There’s a new addition to the gang in Toy Story 4, although the handmade Forky would argue that he’s not a toy at all.
In Toy Story 4, Bonnie finds herself alone during kindergarten orientation, and of course Woody is quick to help, digging through the rubbish bin to retrieve potential items for her craft project. Adding some plasticine, pipe cleaners and boggle eyes to a discarded spork, Forky is born.
But the suddenly sentient utensil doesn’t consider himself a toy – he’s merely a piece of trash that has been repurposed as one. He doesn’t belong in Bonnie’s room, but every time he attempts to escape, he’s yanked back into an adventure he’d rather avoid – like accompanying Bonnie and her family on a road trip, along with Woody and the gang.
“Forky is like a newborn. He doesn’t know anything about life – he doesn’t even understand why he’s alive or what a toy even is,” explains producer Mark Nielsen. “He makes Woody vocalise what it means to be a toy – what it means to be needed.”
Director Josh Cooley – who was in high school when the first Toy Story opened in cinemas – says that in the world of Toy Story, everything has a purpose, even a bespoke spork. “A toy’s purpose is to be there for its child, but what about toys that are made out of other objects? Forky is a toy that Bonnie made out of a disposable spork, so he’s facing a crisis. He wants to fulfil his purpose as a spork, but now has a new toy purpose thrust upon him.”
“We loved the idea of Forky, adds producer Jonas Rivera. “He’s like an infant. He doesn’t understand the rules of the world, so he doesn’t play by the rules, which really makes the story feel fun and new. But it makes life hard for Woody, who’s just trying to help Forky understand the importance of his kid.”
For the filmmakers, it was a casual discussion about what actually qualifies as a toy that led to the creation of Forky. “We were joking around,” says Cooley, “wondering what would happen if we had a toy that was not manufactured. Would it be alive? Those weird existential questions about the Toy Story universe are really fun. If a child plays with you, are you a toy?”
Screenwriter Andrew Stanton adds that the filmmakers just had a good feeling about Forky. “If you just pick up a piece of paper and start flying it around, this little paper airplane won’t suddenly come to life. I think there’s something about imbuing an actual personality on it, and having a relationship with it felt like it crossed the threshold into giving this craft creation life as a toy.”
Forky’s simple origin made the character an instant hit with the filmmakers. “He’s an inherently funny character,” says editor Axel Geddes. “He doesn’t even have to say anything to be funny.”