Most of the internet was suitably sceptical when Toy Story 4 was announced. Toy Story 3, where Woody and the gang come to terms with their immortality as plastic beings and learn to say goodbye to long-term owner Andy, seemed like a perfect ending. This sequel felt like a potential cash-grab at our nostalgia (which Disney are very guilty of). However, Toy Story 4 is not only a film with a genuine love for the magic of childhood, it understands these qualities better than its predecessors – at least since Toy Story 2 wrecked us with THAT heart-wrenching attack on our outgrowing of the toys that meant so much to us.
One of the most noticeable things is how Pixar has improved it’s animation. 1995’s Toy Story was revolutionary as the first feature-length 3D animated film, and Pixar clearly was aware of their legacy in this film’s production. Toy Story still looks visually pleasing now, but the differences, especially in the toys themselves, are like night and day. When they’re onscreen, you can feel on your fingertips exactly how Bo Peep’s glossy ceramics or Woody’s old-school stitching might feel, adding to the dreamy reminiscence that has always been a major player in Toy Story’s success. The action sequences, bizarrely, are almost John Wick-like in their seamless choreography that keeps you invested all the way. Besides, it’s nice to see Andy in Woody’s flashback look like a human and not like one of the toys for once.
Of course, looking pretty does not excuse style over substance. But the problems that arise in this story arc make perfect sense, and Tony Hale’s Forky, is a perfect plot device. Unlike Andy, Bonnie is a shy toddler with a wild imagination, and so he seems more of a fit as she goes through the traumatic rite of passage of her first day at school. Forky’s escape puts Woody on an interesting journey; were the toys okay with this bizarre immortality? Being in the same toy box for years suffering a constant stream of grief for the owners that dumped them? The names of their children written on the bottom of their feet run deeper than the pen they’re written with.
Something Disney have always had their irregularities with, from the classics to the MCU, is the quality of their villains (How much do you remember the villain from Mulan or Guardians of the Galaxy?). Here, they capitalise on that non-talent with a villain that is perfectly non-villainous. Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), with an entourage of creepy ventriloquist dolls (there’s an eerie The Shining reference that will have the audience in stitches), is difficult to truly hate. Even when she plans to rip open a toy to get what she wants, she’s not a moustache-twirling bad guy, but something we can all identify with in our personal decisions to be vulnerable.
Is Toy Story 4 the right ending for Woody, the long-time mascot of Pixar? Perhaps we never fully took into account the dangers of Woody’s relentless loyalty, something that sets him apart from all the other characters in the series. Where Toy Story 3 failed as a true eulogy, this finale excels. One character that cannot be forgotten is Duke Caboom. As well as being the man of the moment, Keanu Reeves’ swaggering, overly-confident stuntman with his own share of insecurites, embodies all of Toy Story 4’s greatest qualities. With fantastic wit and genuine heart carrying this fulfilling sequel, Caboom and his island of misfit toys have made one of Pixar’s finest.
by Bethany Gemmell
Bethany Gemmell is currently a student at The University of Edinburgh. She has a highly embarrassing talent of being able to tell which episode of Friends she’s watching in about 15 seconds of screen-time. Bethany’s favourite scene in all of cinema is in To Kill a Mockingbird, when Scout sees Boo Radley for the first time. You can follow her on twitter @chandIermonica.