'Toy Story 4' star Tony Hale weighs in on what Forky gets right about anxiety

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By Erin Clements

Forky, the scene-stealing spork who faces an existential crisis after becoming a toy, was the breakout star of “Toy Story 4.” So, what was it like for Tony Hale, who voiced the charmingly insecure character, to join the beloved franchise for its latest installment?

“I think I was just as overwhelmed as Forky was,” Hale told TODAY. “I remember during the press tour we went to Orlando, and it was, like, Keanu Reeves, Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and me. And Annie Potts. And you're like, which one of these things is not like the other? This one.”

Hale was cast as Forky after Pixar tested voice clips of Hale as his “Arrested Development” and “Veep” characters to determine whether he was a fit for Forky’s nervous demeanor.

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Forky, a spork with an identity crisis, was a fan favorite in "Toy Story 4."Pixar / (C)Walt Disney Co.

“I think both characters, Buster and Gary, are pretty overwhelmed, we might say. I think that's maybe a kind way of saying it. Buster's a little more panic-stricken and paralyzed. And Gary's just kind of overwhelmed. So I think Forky definitely was very overwhelmed. He didn't know why he was there. 'Cause Forky's route was, ‘I'm here to help people eat chili, and then I'm to the trash. That's it.’”

The anxiety-ridden character was deemed deeply relatable by fans on social media, and Hale understands why.

“I myself have struggled with anxiety for a long time,” Hale shared. “And I think with anxiety, it can feel overwhelming, you know? Where your life gets overwhelming, the chaos in the world. You're just like, what the heck is goin' on? And many times, you want to stand up and just go, ‘What the hell's goin' on? What's happening here?’ And I feel like Forky does that. He stands up and he's like, ‘Can somebody fill me in? What's going on? Why am I here? And what's goin' on?’ And there's something about him kinda maybe voicing maybe what everybody's thinking.”

Tony Hale attends the "Toy Story 4" Canadian premiere on June 13, 2019.Getty Images

Nearly 25 years after the first “Toy Story” movie, Hale says the franchise continues to resonate because of the community the characters represent.

“You know, the way I see it is there's these group of characters, you know, Buzz, Woody, Rex, all of 'em, and they've lived life together,” he said. “They've stuck together through crazy times. A lot of crazy stuff has happened in ‘Toy Story.’ But they've stuck together. And it shows to me the power of community. I think we live in a world where it's like, ‘Yeah, independence, we're all independent.’ And independence, obviously, is not bad. It's a good thing. But this ‘Toy Story,’ I think, is a great example of healthy dependence on each other. We're not supposed to do this alone. We're supposed to live this life together.”

Hale said the movie holds an important message for both kids and adults.

“Whether you yourself kinda feel like trash, or somebody has made you feel like trash, I think we all need that realization of, ‘You have greater value than that. You are made for something more. You have a greater purpose.’ And I love that.”

"Toy Story 4" is now available on digital in 4K Ultra HD, on Movies Anywhere, and on Blu-ray and DVD.