When rewatching Toy Story 3 in the lead up to seeing Toy Story 4, you have this sense that it was the perfect ending to a wonderful franchise, how could you top that? We had, with those final scenes, a bow being put on top of the franchise when the torch was passed from Andy to Bonnie.
Toy Story 4 doesn’t quite top Toy Story 3, but it does a very good job at telling an emotional story that also feels like a logical next step in this series – and yes, you will need tissues because the ending will break you.
The Toy Story franchise is an odd one in where it sits itself, having been around since 1995 it has found itself grappling with the audience and its adolescence and now young adulthood; and, much like the previous outing, it manages to balance this wonderfully. The plot isn’t overly revolutionary – toys start off happy, something happens, toys go off on an adventure, then the film serves up an emotional kick at the very end. It’s simple and it works.
This new installment introduces interesting new characters with Gaby Gaby as well as Ducky and Bunny (who provide the comedic relief) and Duke Caboom. Of course the star new character of the film is Forky and, whilst I did enjoy watching the character, I do wonder what larger role Forky could have played, it does feel that there is some lost potential. Bo Peep returns, and with it the explanation as to why she was not in Toy Story 3; it is very clear that she is not the same character as she was, and with it she has become a much more developed character with a good deal of depth and the Toy Story franchise is all the better for it.
For all the Pixar fans out there (myself included) keep an eye out for a number of really quite brilliant references and throwbacks to previous films and shorts including Up and Tin Toy. These hit a brilliant sweet spot and fans will really get a kick out of these moments.
The thing that really works for the Toy Story films is the emotional connection we have to the characters, and that is the genius of the original creators of Toy Story: taking inanimate objects that we can all connect to, and giving us an emotional connection to them. Here we are, 24 years on and it still works.
Toy Story 4 is not the best of the Toy Story films (for me, that’s still the original Toy Story) but it does do an excellent job of being a funny, emotional and enjoyable film. These Toy Story films are very likely the closest we have to a perfect film franchise, they don’t skip a beat.