In this series, we speculate on what actors would be the perfect choice to play an upcoming character, or what type of character a particular actor is best suited for. Feel free to
unilaterally agree with all our picks voice your opinion in the comments!
There are a few unpleasant realities about big entertainment businesses and how they sell their products to children. One that everyone is aware of is the fight for product awareness, i.e. a built-in audience to guarantee ticket sales to a movie. So, while Pixar is an animation studio famous for bringing families together under the banner of “ambitious new ideas made into quality films for everyone,” they have also made a policy to crank out gimme-style sequels with recognizable properties in order to finance their more artistic endeavors.
Therefore, we have had a Cars 2, a Monsters University, and we now brace for Finding Dory and Toy Story 4.
But the ongoing saga of low-tech child’s playthings could be used to discuss another unpleasant reality in the same area of business: the increasing discussion of gender-specific marketing in the toy industry. For instance, the recent absences of Black Widow and Rey from their respective franchise toy sets, certain department stores vowing to do away with the segregation of “boy aisles” and “girl aisles,” and the parents throwing epic conniption fits over pink and blue being gender-identifying in any product at all.
Of course, Pixar would be subtle about it and give us a heartwarming adventure with Woody and Buzz and all our favorite friends front-row-center. But with this subtext rolling for us, this could be a great movie. Who would join Hanks and Allen and Cusack and the rest, though?
1. Glenn Close
Already one of the great actors of her generation, Close has decades of experience with dynamic voiceover work in films like Disney’s Tarzan and Hoodwinked! along with a terrific recurring role on “The Simpsons.” She’s also devoted a few years of her life to mastering the difficult task of translating a cartoon character into live action with Cruella De Ville. She sings, her voice has such a range between sugary and acidic, and she’s recently been spotted in comparable projects that have her regal professional status at odds with the material *COUGH-Guardians of the Galaxy-COUGH*
I imagine if Pixar got a hold of Close they would use her talent for a new human character who acts as an obstacle for the toys, much like Sid and Al before. Imagine a zealot-like member of a parents’ group like the One Million Moms, or possibly a devious children’s TV personality akin to a mean-spirited “Wiggles” host shilling merchandise to Bonnie (the girl who inherited the toys from Andy).
2. Dwayne Johnson
Why not? The man formerly known as The Rock and now better known as “Franchise Viagra” has a recognizable voice that people love, great comedic timing, and even a few connections to juggernaut toy lines. Wouldn’t his commanding baritone seem simultaneously unexpected and appropriate coming from a musclebound plastic doll?
This is easy writing, too. Johnson could clearly play…G.I. Joe, or more likely the in-universe stand-in named “Combat Carl.” Not only is this a fun little nod to his career, it’s a hyper-masculine character for the elder statesmen Buzz and Woody to clash with, particularly in regards to little Bonnie and her affinity for “boy” toys. If we’re talking “Firefly” terms, Johnson’s Combat Carl would be the Jayne Cobb of Toy Story.
3. Aisha Tyler
Sorry. Reflex. Yes, as Sterling Archer’s long-suffering partner Lana Kane, Tyler has exuded more feeling from a 2D animated character than should be possible. Mostly annoyance, shock, and rage, but plenty more depending on the episode. That’s to say nothing of her years as a go-to voice actor in countless video games, Netflix series “Bojack Horseman,” or her live-action chops.
And while the Toy Story series has frequently used critically-acclaimed older males as the seemingly-benevolent secret villain toy (Kelsey Grammar and Ned Beatty, specifically), it would be a fun fit for Tyler. While her voice can drip with matronly affection, it can also blast you out of your seat with concentrated hate. Perhaps she would be the outwardly helpful and complimentary Combat Carly, a toy manufacturer’s lazy distaff counterpart to Carl (ala Supergirl) who is in fact much smarter than him. Perhaps she is motivated by her unrequited affection for Bonnie and schemes to replace all the “boy” toys without really understanding them.
4. Phil LaMarr
While his face is best known for being shot accidentally by John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, Phil LaMarr is quite better known as a man with hundreds of voices in just as many different animated films and shows. He has played over a dozen different comic book superheroes, stoic Samurai Jack, acerbic Hermes Conrad on “Futurama,” and has had at least five voices in every Star Wars game or animated series since the year 2000 (most notably as Kit Fisto and a flawless Jimmy Smits impression as Bail Organa). He even played forgotten Toy Story alumn Wheezy in a video game. LaMarr is the voice actor’s voice actor.
In order to celebrate such an accomplished chameleon, a character should be created with his input. But suffice it to say, this character should take advantage of the ample verbal cartwheels that LaMarr is capable of bringing. Perhaps a lucrative partnership with Lego would result in LaMarr playing an ever-altering minifig?
5. Zach Galifianakis
The master of uncomfortably self-assured characters when on-camera, Galifianakis has also broadened his scope to include snippy or smarmy animated characters in “Bob’s Burgers” and “American Dad.” His nasally patois attached to a toy character would be almost as pathetic as Wallace Shawn’s Rex, but rather than an object of sympathy and pity Galifianakis would almost certainly play it as an object of ridicule or derision.
Wooly Willy. Galifianakis should give a voice to the magnetically-augmented hair model Wooly Willy and personify the character’s helpless submission to a child’s boundless imagination for screwy beards and nutty hair styles. You can almost picture Hamm the piggy bank and Mr. Potato Head hazing poor Willy by giving him awful mutton-chops and an afro.
Agree? Disagree? More ideas? Let us know in the comments.