Yvonne Villarreal is back on the Hero Complex with a story about John Morris, who grew up in the role of Andy, the heartfelt human at the center of a “Toy Story“ that began in 1995.
His own toy story began 18 years ago. John Morris was a little boy, just 7 years old, and when he became part of Hollywood history he wasn’t even paying attention — he was too busy playing with some X-Men action figures to notice that he had won the voice role of Andy, the earnest and imaginative youngster at the center of Pixar’s “Toy Story” franchise.
“It was an open casting call for boys,” Morris, now 25, recalled. “I knew I was there for a job. But, I mean, at that moment, it was just about me and my toys. I was playing and was in my own world. I think that’s what got me the part. I was Andy.”
“Toy Story 3” has already pulled in $336 million worldwide since its June 18 release and $1.22 billion as a franchise. More than that, the newest edition has earned the strongest reviews of any major studio release this year. No one marvels at that more than Morris.
“Usually, people grow out of things, they move on,” Morris said. “It’s just amazing how many people still find the magic in these films. The stories are amazing. The characters … they’re like family. They hold a special place in your heart.”
Directed by Lee Unkrich and starring the familiar voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn and the rest of the toy gang, “Toy Story 3” centers on Andy on the eve of his big move to college. As he packs up for the future, he must deal with a bit of the past — should he pack away his beloved toys in the attic or just send them to the curb?
“It’s a moment where childhood meets adulthood,” Morris said. “Hanging on becomes harder and harder and you sort of have to let some things go. It’s something everyone can relate to.”
Morris was faced with the same decision with his own playthings just before starting college at UCLA in 2003. He said that, for him, a My Buddy doll was his most prized childhood pal but that were plenty of others in the emotional toybox.
“Some of them I gave to my little sister,” Morris said. “Some of them I saved in the attic to give to my future kids. The rest I sort of displayed on a shelf. You don’t realize how hard it is to let some of them go until you’re faced with it. You kind of just want to play with them one last time.”
The toys-coming-to-life fantasy of the Disney/Pixar franchise holds a special power over young audiences and the boy who gave voice to Andy was no different after the first film opened in 1995.
“After the movie came out, I remember I would set my toys up,” Morris said. “I’d leave them a certain way on my bed and I’d crack the door open to see if anything was happening — if they were moving or something. I was always hoping to catch them in the act. The films just made you believe.”
When it came time to voice the last scene in this newest installment, Morris said it was almost like saying goodbye to childhood.
“It was such an emotional scene,” Morris said. “It’s like suddenly you’re an adult and you have to say goodbye to being a kid and all that childlike wonder. And it was emotional on a whole other level for me because this character has been my life. There was so much depth in that scene for me. I mean, we grew up together, he and I.”
— Yvonne Villarreal
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