Entertainment is a weird business, but it’s a business like any other. Having a valuable stock price is as important, if not more so, than making a great movie. Most of the time these two objectives work together. Well-performing movies lead to a more valuable company. However, this all means that new movie announcements are planned out well in advance in order to achieve the best return, and when leaks happen it throws the whole plan out of whack. When that leak comes from one of the stars of the movie, that’s when lawyers get very upset.
Such was the situation several years ago when Tom Hanks was asked by a reporter if Toy Story 4 was going to happen. It sounds like he was taken a bit by surprise and in the moment did what many of us would do, he told the truth. In this case "the truth" as far as he knew it at the time, was to say "yeah, I think so." Hardly the strongest confirmation the world has ever heard. Still, it was apparently enough to set off alarm bells at Disney’s legal office. Hanks told The Graham Norton Show what happened next...
I got a call from the Disney lawyers the next day. They said, ‘You, contractually, are not allowed to discuss a Toy Story 4. It will affect the stock market price of the Disney common stock.’
Hanks was apologetic for spilling the beans, but he wasn’t that apologetic. He seems to have felt obligated to point out to the lawyers that he was Woody and they were not. He’s also Tom Hanks so we’re sure he said it in the friendliest way possible. Although hearing Tom Hanks tell you to go to hell with a big smile on his face might be even more terrifying.
It’s actually fitting that Hanks told the story to Graham Norton, as it appears the comment in question was also given to the BBC. Back in 2011 Hanks was asked the Toy Story 4 question by the BBC Breakfast News and the response he gave them sounds very much like the one he describes here. While he confirms it, it’s pretty clear he wasn’t really expecting the question, as he was promoting his film Larry Crowne at the time. Check out the entire Graham Norton interview, with the Disney lawyer story, below.
To be fair to Disney as a company, they have plans for these sorts of announcements and Tom Hanks was not part of that plan. In fact, this news came out incredibly early thanks to him. Toy Story 4 was only officially announced about a year ago so the Hanks leak was severely premature. Still, he’s Woody dammit, what are you going to do?