A few weeks back, Moviehole was lucky enough to score a flight bound for San Francisco – more precisely, the Pixar headquarters in San Francisco, where we’d not only get to see where “the magic happens” but have the opportunity to talk to the cast and crew of the studio’s latest masterpiece (and I stress masterpiece, the film is an absolute doozie!) “Toy Story 3″.
Fresh from a tour of the studio, we got to converse with Toy Story 3 ‘actors’ Jeff Garlin (”Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Joan Cusack (”Grosse Pointe Blank”) and Kristen Schaal (”Flight of the Concords”) about bringing to life (literally) the characters of Buttercup,Jessie,and Trixie, respectively,for the film.
When you first heard Disney wanted you for a third “Toy Story”, what were your thoughts? ‘Oh hell, this is gonna kill our careers – second sequels never turn out well!?’
Jeff Garlin : Are you being serious? Does anyone roll their eyes? First of all, when Pixar calls, I think if your eyes are closed, they open, and they’re wider, and third installment? Here’s the thing. If you’re doing the first “Saw” movie, you have to think to yourself, “Will this ruin my career?” let alone “Saw 12” or whatever they’re on. But “Toy Story”? I mean, come on! I’m so honored to be in this now. My gosh, I’m thrilled. There’s no rolling of any eyes on my end.
I think everyone’s just waiting for Pixar to have a dud, and here’s the third instalment –
JG: It’s not going to be this movie.
Kristen Schaal: Why does someone want to wait for the dud?
Jeff Garlin: You watched it last night, right?
Yes, I did. I loved it.
JG: You saw it last night? It’s fantastic and moving and great, so this is not going to be it. It’ll come at some point, maybe.
Joan Cusack: They have a good process that a lot of other places could model to make better movies, which is to be thoughtful, care about what you’re doing, take your time, and employ people and then trust them. There are a lot of good pieces to the puzzle that they have that, in the end, I think they took a risk with this movie because they really made it be about something. They had the thoughtfulness to back it up because they really took the time to think. “Let’s really make it be a meaningful movie.”
Jeff, when someone calls you up and says, “We want you to do a voice,” did you automatically think, “Oh, they’re going to have me be a rugged, outdoors, GI Joe”? Were you surprised by the character that they pitched to you?
JG: Why would I think that they’re going to have me be a rugged GI Joe? Nothing in my past – I should take it as a compliment.
KS: Yeah, if we all close our eyes, I’m outside with you, and we’re on a hike, and there’s a bear coming –
JG: And I’m protecting you with my knife. Then we continue our journey as I beat the bear. Uh, no. I was thrilled. I knew when they said, “We want you to play Buttercup the unicorn,” which is really what it was, I knew instantly that they wanted me to use my regular voice.
JC: Therein lies the genius of Pixar. That’s hilarious.
JG: Yeah, you would think that Kristen’s voice would be the voice of a unicorn, and I would be the voice of a big dinosaur.
KS: Sure, the unicorn is my spiritual animal. (laughs)
JG: Anyhow, no. Thrilled, not shocked. I would expect that from Pixar.
Do they have you all in a sound studio actually playing off of each other?
JG : No, you’re alone in the studio by yourself.
Is that more difficult than when you’re actually playing off somebody who’s sitting across from you?
JG: Of course it’s more difficult. Way more difficult, but you know, the room’s air conditioned, they have nice snacks, everyone’s real nice to me, and I know when I’m done, I get a cheque, so the level of difficulty is to be interpreted, but for me – I don’t know if you guys feel this way – but at the end of the four-hour session, my head hurts.
KS: I’m usually done in 20 minutes because I did it.
Did you guys record before the animation, or did you record watching the characters?
JG: No, we don’t see anything.
KS: Before. They matched the animation to our voice, isn’t that right?
JG: They also videotape you and pick up some of your facial movements too. No, we’re before the animation.
Since you guys followed ”Toy Story” since the first one, how did you like the evolution, story-wise? Especially you, Joan, since Jessie was a big part in the second one and now she even got to dance? How do you see the evolution of ”Toy Story”?
JC: I feel like they have this great place in this great think tank in this great creative environment, and I think they really went for it in this movie. They really said, “Let’s make a movie about something,” and to me, it’s interesting because I think, on a lot of levels, how do you stay relevant? How does anyone stay relevant over time? Obviously something new has its own power to it, but over time, how do you stay relevant? It’s something that everyone deals with. The message in the movie, underneath it all, is that if you love someone, if someone’s loved, then they are relevant but you have to believe it. If you forget it for a little while, you can get lost and maybe make some mistakes, but if you really believe that you’re valuable, then you are valuable. I think that’s sort of a cool message for a company that’s trying to have some longevity to it.
KS: That’s a great point you’re making, Joan. With Toy Story 3, it’s like you’re revisiting the toys that toys again, and I think the plotline of this movie reflects that too. When you go back to something you love as you grow older, it’s as if you’re asking, “Will society embrace this toy again?”
JG: Society is so into youth and new, I find, as a 48-year-old comedian today –
JC: It’s his birthday!
JG – that umm, age is not as important as relevancy. Relevancy is everything. You can be 90 and be relevant and people will be hanging on what you say.
JC: Because you believe it!
JG: Because you believe it and yes, that’s the key thing, bottom line is that you’ve got to believe that you can be relevant and are relevant. Relevancy is so important, and this movie, yeah, it’s so important, and the themes …. You know, Pixar has never been about, “Let’s put this out and we can cash in on it.” Cashing in is never – cash does flow into this building pretty freely, but –
KS: I got this for free!
JG: You did, though, didn’t you?
JG: I had to pay for mine, though. That’s the weird thing.
JC: That’s because you took four hours.
KS: That’s because I got out in 20 minutes. You’re costing three more hours of studio time.
JG: They make up for it by giving you the iced tea. I have ADD; I forgot what I was saying.
KS: You were talking about how much money flows into this place, but they’re not about making money.
JG: Oh yeah, cashing in. This movie is arguably the best Toy Story movie. I say “arguably” because they all are wonderful and everyone’s going to have a favourite, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, for some people, this is their favourite Toy Story movie. That says a lot, you know? That really is great.
Is it your favorite Toy Story movie?
JG: Actually, yes. It’s my favourite of the three.
JC: “Wall-E” is pretty good, though.
JG: “Wall-E” is my favourite Pixar movie, obviously because I have a lot to do with it, but “Wall-E” just blows me away, every time I see it, on such a personal level.
KS: It’s a silent movie. That’s what is so amazing about it. (sigh) I was a big fan of “Wall-E.”
JG: First 45 minutes, not a word, and then I ruin everything.
JG: All of their movies have some feeling of, like …. My favourite movie is “Monsters, Inc.” Every movie is different.
JC: And how weird is it that that movie came out after 9/11, when everyone is wondering, “What is the monster in the closet?” They have a weird societal synchronicity, I think.
JG: They do.
“Toy Story 3” opens June 24 around Australia