Don’t let Giggle McDimples’ size fool you. The tiniest character of all the Toy Story films has got the biggest heart of any of the toys and a fearlessness that you’d never expect to see from someone like her.
Voiced by Ally Maki, Giggle very much like the Polly Pocket tots of the 90s, and can often be seen perched on Bo Peep’s shoulder. The two are very much the closest of friends and are each other’s closest confidants. So when Bo and Woody are reunited, the three work together to rescue Forky who has been kidnapped by Gabby Gabby, Giggles isn’t afraid to put herself out there no matter how dangerous the mission is and isn’t one to let something like her size stop her from accomplishing the mission.
ThatsItLA was invited to sit down with their fellow journalists at a roundtable to talk to Maki about her role in the film, how she is using Asian American Girls Club, her latest venture, to help inspire and redefine what it means to be a modern Asian American woman through original content.
During the recording process, Maki says director Josh Cooley encouraged her to be herself and that she didn’t need to add or take anything out. ” I just felt so free in that moment to just be myself and play and be different versions of her,” Maki said.
She describes the whole experience as one of the best jobs she has ever done. Often times Cooley wanted to take it up a notch. “Most times people are like, ‘Can you do less? Can you be less? And you be quieter,” Maki said. “So I am like ‘Okay great.’ So I did the line and they were like ‘That was amazing, now let’s take it to a level 12.’” Excited by the thought, Maki joked that she unlocked her “true potential!”
But even voicing the character and working in the booth for the past three years was surreal for Maki. “I mean I don’t know how to process it yet, I am still just – everyday everyone is like, ‘how did you not talk about it for three years,” Maki said. “Because honestly, I didn’t believe it was true. From day one I said, ‘this has got to be a prank. Something is going to go wrong along the way,’ because you know how these projects are, you never know if you are going to make to the final edit of the film.”
Maki opened up about how Bob Pauley, one of the original Pixar animators, told her that Toy Story 4 has gone through different iterations, different storylines, and many things were dropped along the way in the six years they worked on the film. “So in that moment, I, again, felt so incredibly lucky to even make it into the film and to be such an incredible new character within that is mind-blowing,” Maki said.
Though the character has gone through a few changes. One that sticks out is that Giggle did not start out as police chief of Minioplois. In fact, she was very much a like Poll Pocket character with a pink bow and a purple dress. But the one thing that did not change was the character’s signature “feisty spirit.” So when she got word that Giggles would be a cop, she instantly wanted to know more about her character’s new backstory. So much so, she hopes that there is a Giggle McDimples spinoff in the works.
And though the occupation may have changed, Giggle was still very much a fearless character. “She is 100% in with what she is doing and she is not afraid to go off on these missions,” Maki said. “She is very missioned based. That is where she finds her purpose. I think being a police chief is her life and she finds a lot of pride and identity in that and being out on the road with her main gal.”
Through it is not unusual to not record with fellow members of the voice cast, which left Maki to work with Cooley, who was pretty much her voice partner during the whole process. Described as a most kindhearted, warm, funny, hilarious person, the actress says working with the director has “been a dream of a lifetime.”
But the funny thing about it is that she never got the full script. “There is no script. I didn’t know anything that was going on, Maki said. “Which I think is so wonderful because I really think it takes you back to the reason why we love performing and using your imagination. Everything was like, ‘Here’s what is happening, Woody is doing this and this, okay go.’”
“So it really is trusting your first basic instincts and what you are feeling in that exact moment,” Maki said. “I think it is cool because Cooley actually told me that 85% of what is Giggle McDimples in the movie is from our very first recording session in the first 30 minutes of that recording session. To me, which meant a lot, because it really meant that my first instinct and my first feelings were for the character were really special.”
Maki describes Giggle as someone “who is 100% authentically real and not afraid to be herself.” While she may be the tiniest toy of the entire Toy Story family, she is Bo’s best friend and closest confidant. “It’s like this ultimate superpower of superduoness,” Maki said. “The way they have brought female friendship and female strength to the franchise, I think it means so much, especially to young girls who are watching these characters and saying ‘Oh, I have a Bo’ or ‘I have a Giggle’ and it means a lot. So it is really cool.”
The actress talked about how she or anyone like her never had access to characters like that when she was growing up. However, Toy Story proved that these characters are without borders and can resonate with anyone of any color. “I think as someone who is an Asian-American female growing up, in a world where we didn’t have that many strong representations in TV and film and magazines, I think Toy Story resonated with me so much because these characters are without borders and barriers,” Maki said. “You could see yourself in Rex. You could see yourself in RC. You can be Slinky Dog. You can be any of these characters. I think that is why it resonates so much with me. And I think that is why it resonates with a lot of people.”
So Maki used performing as her outlet. “Friendship has been something I have always struggled with only because it is hard to make friends when you are really shy and insecure about who you are,” Maki said.
By using performing as an outlet and growing up Maki says she is “finding the confidence to find these friendships, especially female friendships.”
Which is the reason why she created Asian American Girl Club. “Asian American Girl Club is where I found so much empowerment in using my voice because I feel like when you do have that sisterhood of that female connection, it fills a hole in your heart that nothing else can,” Maki said. “So I think that is why it is so meaningful. Especially to see these strong female friendships on board. They don’t need each other but they do at the same time. I think that is why it is really special to me.”
She also wanted to use Asian American Girls Club as a hub that would reach out to Asian American females who have had experiences that were similar to hers. “It was because I knew there were all these girls all over the country that were the only ones in their whole school or whole town that felt like they didn’t have anyone to reach out to, and I felt like this was the web I wanted to create to those lines to those girls and say, ‘I totally understand how you feel, and I resonate with your story just as much as mine,'” Maki said.
“So I think we are making amazing strides,” Maki said. The more different and varied and complex and flawed characters we can represent the more it can impact and shape the culture. So I am very excited that Giggles will be one of them. She inspires me.”
Not only did Giggle allow Maki to be as freely expressive as possible, she learned a lot about herself and found a lot of confidence through the new Toy Story character. “I think what is so great about this film is we are able to give that to these young people at a much younger age where they don’t have to go through this,” Maki said. “Of course, they are going to go through the up and down struggles of finding their personal identity, but, I think, for me, finding that my self worth mattered, just as a human, obviously as a woman of color, but as a woman of any race or any gender, it doesn’t matter.”
“I think that has been the greatest lesson for me, I found a lot of confidence and a lot of identities through just being in this film,” Maki added. “It is basically saying someone like you matters. Girls like you matter.”
It is these kinds of characters that will help create a new normal and an atmosphere of encouragement for the younger members of the audience. “I am excited for the next generation, because they are going to be ten-years-old, and they got their dolls and they are like, ‘I can be a police chief. Obviously! Why would you think I couldn’t be?!’ And I love that,” Maki said. “It’s like, ‘Wow, where did you get your confidence?’ But that is what these characters do for them. It creates their new normal. It is their reality of ‘I am growing up in a world where women are police chiefs. Duh! Where women aren’t afraid to say what they want. Duh! Duh! Ally, why don’t you say how you feel.’ “
And for those who are trying to break into the industry, Maki encourages them to create original content. It’s a process that the actress stands by because it helped her get the role as Giggle McDimples in Toy Story 4. “I would say, 150% create your own content, because, and I’ve told this story before, but the only reason why I am in this film is because I woke up one day and said, ‘I have to make this skit,'” Maki said. “I made it on a Saturday, with no budget, my dog, my nephew, my fiancee’s little brother. And we went out in my neighborhood and made this thing that was just the way I viewed the world personally.”
At the time, she belived that the video wouldn’t reach anyone, certainly not people of significance or importance like casting. “I didn’t think it would resonate with anyone, it barely got any views,” Maki said. “But one of the views was the head of casting at Pixar and that is 100% why I am in this film. And they said they use YouTube as a resource because they are trying to find the most authentically new stories and people, and variations of reality and how you see the world. So I would 100% say, make your own content because it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if it gets five views or a 100 million views, if it even resonates with one person, then you know that you are moving things forward.”