Pixar has enlisted a new scribe for its long-in-the-works sequel Toy Story 4. Back when the follow-up was first announced in 2014, we learned that Pixar had signed Rashida Jones and her creative partner Will McCormack (Celeste & Jesse Forever) to pen the screenplay for what was teased as a romantic comedy and not a direct sequel to Toy Story 3. Jones and McCormack left the project some time later, and last summer John Lasseter departed the director’s chair with co-director Josh Cooley (Riley’s First Date) being promoted to primary director on the project.
Now, in the wake of some tumultuous revelations, Deadline reports that screenwriter Stephany Folsom has been set to write the script for Toy Story 4. Folsom made waves with an unproduced screenplay called 1969: A Space Odyssey Or: How Kubrick Learned To Stop Worrying and Land on the Moon, an alternate history tale about Kubrick faking the moon landing. She was also tasked with working on Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok, and while Marvel assigned her a “story by” credit, through ridiculous WGA arbitration rules she was denied an official credit on that film.
Folsom’s hiring comes in the wake of some, well, disappointing revelations about Pixar boss John Lasseter. The founder and director of Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Cars took a leave of absence in November following what he called “missteps,” but which reporting in The Hollywood Reporter and the New York Times detailed as inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment.
THR claimed that Jones and McCormack left Toy Story 4 after unwanted advances were made by Lasseter, but Jones was quick to correct and clarify that they instead left the project over “creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences,” adding that the culture at the company was one in which women and people of color “do not have an equal creative voice.”
It’s unclear if and when Lasseter will return and what specific steps Pixar has taken to correcting these problems. Indeed, only one woman has ever directed a Pixar film in the company’s 19-movie history, and even then—Brenda Chapman for Brave—she was fired halfway through and replaced with a man.
Hiring a woman to write Toy Story 4 is at least a step in the right direction, even if it seems like hitting the film’s June 21, 2019 release date could be dubious at this point. However, sources tell us Folsom has been working on this film for quite some time already, so it’s possible this is just very late breaking news on something that’s been in the works for a while already. Lasseter and the Pixar brain trust, including Andrew Stanton, came up with the concept at the center of Toy Story 4, but there’s no telling if that main idea remains the glue that’s holding this movie together or if the story is going in a different direction.
Pixar is coming off the smashing critical and commercial success of Coco, which while directed by a white male (Toy Story 3‘s Lee Unkrich) did a solid job of bringing to the forefront Mexican culture and heritage and, for what it’s worth, did boast a Hispanic co-director in Adrian Molina. Next up is the highly anticipated sequel Incredibles 2, hitting theaters this June, but beyond Toy Story 4 and an untitled feature from Monsters University director Dan Scanlon, Pixar hasn’t announced other future films that are currently on its docket.