“Why am I alive?”
That’s a question any human in the midst of an existential crisis might ask. It’s also something that a newly sentient plastic spork named Forky is focused on answering in “Toy Story 4.”
In the movie (now showing), scene-stealing new character Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) comes to life after rising kindergartner Bonnie creates the googly-eyed toy from items found in the garbage.
Forky doesn’t know what he’s doing here. He doesn’t know what it means to be a toy. And he’s having a hard time reconciling his new identity.
It’s all a hoot.
“T-t-t-trash?” he keeps asking, longing to return to whence he came.
But “Toy Story” fans probably have a few different questions about the fan-favorite new guy.
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In "Toy Story 4," Woody (Tom Hanks) introduces Bonnie's craft project, Forky (Tony Hale), to the rest of her toys. (Photo: PIXAR)
Why is he called Forky, rather than Sporky?
Yes, Forky is actually a spoon/fork hybrid that’s used, as the character says, “for soup, salad, maybe chili, and then the trash!” But director Josh Cooley figured that Bonnie might not know what a spork is.
A few years ago, Cooley turned to his son, who was 5 or 6 at the time, for a name. The boy’s idea?
“Well, we can’t say that,” Cooley told his son, who had no clue his suggestion sounded profane. “Forky” was close enough.
Tony Hale poses with the character he voices in "Toy Story 4." "Forky's the best. He's so fun," Hale says. (Photo: ERIK VOAKE/GETTY IMAGES FOR McDONALD'S)
How did Tony Hale become the voice?
Pixar producers can audition actors, unbeknownst to the actors themselves. How? By pairing animation with audio from one of the actor’s live-action performances.
For Forky, “they put lines that I did on ‘Arrested Development’ and ‘Veep,’ into Forky’s animation,” says Tony Hale, who’s best known for his neurotic Buster Bluth and similarly anxious Gary Walsh on those shows, respectively. The meek, overwhelmed voice was a perfect match for “sweet little Forky,” as Hale describes the character.
The “Toy Story” franchise is all about nostalgia, so it’s fitting that four beloved comedy legends join this fourth film.
How does Forky’s existential crisis fit into a G-rated movie?
Throughout “Toy Story 4,” Woody (Tom Hanks) tries to stop Forky, Bonnie’s new favorite plaything, from getting back in the garbage. At one point, Forky even throws himself out of a moving vehicle because he’s so determined to go to the dump.
But Cooley doesn’t see the character as suicidal or self-harming.
While Woody’s purpose is to be there for his kid no matter what, Forky thinks his purpose is to go back to the trash. It just so happens that, as “Toy Story 3” showed, the trash is the worst place for a toy.
“We had a line we cut when Woody is first explaining to Forky what it means to be a toy,” says Cooley, who remembers the dialogue this way:
Forky: “I belong in the trash.”
Woody: “I’ve been to the dump, I know what it’s like.
Forky: “You’re so lucky!”
Are there other toys like Forky?
Forky doesn’t look at all like Woody or the other manufactured toys. He abruptly came to life after a little girl imbued him with imagination and love. Instead of walking smoothly, he hobbles goofily, as his uneven eyeballs slide down his face.
Making Forky move “was a challenge in a great way,” says Cooley, who gave animators this direction: “Make it look handmade. Make it feel like a kid was operating it.”
As Forky’s character progresses throughout the film, his gestures become less spastic, his arms get more flexible and his eyes start to blink.
** Minor spoiler alert! A funny detail from the end of the movie follows. **
By the post-credits scene, Forky isn’t the most awkward of the toys. There’s a new character who gets that title. You might be tempted to refer to her as Knifey.
Rising kindergartner Bonnie made Forky out of junk from the garbage. You can make one, too, though it may be easier to find materials at a craft store. (Photo: PIXAR)
Can you make your own Forky?
Studio animator Claudio de Oliveira says his best method for understanding Forky and the movements of the toy’s materials, was to make his own Forky and play with it (and his children) at home.
“I went back to my memory of being a kid and sometimes making my own toys,” De Oliverira says. “You have a different connection to the toy just by making it.”
Though Target and other retailers sell ready-made Forky toys, he encourages “Toy Story” fans to craft their own and get personal, tactile experiences with the character. All you need is a spork (or plastic spoon with scissors to cut it into a spork), pipe cleaner, glue, putty or clay, a popsicle stick and googly eyes.
Director Josh Cooley says Forky, in his early scenes, moves like "when Bambi was first born." He's still figuring out his limbs and moving awkwardly. (Photo: PIXAR)
Will there be more Forky onscreen?
Regardless of whether there’s a fifth “Toy Story” film (Cooley leaves the option open, saying “Who knows what the future will bring?”), there will be more of the cutlery character onscreen. Forky is set to appear in a series of short films premiering on Disney+ when the streaming platform launches later this year.
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