'Toy Story 4' director didn't intend for Forky's anxiety and imposter syndrome to be deeply relatable: 'It's kind of sad'

Disney/PixarForky was a brand new ‘toy’ in the latest ‘Toy Story’ movie.
  • Anxiety-ridden Forky is the newcomer in “Toy Story 4.”He’s made from trash and convinced he doesn’t belong with the rest of Bonnie’s toys.
  • Director Josh Cooley told Insider the writing team didn’t “set out to make a character that represents [Imposter Syndrome],” but many people have told him they relate to Forky.
  • “It kind of made me sad that people think, ‘I get that character, that’s me,'” he said.
  • Keep reading for more from our interview with Cooley and “Toy Story 4” producer Mark Nielsen.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Pixar team behind “Toy Story 4” didn’t expect audiences to find a spork going through an existential crisis and constantly trying to throw himself back into a trash can (the one place he thought he belonged) at all relatable.

And yet, Forky is perhaps one of the most relatable characters of 2019 thanks to his clear imposter syndrome and issues with self-worth and doubt.

You know, I’ve heard that from a lot of people, and I find that interesting,” director Josh Cooley told Insider at Mattel headquarters in El Segundo, California. “It wasn’t like we set out to make a character that represents [Imposter Syndrome], but it kind of made me sad that people think, ‘I get that character, that’s me.'”

Jonas Rivera, director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen attend the world premiere of Disney and Pixar's TOY STORY 4 Getty ImagesJesse Grant/Getty Images for DisneyDirector Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen attend the world premiere of ‘Toy Story 4’ at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.


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Forky is now an actual retail toy, created by Mattel after the Pixar animators nailed down his aesthetic starting in the fall of 2017, but he started as just a throwaway joke in the writer’s room for “Toy Story 4.”

“We were sitting in the story room trying to figure out the rules of the ‘Toy Story’ world,” Cooley said. “The whole idea is that toys are alive in this world, but the truth of it is that we look at our own kids and they play with anything.”

Cooley used the example of a child picking up a water bottle and making it walk across the table.

“So does that mean that the water bottle’s alive?” he asked rhetorically. “We were trying to figure out what the deal is, but then we started laughing and just said, ‘Well, why not? Why not try? Why not embrace that?'”

Toy story 4 woody forkyDisney/PixarForky spends the first act of ‘Toy Story 4’ trying to become trash again.

“We drew a spork with googly eyes, and thought about how our kids make garbage all the time,” Cooley said, breaking into laughter when he realised what he’d said. “Well not garbage, our kids make beautiful craft projects.”

Forky may have started as a joke, but quickly became a new kind of ‘Toy Story’ character which would help break up the rhythm of the existing universe

Cooley and the creative team at Pixar quickly realised how Forky would be able to bring a new voice and perspective to the “Toy Story” universe because he didn’t know anything about how toys function within the world.

“It was already comedy gold because he doesn’t get any of it,” Cooley said. “This isn’t in the movie, but we had a line where they’re like, ‘Bonnie’s coming!’ and everybody falls to the ground but Forky just stands there. And he goes, ‘What are you doing?’ And they’re like, ‘Bonnie’s coming, lay down’ and he’s like, ‘Why?’ He didn’t get it.”

Cooley said another version of the script had Forky “actually talking to Bonnie at the end of the movie,” and all the toys freaking out about how he isn’t supposed to interact with people.


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Toy Story 4 Woody Forky DisneyDisneyTom Hanks voices Woody, while Tony Hale voices Forky in ‘Toy Story 4.’

“He can come to any situation with a very innocent point of view, which is very empathetic from the get-go,” Cooley said. “Like he can put his hand on Gabby because he doesn’t understand that she’s supposed to be the villain. It also forced Woody to have to explain what it means to be a toy, which was great. Once we started to unravel who this character was [we realised] he’s way more important than just a gag about a talking spork.”

Now it’s common for both Cooley and the movie’s producer Mark Nielsen to hear from fans of the movie who feel like Forky is a kindred spirit.

“From the very first teaser trailer that came out online, there were a lot of people being like, ‘I can identify with that guy,'” Nielsen told Insider. “He had one line, ‘I don’t belong here,’ and people just said, ‘Yep, I get it.'”

We pointed out that this might also have to do with the current social and political atmosphere in the world, where it feels as if anxiety levels have gone up on average for people. Forky is an anxious character who’s just constantly shaking and trying to find his way through life.

“I think that’s exactly it,” Cooley said.

“And [actor] Tony Hale captures it brilliantly,” Nielsen added. “He’s great at anxiety.”

Now you can have a Forky of your own at home thanks to Mattel’s new “Toy Story 4” figurine collection. The movie will be available digitally on October 1 and on Blu-ray October 8.

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