Why It Was Terrifying Pitching Toy Story 4 To Tom Hanks, According To The Director

Woody in Toy Story 4

With the way things ended in 2010’s Toy Story 3, it’s no wonder a lot of folks thought that movie marked the end of the adventures of Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang on the big screen. However, nine years later, they’re back for Toy Story 4, which was directed by Josh Cooley, who’s been part of Pixar since he worked as a storyboard artist on The Incredibles.

Tom Hanks, on the other hand, has been playing Woody for over two decades, so when it came time to pitch what Toy Story 4 would be about, Josh Cooley was terrified because he was worried about whether or not Hanks would approve of the story. Cooley recalled while speaking with CinemaBlend’s own Sean O’Connell:

I know that I was nervous to give them a pitch of the story for the first time, a pitch of what was ultimately the story we were going to make. In fact, when Tom came up to Pixar and he was like, ‘Okay, what's going on? What's happening here?’ Because we had already been working on it for a couple of years already. And so I said, ‘Well here, I'm going to give you a picture of everything we're doing.’ And you know, it's Tom Hanks. He's been doing Woody for 25 years. And so I was just kind of naturally thinking, ‘Geez, I hope he likes this idea because that would be nice.’ … I got through the pitch to [scene where] Bonnie's in a classroom and she's sitting there alone and Tom said, ‘All right, you got me. Okay.’ He goes, ‘I don't know how you guys are doing this. You got me already!’ That was a huge kind of a relief. I felt like he was totally engaged.

So it turned out that Josh Cooley didn’t need to worry about if it’d be difficult impressing Tom Hanks with Toy Story 4, as he was captivated relatively early into the storytelling process. And things would only get more engaging for Hanks from there, because before he went in to record his lines, Woody’s voice actor got some texts from Buzz Lightyear’s voice actor, Tim Allen, warning him about the emotional ending.

Speaking of Tim Allen, Josh Cooley noted that he had a similar reaction as Tom Hanks’ hearing the pitch for Toy Story 4. In the director’s words:

The same thing happened with Tim. Our first session, I walked him through the story and he's laughing and really having a great time listening to it. I respect those guys so much that it was just such a relief to hear them and see them kind of light up and be thrilled to be part of it.

While Toy Story movies have always been filled with colorful characters, Woody and Buzz Lightyear have been the main players since the beginning. Judging from the Toy Story 4 trailers and marketing, it doesn’t look like Buzz will be lacking for things to do, but it’s been teased that the movie will change Woody in a major way. If Tom Hanks had a difficult time reading his final lines as the character, then I can only imagine how many tears will be shed when people see Toy Story 4 on the big screen.

It should be noted that while the possibility of a Toy Story 5 hasn’t 100% been ruled out, it seems like Toy Story 4 stands a better chance of being the definitive end to this franchise, at least movie-wise. There’s also the fact that in the coming years, Pixar will be releasing only original movies rather than sequels, so even if the Toy Story saga could continue, it would be a long time before it would be picked back up. So be prepared for the chance that you’ll be saying goodbye to these characters for good come next month.

Toy Story 4 opens in theaters on June 21, and for those of you curious about what movies will be coming out afterwards, you can find that information in our 2019 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.