Fresh Air's 37-Minute Interview With 'Toy Story 3' Director Lee Unkrich And Screenwriter Michael Arndt

If you read /Film regularly, you know my love for long form interviews where filmmakers are allowed to go deeper into the art of storytelling and moviemaking. This week Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich and screenwriter Michael Arndt appeared on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. The 37-minute interview delves into a bunch of interesting subjects. For example, here is the story from Unkrich's life which inspired the story in the film:

Years ago, my wife Laura and I were moving from one apartment to another and packing everything up. And about a month after we moved to our new place, Laura asked me if I'd seen her beloved stuffed animals, her childhood stuffed animals. And I said: What box were they in? And she said, well, they weren't in a box. They were in a garbage bag. And my blood instantly ran ice cold because I realized exactly what had happened: I had thrown all of her stuffed animals away in the dumpster behind our building. So I feel terrible to this day that that happened, but I do hope that by immortalizing that moment in the movie, that they somehow have been immortalized themselves.

Arndt gives us a peek into the story development process, admitting that he turned in 60 drafts of the scene where the toys discuss being abandoned.

As for the tear-wrenching final scene of the film, Arndt explains how it came about (spoiler warning, of course):

I remember getting to my office, sitting down to write the final scene and I say okay, I have to figure out what Andy is going to say when he hands over Woody. And I, you know, these words I just start hearing Andy's voice saying, you know, Woody's brave like a cowboy should be and kind and smart but the thing that makes him special is that he'll never give up on you. And as I was writing this, like I couldn't help but just get all choked up and I, you know, had little tears coming down my eyes because I felt like I had been on that journey with those characters, you know. And that's when you know that a script is working, when you have that response as you're writing it. So, you know, I remember just finishing the scene and there was kind of an odd moment where I finished it and then I sort of walked out, you know, of the door of my office to take a break and everybody was just sort of going about their business as though nothing had happened. And in my own mind, you know, there had been this huge, huge thing that had happened, you know, that Andy had given away Woody. And, you know, I was just – I felt a little silly but I felt like I, you know, we had, you know, you had hit the target that you had set up for yourself. So it's very gratifying to see that other people end up, you know, experiencing that scene the same way.

You can listen to the whole interview on or read the transcript here.