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Pixar’s First Intern, Scott Clark, Talks ‘Toy Story 4’ Challenges and Easter Eggs

With today’s 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD release, the film’s supervising animator sheds light on both humorous and touching hidden gems. 

With today’s 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD release of Toy Story 4, Disney and Pixar’s hugely successful fourth installment in their iconic and beloved Toy Story film series, fans everywhere now can literally get their hands on, dare we say, the “final,” outing in arguably the most heart-warming and engaging animated film franchises of all time. Fans have been able to get their “digital” hands on the film since its October 1 release on Digital in 4K Ultra HD, HD, and Movies Anywhere. As of today, there’s a purchasable version to keep everyone happy. Well… you laserdisc aficionados… no film for you!

For Pixar’s Scott Clark, the Toy Story franchise is especially meaningful; not only was he the studio’s first intern back in 1996, but he was a supervising animator on the most recent Toy Story film. In fact, Toy Story is the reason he pivoted from studying hand-drawn animation to CG, a move that led to a career working on films like A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Up, as well as Toy Story 2, 3 and 4.

“The Toy Story world is the reason I'm here,” he shares. “It’s the movie that was in theaters when I interned. And it was those characters that drew me into computer animation. I was a hand-drawn animation student in the 90s, and I didn't even consider computer animation until I saw that movie. I got to work on Toy Story 2 and 3 as an animator and I did supe [animation supervisor] on Toy Story That Time Forgot. So, I know a lot about the Toy Story world. I've been with these characters a while.”

According to Clark, Toy Story 4 was the most challenging of four franchise films for reasons that had nothing to with sophisticated CG animation technology or character design. “With every film we make, our goal is always the same, which is to tell a compelling story where the audience can empathize and connect with the characters in a deep way,” he explains. “And with Toy Story 4, we had our biggest challenge, because even for us, the question was always, ‘Why are we making this film?’ And the answer had to be because we have to, because we have a story that still needs to be told. It was very hard, digging deep enough to find a story that took our characters somewhere they needed to go. But, those toughest challenges, ultimately, are the ones that end up being the most rewarding. And speaking for myself, it was very much worth it. We had a great story to tell.”

Though the medium of animation has drastically changed in so many ways since Toy Story hit theatres as the first fully computer-generated feature film, part of the new film’s appeal is its ability, after a quarter century, to capture the same quirky animated charm that mesmerized audiences back in 1995. “The difference now, 25 years after the first Toy Story, is that we've got better tools, we're more efficient with those tools, and the polished level of what we can do in animation is just so much more,” he notes. “We're just better at doing what we're doing. The tools give us tremendous capabilities.”

“As we were preparing for Toy Story 4, we obviously benefitted by having all of the past Toy Story projects on file to reference,” he continues. “We constructed a complex ‘World of Toy Story’ reference site for the animators. It’s easy to forget that there is a charm in some of the jankiest, quirkiest animation from the first movie that gets lost if you're a little too polished in your style. We had to tell animators, ‘Look, it’s about less is more.’ You have to pull back in this situation versus this other situation. If you're animating the parents, they need to feel human. If you're animating Forky, he needs to feel like a handmade object that a child created. So we intentionally didn't over-animate Forky.”

Pixar, of course, is famous for embedding Easter eggs in their films; Easter egg detection has become a cottage industry, fixated on by scores of fans plagued with too much free time who pore over every movie frame at least 15-20 times in their search for these often-elusive hidden gems. Google “Pixar Easter eggs” and you’ll get 5.1 million results in 0.67 seconds.  “There are a lot of fun Easter eggs in the film,” Clark reveals. “ And some tributes too. When we animate, we look at shots over and over and over again. The antique mall is set dressed with thousands of items. I noticed that as Woody and Bo are being chased through the mall, there are little objects all over the place that reference other movies. If you go through those scenes, you'll find them. It always tickles me to see so many fun things hidden in the background. It’s the art department looking shot by shot, having fun and saying, ‘Hey, can you put a little Good Dinosaur tchotchke over here? We’ve got a funny painting of Charles Muntz from Up playing poker with a bunch of dogs. Can you put that on this wall?’“

“There's even a tribute in there to the late, great Adam Burke, one of the animators that I worked with who unfortunately passed away last year,” Clark adds. “He was notorious. He wore a special type of hat that he kept in his office on a coat rack. It’s set dressed in the antique mall. I noticed that myself and it brought a tear to my eye because he’s real, and somebody actually thought to put that in there.”

Toy Story 4 is directed by Josh Cooley, and produced by Mark Nielsen and Jonas Rivera. Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich and Pete Docter are executive producers, and Stanton and Stephany Folsom wrote the screenplay. Longtime Toy Story collaborator Randy Newman composed the score and wrote two new original songs, “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” performed by Newman, and “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy,” which is performed by Chris Stapleton for the end credits.

The film welcomes both veteran and new voices, including Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear, Annie Potts as Bo Peep, Tony Hale as Forky, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as Ducky and Bunny, Madeleine McGraw as Bonnie, Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby, Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom, Ally Maki as Giggle McDimples and Joan Cusack as Jessie. The voice cast also includes Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Emily Davis, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, the late Don Rickles and Estelle Harris.

The digital and Blu-ray / DVD releases have different sets of special bonus features which may vary, and are listed below:

BONUS FEATURES (may vary by retailer)

Blu-ray & Digital:

  • Toy Stories - The Toy Story 4 cast and crew share their love of toys!
  • Woody & Buzz - Take a look at the relationship between these two legendary characters.
  • Bo Rebooted - Discover how Team Bo reimagined all aspects of Bo Peep's identity to arrive at the fully realized character seen in the film.
  • Toy Box - Enjoy a collection of mini-docs on the film’s memorable new characters, featuring the voice actors, director Josh Cooley and Pixar artists talking about the many elements that make these characters fun and lovable
  • Let’s Ride With Ally Maki - Ally Maki, voice of Giggle McDimples, learns all about Pixar’s dialogue recording process from director Josh Cooley and his team.
  • Deleted Scenes introduced by director Josh Cooley including:
    • Scamming Playtime
    • Bo Knows Hippos
    • Desperate Toys
    • Knock-Offs
    • Recruit Duke
    • She’s The One
  • Audio Commentary, Trailers and more!

Digital Exclusive:

  • Anatomy of a Scene: Prologue - Filmmakers and crew review key scenes of the movie and dissect the practical and technological methods used to bring them to life.
  • Additional Deleted scene -  Bonnie’s Playtime
Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.