Sharing the credit are writing partners Rashida Jones and Will McCormack (Celeste & Jesse Forever), who exited the project in 2017, alongside director Josh Cooley, story supervisor Valerie LaPointe (Pixar’s Presto), writer Stephany Folsom (Thor: Ragnarok), writer Martin Hynes (The Go-Getter), and Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton, a member of the Pixar Brain Trust who earned story credits on the Toy Story trilogy and co-wrote the screenplays for its first two installments. Stanton and Folsom will share the screenplay credit.
Lasseter, who was originally set as director on the project with first-time feature director Cooley acting as co-director, will not receive a producer credit as first announced at D23 Expo 2017. Cooley is the lone director with Stanton, Lee Unkrich (Coco), Jonas Rivera (Up), Mark Nielsen (Inside Out), and Pixar CCO and director Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.) serving as producers.
The third sequel in the franchise launched by director Lasseter in 1995 with Toy Story — the first-ever feature length computer animated movie — Toy Story 4 was originally inspired in part by Lasseter’s real life love story with wife Nancy.
“Bo Peep really reminds me of my wife Nancy in many ways,” Lasseter said at D23 Expo 2015 of the porcelain shepherdess figurine who returns in Toy Story 4, again voiced by Annie Potts.
“And my wife Nancy has an incredibly emotional story, before I met her, so it's a very personal story — as is every film at Pixar. But that’s what this one is for me. It’s a very touching story that’s inspired by my love for my wife.”
At least some of Lasseter’s more personal contributions may have been lost when the project underwent significant rewrites, a common development for Pixar productions. The fourth film was originally envisioned as a romantic comedy highlighting the romance between sweethearts Bo and Woody (Tom Hanks).
“[Toy Story 4] was supposed to come out this year and then they threw out three-quarters of it and rewrote,” Potts told Radio Times last June, citing the earlier June 15, 2018 release date, already pushed back from June 16, 2017.
“Usually, it takes – from start to finish – two years. But because they threw most of it in the bin and started over [my time on the project has] been extended a little bit. I’ve done a lot of work on it.”
Pixar filmmakers “just take their time,” Potts added. “It’s very painstaking work. If they don’t like whole sections then they just chuck it and start over again. They have that great creative liberty to do that.”
Lasseter was eventually ousted from his position as Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios CCO following the revelation of “missteps” made against employees.
The alleged misconduct, including the unwelcome touching of employees, was detailed by THR and resulted in Lasseter taking a six-month sabbatical before ultimately exiting Disney at the end of 2018. (He has since been tapped by Paramount to head Skydance Animation.)
When one report claimed Jones was among Lasseter’s accusers, Jones denied she and McCormick pulled out of the project “because of unwanted advances,” saying in a statement to The New York Times, “We are happy to see people speaking out about behavior that made them uncomfortable. We parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences.”
Despite the changes in guard, one constant was Stanton, whose original treatment jumpstarted the project.
“We do not do any sequel because we want to print money. We do it because each of these films was created by a group of filmmakers, and to my mind, they are the owners of that intellectual property,” Lasseter said in 2015.0comments
“So we look at it with the simple question: Is there another story we can tell in this world? And that desire has to come from the filmmaker group. Sometimes, the answer is an obvious yes. And sometimes it’s, ‘I love the characters and I love the world, but I don’t have an idea yet.’ And sometimes it’s just, ‘that movie is a great movie,’ and the filmmaker wants to move on and do something else. And that’s fine, too.”