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July 19, 2019

‘Toy Story 4’ feels like a nostalgia trip and a new adventure all at once

June 16, 2019
Annie Potts returned to voice Bo Peep (center) in “Toy Story 4.” (Pixar)

There’s plenty of reason to get animated about “Toy Story 4.”

The latest movie in the beloved franchise features memorable new characters, a new owner for Woody, Buzz and the gang and a storyline unlike that of any other “Toy Story.”

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At the same time, it’s sure to feel like a trip down memory lane for audiences who grew up loving the Pixar series.

“Tom (Hanks) said something that I thought was so true … which is, ‘Whenever you watch one of these, you become the age that you were when you saw it first,'” Annie Potts, who returns as Bo Peep, told the Daily News. “I think that is going to be a generational loop, and they’re magnificent works of art so they have tremendous resonance, and everybody feels that.”

Christina Hendricks, Tony Hale and Annie Potts
Christina Hendricks, Tony Hale and Annie Potts (Zuma, Getty Images, Sipa)

The movie, opening Friday, picks up where 2010’s “Toy Story 3” left off, with Woody (voiced by Hanks) and the rest of the toys now belonging to a little girl name Bonnie. When Bonnie makes a toy named Forky using a spork, pipe cleaners, Popsicle stick and googly eyes during her kindergarten orientation, Woody vows to keep Forky safe.

But Forky, voiced by Tony Hale, struggles to understand what it means to be a toy and longs to go back in the trash where he thinks used utensils belong.

Tony Hale's Forky is among the new characters in the latest "Toy Story."
Tony Hale’s Forky is among the new characters in the latest “Toy Story.” (Pixar)

“He’s kind of a blank slate,” Hale, 48, told The News. “I think my favorite thing about doing him is I was ? and continue to be ? overwhelmed by the fact that I’m even part of this movie,” said the actor, best known for his roles on “Arrested Development” and “Veep.”

“I think Forky is constantly overwhelmed, so we are very much alike that way. Not only is he simple in the way he sees things and how everything is new, he just asks so many questions. He doesn’t even know to be embarrassed about everything, he just asks all the time, which I love.”

Forky’s hesitation about becoming a toy cause him and Woody to become separated from the group, spurring an adventure. Along the way, they meet Gabby Gabby, a creepy doll in a carriage who has spent years inside an antique shop and covets Woody’s voice box because she believes it would make a child want to take her home.

Christina Hendricks, who voices Gabby Gabby, describes the character as “a little misunderstood,” but loved getting to put a terrifying twist on the kids’ toy.

“We tried different voices and different takes on the lines, and we decided the sweeter she was, the creepier it was,” Hendricks, 44, told The News. “So we just had fun playing around with the tone of it.”

Gabby Gabby, voiced by Christina Hendricks, meets Woody in an antique shop during the movie.
Gabby Gabby, voiced by Christina Hendricks, meets Woody in an antique shop during the movie. (Pixar)

While Hendricks and Hale are thrilled to be among the new additions to the franchise, Potts is happy to be back. The actress’ character was a key player in 1995’s original “Toy Story” and in its 1999 sequel, but did not appear in “Toy Story 3.”

Potts says returning as Bo Peep, a porcelain figurine with three pet sheep, is like getting back on a refurbished bicycle with “all kinds of bells and new whistles.” Her character boasts an impressive swagger and resourcefulness in “Toy Story 4” and is a driving force in the movie.

“Bo has transformed into quite a formidable woman,” Potts, 66, said.

“It’s great in these iconic movies to be that person and to be a role model for little girls and a cautionary tale for little boys,” she explains with a laugh.

Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key and Keanu Reeves are other newcomers in the star-studded cast, while Tim Allen, who voices Buzz Lightyear, returns for a fourth go-round as the plastic astronaut.

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Hale, meanwhile, loves the way Pixar movies always seem to feature powerful messages ? and “Toy Story 4” is no exception.

“One of them (is) Forky, the way he sees himself as just kind of being in the trash, but he steps along and says, ‘No, you have a greater purpose than that. You have greater value than that,’ ” Hale said. “Who doesn’t want to hear that?”

The first three “Toy Story” movies are among Pixar’s most popular flicks. Hendricks believes “Toy Story 4” will be a hit, too, and says the film is “heartwarming” and “quite emotional.”

“It was interesting for me to hear Tim and Annie and Tom talk about it because it’s their baby, it’s their family and they’ve been there,” the “Mad Men” actress said.

“But they seem just as excited about this one. Of course, I’m the new kid and I’m biased and I’m like, ‘This one’s awesome!’ So it’s just nice to hear how proud they are of it.”

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