You might not be immediately familiar with his name, but Pete Docter is the man behind some of the best loved Pixar creations. Creator of the stories behind Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and WALL-E, he also directed Monsters Inc., Up and most recently the wonderful Inside Out.
He's won an Oscar (and been nominated for five more) as well as a BAFTA and a slew of other industry awards. To top it all off he generally appears to be a pretty grounded guy, welcoming competition from other studios in the name of diversity and, despite being a devout Christian, keeping explicitly religious themes out of his work in favour of a personal reflective storytelling experience.
A recent interview with ETOnline gave them the opportunity to pick Docter's brain regarding the most recent iteration in the Toy Story franchise, the highly anticipated Toy Story 4, as well as asking his opinion on the most popular fan theories regarding the Pixar world.
Andy's Mother Is Emily?
Some of you may be familiar with the writings of blogger Jon Negroni who posited the Pixar Theory (which will be discussed below). Negroni also formulated the theory about the identity of Andy's mom, which has become widely circulated in the fandom.
If you remember the heartbreaking scene in Toy Story 2 in which Jessie recounts how she was abandoned by her owner Emily then you probably have that Sarah McLachlan song stuck in your head now (you're welcome). It's a pivotal moment as her story initially causes Woody to loose faith in his relationship with Andy, leading to him choosing to stay and go to the toy museum instead.
Negroni posited that Jessie's former owner Emily and Andy's mom are in fact one in the same, and lays out a list of evidence to support this:
- We never learn Andy's mom's first name, neither do we learn Emily's surname.
- We do see that they have similar coloured hair.
- We know that Emily is old enough to be Andy’s mom.
- The hat Andy wears isn't the same as Woody's, in fact it looks much more like the one Jessie wears. Andy's hat doesn't have the white ribbon round the centre, but there's a faded strip where a ribbon used to be.
- We see that young Emily has a hat identical to the one Andy wears (minus the ribbon) but we don't see it get donated with the rest of the Jessie merchandise.
Additionally there's a parallel between the stories of Andy and Emily, both growing up and forgetting about the toys that they once loved as a child. Instead of throwing them out they donate them (Jessie to charity, Woody & co to Bonnie). It's would also be a nice touch for Jessie to find a new home with Emily's son, indeed in a roundabout way.
Docter confirmed that he had in fact heard about the Emily/Andy's mom theory. When asked if it was true however...
"You know, John Lasseter was the director on that, and we talked for hours about backstory, and we have our own kind of backstory that's a little different than that."
Bummer. Will we ever get to find out Jessie's true origins then?
"The interesting thing is that we're now on Toy Story 4, and still stuff that we discussed in [the original] Toy Story, twenty-something years ago, those ideas are still being used. So it just seems to be a very evergreen kind of story and a lot of stuff just keeps bubbling up, so it's very interesting."
So... that's a maybe?
The Pixar Theory
Negroni's Pixar Theory posits that all the Pixar films are in fact linked (through time travel and such) and take part in the same narrative universe. It's an interesting read and has even been adapted into a more comprehensive book since he first wrote it back in 2013, but it's too exhaustive to rehash here so if you haven't heard about it yet you can read it at the source instead.
Sadly it looks like this specific theory might be further off the mark as Docter revealed:
"Well, I don’t want to spoil anybody's fun. I'm flattered that people spend time thinking about this [but] we really try to create very distinct worlds in each film. So for [those who think the] characters from Monsters [would] show up in The Incredibles is kind of a design... it breaks my head a little bit to be honest."
Oh. Well it was a fun theory whilst it lasted I guess.
And Toy Story 4?
Like most people, I'd assumed that Pixar's Toy Story series was done and dusted with the heart-wrenching third film tying up, what was at the time, a neat little trilogy. But, surprise! Last year we received the announcement that Toy Story will rise again to bring us it's fourth instalment. It's been five years now (!) since Woody, Buzz, Jessie and the rest graced our cinema screens, and news of their return has been tentatively hopeful.
John Lasseter, Pixar's chief creative officer and director of the first two Toy Story films, is returning to direct with co-director Josh Cooley. Cooley was head of story on Inside Out alongside Docter so we're expecting great things. Rashida Jones and Will McCormack will pen the screenplay.
Lasseter has previously confirmed that the central premise of Toy Story 4 will be the search for Bo Peep and the ongoing romance between her and Woody. During Toy Story 3 Woody reveals that the porcelain shepherdess and her herd were sold alongside other toys, but we never got to find out what happened to her. Fans will have noted her absence in the previous film and this instalment intends to explain what happened to her in that time.
Docter couldn't really tell us much more about the upcoming flick, but he did say that it will attempt to emulate the same aspects that made Toy Story great, so that's something.
"It's definitely a lot of the same characters and the [same] world. But as you know from Toy Story 3, there's kind of a new big chapter to Woody's life. I can't say too much, but it's simultaneously great characters in things you've come to expect, but really a different kind of take on it."
He chalked this different kind of take up to the addition of writing team Will McCormack and Rashida Jones, and he sounds very confident in them:
"Rashida and Will, who have come in as writers, are just fantastic people and so much fun to work with. And what's great about it is, as actors, I think they have also this ability to kind of infuse the dialog with this great sense of character."
Oh well, at least we've got Toy Story 4 to look forward to in 2017, even if it doesn't contain any of those well thought out fan theories.