WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang embark on a road trip with Bonnie and a new toy named Forky. The adventurous journey turns into an unexpected reunion as Woody's slight detour leads him to his long-lost friend Bo Peep. As Woody and Bo discuss the old days, they soon start to realise that they're worlds apart when it comes to what they want from life as a toy.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
No one can deny the footprint that the Toy Story franchise has left behind - not only on the animation industry but on the hearts of children who grew up to be the adults that left their toys behind. I was five when the first one came out, and up until the second one - which came out when I was nine - had rewatched it a million times. It has forever given me anxiety about throwing away my toys (my favourites still roam in my room today), and when the second came out, I was still in the realm of loving toys, falling in love all over again with Woody, Buzz and the new additions to the family.
Almost 11 years later, in my second year of university, Toy Story 3 hit the silver screen - Andy going off to college and giving away his toys to the next kid completely broke me, and I still get teary-eyed thinking of it. It was such a perfect end to the franchise, especially the way it coincided with the stages in my life, and when I heard about Toy Story 4, I was worried that it has somehow become another Disney cash-cow. I didn’t doubt it would be good - Pixar would never dishonour Toy Story with trash writing - I just wondered if it would be relevant, not only to an ageing millennial but to an audience where a kid is more likely to be focused on their iPad than their toys that never seem to be in the same spot.
Last we saw the gang, they were in their new home with a new kid - Bonnie - but Woody isn't over losing Andy. He’s reeling in an existential crisis, which becomes personified in the real world through Forky - a kindergarten arts-and-crafts friend that can’t handle its sentience. A weary Woody is focused only on Bonnie’s happiness until he bumps into a very old friend.
Bo Beep has experienced quite a revamp. In earlier stories, she was always being rescued in Andy’s games by the heroic sheriff, but now she’s saving herself and carving out her own life outside of a child’s bedroom. She’s pretty awesome and is another example of the Hollywood turning point around how female characters are written. She hasn’t lost her old personality; she’s just become more dynamic. Before the universe of Toy Story has always centred around the kid, but now some toys, who don’t become resentful from being abandoned, are actually revelling in their freedom. But how does this relate to an audience?
The modern age has brought with it many wonders, but also a constant daily anxiety about our purpose in the world. We might feel like we are being left behind by our peers or those younger than us, tired of doing something that once we found joy in, or just generally feeling like we are stuck in a cupboard, waiting to be played with. Woody is no longer that favourite toy, something that has happened before, but his reaction has changed drastically.
With Buzz in the first movie, he was quite malicious and jealous over his precious Andy, but now he has seen things, met and made new friends, and instead spirals inwards about his purpose in life. It might make you wonder if everything is okay over at Pixar, but they are just reflecting the world around them. However, their message spins back into the Disney realm of ‘if you find the right person, everything will be okay’ at the end and thus doesn’t have the same emotional impact its predecessors had.
While Toy Story 4 is a flawless film, with the usual Pixar-calibre we all love and some new hilarious characters from Keanu Reeves, Key and Peele, I still maintain it wasn’t a wholly necessary film, despite its relevance to a modern audience. Younger kids may be able to enjoy the silly toys, and the existential crisis might horrifyingly entertain the adults (as well as the creepy horror ventriloquist dummies), this Toy Story has opened up the possibility of more films, which just worries me for the continued quality of a beloved franchise. For me, its true end will always be Andy handing over the toys to Bonnie, ending one childhood while another one begins.