I like toys. Scratch that. I LOVE TOYS.
I’m 41 years old and I’m not afraid to admit it.
As a child of the ’80s, I firmly believe that I grew up in the golden age of toys. We had more than just a “Kung Fu Grip”! We had playsets like the Barbie Dream House and even a full on Aircraft Carrier called the USS Flagg! Who could forget Castle Grayskull and the Slime Pit?!
The heroes I grew up with and loved like G.I. Joe, He-Man and The Masters of the Universe, Star Wars, and Transformers had their own TV shows, films, and cartoons along with their counterparts in plastic form that I could collect and assemble into one massive team. I can still recall the imaginative epic battles and harrowing tales I spun in my room and backyard with my toys that would even rival today’s most star studded blockbuster!
Here’s me in my “Bonnie” stage from some ’80s Christmas morning…
But, then suddenly… one day… it all changed.
“Every ending is a new beginning.”
~Josh Cooley, Director, “Toy Story 4”
(And… NO it was not girls. Or at least, not yet.)
While in elementary school, wishing I could be playing with my toys, I learned of mythological monsters like Sasquatch, Cyclops, and the Loch Ness Monster during a class. I was completely intrigued. We were then tasked with creating these monsters out of construction paper and any other materials we could find as an assignment.
Up until that point, I had never had an assignment like this before.
I went home.
Looked at my toys.
Though aching to play, I realized I had to do my homework or face my parents’ wrath.
I thought about the assignment long and hard. I pulled out a paper bag from the kitchen. Found some unused paper towel and toilet paper cardboards tubes around the house as well as a sharpie. I drew lines along the bags and tubes and got to staplin’ and tapin’.
I created my own Sasquatch or more commonly known… Bigfoot.
I was blown away by my creation that I ran to show my parents.
“I CREATED THIS!” I yelled.
From that day forward, my life was changed. I unlocked my creativity. I got into drawing, painting, modeling and other forms of art. I would still play with my toys but the drive to create something of my own had taken over.
Last month, I had the distinct pleasure of representing The Nerds of Color while visiting the creative powerhouse that is… PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIOS! A bucket list item fulfilled.
We toured the Campus, visited the Pixar Archives and received a behind the scenes look at Toy Story 4; screening the first 20 minutes as well as some additional scenes from the new film.
We received tremendous access, including multiple panels and speakers that gave us amazing insight from top to bottom on how a Pixar film, in particular, Toy Story 4, was made. A priceless experience.
However, with all of that said, the standout moment for me was the introduction of the new character: Forky.
In Toy Story 4, we find Bonnie gearing up for Kindergarten and she’s feeling a little apprehensive. “Transition is a big thematic piece of this movie,” says producer Jonas Rivera. “Bonnie is growing up and transitioning into kindergarten, and Woody is transitioning into a new role. We’ve never seen him in this situation before.”
Like my personal experience with my paper bag Bigfoot, I connected deeply with Bonnie and Forky.
In Toy Story 4, when Bonnie finds herself all alone during kindergarten orientation, Woody just has to help — even if it means digging through a trash can to retrieve a few art supplies for his kid. The effort is a resounding success, but when Bonnie’s beloved new craft-project-turned-toy, Forky, declares himself trash and not a toy, Woody takes it upon himself to show Forky why he should embrace being a toy. “Forky is like a newborn,” says producer Mark Nielsen. “He doesn’t know anything about life — he doesn’t even understand why he’s alive or what a toy even is. He makes Woody vocalize what it means to be a toy.”
EARLY FORKY DESIGN:
Underneath the googly eyes, pipe-cleaner arms and red waxy mouth, he’s a discarded spork. But Bonnie falls head over popsicle-feet for the little guy.
COMPLETED FORKY DESIGN:
FORKY is not a toy! At least that’s what he thinks. An actual spork-turned-craft-project, Forky is pretty sure that he doesn’t belong in Bonnie’s room. Unfortunately, every time he tries to get away, someone yanks him back into an adventure he’d rather skip. “The world of Toy Story is built upon the idea that everything in the world has a purpose,” says Cooley. “A toy’s purpose is to be there for its child. But what about toys that are made out of other objects? Forky is a toy that Bonnie made out of a disposable spork, so he’s facing a crisis. He wants to fulfill his purpose as a spork, but now has a new toy purpose thrust upon him.”
Woody — ever the caretaker — assumes the role of Forky’s keeper, which in the beginning, just means keeping him out of the trash. “We loved the idea of Forky,” says producer Jonas Rivera. “He doesn’t understand the rules of the world, so he doesn’t play by the rules, which really makes the story feel fun and new. But it makes life hard for Woody who’s just trying to help Forky understand the importance of his kid.”
Filmmakers called on comedian Tony Hale to provide the voice of Forky. Says Cooley, “When we thought up this character, Tony was the first actor that came to mind and I’m thrilled he accepted. Tony’s performance as Forky is a comedy salad of confidence, confusion and empathy… served by hilarious spork.”
FORKY IS THE FUTURE!
When Woody, Buzz, and the gang arrive back on the big screen in Toy Story 4, I personally believe that beyond the new Bo Peep (Standby for a future article from me on her return!), fans of the franchise will also be talking all about Forky! I foresee schools, art classes, churches… anyone and everyone making their own Forky and birthing a new creative DIY movement!
A distinct highlight among the panels of my Pixar trip was the DIY FORKY session with the animator who brought Forky to life, Claudio De Oliveira. Claudio has been with Pixar for six years and worked on films like Inside Out, Piper, Coco, and Incredibles 2.
Forky is a special character to Claudio and the Toy Story family.
“Forky felt different for me. He’s not a regular toy that I got to look at for references. He was a toy that I made, every little detail was mine. I feel like kids will also feel that personal relationship with him.”
Claudio showed us how to make our own Forky.
The experience, as the kids say these days… was LIT!
I cannot believe I got to make something at Pixar. Like paper bag Bigfoot in my childhood home. Something of my own.
I made my own version of Forky.
In addition, I found time to make another version of Forky as well; one that I believe my daughter, Madison Taylor would have made… a “Stashy” version. (Stashy being the combination of stylish and classy; as coined by my lil’ one.)
The Forky panel was an amazing experience and listening to Claudio speak while helping us create our own version of his new “toy” will forever be fondly burned into my memory.
I ended up filming a bit of the fun and here’s a time lapsed version of my Forky construction (also joined by my pal, Jonita Davis of BlackGirlNerds!):
This may be the end of this article, but I don’t want the #FORKYLOVE to stop! Let me see your FORKY creations! Pull out your sporks, pipe cleaners, glue, etc. and make your own! Send me pics and/or post it with the hashtag #MakeYourOwnForky! and I’ll see if I can’t get my new found pals at Disney/Pixar to send over some swag to send your way as prizes!
JOIN FORKY, WOODY, BUZZ LIGHTYEAR, AND THE REST OF THE TOY STORY 4 CREW WHEN THEY COME TO THEATERS JUNE 21, 2019!
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