John Morris isn’t just the voice of Andy from the Toy Story trilogy: He’s grown up alongside the character, making the role chronicle his own adventure. After playing Woody and Buzz’s boy since the age of 11, Morris’ life has been one short step ahead of his animated character. With the release of the Toy Story 3 DVD this upcoming Tuesday, we spoke to him about what it’s like to let go of the character he’s voiced for over a decade.
Michelle Castillo: Did you get a lot of people who recognized your voice but couldn’t tell from where?
John Morris: As time went on, but definitely with the third Toy Story there’s been a lot more recognition. People would do a double take.
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MC: Voice acting is an interesting path for a young actor. How did you know you wanted to play Andy?
JM: I was in the right place and at the right age for the role. (Voice acting) feels related to me to theater and film acting. It needs the same matter of creativity and acting. It sort of benefits from those in the same way. When I was young, I did a lot of commercials, but this was very new for me. I guess I felt supported by the crew, especially when I was younger by the directors.
MC: Your voice sounds very close to Andy’s. Did you do this on purpose?
JM: It is my own voice, but it feels different to me when I step into Andy. It feels like I’m stepping into another character. That being said, I feel a lot of parallels to Andy. Andy feels like an extension of me in a way. In terms of play and imagination, he was like me at the ages I played him.
MC: A lot of people are hesitant about sequels because there’s a track record of them not being that good, let alone a third movie from the same material. What was it like knowing you were going back to Toy Story for the third time? Were you nervous it wasn’t going to live up to expectations?
JM: It was interesting. I wasn’t too nervous being in Pixar and Disney’s hands. I knew Toy Story 3 was up in the air for a while. I was feeling a bit of hesitation with that, especially with what the story was going to be about. Not the plot, but I was wondering what Andy’s involvement would be, the question marks that in that way, and how Andy would be involved. I’m thrilled. It’s a phenomenal film.
MC: How many times did you see the film?
JM: I saw it in its entirety first in May 2010. That was at the wrap party that Pixar threw, and I saw it again at the premiere in June. Then, half a dozen times in the summer with my family and friends.
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MC: What was the mood like when you first saw the film at the wrap party?
JM: It was just a lot of anticipation and excitement and some nerves. Pixar films take four to five years to make, so it’s long time that people have to wait for it to come out. I took my grandfather to the wrap party. He couldn’t make it down to the premiere, but he was able to see it with me so that was special.
MC: Do you plan to stick with voice work?
JM: I’d absolutely like to stick with voice work. I love the medium and love the creative people we’ve worked with in the Toy Story movies. I’m actually writing a novel as well. I’m four years into it, and I’d like to develop it into a screenplay.
MC: The end scene was especially poignant, when Andy is saying goodbye to his toys and childhood. What was it like recording the scene?
JM: That was actually one of the last recording sessions that we did. It was extremely emotional, and Lee (Unkrich), the director, was incredibly supportive and present. He said, “Take your time and breathe. You’re saying goodbye to a loved one. Try to get in that space.” Especially with the line, “Thanks guys.” I must have said that at least 50 times. Really delving 50 times into what that line really means really gets to you. I was in tears. It was incredibly emotional.
MC: What was your most memorable childhood toy?
JM: That was definitely my My Buddy Doll. There was a girl and a boy, and they were almost life-sized. I took My Buddy Doll and to the doctor’s office and soccer games and school.
MC: Did you try to take him to college?
JM: (Laughs) No I did not. I don’t know what my roommate would have said. I put him in this special place, put a lot of toys in the attic and gave a lot of my other toys to my younger sister.