Actress Ally Maki talks girl power, representation, and Polly Pocket in conversation about ‘Toy Story 4’

by Brittani Tuttle

Actress Ally Maki, best known for her role on the TBS comedy “Wrecked” and Marvel’s “Cloak and Dagger,” plays Giggle McDimples, the pint-sized partner in crime for the returning Bo Peep in Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 4,” which opens in theaters on June 21. We were lucky enough to sit down with Maki for a Q&A about her role in the newest entry in the popular film series.

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Ally Maki portrays Giggle McDimples, Bo Peep’s best friend and confidant in “Toy Story 4.” Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Disney

By Joe Spencer

There’s a theme in “Toy Story 4” about listening to your inner voice, and throughout the film, Giggle McDimples seems to serve as Bo’s inner voice. Do you agree with that? How would you describe Giggle’s role in the story?

I love Giggle because she’s unabashedly unafraid to be herself a hundred percent of the time. She is Bo’s closest confidant, best friend, and she’s completely and brutally honest. She’s got her inner voice and she’s not afraid to use it. She will make sure everyone hears it, which is awesome and I love that about her.

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Ally Maki poses with Bo Peep herself at the “Toy Story 4” premiere. Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Disney

These films have been around for almost 20 years. Can you tell us a few your interactions with them when you were younger and what it was like joining the cast of this film?

It’s truly been a dream come true because I feel like my childhood directly aligned with the whole franchise. [The original] came out when I was a really young kid, [Toy Story] 2 was high school, [Toy Story] 3 was college, and now [Toy Story] 4 is like I’m truly an adult, so these movies have been so much of my childhood and helped shape my identity. I truly think of Buzz and Woody as my friends that I grew up with, which is crazy to think that I’m a part of this universe now. I just pinch myself every day. I’m like, “How did this happen?”

Also, to be an Asian-American female within this universe. I think they’re saying she’s the first one ever to exist within it. That, in itself, is so crazy too. It’s awesome.

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So how did you find the voice (for Giggles)? Was it direction from [director Josh Cooley]?

In the very first session, I walked in and I go, “Do I need to do anything? Do I need to make my voice higher or lower or whatever?” And they said, “No.” One hundred percent,  when Pixar makes the movies, they are trying to authentically find the actual heart and soul of the character that they want, so that’s why they do ‘blind casting’ where they take voice clips of each person, and they don’t tell them who the person is. They can just blindly pick the person, and through that list, they were like, “That’s the one! She cuts through!” So I was able to be, kind of, authentically who I was, and bring my first instincts to the character.

This is the only job in life where they’re like “OK, go to a 10” and I’m like “Oh, this is great.” Then I’d do it and they’d say, “That was great. Now take it to a 12,” and I’d be like “YEEESSSS!” […] Because in my real life, in being a human, [I get so much], “Ok, be smaller, don’t make so much noise.” So for this role to be like “No, be 100, then be 150,” it was awesome and very freeing.

You’ve worked as a journalist, and you’ve performed in a band, but how did you settle on acting as a career?

Performing has been what I’ve always done. I started doing musical theater when I was six years old, and performing was an absolute outlet for me. I was very, very shy, and I was the youngest. I only had big brothers, so performing was my outlet, my way of being myself – of being these loud, crazy characters without feeling like I was being judged in any way.

I can’t really think of my life as anything but performing and doing voices. So much of my childhood was spent doing voices with my American Girl dolls, and my Polly Pockets, and my My Little Ponys. Just them all having communication with each other all the time, and having these crazy storylines. So it was like I’ve been training for this role my whole life.

Speaking of that, did you have a favorite toy growing up?

Truly, I collected Polly Pockets. I still have my vintage Polly Pocket collection. Because I was the youngest and the only girl, I would spend so much time by myself. And so much of it was sitting in my room, rolling out the plastic mat with the roads and the town, and putting the houses down, and all the little things, and making them communicate, and have all their neighborhood drama with each other. You know, “This person isn’t talking to this person.” It’s fun!

And then you go and record this movie and there’s no script beforehand, there’s no animation you’re seeing. It truly is coming from your instincts, so it really took me back to being a kid.

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At the beginning of this movie, Giggle and Bo Peep are “lost toys” who aren’t looking to be found. What did you have to do to get into the headspace of this kind of toy, one we haven’t seen in any of the other 3 [Toy Story] movies?

I think it is so cool that they had that kind of ‘lost toy’ vibe, but in that world is where they found each other. That’s such a beautiful message to relay, especially to young women: with female friendship, you can accomplish anything. You can be your own strong, true self. Bo is a hundred percent herself and Giggle is a hundred percent herself, but together they unite to this super-element of ‘We can do anything and we can do it together. We’re not in competition with each other.’ I think that’s really beautiful, to see more female friendship on screen.

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Producer Mark Nielsen, Kristen Schaal, Director Josh Cooley, Tony Hale, Producer Jonas Rivera, Tom Hanks, Annie Potts, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Tim Allen, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Keegan-Michael Key, Bonnie Hunt, Blake Clark and Carl Weathers at the world premiere of Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” at the El Capitan Theatre. Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

[Even though] you don’t normally record with other cast members in the room, did you get a chance to meet any of them? What has your relationship been like with them?

Annie Potts is such a darling human. She’s so kind, but also so fierce. You feel her confidence as soon as she walks in the room. We did a lot of press together.

[Tom] Hanks was the one person who I got to meet through the process, but unexpectedly. I went to a session where we were doing some early interviews, and they told me that I was going to do hair and makeup when I got there. I was running late and I showed up in the craziest messy bun, no makeup, I had this big oversized jacket on. I looked like a gremlin, and of course that day I had a giant stress pimple on the side of my mouth, and I thought, “It’s fine, I’ll just run up to hair and makeup.” So I go into Disney, and they’re like, “Great, you’re here! Tom’s coming down, and you guys will start…” And I was like, “Tom?” In the three years [since we started working on this film] I didn’t remember a Tom on the team. And  they were like, “Hanks.”

“Oh… he’s here? Right now?” And then I hear his footsteps coming down and I was like, “Nooooo! This is happening right now!” Of course, I would meet him so gremlin-like with a giant pimple on the side of my face, awkwardly having to talk to him for ten minutes. But it actually felt weirdly perfect, because it felt like my fourteen-year-old awkward self was meeting my idol. It was kind of perfect. He’s great.

So, you’ve mentioned diversity earlier, and there’s been a lot more films coming out with different types of leads, so what’s your opinion on the future of that?

It’s looking bright, I gotta say. I grew up in the industry, I moved out here when I was 14, so I’ve really gotten to see the whole arc of where we started, and where we’re headed. It’s so beautiful to see all of these representations of people in general, to have more strong female characters, to have more strong people of color, female characters, just all variations of everything it means so much to me.

I imagine, if I had a character like Giggle when I was 12 or 13 years old, how much further I would be in finding my own identity, and self-worth and confidence. It’s a journey, and I know I’ve learned so much through this process. I see these young girls who are ten years old and they’re already finding these versions of themselves and finding their power and their voice, and I imagine when they grow up what amazing role models they’re going to be and how they’re going to use their voice to change the world. It’s really beautiful.

Be sure to catch Ally Maki as Giggle McDimples in “Toy Story 4, “in theaters everywhere on June 21. Check out the latest trailer for the film below, and read our spoiler-free review here.

Toy Story 4 | Official Trailer 2

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