If you had asked me about a week ago I’d of told you Toy Story didn’t need another film. The franchise ended on a high with its third outing which provided closure and a happily ever after with Buzz, Woody and the gang make it out of day-care and into the toy box of Bonnie. I was quite happy for Disney to milk it in the form of television movies that I would never watch like Toy Story That Time Forgot but an entire fourth movie? That was a big no from me.
I was as pessimistic as they come. This movie would be nonsense, completely unnecessary and a total cash grab (which no doubt about it, it still is). Much to my surprise when I swaggered on up to Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre to watch a special film festival preview of the film, I completely melted when the movie started. Hearing Randy Newman’s now iconic song about how he had a friend in me changed my thinking. I thought it could just be nostalgia at that point but as I got further and further into the film and I grinned, laughed, smiled and almost cried.
But why does it feel so genuinely useful to have as a film? Well, it all stems from Forky, voiced by Tony Hale (of Arrested Development and many more). Forky is a sentient spork that is forced into the life of a toy, looking at the world as a burden and continually trying to dispose of himself. He then progresses into a childlike wonder of the world around him.
It’s almost as if we’ve come full circle albeit slightly different to the Buzz not thinking he’s a toy and actually being one. Forky and his predicament cover what the central overarching theme of the Toy Story franchise, a toy/person’s purpose in life is — giving Woody a meaning in life. Something that he appears to be lacking now that they have moved in with Bonnie. He is never picked for play anymore and protecting and educating him to help him become a Toy.
Forky is not the only newcomer. There is the like, Gabby Gabby or the Rabbit and Duck comedic duo, both of whom are dolls or plushie desperate to find a child. However, none of these newcomers compared to the ultra-talented and incredible feat of toy manufacturing that is Duke Camboom, Canada’s greatest stuntman who is voiced by the man of the moment, Keanu Reeves.
Then there is the elephant (or sheep) in the room, Bo Peep. Having disappeared between Toy Story 2 & 3, the film provides some background as to what happened with a heartbreaking flashback scene in which she is given away to a new owner. We meet up with her when the film moves back to the present day as a lost toy which has found a new lease of life. She has been moving from playground to playground getting played with by different children instead of just the one.
Having been a long-running franchise with its roots in 3D animation, it is hard not to compare the tech and quality of the film to that of the 1995 original. Now the toys have marks, bashes and bumps. They shine correctly in the light and move with a fluidity that wasn’t present in the first, it kind of shows just how we’ve moved on. It’s a barely noticeable thing though, as Toy Story 4 provides a great story. It could look like the original again for all I care but, Pixar nails down a great story with touching characters.
Toy Story 4 is a film about the meaning of life. It’s a film that isn’t just a surface level thing. It is carried along in the veil of a beautifully animated kids film. It is deep and philosophical, and like many others have pointed out, I could see myself writing about it for years and years.