“Tom is now more Woody [than the other way round], without a doubt,” Hanks tells Yahoo Movies UK ahead of the release of Toy Story 4 on Friday.
“I’ve been completely, completely shaped by him. I can be loud and I can try to take over a room, but I never have the same sense of gravitas that Woody himself has.”
Pixar’s Toy Story 4 is undoubtedly the most Woody-centric of all the Toy Story films, posing the question left hanging at the end of 2010’s Toy Story 3 - what did Woody do next? And now that Hanks has been living in the sheriff doll’s boots (along with that pesky snake) for over 25 years, he says the filmmakers relied on him to help answer that question by making him the gatekeeper of the character’s actions.
“This odd thing happens when we come back to the studio, and stand in front of that microphone one more time,” explains Hanks.
“It’s like I had an out of body experience that goes back to all the years, and all the scenes, all the moments, all the emotional bits that come and go, and we end up having a bit of a philosophical discussions about what happens inside every individual little speech.
“Josh [Cooley - director], Jonas [Rivera - producer], and Mark [Nielsen - producer] and the other writers are there and I go ‘You know, guys, I’m not sure if this is really Woody-esque enough.’”
“And they go ‘We know! And we want you in order to fill it in.’ And I think ‘well, thank you for having that confidence in me.’”
Like the original Toy Story, 4 finds Woody’s world turned upside down when a new toy is introduced to the toy box. However, instead of Woody pushing the new arrival - like he did to Buzz Lightyear - out of the window, 4 sees the plucky cowboy jumping out of a window to rescue the handmade Forky, Bonnie’s new favourite plaything, voiced by Tony Hale.
“We thought Forky was a fun echo of Buzz in a way,” explains Rivera. “Buzz is undeniably a great toy, Woody calls it out in the first [film]. Forky is literally a piece of garbage that challenges him, and that was fun to us.”
Somehow Pixar has managed to match the emotional resonance of Toy Story 3 in the latest instalment, and Hanks believes its because the actors - including Tim Allen as Buzz - have lived with their on-screen counterparts for over 20 years now.
“They all just have a much deeper bond and much deeper connection between each other,” he explains, “and I think there’s an awful lot of gestalt communication that goes on in every nod and every aside.”
To make sure the fourth film lived up to its heritage, director Josh Cooley says the Pixar team regularly immersed themselves in the world of Toy Story during production.
Read more: Why Pixar broke tradition for Toy Story 4
“We watched Toy Story one through three constantly,” says Cooley.
“Every couple of months we would sit in one of the screening rooms and back-to-back, we’d spend six hours watching them. We’d make sure that we were following Woody’s arc, where he’s been, we didn’t want to repeat anything.”
The dedication shows, as Toy Story 4 is every bit the equal of its predecessors, particularly if you’re a Woody fan like us.
Toy Story 4 is in U.K. cinemas from Friday, 21 June. Watch a trailer below.