The most iconic doll-based horror movie is getting another chapter this weekend with the release of Child’s Play. But we’re not here to talk about the tyrannical Chucky. This is about Gabby Gabby, a new addition to the Toy Story universe and perhaps its most complex character to date. With her doe eyes and pigtails, Gabby Gabby has the appearance of a nice doll. There is the small matter of her creepy henchmen — a group of the freakiest ventriloquist dummies ever to grace a Pixar film, each of whom is named Vincent — though. Why would a doll who lives in an antique store need henchmen to protect her? And why does she immediately give viewers a sense of unease when Woody and Forky happen upon her?
At first, Gabby Gabby appears to have a nefarious agenda. She wants Woody’s voicebox. The one she came with was damaged, and she feels that this imperfection is the reason she doesn’t have a kid. In the Toy Story universe, to have a kid is a toy’s ultimate purpose. And so, voiceless, Gabby Gabby has languished in Second Chance Antiques for years. Nary a shopper has taken her home, and she’s grown despondent. When Woody arrives with a perfectly functioning voicebox, Gabby Gabby uses her HBIC (that’s head bitch in charge, thank you) status to rob him of his iconic “Come on, guys!” and “You’re my favorite deputy” refrains. Director Josh Cooley said at a press conference that the doll was inspired by The Twilight Zone’s Talky Tina, Mattel’s Chatty Cathy, Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond, and The Godfather. That explains her chilling command.
When Pixar approached Mad Men star Christina Hendricks about voicing Gabby Gabby, she initially thought they were joking. But then they told her about the ventriloquist dummies, and Hendricks knew it was kismet. She might just be the only person in the world who has one in her office. Ahead of the film’s release, Hendricks sat down with Refinery29 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, FL, to explain why she owns one of the creepiest dolls ever, how Gabby Gabby wins viewers over at the end, and her extremely preternatural ability to make it through the first 15 minutes of Pixar’s Up without weeping. Truly, how?
Refinery29: For people who haven’t seen the movie yet, how would you describe Gabby Gabby?
Christina Hendricks: “I would say Gabby Gabby is a misunderstood, lonely toy who just wants to fulfill her purpose.”
What do you think is the symbolism of naming the store Second Chance Antiques?
“That’s sort of the theme of the whole movie, isn’t it? Adjusting, being adaptable, moving on, and accepting the next stage of something. I didn’t even know it said that. Cute.”
Gabby is a head bitch in charge at the antique shop. She’s got her henchmen. What’s it like playing and building that character?
“It was a blast because I love that she’s not just one thing. It’s not just what you see is what you get. I really trusted [director] Josh [Cooley] because I was the new kid on the block… They know what they wanted it to be, so I’m willing to try anything they wanted.”
Even though Gabby finally gets a voicebox from Woody, the kid she wants to take her home rejects her. How did you convey this heartbreak using only your voice?
“It’s the scene with Woody, and she’s sort of like, ‘I don’t need it anymore.’ We did that quite a few times. I would record it, and then we would come back and the language would have changed a little or we would tweak it a little bit. I would do maybe four or five in a row. It was sad! All you have is your voice to convey that sadness, so you can’t rely on your emotion or a tear or something. It was a challenge to bring that sensitivity into it.”
How did Gabby Gabby feel when she finally got a kid?
“It’s her entire existence. That moment when she thinks it’s going to be this one, and she sees this lost girl. It’s the sweetest moment. It completely brought tears to my eyes. She found the right one now.”
I love that Gabby Gabby is not just one thing. It’s not just what you see is what you get.
There are a lot of moments that pander to women’s empowerment in movies this summer. How did Toy Story 4 toe the line?
“That’s why these Toy Story movies have touched people for so many years. They have such smart writers. They’re complex characters that adults can understand an enjoy and relate to. And then there’s the beautiful overall feeling of camaraderie and having each other’s backs and love and all those things that kids can understand very, very quickly. It doesn’t insult children’s intelligence. It doesn’t talk down to them. It never is precious. It’s very real.”
You said you love ventriloquist dummies. Were you excited to have them as your henchmen?
“I think I may have jumped up and down and done an itty bitty clap. I was like, No, wait! How did you guys know? It really was a weird coincidence that I have one of those in my office as we speak. I was like, This is a great reveal. What a great way to enter a film. I like their snappy dressing. Mine’s got black tie, tails, tophat, and monocle. He’s puttin’ on the ritz.” [Ed. note: Hendricks said during the press conference that she has a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll.]
We also asked Tony Hale to do this, because he plays a spork named Forky and it just feels appropriate: Can you rank utensils?
“How come there are only plastic sporks? You never get a metal spork. Why is that not a part of the cutlery family? I’m not really sure; you get two in one. It seems like a no brainer. I’m kind of a spoon person; I’ll put spoon up there.” [After our interview, a publicist noted that Crate & Barrel sells metal sporks. The more you know.]
What’s your favorite Pixar movie?
“The first Toy Story, I think for me, because even though they’re all great, that was the first one that left such an impression. I still don’t understand how they do what they do in those animating rooms. I don’t understand why it looks so realistic. It freaks me out a little bit. It’s like magic.”
Have you even made it through the first 15 minutes of Up without crying?
“You know what? I’m the weirdo that did not cry in that movie. Everyone had seen it before I saw it, and everyone was like, ‘Oh, you’re in for it.’ Maybe people warned me so much. It was beautiful, and I loved it, but I didn’t cry. And I cry over everything!”