Throughout the Toy Story trilogy, Woody and Buzz have remained the two main characters. Others have played significant roles, such as Jesse in Toy Story 2, but the franchise has always been about Andy’s two main toys, their friendship with one another, and their evolving relationship with their owner as he grew older. That all changes in Toy Story 4, as Pixar has made the decision to transform Bo-Peep–who wasn’t even in Toy Story 3–into one of the main characters of the movie alongside Woody and Buzz.
In Toy Story 3, Bo-Peep is only mentioned briefly in passing, a throwaway line implying she was given away years before the events of the third film. Toy Story 4 opens with that exact moment, showcasing the series of events that led to Molly giving Bo-Peep away. It’s an emotional scene and one that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Toy Story 4 is not another whimsical adventure for Woody and Buzz–it’s the story of how Bo-Peep’s life away from Woody and the rest of Andy’s toys reshapes both her and, by extension, Woody.
“We have two films where she’s present, and our edit team collaborated, and they cut together every single shot that she’s in and we watched them. And it’s not that much,” Toy Story 4 story supervisor Valerie LaPointe said during a panel at Pixar HQ devoted to explaining the team’s process for reimagining Bo-Peep. “It’s really just a few minutes. Because she’s really not even a secondary character, she’s kind of a tertiary character in the first two films.”
“At the same time, she’s still a powerful presence,” LaPointe continued. “To Woody, she is confident, she’s flirty, and she’s the voice of reason. She’s someone that he confides in on a deeper level, even more so than Buzz in the second film. So she still has a powerful impact.”
This impact is stronger in Toy Story 4, according to LaPointe, as Woody is “going to evolve and change and grow through this film,” with Bo-Peep as the primary catalyst behind this transformation.
Bo-Peep has changed quite a bit since we last saw her in Toy Story 2. “We really needed to redefine who Bo is for this movie,” Toy Story 4 story artist Carrie Hobson said. “So the story team worked really hard to nail down those specific personality traits. Ultimately, we decided she’s a character who decided she didn’t just want to sit on a shelf waiting for life to happen. She learned to adapt. She takes chances and is somewhat unpredictable–a lot different from Woody. She doesn’t play by toy rules, so she can literally change her default ‘toy mode,’ which means when a kid picks her up, she can change what pose she’s locked into, enabling her to be a different type of toy depending on the kid that’s playing with her. She’s more active and resourceful in her life as a lost toy.”
Even Bo-Peep’s wardrobe has changed. She’s transformed her dress into a cloak that’s draped over her pants and blouse, allowing her to run, climb, and fight more freely. “One of the challenges we faced was how to portray Bo as athletic while still feminine,” Toy Story 4 directing animator Patty Kihm said. “We found in a lot of research that a lot of strong, athletic women are often portrayed as masculine in movies, but we wanted Bo to be both athletic and feminine.” Pixar turned to other fictional women in their research for Bo-Peep’s new wardrobe and movements, such as The Bride from Kill Bill and Rey from The Force Awakens.
Yet, under all these changes, fans will be able to recognize pieces of the Bo-Peep from the first two movies. “She was always very witty and sarcastic in the original movies, but now she’s also a little more silly, a little more playful and competitive,” Hobson said. “She’s rougher than Woody because she’s seen things, she knows what it takes to get the job done, and she’s not afraid to do it.”
“Bo has changed a lot in 20 years,” Toy Story 4 character modeling artist Mara MacMahon added. “She’s been through a ton. But it’s still Bo-Peep. It’s a friend you haven’t seen in 20 years, and at first glance, it seems like they’re super different, but there’s still an underlying continuity to who they are and how you remember them.”
Toy Story 4 is scheduled to release June 21, and advance tickets are now on sale.