The 24-year-old franchise is back with “Toy Story 4,” where the toys go on a road trip and Woody reunites with Bo Peep (Annie Potts). Along the way, they meet new characters like Forky (Tony Hale), Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), Bunny (Jordan Peele), Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key), and Giggle McDimples (Ally Maki).
In some way, all the new toys are lost. Giggle and Bo Peep instantly bonded through their relatability in being lost. Maki talks about her relationship with Potts both as themselves and as their characters.
“Annie Potts is such a darling human. She’s so kind but also so fierce. You feel her confidence as soon as she walks in the room,” Maki said. “In that lost toy world is where [Bo Peep and Giggle] found each other. It’s a beautiful message to relay that with female friendship you can accomplish anything and be… 100% yourself.”
After being scouted by a talent agent, Maki moved to Los Angeles at 14. She was then signed to Columbia Records in the all-girl band “The Valli Girls,” as the keyboardist and singer. However, she chose acting as her main platform.
“I think performing has always been what I’ve always done. I was very, very shy and I was the youngest and I only had big brothers,” Maki said. “Performing was an outlet of being myself and being these loud crazy characters without feeling like I was being judged in any way. I can’t think of my life as anything but performances.”
Giggle is the smallest character in the film, but ironically, she is also one of the loudest, most out-spoken characters. This characteristic is paralleled in Maki, as many of her past roles from “Wrecked” to her cameos on “That’s so Raven” or “New Girl,” require a present, eccentric voice. Surprisingly, she is actually an introvert.
“I’m a true introvert. People are always like “you’re not an introvert,” but I’m 100% an introvert. I was so shy growing up. I like to be at home and being in my safe space,” Maki said. “This character is really challenging in the terms of the world, how big it is, how we can use our voice, and still have fun and go on adventures. Even though I’m an introvert, I still feel like I get a lot of fun out of life.”
The casting crew at Pixar found Maki on her YouTube channel and through her role on Wrecked. After that, they ran through the list of candidates with blind casting, basing solely on voice.
“They told me that they had heard [my voice] and they were like ‘Stop, who’s that?’” Maki said. “My childhood directly aligned with the whole franchise. This movie has been so much of my childhood and helped shaped my identity. It’s crazy to think I’m a part of this universe.”
As the founder of the Asian American Girl Club, Maki is devoted to spreading Asian representation and diversity in general in the work that she does. She also partnered to support Girls Inc. and wants to help empower young women.
“It’s so beautiful to see all of these different representations of people in general. To have more strong female characters, to have more strong female, women-of-color characters, it means so much to me,” Maki said. “I imagine if I had a character like Giggle when I was 12 or 13 years old, how much further along I would be in finding my own identity and self-worth and confidence.”