The emotionally satisfying and beautiful ending to Toy Story 3 "perfectly" capped Pixar's trilogy, according to Toy Story 4 director Josh Cooley. However, the folks at Pixar knew they had one more story to tell when it came to Woody. At a Pixar screening event, Cooley joined producers Jonas Rivera and Mark Neilsen to explain why it was so important to revisit the world of Woody, Buzz, and the rest of Andy's toys.
"We love the end of Toy Story 3," Cooley. "It ends Woody and Andy's story perfectly. We realized there is more story to tell to continue Woody's story. And once we started going down the path… we hit upon something that was worth telling."
At Pixar, press were treated to a screening of the opening 20 minutes of Toy Story 4 and additional chunks from later points in the movie. The film immediately establishes Bo-Peep as a main character alongside Woody and Buzz, and it's her return to the franchise that allows Pixar to explore a new side of Woody, and what it means to be a toy, now that Andy is no longer a part of his life.
"The idea of Bo-Peep is also so intriguing to us," said Rivera. "And the idea of [Woody and Bo] coming back together after not seeing each other for nine years and just what's become of her was something we thought was really worth exploring." We last saw Bo-Peep in Toy Story 3 during a brief scene in a home video shown by Andy's mom. However, Bo never shows up during the main events of the movie. When Woody and the gang talk about toys that have been lost, thrown out, or sold since the events of Toy Story 2, it's revealed that Molly gave Bo away.
By the events of Toy Story 3, it appears as if the same fate awaits Andy's toys as well, as he hasn't played with Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the rest in years. Ultimately, Woody comes to realize that he and his friends' time with Andy has run its course and it's time to say goodbye so that they can take care of the next kid. Leaving a note for Andy under the guise it's from his mother, Woody gets his owner to donate all of his toys to a neighborhood girl named Bonnie. Andy plays with his toys one last time before going off to college, and Woody and the rest of the gang begin their lives with Bonnie. It's a heartfelt ending to Andy and Woody's relationship, as they both learn to let go of each other so that Woody can continue to bring a smile to a child's face.
When Woody does run into Bo again in Toy Story 4, she's become a lost toy. She's abandoned her frilly dress for a cloak and left her lamp for a life in a park, where she doesn't belong to anyone. Woody, still struggling with no longer belonging to Andy and not being someone's number one toy, can't fathom why Bo would choose to be lost and not have a kid to call her own. Yet through Bo, Woody sees how toys do have a choice in the way they want to live, and that they are not beholden to being passed from child to child for their entire lives. Instead of waiting for someone to come along and want her, Bo has decided to take matters into her own hands and seek out those who appreciate her for who she is.
"[Woody's] worst fear, [we've] said it all along, is to be a lost toy," Neilson said. "What if [Bo] represented something that would challenge his place in the world, and then just lean into that? It was almost like a Lady and the Tramp analogy. Ya know, one is out in the world saying, 'Why wouldn't you want all this?' and the other one is saying, 'No, I want to be at home.' And Woody is that. So she became his catalyst to really change. Of all the change he's done over the years, we thought she had the potential to change him in ways he never has."
"And once we figured that out, that was the place to go," Cooley finished. "I think Jonas, you coined this phrase: If you were to ask Woody, 'What was the biggest moment of your life?' he would say, 'It was when I met Bo-Peep for the second time.' So that was our goal for this film: to make this meeting with her so powerful, it would be deserving of Toy Story 4."
Toy Story 4 is scheduled to release June 21.