Interview: Tom Hanks Talks ‘Toy Story 3,’ Pixar and Mr. Potato Head

by Jane Boursaw on May 25, 2010

toy-story-3-tom-hanks-1Toy Story 3’ arrives in theaters June 18, 2010, and I can’t wait to see our beloved friends again. This third movie in the super popular franchise finds Woody, Buzz and the rest of the toy box gang dumped in a daycare center after their owner Andy departs for college.

I caught up with Tom Hanks, who plays pull-string cowboy Woody, and got his thoughts about the new film (in 3D!) from Disney/Pixar.  

Film Gecko: Why do you think the ‘Toy Story’ films are such classics? What sets them apart from other family movies?

Tom Hanks: ‘Toy Story 3’ brings you back to this lovely, familiar and happy place, and all the ‘Toy Story’ films accomplish what timeless classics aim for – innocent characters facing an endless trail of adventures. We all know the likes of Woody and Buzz, and we wonder who we would be if we were toys. There’s this great logic that John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich and Darla Anderson and all the writers adhere to that makes moviegoers just relax and let themselves be transported to this magical place and time. When you can do that with a movie, it’s amazing.

Gecko: Give us a little advance scoop on what we’ll see in ‘Toy Story 3.’ Because it sounds pretty emotional, with Andy heading off to college.

Hanks: Yes, the filmmakers at Pixar always manage to get you right in the heart. It’s a simple story about a guy growing up and going off to college, but it’s profoundly emotional and you can’t help but have tears in your eyes. But it’s also a big 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 very emotional.

toy-story-3-1 Gecko: And yet, it’s about toys!

Hanks: Right, 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 them.

Gecko: This is your third time playing Woody. What makes him so lovable?

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’ve 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 who come up to me and say, “When you told that neighbor kid to play nice, that really meant a lot to me.”

Gecko: And there’s the great relationship between Woody and Buzz. How has that evolved over the course of the ‘Toy Story’ franchise?

Hanks: Well, they started off as pure adversaries, but 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, and I love the way their relationship has grown.

Gecko: It really has, and it’s such a cool friendship. It’s never dumbed down for the audience, which is one reason I love it so much. If you weren’t playing Woody, what other character would you like to play?

Hanks: Wow, 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. That’d be a lot of fun.

Gecko: What’s it like working on an animated film – or maybe I should ask, what’s it like working on a PIxar film, because they’re in a whole class by themselves. 

Hanks: I’ve been working on Pixar movies on and off for a long time, and it constantly astounds me every time 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 did the first ‘Toy Story’ film, I had two kids. I now have four kids.  [LAUGHS]

toy-story-3-3

Gecko: It’s so true – and for audiences, too. People have grown up with these movies and now we get to share them with our own kids. What’s Pixar’s secret to making incredible films? They’re just amazing works of art, really, that appeal to all ages.

Hanks: The Pixar people continuously amaze me. They come up with something that actually looks as though it takes place in this happy – and real! – world. Every storyline is not just plausible; it’s oddly authentic. The stories are full of adventure, humor and love, and the characters have a great human dimension about them. I don’t know how they do it, but they constantly astound me. 

Gecko: Thanks so much for your time! I can’t wait to see the movie with my kids.

Hanks: Thank you!

Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

sarah henry May 25, 2010 at 4:18 pm

great scoop, jane, and you reminded me that i do want to take my pre-teen to see his old friends again, for nostalgia’s sake.

i can still recall a little boy in his buzz dress up charging around the house and going “to infinity and beyond.” where does the time go, indeed?

as for which toy to be — cool question — maybe ms. potato head? every gal likes to change her look every once in a while.

Alexandra May 25, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Great interview, Film Gecko. I was looking for a DVD to entertain the kids who come to my B&B and this series sounds perfect. Thanks!

MarthaAndMe May 25, 2010 at 6:48 pm

My youngest says he doesn’t want to see this (he’s too old he thinks!) and I would love to see it. The other two were simply wonderful.

Sheryl May 25, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Love, love, love Tom Hanks, and enjoyed reading his thoughts. And his answer about the slinky dog…made me smile. I could just hear him say that…
I’ll have to see this movie. Embarrassed to admit I have not seen Toy Story one OR two.

Alisa Bowman May 25, 2010 at 8:51 pm

This has been my daughter’s favorite movie series and we’ve been waiting and waiting for #3 to come out. I saw #1 before kid and even before meeting my husband. It’s hard to believe that much time has gone by between movies.

The Writer's [Inner] Journey May 25, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Creativity and openness are what I most admire about Mr. Hanks. I really enjoyed your interview.
~Meredith

Jennifer Margulis May 26, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Confession: I hate the Toy Story movies. Confession #2: I love Tom Hanks. I can’t decide who I love more, though, him or you Jane. Very cool interview! This isn’t a movie I’ll be watching but I hope to see him on the big screen again soon.

Kris Bordessa May 27, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I love Tom Hanks and Toy Story movies are a family favorite (Jennifer!), so we’ll definitely be watching – even though my boys are teens now. The movies are timeless.

Kristen May 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I’m wondering if the 3D will detract or add to the show. I’m not completely sold on the new 3D technology, but I do like Buzz and the rest of the gang.

Frugal Kiwi June 1, 2010 at 2:36 am

I finally saw “Up” this week and they had a teensy wee trailer for TS3. I’m sure it will be just as magical as the others.

Very neat you got to interview Tom Hanks. My favourite work of his is a geeky one…the From the Earth to the Moon mini-series.

Oliva Schowalter July 2, 2010 at 11:11 am

I noticed there wasn’t any mention of Bruder Toys. Where I reside that is the only toy you will see in the Playground or Beach. I’d really enjoy to see some much more details about Bruder Toys.Thanks!

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