Bo Peep is no longer your typical Barbie princess. She’s back, she’s playing by her own rules and she’s got a radical new look to go with it.
Toy Story 4 is here! HURRAH. What could be more exciting than the return of our favourite toy characters? How about the addition of a badass, female character. Originally a supporting role and Woody’s love interest, Bo Peep has been re-fashioned as a powerful leading lady and we are SO here for it.
GLAMOUR spoke to three of the geniuses behind the epic re-invention of Bo Peep. “We didn’t want her to be a tomboy or masculine because we see that a lot in female action heroines.
It’s about embracing the femininity of a stronger, more self-sufficient character,” said Mara MacMahon, a character modeller and rigger for Toy Story 4.
Patty Kihm – Directing Animator
One three second scene will typically take a full week
“It’s a very slow process from beginning to end. Everything is very studied and planned. As a directing animator on Toy Story 4, I would test the characters. We need to make sure Bo looks, moves and emotes the way she’s supposed to. Our department is also in charge of collecting ideas and reference material to inspire the animators so they can give their best performances in character. We’ll regularly present our ideas to the director’s. have meetings on a regular basis where we present our ideas to the director.”
Now was the perfect time to introduce a stronger, braver, self-sufficient female lead character
“Bo Peep appears in the first two Toy Story movies and then pretty much disappears in the third movie. We felt like we’d seen Woody and Buzz grow their friendship throughout the years so the question really was what happened to Bo Peep. We thought Bo and Woody would make a great pair together but it was important for us to make sure she seemed stronger and braver and wiser but still staying true to her character.”
We were so excited to shake-up Bo’s look and give her more mobility
“The character was first built in the computer several years ago, where there were a lot of limitations with technology so we had to completely rebuild her within the computer. We took that opportunity to modernize her. When she comes back, she still resembles the old Bo Peep but we redesigned her clothes to suit her newly evolved character. This allows her more mobility to run and move throughout the world. Playing with this idea gave her more variety and made her a stronger, more agile character.”
It’s important to see more strong female characters on screen
“We choose our main characters based on if they have the qualities that are interesting to watch on screen but it doesn’t hurt to see a strong, feminist character for younger girls and women.”
It’s so important to have input from women
“It definitely helped. There were a lot of times when there were some subtleties in her acting that I think as a woman you could relate to. There were some scenes where she was animated more masculine which struck a chord with me. I’d bring it up with the director and her was amazing at realising that input from women in the room was really important and he really took time to listen and consider each thought. Some of the best bo peep animators were not women though. It’s not gender specific.”
Mara MacMahon – Character Modeler and Rigger
We spent a year and a half creating the modern Bo
“I was one of the artists that worked on the design for the new modern Bo. We had a design from the original movies which we re-envisioned for Toy Story 4. I worked on rigging which is the process of putting controls into a puppet. You put a skeleton in that ensures the character moves, blinks and smiles correctly. We’re setting up how the puppet works to make sure everything looks good.
The process of creating Bo was very long, it spanned across a year and a half. We used the original artwork for reference and then begun the process of designing and re-building her from scratch. We had to figure out what does she look like, what does she wear, how does she act, what’s her personality like. The digital tailors were cutting out her cape and the blue top and bottoms.”
We had a strong criteria for Bo – confident, independent, self-sufficient and feminine
“It was a really interesting process figuring out what and who we wanted the modern Bo to be. On the art side, there was a week where the entire art team would put up sketches and reference photos of what she could be. There were dozens of drawings everyday that the director would sift through. We would then touch base with the story artists who are working on her personality which determines how she’s designed. How can her clothing reflect her personality? We wanted her to be self-sufficient and confident but we didn’t want her to be a tomboy or masculine because we see that a lot in female characters and action heroines. They’re either one of the girl or boyish. that they’re boyish or one of the girls. We wanted to embrace her femininity along with being this confident, independent character.”
I’m optimistic that we’re building a stronger industry
“What I loved about the group that worked on Bo was that it was a joint effort between men and women, both young and old, and that’s what made it so exciting. Getting everyone on board and working with so many ideas is definitely the future of this industry. Me personally, there certainly have been a lot of challenges but I have been very fortunate to have a strong culture of mentorship in this industry. Maybe I’m more fortunate than most but it’s really made me want to continue building this culture where everyone’s ideas are valued. I’ve worked in games and films and each place has its own flavour but in general, there’s a growing awareness of what opportunities there are if we keep including more and more people going forward.”
The opportunity to rebuild an interesting character and add more depth was too good to pass up
“In the first three movies, there was a nice development where Woody ended up with Bonnie. With Toy Story 4, we thought about what we haven’t explored enough and it was really promising knowing we had this character who was so important to Woody but no-one knows what happened to her. It’s very rare you get to build on a character like that. It was a special opportunity and we had no restrictions which was really exciting. The desire to tell the story of a really interesting character and add more depth was too good to pass up.”
We need to move conversations forward by creating interesting characters
“We are trying to tell the story of as many interesting characters as possible – from female characters to non-white characters, animals. It’s worth looking at what’s out there but hasn’t been told enough. There’s so many interesting opportunities to keep digging into.”
Valeria LaPointe – Story Supervisor
My role was unique in animation
“My job was story supervisor. It’s a unique job in animation in the way that we have a producer, director, writer, story artists and then I’m overseeing the artists contributing to the overall story and characters from big story points down to shot choices.”
Now was the right time to refashion Bo-Peep as a feminist character
“The biggest thing was taking her from a side character to a lead. She needed to be more dimensional, more complicated, more than just throwing out one liners. We needed to show another side to her more. It was really exciting to have a female, toy character in this universe that is elevated to the level of Buzz and Woody in terms of her screen time and presence in the film.”
We aiming to show female characters are just as complicated and interesting as male characters
“I’m hoping Bo’s redesign will expand how we view female characters and show that they can be as complicated and interesting as male characters. She’s interesting because she looks like the pretty princess but then she becomes more dimensional, interesting and active. It’s great to put more female characters out there that are different and complex. We want to approach female characters the same way we do with male characters. It’s about making interesting characters regardless of their sex. Little boys and dads are loving her too which is exciting.”
Having different genders, ethnicities and ages created the most dynamic team we’ve ever had
“Our story team of eight artists might have been the most diverse we’ve ever had at Pixar. We had people from all different backgrounds, genders, ethnicities and ages and it brought the best dynamic with any team I’ve worked with. The diversity meant we all brought different voices. It was important having more women on our story and art team because we put pieces of ourselves into these characters that made them more original and unique.”
When I first started, I was in the only woman in the department. Now I’m seeing massive changes in a really positive way
“I came into Pixar right out of graduate school and I have felt very embraced by the group here in the story department. I was the first woman who worked in this department for 10 or 15 years and shortly after more women started coming into the department. Everyone was very positive and happy to have my voice in the room. Naturally the ratio of women to men has got better and there’s a more natural, dynamic version of voices being heard. I’ve seen way more shifts with more women in the department and it’s making the stories much more interesting. In the past couple years it’s really changed in a positive way.”