For Ally Maki, the call to join the “Toy Story” family was the best job ever. We sat down with the star of “Cloak & Dagger” and “Wrecked” at Walt Disney Studios to discuss her excitement and joy in playing Giggle McDimples, a brand new character that happens to be the tiniest toy.
In the film, Giggle is a Polly Pockets-type toy and the police chief of Miniopolis. She is close friends with Woody’s old flame, Bo Peep, who returns to the world after disappearing from “Toy Story 3.”
Ally Maki was around 9 when the first “Toy Story” hit theaters, and grew up with the franchise. She said that when she accepted the part, she asked producers, “You guys know you hired an ultimate fangirl? I don’t know if this is going to be good or bad for you, but I’m going to be all over just freaking out every single day!”
Her signature laugh is infectious, and she was overjoyed to talk about her surprise at discovering Giggle McDimples on all kinds of merchandise, from toys and t-shirts to cheese. “That was what made me cry, though, shockingly,” Maki said. “When I saw her on Babybel cheese. I was like, ‘Wait, what’s happening and why am I having a visceral, emotional reaction to this?’ I don’t know why.”
But she does know why. Not only is she a lifelong fan who has found a place in a franchise she adores, but she also understands the importance of her role in it. Born in Washington to Japanese parents, Maki is the founder of Asian American Girl Club, an apparel company whose goal is to help other Asian American women and girls find solidarity and sisterhood.
Maki said, “To be the tiniest character to exist in the universe is really awesome. And then to be the first ever Asian American female within this universe is so incredible. To be a woman of color in this universe is so incredible.”
She went on to say more about, not only the importance of her racial identity but the value of female friendships, too. And especially the friendship between her Giggle McDimples and Bo Peep.
“Growing up, I was a very shy girl and performing was my outlet. So friendship is something I’ve always kind of struggled with only because it’s hard to make friends when you’re really shy and you’re insecure about who you are. Now, growing up and finding the confidence to find these friendships, especially female friendships, Asian American Girl Club is where I have found so much empowerment in using my voice because I feel like when you do have that sisterhood, that female connection. It fills a hole in your heart that nothing else can. So I think that’s why it’s so meaningful especially to see these strong female friendships on board. They don’t need each other, but they do at the same time.”
Continuing on the topic of representation, Maki talked about the amazing year it has been for Asian American actors. With recent films like “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Always Be My Maybe,” and upcoming projects like “The Farewell,” Asian Americans finally get to tell their stories to a wide audience. Maki also discussed the exciting time it is for representation and inclusion in general, not only specific to her race. “The more different and varied and complex and flawed characters we can represent, the more it’s going to impact and shape culture. I’m very excited Giggle will be one of them.”
As for young girls trying to break into the business, she shared some advice and her personal experience. “The only reason I’m in this film is because I woke up one day and said, ‘I have to make this skit,’ for no reason. And I made it on a Saturday with no budget, my dog, my nephew, and my fiance’s little brother. We just went out into the neighborhood and made this thing that was just the way I viewed the world personally. I didn’t think anyone would resonate with it. It barely got any views. But one of the views was the head of casting at Pixar and that is 100% why I’m in this film.”
“They said they use YouTube as a resource because they’re trying to find the most authentically new stories and people and different variations of reality and how you see the world. Make your own content. Because it really does matter. And it doesn’t matter if it gets five views or 100 million. If it even resonates with one person, you know you’re moving things forward.”
You can check out this clip of Ally Maki as Giggle McDimples in action: