Summers have become synonymous with blockbusters, and sequels are rightfully nervous about filling their predecessors’ flip-flops. Yes, many film fans can’t decide which movie is better: “Godfather” or “Godfather II.” That’s a rarity — a flick that got potentially better in its second outing. The horribly lambasted “Godfather III” is the prime example of a sequel (to a sequel) that shouldn’t have been made. So, many of the producers and talent involved with “Toy Story 4” are understandably anxious. One of the most excited and talkative cast members is Christina Hendricks, who plays the doll villain, Gabby Gabby. Hendricks is blessed with the gift of gab, and she shared her thoughts about playing a doll with the Doll Chronicles.
Hendricks is best known for her television work. Initially, she caught viewers’ eyes as the levelheaded and curvaceous office manager Joan Holloway in “Mad Men.” Currently, she co-stars as the evolving head of a crime “syndicate” in the clever drama/buddy comedy “Good Girls.” It airs on NBC and on Netflix. Christina Hendricks is one of those rare actresses who can take an absurd premise and make it believable. That is why she was ideally cast in the role of Gabby Gabby.
When Hendricks got the offer to appear in “Toy Story 4,” she knew it would be an interesting opportunity. She wasn’t completely sure how large a role her character would have because it is an ensemble piece. (Buzz Lightyear, Woody, even Bo Peep, are all back for this fourth installment.) According to Hendricks, “I really trusted the director Josh Cooley because I was the new person in the mix. I told them I was willing to try anything they wanted or needed from me. They knew what they wanted my character’s arc to be, and I just wanted to help them get there.”
In “Toy Story 4,” Gabby Gabby is a doll that resides in an antiques store. Her voice box was defective when she was unpackaged, so she never got the chance to share her life with a child. This sense of isolation and separation is what underscores Hendricks’s performance. “Gabby Gabby is a misunderstood, lonely toy that just wants to fulfill her purpose. The theme of the movie is all about adjusting, being adaptable, moving on, and accepting the next stage of something. That is inspirational. It resonates with people of all ages.”
Second Chance Antiques is the store where Gabby Gabby lives, and the doll hopes to bend Woody the Cowboy to her demands. She wants the opportunity to be loved, and she doesn’t mind doing very unlovable things to get her way. “I love the fact that she is not just one thing. She looks one way — completely innocent and sweet and nostalgic. But then, the audience finds out she is so much more,” the actress shared. Christina Hendricks could be conversing about her own career. The statuesque redhead is famous for her silhouette, and many TV viewers ignored her comedic chops and acting ability.
“That is one of the things that I really respect about the ‘Toy Story’ franchise. Each one is smartly written. Each one has characters that kids gravitate toward and adults can identify with, too,” Hendricks said. “Because the producers know that families will be seeing the films, the scripts don’t insult the adults’ intelligence. It also doesn’t talk down to the children in the theaters. It manages to provide something for everyone, and that is hard to do.”
When the animators showed the Gabby Gabby mock-up to Christina Hendricks, she was speechless. She admits that’s not a great way to start off a “voice-acting job.” She was shocked, though, by how closely she resembled their vision of the doll.
“I managed to finally say to them that this is incredibly awesome! I looked at the image of Gabby Gabby and then I said, ‘You guys, you have blown my mind. You have no idea how close she is to me! She has red hair and blue eyes; she lives in an antiques shop; and she hangs out with ventriloquist dolls! I am Gabby Gabby!” Hendricks declared.
Besides being an Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actress, Christina Hendricks also has the distinct honor of having been made as a doll. Her Joan Holloway character was part of Mattel’s “Mad Men” Barbie doll line. In addition to owning a fashion-doll version of herself, she is also drawn to ventriloquist “companions.” Hendricks admits that she has “a thing for these dapper dolls.”
“I confess, I feel a bit guilty calling them ‘dummies’ after you get to know them so well,” she stated. “When I was little, I really wanted a ventriloquist doll. I didn’t intend to become a ventriloquist. No, I just wanted the doll,” Hendricks admitted. “I really liked the Charlie McCarthy doll, and I was impressed by his flair. He was fancy and was dressed in a black suit and had that cool monocle. I really wanted him my whole life!”
Like many adults who have pined for a childhood doll, Christina Hendricks went out and bought the wooden puppet when she became an adult:“I have Charlie now. He’s in my house. He lives with me! So, when I saw that my character Gabby Gabby controls an army of ventriloquist dolls, I couldn’t believe it. I said to them, ‘I have that doll in my home. I own that doll!’ The director said, ‘Oh, my God, that is fate!’”
Director Josh Cooley told Hendricks that Gabby Gabby was also influenced by some bizarre, scary dolls of the past. “Josh has said that he was inspired by the Talking Tina doll from ‘The Twilight Zone,’ Mattel’s Chatty Cathy, Norma Desmond from ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ and even Marlon Brando’s title character in ‘The Godfather.’ He saw Gabby Gabby as being a sinister boss when she needs to be,” Hendricks revealed.
“Oddly, I know that Gabby Gabby is going to come across as ‘creepy’ to many viewers, but not to me! She is very wonderful to me because I love antique stores and I love the ventriloquist dolls,” Hendricks said. “I used that sense of love and friendship and familiarity when I created her voice. We all remember those toys when you pull the string and it says the same thing, over and over and over. They always sound so joyful!”
Christina Hendricks recalled her own childhood love for her dolls and her affection for her companion Charlie McCarthy. “I used a very happy voice because they’re supposed to be friends with a child. We just sort of took that, and ran with it. A doll would tell its owner that she is always happy when they are together. That was my inspiration for ‘Toy Story 4‘!”