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Toy Story 3 – MSN exclusive Estelle Harris, Michael Keaton, Jodi Benson and John Ratzenberger interview

by Andy Gibbons

In the third of our series of interviews from Pixar, Estelle Harris (Mrs. Potato Head), Michael Keaton (Ken), Jodi Benson (Barbie) and John Ratzenberger (Hamm) talk Toy Story 3.


Did you have expectations going into this movie that were met or changed at all?

EH – Well having down the second (Toy Story film) I knew the third one would be even better because the writing kept getting better and better and I think we were deeper into our characters having done them before.

JR – Because this is the third time I’ve played the piggy bank, there’s more change in the bank now so I kind of walked him a little slower (groans all rounds).

MK – I’d only done a little thing in Cars so I was new to all this so on one hand I didn’t have any expectations except that I knew it would be a good experience – I really, really like working for these guys.

What did you like in your character, in Ken?

MK – I thought 98% of this guy was so unabashedly enthusiastic and kind of weirdly and oddly pure and just kind of dumb enough. He’s just kind of stupid, well maybe not stupid, that’s too insulting..

EH – He’s inexperienced, not stupid.

MK – Ok, not stupid but just a bit slow, a little bit dumb, but just a sweet guy. I did this movie once called Multiplicity and I played four versions of a guy – he was cloned three times. And number three was extraordinarily sensitive and that was fun to play ‘cos I thought he was was just ‘swell’, that was the only word I could think of (to describe him). He meant well but he was very easily affected, he was a very sensitive character. Ken’s not quite like that ‘cos he not quite as bright but I love him of he’s kind of an innocent but just as unabashed and his attraction to (Barbie) was fun and freeing ‘cos you never get to play that kind of simplicity, you know.

Michael, were you flattered that Lee (Unkrich) and John (Lasseter) thought of you first?

MK – These days if someone said to me “You’re playing Bin Laden” I’d be like “All right”. No, I just laughed a lot when they told me.

John, as a veteran of all three Toy Story movies how you feel about Andy’s story coming to an end?

JR – The aspect that I loved about it is that I don’t think it is coming to an end – he’s paying it forward. I’m a big fan of the Judeo Christian ethic of think about other people instead of yourself and that’s exactly what he’s doing. I love the message at the end where he’s handing it over to the next generation.

MMK – The thing that doesn’t get thought of until you see the movie and even I, when they started telling the story, I thought “Oh, yeah, wow, ok…” but then when I saw it, is the emotion of this movie. It’s really wonderful but all Pixar movies do this. I sound like I’m the PR guy for Pixar which is getting a bit sickening but they really hit that wonderful blend of humour and filmmaking, true filmmaking.

JR – And I think one of the keys is that the people who make films here also have children and you find a lot of time that places where people make children’s products, they don’t have children. That doesn’t mean they are bad people – it just means they don’t understand kids. When you have kids you realise how absorbent they are and how they learn so much through osmosis. They understand that here are Pixar – it’s part of their DNA.

EH – I would like to say there’s a great deal of excitement in Toy Story 3 which makes it so much different from Toy Story 2 and 1. I just loved it.


Estelle, you get to do a lot more in this – you’re a bit of an action star…

EH – Well it’s only because of her love, her love for her husband. Never mind the other toys; she likes them but her husband, he’s her knight in shining armour.

Given the success of the film, do kids recognise your voices when you’re out and about?

JR – All the time. What I really enjoy happened three days ago at an airport. A parent came up and said ‘Hey, do you do the voice of the pig in Toy Story? My grandson is a big fan’ so I said ‘Get him on the phone.’ So he punches the number in the phone and says ‘Jason, there’s someone who wants to talk to you’, he hands me the phone and I’m like (adopts Hamm’s voice) ‘Hey Jason, this is Hammy the pig…’ and we had this great conversation. I do that quite often now?

MK – Do you still charge the kids ten dollars? (laughs)

JR – For charity events I do silent auctions where I’ll call your kids in one of my Pixar voices. Luckily they’re all the same voice.

Jodi, did you play with Barbie when you were younger?

JB – I did. I have a lot of Barbies, I had the dream house, I had the car and the swimming pool but it was really hard to get them to stay dressed because the clothes were very hard to take off and put on. And the shoes, they never made the shoes large enough to stay on the foot but I had those stand where you could just out them on there and they (the dolls) would stand up. But I was a huge Barbie collector; I loved playing with Barbie dolls.

Michael, did you play with Ken?

MK – I did not, no. I’d tell you if I did, I’m alright with it. One of the nice things about Ken, and this would be nice in life actually, is the plastic hair because there’s really not much work to do. You wake up in the morning and it’s pretty much done.

EH – But he is beautiful. He’s gorgeous.

MK – He is, he’s beautiful on the inside.


Traditionally voiceovers are recorded separately. Because of all the interaction between Ken and Barbie, did you guys get to record together at all?

JB – No. I wasn’t too happy about that. (To Michael) I mean I don’t know how you felt…

MK – I was thrilled frankly. (laughs) No, I think it would have been easier to do something with her.

JB – The first day he (Michael) walked out as I walked in and I don’t know if you remember but you were very sick that day and I went up to shake your hand and you said ‘I’m very sick, don’t shake my hand’ so I kind of patted you and said ‘Hi, my name is Jodi’. And when he left I asked Lee (Unkrich) ‘Could he stay for five minutes just to do a very quick read through?’ but Lee said ‘No, I think we already missed him’. It would of been really great.

MK – I had to rerecord all that from the first day because I was so stuffed up.

JB – On (The Little) Mermaid and other projects I’ve done, we have recorded together.

Were there any tears when you saw the finished film?

EH – I was tempted. I was moved, very moved but I didn’t cry.

Jodi, in all honesty how do you think the relationship between Ken and Barbie is going to work out?

JB – Oh it’s successful because the initials are going to change on that house. It’s going to be ‘B&K’ because that was Barbie’s Dream House and I never understood why Ken got the Dream House….

MK – It was the real estate market. It was a foreclosure and he picked it up.

JB – …but they are going to work together as a team and I think she’s going to wear the pants in the family for a little while to kind of train him.


What do you all think of 3D, not just when it comes to Toy Story 3, but in cinema in general?

JR I think as long as the story is strong, the film could be in black and white. I don’t think anybody really cares. I mean I don’t – I’m just speaking for myself but 3D is a great addition but if there’s no story then so what? There’s got to be a great story or else it don’t count.

JB – My kids love it. They love putting on the glasses and Imax 3D is very cool.

EH – I was thinking to myself yesterday ‘What are they going to come with after 3D?’ They must be coming up with something else like being able to taste it; when someone eats an apple you can taste an apple. But what if you don’t like apples?

Toy Story 3 is in cinemas now.


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