If you were to visit Pixar Animation Studios in 2014 and sat at the Luxo Café with a keen ear, you might have heard artists talking about a project they were working on called “Peep.” Many films throughout history have had famous codenames, “Blue Harvest” being perhaps the most famous of them all. “Peep” might not be as difficult to figure out as “Blue Harvest” was, but it certainly wouldn’t have been obvious that these artists were working on Toy Story 4.
“That’s what we called the film for the whole five years we’ve been working on it,” explained Producer Mark Neilsen at a press event at Pixar in early April. “We knew Bo was such a great character in the earlier films but we hadn’t seen her, she wasn’t in [Toy Story 3], she’s only in [Toy Story] and [Toy Story 2] in very small ways and we hadn’t described what had happened to her. So it was really intriguing to us in developing this story in creating a backstory for her. Where did she go? What’s it like out there? Is she living with a kid? Is she living on her own? So it was just a rich thing to explore and we really grabbed on to that.”
Director Josh Cooley expanded on Mark’s observations. “We really got to reinvent her. We went back to look at the other films and the amount of screen time, I want to say like seven-minutes on both films, that’s it. And that includes every single frame that has her in it. We watched that and realized she has character but she wasn’t fully… she wasn’t a protagonist so we had the ability to build on what was already there.”
“What she brings to the first two films is she’s confident, she’s flirty with Woody, and for him she often plays the role of the voice of reason. She’s someone that Woody confides in,” Story Supervisor Valerie LaPoint shared. “And we knew in this film she would be a driving force behind the change in Woody’s character. She would go from being a supporting role, sort of second or tertiary character in the Toy Story universe, to being a main character. So we really had to flesh out and make her a more dimensional character.”
It’s impossible not to notice that Bo Peep looks a little different in the marketing for Toy Story 4 than we remember her from the original film. “I was really excited when I was given the task to redesign and remodel and rerig Bo Peep for the new move,” explained Character Modeling Artist Tanja Krampfert. “We were not able to use any of the old assets, but we still wanted to reinvent the character that the audience fell in love with on the first one so we had to be true to what Bo Peep actually was. And to make sure we’re on the right path we actually went all the way back and looked at original designs and artwork that was done for the first Toy Story. We also checked out every little shot we could find her in the old movies as well. How she was animated, how the shapes of the face were.”
When Woody reunites with Bo Peep, she is a lost toy of her own choosing. It’s well established in the previous films that being lost is just about the worst thing that could ever happen to a toy. Valerie explained why becoming a lost toy was a sensible route for Bo Peep. “She’s a baby lamp. She intrinsically has a life with a kid that is much shorter. As soon as that little girl grows up and decides this thing’s for babies, she’s outta there. So right around 5 or 6-years-old, she’s moving on. She doesn’t get the long life with a kid like Woody and Buzz do. And through the trials that we imagined she’d had, she ultimately decided I want to be a toy and living as a lost toy is the way that that can happen.”
Story Artist Carrie Hobson added more insight into Bo Peep’s decision to go rogue. “Ultimately she’s a character who decided she didn’t want to sit on a shelf and keep waiting for life to happen. She had to learn to adapt. She takes chances and is somewhat unpredictable. She doesn’t play by toy rules. Unlike other toys, she literally breaks her default toy mode. This means when a kid picks her up and plays with her as a toy, she chooses what pose she’ll be locked into giving her the ability to decide what kind of toy she wants to be. She’s more active and resourceful in her new life as a lost toy.”
Directing Animator Patty Kihm also shared a great comparison of the Bo Peep that we know from the previous films and the Bo Peep that we’ll meet in Toy Story 4. “She was feminine and reserved in her movements, perhaps because she wore this confining dress that may have restricted her movement. She enjoyed the safety of her child’s room, she never really went outside of Andy or Molly’s room, She was very content living with her kid. She always had a dry wit and a really great sense of humor. Modern Bo still has her dry wit but has grown and matured since the last time we saw her. She is independent and comfortable with living on the road. She’s athletic and her new outfit gives her the freedom to express her athleticism. She is confident in her new world and she is a leader, especially with her pack of friends. These are all qualities that make up who Bo Peep is today. And of course Annie Potts, the voice of Bo Peep, was a huge influence for animation. Her voice reads brought a lot of nuance and appeal to Bo Peep’s character.”
When fans see Toy Story 4 on June 21st, they will be reunited with Bo Peep in addition to Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the rest of the Toy Story squad. While she may have a few new chips in her glaze this time around, it seems like she has an important lesson to teach Woody and audiences all over the world.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.