×

The Art of Saying Goodbye to ‘Toy Story,’ ‘Dragon’ Series

This seems to be the year for sweet but sorrowful endings in animation. Two of the medium’s most popular franchises — “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Toy Story” — wrapped up their stories by making sure audiences got what they needed even if they weren’t quite ready to say goodbye.

With the release of “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” helmer Dean DeBlois came to the end of his own decade-long relationship with Toothless and Hiccup. He always had the end in mind, even at the beginning.

“I saw the opportunity to do something akin to those initial three ‘Star Wars’ films that I grew up with. You can tell a story that expands the world and deepens the characters and continues the adventure, but in a way that it doesn’t feel like a miscellaneous next adventure with the same five or six characters, which is often the case with sequels,” DeBlois says. “So, I saw an opportunity for there to be one story told in three stand-alone films that were interconnected with their scenes and stories.”

Toy Story 4” brings the film series that launched Pixar to a possible close. Though helmer Josh Cooley and producer Jonas Rivera won’t call it the definitive end to the series, it did occur to them that this could be the last one.

Popular on Variety

“We wanted this to be satisfying, to honor these films and to feel good about it if it was the last one, even though you never know if we’ll come back to this story,” Rivera says. “We realized that ‘Toy Story 3’ was really the end of Andy’s journey and that Woody’s journey still needed an ending. Who was he going to become now that he didn’t have one child to look after? Maybe the next thing for him was to play and be there for many children.”

Cooley also thought of Bo Peep as a critical part of Woody’s journey. Woody’s mission had always been focused on one specific child, but the brave, porcelain character that used to be part of a lamp offered a way to help the lonesome cowboy make that leap to the next thing.

“She was a catalyst for Woody,” Cooley says. “It reminded me of my relationship with my wife because she was definitely a catalyst for me, someone who I would listen to and trust. Without Bo Peep, Woody would have a very hard time going out of his comfort zone. But since she’d already moved on and Woody cared about her so much, it made sense that he was willing to listen to her. We were building on the relationship that had already been there in the background over the last three films.”

And “Hidden World’s” Hiccup — much like Woody — has to find a way to move on. He has been like a parent to his dragon, Toothless, and cared for him the way Woody cared for Andy — even though we all know that can’t last forever.

“It’s a bittersweet thing in that saying goodbye to characters that we’ve come to know so well, and saying goodbye to our cast and our crew that work together for the last 11 years,” says DeBlois. “But we held to our intention that we wanted to tell a story about characters that come together for a period of time and have a profound impact on one another’s lives. Even though they part ways, they are permanently changed and there’s something very life affirming about that. I was really happy to hear that people are reluctant to move on because it’s so much better than being over it.”

More Artisans

  • American Factory

    'American Factory' Editor Had to Cut Down 2,000 Hours of Footage

    Editor Lindsay Utz admits filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert never fully counted the hours of footage shot for the Oscar-nominated documentary “American Factory,” but she puts it close to 2000 hours. Utz pored over the footage that Bognar and Reichert had spent over three years filming and whittled the story down to just under [...]

  • Cinematographer Roger Deakins poses for a

    Roger Deakins Wins ASC Award for '1917'

    Roger Deakins has won the top feature award from the American Society of Cinematographers. The win for “1917” marked his fifth win from the society. The evening kicked off with the ASC Opening reel highlighting cinematography, followed by the first award of the night for Documentary. “Joker” director Todd Phillips presented the inaugural Documentary Award [...]

  • Tesla Movie Sundance

    Five Artisans Talk About Their Work on Buzzy Sundance Titles

    At this year’s Sundance, 118 features will make their debut. Here are five hotly anticipated films that will be in the mix and some of the artisans behind them.  Bad Hair (Midnight) Costume designer Ceci reconnects with Justin Simien (“Dear White People”) on a satirical horror set in 1989 Los Angeles, where ambitious Anna (Elle [...]

  • Joker Movie

    Make-Up Artist Nicki Ledermann on the Stages of 'Joker' Face

    When “Joker” make-up artist Nicki Ledermann came on board, she had some ideas in mind for the film and presented mock-ups to director Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix — and both Phillips and Phoenix had already played around with ideas and showed Ledermann photos. “I had to take the design and it was up [...]

  • Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, California,

    Alison Small Set to Lead Training for Netflix in U.K. (EXCLUSIVE)

    Alison Small, CEO of The Production Guild of Great Britain, is in discussions to join Netflix as head of its training initiatives out of the U.K., Variety has learned. The Production Guild, whose members include line producers, production managers and location managers, among others, advertised for a new CEO last week. Its chair is Alex [...]

  • The Gentlemen Costume Design

    How Costume, Production Pros Used Class Style to Define Guy Ritchie’s ‘The Gentlemen’

    For Guy Ritchie’s newest crime-meets-action film “The Gentlemen,” about an American drug kingpin living in Britain and trying to sell his business, the director turned to his “Aladdin” team of costume designer Michael Wilkinson and production designer Gemma Jackson. But the backgrounds and looks they created had less to do with Arabian Nights than with [...]

  • Frozen 2 Rocketman Avengers Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame,' 'Frozen 2,' 'Rocketman' Take Top Honors at Lumiere Awards

    “Frozen 2” led the Advanced Imaging Society’s Lumiere Awards on Wednesday. The hit Disney sequel was honored with three Lumieres for immersive animated feature film, original song and use of HDR. Director Jennifer Lee was on hand to accept the prizes during a ceremony at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif. The Advanced Imaging Society [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content