Telling the Ongoing TOY STORY With Jesse Blaze Snider
Telling the Ongoing TOY STORY
With Woody, Buzz, and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Pixar's Toy Story has been celebrated for its deep characterization as well as its pioneering animation. Spanning the market from film to toys to clothes, it's perhaps no surprise that the Toy Story franchise has made it to comics, with a four issue miniseries with BOOM! Studios.
And now, just six months after the conclusion of , Woody and the gang have found a friend in writer Jesse Blaze Snider, who will be assuming the reins on a new ongoing series based on the Pixar property. Snider sat down with Newsarama to talk about variants, following in the Pixar giants' footsteps, and what Toy Story -- and toys in general -- mean to him.
Jesse Blaze Snider: Well, I’m pretty much the world’s BIGGEST Jim Henson and Muppets fan in the world! And after seeing how awesomely BOOM! had been handling the Muppets, I decided that I needed to approach them about some Muppet projects. So, I started pitching the Muppets and BOOM! editor Aaron Sparrow really liked what I brought him, but told me it was going to take a while to get approval for what I had in mind. (I tend to think too big for my own good.)
Anyway, at the time Aaron was “desperate” for Toy Story and pitches and asked me if I had any ideas. The next day I sent him my Toy Story pitch and it was approved about a month later. Which according to Aaron is record time.
So, I still have a really fun Muppets pitch waiting and a Monsters pitch for Pixar, but I think Pixar is waiting to see how Toy Story goes before they give me another one of their properties. I’m not too worried though, I’m almost as big a Pixar fan as I am a Muppet fan and they’re going to be really happy when they see how respectful we are to the source material.
Nrama: Just like all the rest of Pixar's collection, there's a lot of metaphors and themes and directions you can take these characters. So we should ask -- what do you think that Toy Story is all about?
Snider: For me, it’s about consideration. Long before Toy Story, Jim Henson made a movie called the Christmas Toy and it was a very similar premise. That movie changed my life. For the first time in my life I started thinking about someone beside myself. I was very young and though I knew my toys weren’t alive…WHAT…IF? I don’t want my “My Pet Monster” to think I like my Muppets Animal puppet better than him, do I? Of course, not.
The idea that every toy has a personality and feelings is a much larger idea…the idea that every is an individual with individual feelings, hopes and dreams. Knowing that makes it way harder to just write them off. It made me more considerate of strangers and more interested in making new friends. I know that sounds a little strange considering any movie with people in it can show you the same thing, but as a child, I took that for granted and I remember the first time I was ever really considerate was to my toys and somewhere along the way I started applying it to people.
Maybe I’m the only one, saying it out loud now, I feel kind of stupid. But I really do think that these toys reach kids (and certainly the kid in all adults too) in a very special and different way than anything else.
Full disclosure, I still play with toys. I have a 7” scale city in my office where I play with my Marvel Legends, DC Universe and other super hero figures of similar stature. So…I’m a bit of a weirdo. I don’t collect. I open, I play and some part of me feels that it is cruelty to toys if you leave them in their packages.
Nrama: Moving on to your story, can you tell readers a little bit about the premise of your story?
Snider: Well, the first thing that occurred to me when I starting thinking about Toy Story is that every toy in Andy’s room has been mass-produced in the world of Pixar. The problem with that is that they all have thousands, maybe even millions of “clones” walking around in the world, not to mention the various “variant” versions of the lead toys in the toy line! Buzz Lightyear is like a Batman or a Ninja Turtle; he would have a million variant figures. Anyway, though all of the toys are presented as “individuals” and to a certain extent they are, at the end of the day they really aren’t.
Over the years, as someone who plays with toys, I have received duplicates several times and it’s usually the toy that everyone knows you like. So, I thought Andy gets a duplicate Buzz, but the duplicate doesn’t want to go back to the store! What toy would want to be returned? That’s like breaking up with somebody. It’s sad and hurtful and if a toy has been returned before, he might even have a complex about it and be willing to fight, not to be returned!
At the same time, wouldn’t Andy prefer the new shiny Buzz over dull old Buzz and even if Andy would rather exchange the new one, if Buzz could give Andy a better newer version of himself, shouldn’t he? If he loves Andy, shouldn’t he do what he can to make Andy as happy as possible?
And of course, Woody is stuck in the middle of all this.
Nrama: With Toy Story having such a big ensemble cast, how are you going to be positioning this title? Are you picking one particular character to follow, or will you be switching up each issue?
Snider: Well, the first four issues focuses mostly on the core team of Woody, Buzz, Slinky, Rex, Hamm and Mr. Potato Head. But I have also added Rocky Gibraltar into the core team for the first arc, as a way of stretching my creative muscles a bit. Rocky never talks in the movies, but he is a Wrestling Action figure, so I’ve been having fun playing him as the tuff as nails toy. My plan is to slowly showcase every toy that doesn’t have a personality yet. I think the big Pink Teddy Bear on the shelf is next, I’ve decided that he is a teddy bear who doesn’t like to be touched. Should be funny.
As far as all of the other toys are concerned, I’m trying to use everyone whenever it makes sense. Wheezy has some screen time in the first two issues and so does Bo Peep. I’m going to continue to give Mr. Shark as many funny lines as I can think up. Plus, we’ve got cameos and such. Booster from the “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command” cartoon is introduced in this first arc and I had an appearance from Tinny the Tin Toy from Pixar’s Academy Award-winning short “Tin Toy.” I actually wrote the whole scene, but realized that there was a better way to work the scene, story wise that meant getting rid of Tinny.
I am a Pixar fan. Every film. Every short. And more. I will take any opportunity I have to pay homage to the wonders that this company has created.
Snider: Totally! As far as I am concerned Pixar is the single greatest creative force to come along since the Jim Henson Company. Once more, they have yet to misstep. I mean to date, as far as I am concerned they have done no wrong.
They have a perfect track record and I would hate to be the blemish on that record. I’m definitely trying extra hard to deliver the goods and make sure that this book can stand… at least at the feet of all the wonderful films and shorts that Pixar has created already.
Nrama: Tell us a little bit about working with your artist. You're working with Nathan Watson, correct? How's the back-and-forth going on that? What strengths to you feel he brings to the project?
Snider: Nate is GREAT! A talented artist, but better than that, an amazing person with a enormous work ethic and a huge amount of respect for his writer. Working with him has been a dream. He’s given me exactly what I’ve asked for on every page and the few times he has made a change he has elevated the page to the next level. I really could not be happier; he is a perfect fit for Toy Story and is giving this 200% just like I am! In the past, I’ve sometimes run into trouble with artists who weren’t as committed to a project as I was, but Nate and I are on the same level; completely committed to making this book the best it can be.
I really want to say, that I am not just saying that, because I have to… Nate is a dream to work with and I’m hoping to be working with him on this book for a long time.
Nrama: Full disclosure time -- do you have a favorite Toy Story character? Can you tell us why?
Snider: Mr. Shark. He’s had like one line in each movie, but he just totally won me over as the guardian of the toy box in Andy’s room. I’m also partial to Potato, because I’m a big Don Rickles fan and writing Rocky as kind of my own character has been a lot of fun. Plus, you really can’t go wrong with Buzz, he’s always a blast to write. And REX!!! And Slinky. I really like all of the voice actors in Toy Story and therefore there are few characters who I don’t really like and enjoy writing.
Um…sorry…let’s just call it “Mr. Shark” and Rex… and Bu -- sorry, sorry. I’m done.
Nrama: All right, wrapping things up here -- is there anything coming up that you can tease that you're excited about? What would you say to readers who are still on the fence on this?
Snider: Readers who are on the fence, I say that I did not write this book for “kids,” I wrote it for everybody! In the way that every Pixar movie has been meant for everybody. I don’t talk down to you and there are lots of little Easter eggs in there for toy collectors and enthusiasts as well as big Pixar fans. At least give me the first issue, if Woody, Buzz, Rex, Slinky, Potato and Hamm don’t sound like themselves and if the book doesn’t feel familiar and fun in all the right ways, then you can jump ship, but I’ve got a feeling that you will all enjoy what Nate and I and the whole BOOM! Kids crew have put together for you!
Coming up for me…? Well, hopefully some more Pixar and maybe some Muppets from BOOM! I think that Toy Story will show that I’m a good fit for this material. Aside from that, the collected edition for is coming out on January 13th, the long delayed miniseries from Fangoria Graphix will finally be released online in the new year, and I’ve got a one-shot that I announced almost two years ago and, according to a few little birds I know, that will be coming out very soon. I’ve also got a creator owned book in the earliest stages of development at Image and a few other things that I’m working on, but can’t yet speak about.
It’s really cool… I’m finally writing comic books for a living. It’s still not quite my primary income, but maybe one day.
I should warn everybody that my Dead Romeo comic is a strong PG-13 bordering on R and my Strangeland comic is probably NC-17! They are all quality books, but be prepared for something expressly different than Toy Story.The Ongoing Toy Story begins this Wednesday, December 9th, from BOOM! Studios