Director John Lasseter has confirmed that Toy Story 4 will be a love story between cowboy doll Woody and shepherdess Bo Peep.

Addressing Disney's D23 Expo event in Anaheim, California, Lasseter teared-up when he said that the film was inspired by his relationship with his wife of 27 years, Nancy.

"I’m very proud of our films,” he added. “When we made the first three Toy Story films, we didn’t realise that what we had done was to change the genre of each of the films. Now, for Toy Story 4, we are doing a type of story we haven't done before: a love story."

Bo Peep did not feature in the third movie, and the film suggested that she may have been sold at a yard sale. In Toy Story 4 Woody and astronaut buddy Buzz will team up to find her.

Lasseter’s speech was followed by a performance from 71-year-old singer-songwriter and pianist Randy Newman, who performed his Oscar-nominated theme song You've Got a Friend in Me.

He was joined on stage by various Toy Story characters, including Woody, Jessie and Buzz, along with the franchise's famous "green soldiers", who appeared from the ceiling above the audience’s heads, shimmying down ropes into the auditorium.

Toy Story 4 is due for release in 2017, 22 years after the very first in the franchise in 1995.