John Morris was seven when he was cast as the voice of Andy in Toy Story. He went to an open call for boys, who were each told to bring their one favorite toy. He brought his entire X-Men collection. “I remember my mom saying, ‘No, no, no, you have to choose one toy, and I was just like, ‘Unheard of!’ I brought 45 X-Men figures and dumped them all out on the floor,” he says. “I remember [the Pixar team] bursting out in laughter. I couldn’t choose just one. I had to bring them all. It was a part of a set. I think Pixar sort of got that. They were just like, ‘Yeah, he had to bring all of his toys.’”
Morris had to read for the role again when it came time for the first sequel (he was 13), and once more for Toy Story 3, which hits theaters today. Pixar needed to know if he could still capture Andy’s spirit and imagination. After speaking with Morris – now 25, and living in the San Francisco Bay Area where his dream is to bounce back-and-forth between theater (Berkeley Rep and A.C.T.) and voice work (Pixar and Lucasfilm) – it was clear that the 2007 graduate of UCLA’s Theater Arts program has managed to hold onto that little boy’s enthusiasm, not to mention his love of toys.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did the first film change the way you looked at your toys as a child?
JOHN MORRIS: Definitely. I remember when the first film came out, I would play, and then I would leave my toys, and I would close the door, and then I’d crack the door open just to peek really quickly to see if they were moving. [Laughs] Even before working on the film, I had done voices for my toys. When I started getting Toy Story toys, I would do the voices for them from the film.
Do you have a favorite souvenir from the franchise?
I have this Woody doll from the first film. He has a guitar, and you press a button, and he plays all these different songs. I remember underneath his boot, I wrote “Andy” with a Sharpie, like in the film. [Laughs] That’s something I’m gonna treasure for the rest of my life and show my kids. I have three boxes of Toy Story toys labeled, in a special place. A lot of the Toy Story and Toy Story 2 toys that I did receive as gifts or bought are still mint in the box. I think they’re gonna stay that way.
One of my favorite things on the Up DVD was the featurette showing co-director Pete Docter coaching the boy who voiced Russell. Did John Lasseter do anything special to get you in the moment?
Yes. Especially the parts with a lot of energy or laughter. I remember him sparking me saying, “And you’re even more excited!” and getting into it himself with laughter. He would start laughing, then I would start laughing, then he would start laughing. It was this great exchange. I hadn’t had a lot of acting training, I had had some. It was more about playing, imagining, and just having fun.
So is working with Pixar as awesome as we all think it is?
It is. First off, going to Pixar Studios in Emeryville to record is an amazing experience. There are toys everywhere, people are racing around on Razor scooters. Everyone just has a huge smile on their face. Everyone’s happy to be there. There are candy jars everywhere. That alone is just such a great experience. They are so warm, and welcoming, and generous. They’ve told me I’m part of the Pixar family. Something my mom and I have always talked about is that at the end of every Pixar film, there’s a section in the credits called production babies. It’s babies that have been born to Pixar employees during production of the film. I think that’s just such a Pixar touch. They recognize how important their families are and all the ways in which their family supports them as they’re making the film, and they make the films with their families in mind. They really have family and kids at the heart of their company.
Do you have a favorite memory?
One story that comes to mind: I was on a plane, it was between Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, so I would say 2003 or 2004. There was this little girl sitting next to me with her parents, and she had little Woody and Buzz dolls in her lap. She was doing the voices, and playing with them, and laughing. It was just like a moment of pure joy for her – and watching her. I didn’t tell her or her parents that I was Andy. It didn’t feel fully necessary. Just to see the impact that Toy Story had on her life was really such a gift, an amazing moment of recognition. She was having a blast with these toys, they were obviously two of her favorites. Wow. It just sort of hit me.
I know Tim Allen and Tom Hanks have both talked about how hard it can be for a child to comprehend that they’re the voice of Buzz and Woody. It must be tough to hold back though. You want to share in that joy, but you also don’t want to burst the child’s bubble.
It gets a little lost in translation. “You were the voice? You were the toy?” That’s such a good point. You don’t want to get them confused. [Laughs]
Have they ever made an Andy doll?
You know, it’s interesting. They did make an Andy doll. I guess it was a very limited edition by a Japanese company, and I don’t have one. I would absolutely love one. [Laughs] They were on eBay for like a second and then they were gone. I’ve been looking around through the Toy Story 3 toys, and I’m sort of looking for an Andy toy. That would be great to have.
At least a special one-a-kind Andy just for you.
I agree. That would be awesome. They should get on that. [Laughs]