After Pixar ended its successful Toy Story theatrical franchise in 2010 with Toy Story 3, fans still got to see Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang in a number of short films that were attached to Pixar movies. The brand expanded even more last year with the new ABC TV special Toy Story of TERROR!, a 22-minute adventure that fans can take home on Blu-ray and DVD August 19, which also includes the shorts Toy Story: Small Fry, Toy Story: Partysaurus Rex and Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation.
Toy Story of TERROR! also marks the debut of a brand new character, Combat Carl, voiced by the incomparable Carl Weathers, who Jessie (Joan Cusack) meets at a motel that Bonnie and her mom are forced to stay in after getting a flat tire. Combat Carl, who always speaks in the third person, helps Jessie find her friends and escape this dreadful motel before they're separated from Bonnie for good. I recently had the chance to speak with Carl Weathers about joining the Pixar family, what previous characters he based Combat Carl on, and much more. Take a look at what he had to say below.
This must have been a lot of fun, coming into this Pixar world. Can you talk about how Pixar approached you, and if there was any trepidation in playing a character like this?
Carl Weathers: First of all, to have Pixar approach you to do a character, is one thing, but to do a character in the Toy Story franchise, that's fantastic. That was exciting, and then to actually see the words written on paper and seeing what this character was about, this whole third-person presentation, just made it so funny and so endearing and so charming, that there was no way I could pass up on that. It just gave me an opportunity to, yet again, reinvent Carl Weathers in a whole other franchise, and it's something that a different generation would appreciate. I couldn't see myself not being in it. It's kind of like, in a strange way... I may have said this before, but it's absolutely true, it's like the first time I read the script for Rocky. I couldn't see anybody else doing it. In this case, not just because his name was Combat Carl, but because it just resonated with me on so many levels. It was impossible to say no.
I loved how he refers to himself in the third person. It's hilarious.
Carl Weathers: I know! Whoever's idea that was, I just thought it was a brilliant idea because it made so much sense that this kind of character would do that. It reminded me of all the ballplayers I knew growing up, who would do things like that, and some of them still do. Some of the actors who are just a little self-centered, to say the least, will come up with talking about themselves in the third person.
I had a teacher who did that, actually. It was always the weirdest thing.
Carl Weathers: It is weird. That's the whole point! It's so weird, but not only is it weird, but it's funny. You wind up looking at it, and it draws more attention to him. It sounds as if, the idea is not to draw attention to yourself, because you don't say "I," or "me" or "my." If I say, "I want this. I want that," that's one thing. But, if I say, "You know, Carl Weathers really wants this," (Laughs), it's bizarre. It's funny, and it draws more attention to me. I just found it to be an offer I couldn't refuse. You're going to remember Combat Carl.
I read that he was actually modeled after Dillon from Predator and all of these other things. Did you find yourself going back and referencing little parts of those movies at all?
Carl Weathers: You know, I really didn't have to do that, because it was there on the page. The character was so wonderful and so funny. I love characters who have a sense of humor. They don't have to try to be funny, they just are, just their behavior, in and of itself, is funny. Combat Carl hit the mark in so many ways for me that I didn't have to reference any other character. He stands alone.
They seem to set it up for possibly another Combat Carl appearance. Have they talked to you about coming back, for whatever they're planning on doing next?
Carl Weathers: No, they haven't, but from your mouth to God's ear, I'd love to reprise Combat Carl. I want to see Combat Carl in his own movie. I think he could handle it.
Absolutely. They always said Toy Story 3 would be the last feature, but they're keeping the franchise alive with these shorts. I think this one in particular really opens up this world a whole lot more.
Carl Weathers: Absolutely. I could see Combat Carl going on adventure after adventure after adventure, without a doubt.
Can you talk about the actual recording process you went through? For a 22-minute special like this, how long were you in the booth for, and can you talk about that experience?
Carl Weathers: Well, I think we would up with about three sessions. You know, it's a day. You'd be surprised at how exhausting those days are, because you're only hearing the vocals, but you're entire body is going into delivering those vocals. And, of course, there's repetition to get the inflections, and to clean up the things you've messed up on. You're laughing so hard sometimes, so it's a full day's work when you're there. But it's really an enjoyable process. The director, Angus MacLane, did such a wonderful job of guiding me through it. All the Pixar people were just so fantastic, and they made it such a joy to be a part of it. In many cases with voice work, the great thing about it is you don't have to worry about makeup, you don't have to worry about wardrobe, any of that stuff. You just show up in your sweats or blue jeans and knock it out of the park if you can. It was a real joy for me.
Did they have fully realized images of Carl when you were voicing, or animatics or mock-ups of what he'd look like?
Carl Weathers: They had some drawings, but they certainly didn't have the actual animation done at that time. The voices were done so far in advance of the actual animation, that you can only have an idea of what this character is going to look like. But, there was enough reference to the character, and to other characters and different renderings, that you get a sense of it. Of course, I've seen the Toy Story franchise prior to that, so you have a sense of the tone, and it was such a wonderful story, that it was just about acting.
That must be fun when you get to see the finished product then, since you're not exactly sure how it will turn out, to see that for the first time.
Carl Weathers: It absolutely was, to see it be so dynamic, and to see Combat Carl and Combat Carl Jr. operate together the way that they did, it was just an absolute joy. It's one of the pieces of work I'm very proud of.
I was curious if you are involved in any way with Creed, the Rocky spin-off about Apollo's grandson. Have they approached you to maybe do some flashbacks, or is there anything you know about it?
Carl Weathers: I know nothing about it except that it's being done. I met Michael B. Jordan, inadvertently, at a charity event for Lupus, and I've heard about it from time to time. But I have no involvement with it at this point, no knowledge of what the story is, or anything else.
Is there anything you are working on right now that you can talk about?
Carl Weathers: I'm working on something, but I can't really talk about it.
Is there anything in particular that you're looking to do at this point in your career, certain types of roles or genres you want to tackle?
Carl Weathers: I'm just a fan of good movies. What I've been putting a lot of time into over the past several years is writing and looking more and more to direct. That's something I've just embraced and enjoyed doing so much. It's tough, tough work, but I get a lot of pleasure and joy from being behind the camera more and more.
Great. That's my time. Thanks so much, Carl. It was a real pleasure talking to you.
Carl Weathers: Hey, it's my pleasure. Thank you.