In anticipation of the upcoming release of Toy Story 4, we had the opportunity to chat with “Pixar Lucky Charm” John Ratzenberger who is reprising his role as Hamm.
Laughing Place: You obviously, have been involved with every Pixar movie, why should people be excited for Toy Story 4?
John Ratzenberger: Well, because the track record of Pixar. If you notice, every film that they release eclipses the film before it. They've never released a film that was mediocre or less than anything else they've released. It's like watching fireworks. You look up in the sky, and the next one is bigger and better than the last one.
LP: I mean obviously, a lot of credit for that goes to you, their lucky charm. You've been involved in every one of the Pixar features to date.
JR: Correct. Yeah.
LP: How did that come about? At what point did it just suddenly, was it like "Hey, you're just going to be in all of them."
JR: Ask old John Lasseter, and I believe, Andrew Stanton. They, for reasons of their own, decided to make sure I was in every Pixar movie.
LP: Did you ever think you'd be number four on box office; in films box office only below Stan Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, and Frank Welker?
JR: Well, you know, as an actor, it's just that I've been blessed. God's been good to me. From my years in England doing my old touring improvisation shows, with my partner Ray Hassan, who went on to become a highly decorated homicide detective, of all things. Then Star Wars, Gandhi, A Bridge Too Far, and then Cheers… It's dazzling, really. I just shake my head, look at the old photos, and I think, "God, this has been quite a ride!"
LP: Through your, obviously your skill, and so many children have grown up with your voice in countless films. Does that, hit you that for children growing up today, to be a household voice?
JR: Oh, yeah. I use that for charity events. The Boys and Girls Club, and different charities. I let them auction me off to the highest bidder, and I'll make a call as Hamm the pig to their kids or grandkids. So, as far as the children's concerned, it's Hamm the pig calling. That's a real treat. And, it helps raise money for these different charities. When I speak in colleges, I'm very conscious of the fact that every student, in that auditorium, grew up to the sound of my voice. Sometimes, I'll start off my message with that.
LP: If you had one piece of advice to give to the children that look up to you, as they grow into adolescence, much like Andy grew through the films, what would you tell them?
JR: Climb a tree. In other words, get outside, and put your hands to something useful. For me, it was carpentry. I became a carpenter before I became an actor. Because, that's where you learn common sense. You're never going to learn common sense from a video screen. It just doesn't happen. But, if you build something, make something, or repair something, that's where common sense comes into play. My advice to young people is. go outside or involve yourself in something physical. Learn how to sail a boat, for instance. Or, even row a boat. So many young people now… And I was astounded… Don't know how to do any of those things.
LP: Well, through your work, and talking about those kinds of things, and the pride in manufacturing, I think you really made a difference. Using your platform to share those things that I think we've lost a little bit.
JR: There was just an article that came out today that millennial fathers are less skilled than their fathers, when it comes to do-it-yourself projects around the house.
LP: Well, I think that's one of the neat things about Toy Story, is Andy and Bonnie use their imagination, and you don't see them playing a lot of video games. They're out there building things with their toys. While obviously, it's a movie on a screen, it really does show you that play can come from more than just a monitor.
JR: Obviously before computers, we were free-range children. They just opened the door on a Saturday, and kids would run out, unsupervised, and play. We thought we were playing, but what we were actually doing, was problem solving. We didn't realize it, but at a very young age, we were very capable. Whether it was climbing a tree. or building a tree house, or repairing your own bicycle chain, or whatever it was; it was a very capable upbringing. Then, all the electronic stuff came in, and the parents' fear of letting their kids go outsidel. And, it's done a lot of damage to us, as a civilization.
Toy Story 4 opens in theatres June 21st.