Arts & Entertainment Editor

On Feb. 29, UC Santa Barbara’s (UCSB) very own Pollock Theater hosted a screening of family-favorite Pixar movie “Toy Story 4″ followed by a discussion featuring the movie’s co-screenwriter Stephany Folsom. Throughout the movie, the audience, which seemed to contain a plethora of eager Pixar fans, roared with laughter at the clever jokes in the dialogue and intently watched Woody struggle with his individual journey of finding where he belongs.  

The last part of the classic “Toy Story” movie series, “Toy Story 4″ focuses more on cowboy Woody’s story arc as he faces an identity crisis as new owner Bonnie’s toy. As he tries to make her childhood as happy as possible, he battles with the struggle of accepting the idea that children eventually lose interest in toys — an idea that resonates with a bigger message related to loss and acceptance.  

Despite being filled with cheerful, fun toys and humorous dialogue, “Toy Story 4″ contains an important message on “what do you do when society tells you [that] you don’t belong,” as emphasized by Folsom in the post-screening discussion. Eager to answer questions and detailed in her answers, Folsom went into a tremendous amount of detail regarding her journey as a screenwriter before landing the position of co-screenwriter for the “Toy Story 4” movie. 

Folsom shared that before she was contacted by Pixar regarding this opportunity, she had debated on giving up her dream of screenwriting after attending film school and landing several small scriptwriting and film-related jobs. However, her light at the end of the tunnel arrived when her script “1969: A Space Odyssey: Or How Kubrick Learned to Stop Worrying and Land On the Moon” made it onto the Black List, a popular forum for filmmakers and writers to share their material. 

Perhaps this opportunity is what allowed Folsom to develop a creative drive that can be seen through the carefully crafted dialogue and character relations seen in “Toy Story 4.” For example, Bo Peep’s arc is also highlighted in the film as she finds her happiness in being a “lost” toy that gets the opportunity to explore and play with many children rather than belong to one kid. 

With her bright personality and sense of cheerfulness, Folsom joyously disclosed to the audience behind-the-scene moments such as how Keanu Reeves inspired details of his character, Duke Caboom during his initial meeting with Folsom to discuss the character. She recalled, “He suddenly jumps on the table and starts posing … just like how Duke Caboom does,” to the delight of the elated audience.  

Notably, she mentioned that Pixar has a policy of not thinking of the audience during the production process of films, contrary to popular belief. Through this sort of mentality, the animation company’s movies tend to be able to strike the heartstrings of audiences of all ages, not just children, with their universal messages. 

A well-developed series still loved by many fans around the world, the “Toy Story” series has allowed audiences to experience the emotion behind the simple action of toys being given away to new owners or the idea of gratitude and companionship. The ability of Pixar to show these sentimental values in their films is commendable and shows a promising future for their upcoming animations.