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Pixar movies undergo a lot of changes over the course of their development. In the case of Toy Story 4, nearly the entire movie underwent significant story changes. While these sorts of changes are always made in an attempt to make the overall movie better, sometimes story beats and even entire characters that the movie makers love end up getting cut out as a result. Toy Story 4 was no exception.
Last month, when I had a chance to talk to Toy Story 4 director Josh Cooley and producers Jonas Rivera and Mark Nielsen, I asked them if they had any particular elements of Toy Story 4 that didn't make the final version of the film that they missed. All three were in total agreement, that one character they all wish they could have kept was a dancing Santa Claus. According to Cooley...
Dancing Santa was pretty great, he was a character [who] didn’t make it. He was in the antique store and was kind of able, in a very unique way, he was kind of an expert on where to go. and the way things were at the [antiques] mall.
However, one character that we unfortunately won't be meeting is a talking, dancing, Santa Claus character. The idea was clearly a favorite among many at Pixar. In addition to Josh Cooley and the producers, Toy Story production designer Bob Pauley and global technology supervisor Bill Reeves, who have been part of the franchise since the beginning, also mentioned to me that the Santa was a favorite lost character of theirs as well.
Josh Cooley explained what the scene was originally going to look like...
He’s kinda like an informant in a seedy alley. [Bo and Woody] were talking about, ‘Man, it’s dark in this antiques store. It’s pretty intense, everybody seems so desperate.’ And they’d hear, ‘Tis the season for desperation’ and they’d turn around and there’s one of these Santas there. He’s got a little candle that’s up lighting on him. And Woody’s like, ‘Look Santa, we’d need some help’ and all of the sudden he’d start dancing. Jingle Bell Rock is playing. ‘Ah, you set off my motion detector.’ And then he’d go back into, ‘Anyway, like I was saying...’ and there’s still Jungle Bell Rock playing [in the background]. It was a crowd pleaser for sure.
It's clear that the reason everybody liked the Santa was because the jokes were funny, but ultimately, Pixar always wants to focus on the story that is being told, and if a gag gets in the way of that, the gag has to go, no matter how funny it is. Bob Pauly explained to me that this was the problem with the dancing Santa:
It got cut, which is the right thing, because that was a moment when they had it where it was kind of an emotional moment in the movie, where it's about Bo and Woody. Trust [me], it needed to go, it didn't support that.
The good news is that it sounds like enough of the dancing Santa survives that we'll get to see him as part of the deleted scenes on the eventual Toy Story 4 Blu-ray. Until then, we can see the final version of Toy Story 4 on June 21. Tickets for the summer sequel are on sale as we speak, so make sure that you grab your seats to opening weekend, so you'll see the latest adventure with Buzz, Woody and the gang.