Tim Allen Reflects On Favorite Improvised Toy Story Lines, Not Being Able To Ad Lib Anymore

Buzz Lightyear in a hat in Toy Story 1

It’s a big month for movies, and among them is the highly-anticipated Toy Story 4, a flick that is already getting positive early reactions from critics. It’s the fourth movie in the franchise and much of the original voice cast is back, but there have been some changes to the work over the years.

Mainly, according to Tim Allen, he’s not allowed to play around an ad-lib nearly as much. He noted at a recent press day CinemaBlend attended that during the creation of Toy Story, which came out in 1995, he was given the opportunity to play around much more. That's not longer true... much to the chagrin of the actor. Still, he has fond memories of creating a few of his favorite Toy Story moments. Per Allen:

The classic to me was when I would ad lib. It’s not like Robin [Williams] when he did Aladdin. When I would ad lib, it’s not a happy moment for the animators. They’ll go, ‘Oh god, that was funny, that was funny…’ which means they have to go back and reanimate it. Mrs Nesbitt, when I got drunk on Darjeeling tea and I’m holding my own arm in my hands… and I said, 'Is the hat too much?' It was hysterical and they left that in. Also, when Woody goes, ‘You are a toy!’ and I said, ‘ You are a sad, strange little man and you have my pity.’ The animators are going, ‘Oh, damn, that’s funnier than what we wrote.’ Early on, they’d give it to me. Lately they just say, ‘Tim, read the script.’

The "sad, strange little man” line is among Toy Story’s most memorable, so it’s nice that the Pixar team at the time allowed the actor and comedian to work it in and kept the take. The hat line comes during a scene when Buzz Lightyear is losing it during the initial movie and is forced to don some women’s gear and take tea with Sid’s sister Hannah. The line actually states, “Did the hat look good? Tell me the hat looked good.” Either way, it’s really interesting that it wasn’t initially in the script, particularly given that reanimating scenes is a tedious process.

That said, it seems like there are fewer times when ad libbing is allowed in the world of Pixar animation these days, likely due to the complex process of creating these big budget films.

However, there are always tradeoffs. Per Tim Allen, while he ad libs less often these days (at least for Toy Story), he also feels like he has more ownership of Buzz Lightyear and joked that he can even get a bit “huffy” on set sometimes.

You honor the process. When these guys let you just go and find who Buzz is. I will say, the last of this is I’ve gotten to a point where—I can’t believe I’m saying this—I’ll go, ‘ Buzz wouldn’t say that.’ I mean, I’m telling the people who created this character and I get kind of huffy. ‘Buzz doesn’t get that excited and he won’t say that! I’m gonna get some sliced pineapple.’

Ultimately, at the end of the day, Toy Story 4 and its predecessors would have been different movies if Tom Hanks and Tim Allen hadn’t kept returning to the films, so it’s nice to know a little less ad libbing doesn’t seem to be throwing anyone off.

Luckily, having seen Toy Story 4 this weekend, I can confirm the movie is hysterical and is much funnier in tone than previous flicks in the franchise. So, even if ad libbing isn’t coming into play as much, the creative team is certainly doing something right.

Toy Story 4 opens on June 21 with both new and returning characters such as Keanu Reeves' Duke Caboom, Tony Hale's Forky and Christina Hendrick's Gabby Gabby joining the mix. Take a look at what other flicks are hitting theaters this summer with our full release schedule.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.