Tom Hanks on the Physical and Emotional Drain of Playing Woody in ‘Toy Story 4’

“It’s an imaginary stretch. To the point of exhaustion. Because you’re only using your voice, you can’t go off mic, you cannot use any of your physicality.” – Tom Hanks on Voice Acting

The Toy Story series is Disney’s highest-grossing animated series of all time. Though the magic of Pixar’s animation and storytelling has led to much of that success, it’s arguable that the series would’ve never achieved its box office and critical success without Tom Hanks‘ performance as Woody. In an interview with the New York Times, Hanks spoke about voicing the character for what will perhaps be the last time in Toy Story 4 and how challenging the recording sessions were for the film.

Though the Toy Story movies are all under two hours, because Hanks plays one of the lead characters he is required to record hours of material to create options for the filmmakers. Hanks explains, “There are times when my diaphragm is sore at the end of a four- or five-hour recording session, just because the challenge is to wring out every possible option for every piece of dialogue. It’s every incarnation of outrage and surprise and disappointment and heartache and panic and being plused and nonplused.”

Another aspect that is tiring is that Hanks points out that he has to act entirely by his voice — he is unable to use facial expressions and gestures like he does in his live-action performances. Hanks reveals it was particularly difficult for this third Toy Story sequel because of its emotional content, explaining:

It’s an imaginary stretch. To the point of exhaustion. Because you’re only using your voice, you can’t go off mic, you cannot use any of your physicality. You have to imagine that physicality. In a lot of ways that’s the antithesis of what you do as an actor.

I found a lot of times the only way I could do it would be closing my eyes. Not seeing the stage and the people there, and trying to work myself to a place. My last few sessions I had them set up the mic stand with my back to them. I don’t think I could’ve done the last few recording sessions the other way. If there was a scintilla of self-consciousness to any of those lines, it would have been unsatisfying.

More: Tom Hanks on Acting: “There are no shortcuts.”

About Author

In college, overachiever Christopher McKittrick double-majored in Film and English because he loves to read, write, and watch movies. Since then Chris – who was born and raised on Long Island, New York and currently lives in Queens – has become a published author of fiction and non-fiction, a contributor to entertainment websites, and has spoken about literature, film, and comic books at various conferences across the country when he’s not getting into trouble in New York City (apparently it’s illegal to sleep on street corners...) For more information about Chris, visit his website here!

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