Bo Peep was missing from Toy Story 3, and we didn’t have a clue what happened to her. We could only guess that she was given away or was sold at a yard sale, until now. While I won’t give it away, the start of Toy Story 4 finally reveals what exactly happened between the events of Toy Story 2 and 3. However, Bo is back, and she isn’t exactly the same damsel in distress that Andy used to depict her as during his play sessions.
To take us through Bo Peep’s change, we looked at a few aspects of the character from Story Supervisor Valerie LaPoint, Story Artist Carrie Hobson, Characters Modeling Artist Mara MacMahon, Directing Animators Patty Kihm & Becki Tower and Character Modeling Artist Tanja Krampfert during a recent visit to Pixar Studios.
“We went from evolving Bo Peep from a toy attached to an appliance (as a lamp) to a lost toy. When we first started early on roughly five years ago, we dug right back into what do we already know, who is the Bo Peep that we’ve established,” said Story Supervisor Valerie LaPoint. “We basically compiled every single clip from the first two Toy Story movies and put them all back to back and watched them and them asking what do we got? What is her personality?”
She continued, “What she brings to the first two films is that she is confident, she is flirty with Woody, but for him, she often plays the voice of reason. She’s someone that Woody confides in, and we knew that in this film she would be a driving force in the change in Woody’s character. She would go from being a supporting role, sort of a secondary or tertiary character in the Toy Story universe to a main character. So, we really had to flush out and make her a more dimensional character.”
Next was how to explain what happened to Bo between the events of Toy Story 2 and 3, with their imaginations running wild with all the different possibilities that could happen. She also talked about the antique store. They knew they would be using it in the movie and what sort of place it would be and if she existed in it how would it change and shape her character. “Ultimately, her character evolution came down to two things. The first obvious choice was what is the most entertaining, fun, unexpected place we can take her. Who is the Bo we want to see? And number two is a story reason: She would have an effect on Woody and what realization would we want her and Woody to have by the end of the film? What change will they impart on each other, and we decided that Bo goes from a lamp to a lost toy.”
“Lost Toy” is a term all toys, fear but for Toy Story 4, the writers wanted to give it a spin and wanted to rethink it as a positive thing for a toy, and Bo Peep would be the perfect character to introduce that.
With Bo’s character explained for the film, we next got a look into her new design from character modeling artist Tanja Krampfert.
They weren’t able to use any of the old assets from the first films for Bo, but they wanted to reinvent the character who people liked from the first film while keeping true to her original design. For this, they used everything they could find, including old designs, artwork, shots from the movies, as well as the original sculpt that was created for the first film in order to study every single detail they could about the character.
Since Bo is made out of porcelain, it was important for them to understand how it changes over time. The design team took a research trip to look at doll & porcelain fabrication in Los Angeles. They also got references from going to antique stores, yard sales and other places, which helped shape Bo’s design. Also, her design was a bit of a challenge to create on a computer because of the way it looks compared to a regular toy.
After designs for Bo Peep were approved, in order to bring her to life, Tanja would then start rigging Bo, which means she would add controls (a digital skeleton) to the character to give them full control over the model, including facial animations and movement. We were shown some examples of this where they moved her arms and gave her various poses that weren’t used in the final film. While we got a few details about Bo from Valerie LaPoint, Story Artist Carrie Hobson then gave us an even deeper look at the character. “Who is this new Bo? Ultimately, she is a character who decided she didn’t want to sit on a shelf and wait for life to happen. She had to learn to adapt. She takes chances and is somewhat unpredictable, she doesn’t play by toy rules. Unlike other toys, she literally breaks her default toy mode. This means when a kid picks her up and plays with her as a toy, she chooses what pose she will be locked into giving her the ability to choose what kind of toy she wants to be.”
She continued, “She’s more active and more resourceful in her new life as a lost toy, she uses different methods like a sticky hand to get around or what we call a skunk mobile, but she’s not immune to fumbling. She has a sense of humor. She has a very go with the flow mentality to life, and she also knows the reality of the world unlike Woody, so she is willing to help a friend but she is not overly motherly. True to the old Bo, she loves messing with Woody, she can be sarcastic, but silly and playful. She’s a little bit tougher than Woody, so she can be a little rough because she’s seen things, and she’ll do what it takes to get a job done. This new Bo, she’s tough, but she’s also caring. She loves her sheep and also her best friend Giggle McDimples. All in all, we wanted to stay true to who Bo was at her core but embrace that she’s grown. She’s a lost toy, which really challenges Woody. But with their strengths combined, she’s a Shepherdess, he’s a Sheriff, and together they are unstoppable.”
We then got to see a few different designs for Bo. Gone is her skirt, but not completely, as we see it used in various ways, including a bag and a cape, which can also be flipped inside out. Her outfit went through a few different designs, but in the end, her bow was moved around a bit and ended up being wrapped around her waist. Even with the change, she still looks like the character we were familiar with in the first two films, just a lot cooler.
As for her movement, Patty Kihm gave us an interesting look at the influences and ideas behind all of this, “One of the challenges we faced was how to portray Bo as athletic while still feminine. We found that strong athletic women are often portrayed as masculine in movies, and we wanted Bo to be both.”
For Toy Story 4, the artists knew they wanted to do something different with Bo. She is made of porcelain, which is fragile and normally wouldn’t move. However, for this film, they decided to work in the world of the movie, which has her play more like an action hero. They wanted Bo Peep to be believable, and to do that, they went through different references, such as a gymnast and a dancer. Each one strong has strong, fluid movements that could work well with a porcelain doll. For her staff, Becki Tower explained, “This isn’t just a prop, this is not just an accessory that she runs around with. This is an extension of her body, and that should be used in both her poses and her actions.”
They looked at a variety of forms including realistic and interpretive to create various choices for their shots. These included bo staff martial arts, utilitarian/survival skills, artistry such as monkey staff and contact staff footage, as well as recording themselves. All of these references gave the animators various options to use in the movie all while highlighting feminine athleticism, which you will get to see in Toy Story 4 when it releases in theaters on June 21.