He’s a smart Alec and he’s not so offensive that people shun him, but he makes sure his comments are heard.
Q: Did you enjoy playing an evil Hamm in the new movie?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: The evil Dr. Pork Chop rears his ugly head in the third movie, but it’s always fun to play the dark side of a character. I can really let loose in the sound booth when I’m playing the evil Hamm.
Q: What do you bring to the role?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: I bring whatever I have in my bag of tricks. They let me play around with the script at times, so there are a lot of my own words are in the movie. That’s the nice thing about Pixar: they let the actors experiment.
Q: How often did you visit the recording booth to work on Toy Story 3?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: I have about four or five recording sessions for every Pixar movie I work on. They’re always fun because I love finding out what’s next for each of the characters I play in Pixar movies.
Q: How much fun did you have in the recording booth for the movie?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: Recording the voice of Hamm is always a great experience, but all of the heavy lifting has already been done because the guys at Pixar spend four years working on the story before I’m called in. All I have to do is give them five different readings of the same line so that they’ve got a variety to choose from. That way, they’ve got a great potpourri of lines to choose from.
Q: Why do you give them five different readings?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: I say the line in five different ways and they choose the best one – but we didn’t always work like that. When I first started working for Pixar, I would read one line and then I’d wait for an opinion from the director and producers. They’d say, “Do that a little quicker.” Or, “Make him a little more breathless.” And then we’d try again.
The sessions used to last for three hours, but I’ve managed to cut that down to about an hour now. When I read the line in five different ways, the director will say to me, “We love the third line, but just shorten it a little.” That’s how we work now – and it’s much faster than before.
Q: How much do you improvise in the sound booth?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: I tend to stick to the script, although I let loose every now and then. There’s a line in the movie where Hamm says, “Holy moly, guacamole!” That was my creation. There are quite a few in Toy Story 3. If I read the line five times and none of them work, they will explain the scene to me and ask me to add something to it. They will explain, “Hamm is being chased and he’s breathless. He’s running really fast.”
Q: And then you put your spin to the script?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: To understand the scene fully, I’ll then have to ask, “What am I being chased through or over or around? How many things are chasing me? Is it something that’s going to eat me? Is it something that’s going to capture me?” However crucial the threat is will make a difference to how you breathe and how you’re feeling. I take all of that into consideration and then I say the line.
JOHN RATZENBERGER: Because they are the originators. This is John Lasseter’s world and he’s a pioneer. It’s as simple as that. Pixar think of every single film they create as though it was their very first movie. Every time they start work on a new film, they try to improve themselves. It’s extraordinary.
Q: How much do you relate to the character of Hamm?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: Hamm loves trivia and irrelevant facts – and that’s something I’m very fond of. When I was 14 years old, I decided I wanted to learn how to build a house and everything inside it, so that’s what I did. I pick up facts and knowledge about things that people don’t normally cross in their day-to-day life. I’ve always been fascinated by stuff like that. There’s no such thing as useless knowledge to me. It doesn’t exist. You’re going to use it somewhere, sometime, and at some point.
Q: Hamm is a pig. Are you a fan of pork?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: Are you kidding me? Of course I am! I’m a big lover of pork. Especially pork chops.
Q: Did you have a piggy bank like Hamm as a child?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: I didn’t have a real piggy bank, but I made my own version. I took a tin and I glued the top to the bottom. I then used a screwdriver to make a slot for the money and that was it. I guess I couldn’t afford a real piggy bank back then.
Q: Were you any good at saving when you were younger?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: As a matter of fact, I had my first job at nine years old. I just wanted to make money and I wanted to be self-sufficient, so I got a job sweeping in barbershops. I was good with money from the start.
Q: What’s your favorite Pixar character?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: P.T. Flea from A Bug’s Life is my favorite character because he always makes me laugh. I love his attitude towards life. He never lets go of the gas pedal. There’s no brake and there’s no pause in his life; he’s full throttle all the way. When he wakes up in the morning, if he sleeps at all, he’s just thinking about ways to make a buck.
Q: How would you describe P.T. Flea in one word?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: I would say, ‘avarice’. Look up the word ‘avarice’ in the dictionary and that’s exactly what P.T. Flea is like. We meet people like P.T. Flee every day in our lives and I always find them funny. I have to laugh and bite my lip because they’re trying to hustle you and sell you something. They try their hardest to make a couple of bucks, which is what P.T. Flea does all the time.
Q: Were you interested in acting from a young age?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: I didn’t act until I got to college and that was because they were having more fun than anyone else. But I didn’t even act then really. I was the understudy for the lead role and I thought to myself, ‘This is great. I can go to all of the parties, but I don’t have to do a thing.’ Then the lead actor quit the night before opening night and I hadn’t even read the play.
Q: What was the play?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: The play was called Summer And Smoke by Tennessee Williams and I had the lead role, Dr. John. I ended improvising the entire second half of the show because the first act didn’t go very well at all. I tried to perform the play word-for-word with the help of a script girl hidden behind the stage curtain, but it was painful for the audience. I didn’t know any of the lines, so I had to keep walking off stage. You could hear the audience groaning, so I decided to improvise for the second act.
Q: The success of Toy Story 3 means you’ve got the chance to be the number one most successful actor of all time…
JOHN RATZENBERGER: Well, you never know. It might be a nice thing to put on my business card. ‘John Ratzenberger: number one box office star of all time.’ There won’t be any phone number or anything else. Just that. I’ll let you know if it happens.
Q: Why have we seen you in so many blockbusters?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: I don’t think there is a solid explanation; I was just in the right place at the right time. During The Empire Strikes Back, I was living in an abandoned building in London. I was so poor that the green grocer used to save his rotten vegetables for me. I’d carve out the rotten bits and put everything in a pot to make a stew or a soup. I was having a tough time and I wasn’t making any money. I spent my time throwing rocks at rats in an abandoned building and that was it. But then I got a job on The Empire Strikes Back, but I had no idea if the movie was going to be a success or not. To me, I was just happy to have a job.
Q: What’s your favorite movie from all of the early blockbusters you worked on?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: I have always enjoyed traveling, so I guess Gandhi is my favorite because I got to go to India to shoot that movie. I also enjoyed working on a movie called Warlords Of Atlantis, but nobody has ever heard of that one. I went to Malta to shoot Warlords, so that was a great job. I’m not taking anything away from Pixar and Toy Story 3, though. I have had a great time working on every single Pixar movie. Toy Story 3 is one of the greats.
Q: Is it true you’re an environmentally friendly inventor?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: That is kind of true. I helped start an eco-friendly company called Eco-Pak about 10 or 12 years ago. We wanted a material to replace Styrofoam, which is extremely un-green and harmful to our planet. Now Eco-Pak is being used worldwide, which is great.
Q: Do you think of yourself as an inventor?
JOHN RATZENBERGER: Well, I like inventions. I like looking at things and figuring out how they work. I’ve always been like that. As a kid, my mother used to buy me old radios from garage sales. Back then, radios had glass vacuum tubes inside them. I was five years old and I would take them apart and then put them back together again. I’d make a space city out of the tubes and fly my toy planes through them. It was great.