By Jonathan Reed
Video supplied by Disney/Pixar©
Has there ever been a more perfect ending to a trilogy of movies than Toy Story 3? As Andy handed over his collection of toys to Bonnie, where both “played” with Pixar’s most iconic characters one last time, it was both poignant and deeply moving. It is doubtful whether anyone left the theatres not in tears. It was a seamless finale to Woody, Buzz and the whole Toy Story universe. So, when Pixar announced that a fourth movie would be released many questioned, why?
Whilst Disney has since released two short Toy Story movies, a fully-fledged follow up to 2010’s third instalment was always seen as unnecessary. And what becomes apparent from Toy Story 4, is that Pixar have taken their beloved movies in a whole new direction.
Whilst subtle references to Andy appear, this is a whole new story arc away from “Andy’s toys” of old. Now in the care of Bonnie, two years after Toy Story 3, Woody is feeling neglected. Worried about her first day at pre-school, he sneaks into her backpack in the hope to offer her some small comfort. Instead, she creates a brand new “toy” – Forky – a mixture of a spork, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners and googly eyes – and a huge case of identity confusion.
Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang embark on a road trip with Bonnie and her new toy. 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 realize that they're worlds apart when it comes to what they want from life as a toy.
That is the main question here. What does it mean to be a toy? Is it how often you’re played with? Is it the amount of care with which you’re looked after? Do you have to have an owner? Toy Story 4 tackles these questions with effortless resolve, humour and emotion. Whether it’s through Forky struggling to understand whether he’s a toy or a piece of trash, or new character Gabby Gabby – a doll Woody meets in an antique store – who feels that with a broken voice box she isn’t good enough to be played with, Pixar takes the insecurities of their characters to drive the narrative forward.
And there is a plethora of new characters to meet this time around. Ducky and Bunny – voiced by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key – are an hilarious double act desperate to be owned by a child. Duke Kaboom, voiced by Keanu Reeves, simply steals the show, and the aforementioned Forky (Tony Hale) is a delight, if not a confused one.
Whilst there are subplots involving Buzz’s search for his “inner voice”, this is Woody’s movie. To see the return of his romantic dynamic with Bo Peep is wonderful and harkens back the first two films. What becomes instantly noticeable is the change in both characters. Bo is much more confident, swapping the pink billowy dress for a functional blue jumpsuit. She’s quite the animated feminist, yet her transformation never feels shallow. Partly that could be down to the return of Annie Potts, who voiced the character. Her instantly recognisable tones are perfectly suited to this new age Bo.
Woody is found questioning his role as a toy. No longer commonly played with, his neglect is leading to him to reflect on his purpose. The answer arguably leads to a beautiful, if not emotional realisation which stunningly brings his narrative to a satisfying conclusion.
I wouldn’t say that Toy Story 4 is the end of Pixar’s adventures with most of these characters, but there is a sense of finality which is more profound than with Toy Story 3. Looking back, the third instalment was Andy’s curtain call, number four feels like Toy Story’s.
Then again, if Pixar has proved anything over the last nine years, it is that these characters are timeless. Audiences of all ages feel an affinity with them, a sense of nostalgia and friendship. Many of us have grown up with them and perhaps this is why Toy Story 4 leaves you feeling deeply emotional.
It is a final goodbye to our childhood. In the final moments we see a character we have loved deeply for over 20 years most certainly leave the world where toys come to life. And in that, Toy Story 4 instantaneously cements itself as a classic both in and outside of the animation universe. Does it have the poignant ending of Toy Story 3, no – but does it mean more? The answer is hard to be anything other than yes.
Toy Story 4 is the instalment many of us never thought we needed. Mainly because a part of us thought that it wouldn’t live up to the previous three, and in a way it doesn’t. But that isn’t because it’s a bad movie – far from it. Instead Toy Story 4 is different, it’s grown up, and in that there is a sense of satisfaction.
Pixar didn’t mess it up, they also didn’t pick the easy route. They built upon a world and a series of movies that changed the art of movie making forever, and they were fearless when doing it.
Has there ever been a more perfect ending to a trilogy of movies than Toy Story 3? Yes, because Toy Story 4 is the ending not only the characters deserved, but those kids who grew up with them, who like me now have the perfect way to say farewell as a grown up.