In honor of the upcoming home release of Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story 4 on Blu Ray, DVD, and Digital, we were invited to Mattel Headquarters to have a look at how toys, specifically the toy characters we have grown to love from the Toy Story films, are made. After all, Toy Story alone has been a massive partnership between Mattel and Disney since the beginning in 1995, and since then they have sold 42 million Buzz Lightyear and Woody dolls and action figures to date.
The tour started in the lobby which is a kid’s (or in my case, big kid’s) fantasy world. Life size Barbie dream house elevators, claw machines, and the apple of my eye, the 30-foot tall bright orange, fully-functional Hot Wheels race track, complete with loops.
We were then sent into a room with some of Mattel’s Master Developers to tell us all about the creation of the toys we love, from concept sketch to model building with leftover plastics.
Eventually, we were joined by the Director of Toy Story 4, Josh Cooley, and the Producer, Mark Nielsen to hear some production stories, including an alternate ending that is featured on the upcoming Blu-Ray and Digital release of Toy Story 4 that leaves both Woody and us, the audience, heartbroken. They also mentioned that now, thanks to a pause button, we can look for the countless easter eggs (more than any other Pixar film to date) that are hidden throughout the film, including Ed Catmull’s original 3D model of his own hand.
Giggle McDimples herself, Ally Maki, entered the room after a short viewing of a bonus feature on the upcoming release where we see what the process of laying down vocal tracks is really like and told us what she’d like to see for her character in the future, dropping hints about the potential of a Giggle McDimples spin-off series on the upcoming streaming platform, Disney+.
Pixar Animator Claudio De Oliveira, and Pixar Visual Development Artist Ana Ramirez joined us and told us stories about the development of Forky, including Claudio’s over 200 homemade Forkys to get the look just right. Ana Ramirez spoke about how much effort she put into making the digital materials of Bonnie’s backpack look authentic and real. I’m personally a big fan of the Wally B patch on the bag, an homage to one of Pixar’s earliest short films.
We then went out into the Mattel offices stopping by the 3D modeling department where the toys of Toy Story 4 are digitally sculpted using innovative tools that haven’t been used in the toy making world until now. One is a digital brush mounted down and even though there are no real-world materials being used, just the digital interface, the brush knows and can read the sculpt and fights back when you might be doing something that is not possible in reality, like stretching a piece too far or trying to put one digital layer on top of another.
After the 3D Modeling, it was only logical that we then moved on to the 3D printing dept where we got to see some Toy Story 4 toys coming hot off the press. However, there was a quick detour stopping by one of Mattel’s most famous brands, Hot Wheels, with a look at some of the Toy Story 4 character based Hot Wheels cars.
We finally made it to the 3D printing department where, using a Polyjet printer, Master Modelmaker Bobby Coleman, Jr. demonstrated what it’s like to manufacture the toys we have come to love.
No brand-new toy can be without its packaging, so we were joined by some Mattel Packaging designers to show us how creative just the box can be, and we were shown the creative evolution of a box set of toys that comes in a box that looks like Bonnie’s parent’s RV.
Having been a kid and growing into an adult alongside the Toy Story films, this was a pretty big deal for me, seeing toys that I had or probably would have played with. And while this is just one of MY Toy Stories, Mattel is asking us all, #WhatsYourToyStory, inviting us to use that hashtag on social media as we tell the stories of our favorite Toy Story Moments.
Toy Story 4 will be available on digital October 1 and on Blu-Ray and DVD October 8.