Disney·Pixar’s Toy Story 4 is now playing in theaters and audiences are falling in love with all of the new characters, particularly Forky. I wasn’t an instant Forky fan when he was first introduced in the teaser trailer, but he charms his way into your heart in the film. He first worked his way into mine in early April during a visit to Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, CA, to get an early look at the film, where I even got to make my very own Forky! (That’s me in the yellow WALL-E shirt beginning to make my new best friend).
“The inspiration was that we were sitting in the story room and we were joking about how our kids will take the Christmas present and they’ll play with the box before they play with the toy sometimes,” Director Josh Cooley shared at the press event. “And so we were joking, does that mean the box comes to life? How would that work? We were going down this bizarre path and then we thought what if Bonnie actually made a toy? We’ve never seen that in Toy Story and that was… anything that we haven’t done in Toy Story was like, let’s see where that goes. Because number 4, there’s a lot that’s already happened and we don’t want to travel down the same steps. So it became this bizarre experiment and it was just too funny not to try it and we just kept going.”
“Forky had to look like a six-year-old kid’s creation and also hold up as an appealing main character that would hold up alongside the main characters,” Supervising Technical Director Bob Moyer shared. “We figured out a lot of the design basics in a workshop where the crew made their own versions of Forky. Forky looks deceptively simple, but in fact he’s made of more materials than any of our other characters. Pipe cleaners, glitter glue, googly eyes, Popsicle sticks, soft clay, wicky stix, stickers, and crayon marks. Being a main character, he had to have enough control to support a huge range of acting choices. Choices had to be made about whether he needed actual eyelids, whether the fingers needed actual structure, or if they should be treated as just an extension of the pipe cleaner. Those eyes had to be believable, this meant being able to leave it like plastic googly eyes during the early part of the movie and make it behave more like real focused eyes later as his character arc evolved.”
“I had to pull [the animators] back on Forky,” Josh Cooley recalled. “The first couple tests, he was beautiful and I said ‘No, he needs to be crappier.’ Because he’s so different from all the other toys in this world. He should have a handmade quality to the way he moves… Like he’s being played with and I had to keep saying ‘No blinks, take the eye blinks out.’ So it was an interesting challenge to make it worse.”
Assisting Forky’s journey to the screen is comedic actor Tony Hale, famous for his work in television series like Arrested Development and Veep. “Tony Hale as Forky was definitely a standout for me,” Producer Mark Nielsen added. “We got to spend a lot of time with him because he’s got such a big role with this project. His reaction when he heard about the character and we were describing what it was going to be like to him, when he heard this is a character that asks the question ‘Why am I alive?’ he’s like ‘I want that, that’s it, I’m in.’ He’s just been a pleasure, such a funny guy and brought so much to Forky.”
At a recent press junket for the film in Orlando, FL, Tony Hale explained why he was so excited to play this character. “There was a simplicity to Forky that I just absolutely fell in love with. The fact that he’s made from pipe cleaners and a spork and little Popsicle sticks and he brings Bonnie so much joy. He’s brought into the world, he doesn’t understand the rules of the universe, he’s very confused that people drop to the ground when humans walk in. He’s just always wide eyed and he’s very present. I just love the simplicity of him, it’s been a huge honor to voice him.”
While it’s possible that Toy Story 4 will be the last film in the franchise, it certainly won’t be the last time we see Forky. A ten episode short series has been announced for Disney+ when the service launches on November 12th and Tony Hale gave a little tease at what’s to come. “I love it because it’s these questions that people maybe were embarrassed to ask but they really don’t know and I learned so much just from all these simple questions that I probably should know and I didn’t.”
Forky joins the cast of timeless Toy Story characters for a hilarious adventure in Toy Story 4, now playing in theaters worldwide.
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.