We finally made it: the conclusion of the 25 Weeks of Pixar and the opening weekend of Toy Story 4. This is our only title to watch this week because Toy Story 4 was not sent to theaters with a short film, the first time this has happened since the original Toy Story hit theaters.
Almost 25 years after the release of the first fully computer-generated film, Toy Story, Pixar has released its third sequel in the franchise: Toy Story 4. Featuring a much-anticipated return to this beloved world, we also see the return of favorite characters such as Woody, Buzz, and Bo Peep as well as an array of new characters that are destined to become favorites as well.
Toy Story 4 opens with a flashback taking place in young Andy’s room before Toy Story 3. As the film began, I was instantly amazed at just how far animation has come in the last several years. The animation is consistently breathtaking throughout the film but this opening scene is particularly impressive. I had a feeling of nostalgia during the whole opening, which only grew as “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” began playing, giving me goosebumps that I wasn’t anticipating. The montage ends with a close-up of Woody’s boot, which now reads Bonnie, rather than Andy. This was a great way of reminding the audience that this is no longer Andy’s story, but Bonnie’s.
The biggest difference and also the biggest similarity between Toy Story 4 and the previous 3 is that this is really Woody’s film. Of course, they have all focused largely on Woody, but this takes that even further. In the previous films, we got to see a lot more from Buzz and the supporting characters. Toy Story 4 is a quieter film with lower stakes and provides more of a character study on Woody than ever before. Consequently, we see a lot less from everyone else, which initially was a bit disappointing for me. However, the more I have been thinking, the more I have realized that Toy Story 3 was the conclusion of their stories and Toy Story 4 provides a final look at where Woody is emotionally after the change of ownership from Andy to Bonnie and how he has adjusted to his new life. The Woody we see here is the Woody we have known since the beginning: loyal, perhaps even to a fault. And this is where Bo Peep comes in.
As far as I’m concerned, bringing back Bo Peep was one of the best decisions the writers made here. As a character we haven’t seen since Toy Story 2, she has lived a very different life than Woody and comes with an outlook on life that directly challenges Woody’s ideals and beliefs. The relationship between these two characters is what makes Toy Story 4 a worthwhile entry to the franchise.
Of course, what would a Toy Story film be without introducing some new toys, of which there are many in Toy Story 4. We get a brief look at four forgotten toys voiced by Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner, and Betty White, which is a joy for longtime film fans like myself. We also get the homemade toy Forky, voiced to perfection by Tony Hale, Duke Caboom voiced by Keanu Reeves, and my personal favorite, Gabby Gabby, voiced by Christina Hendricks. And no one will forget the two stuffed animals voiced by comedy duo, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.
All in all, Toy Story 4 is a great sendoff to the characters we know and love and provides a conclusion that is sure to leave fans satisfied. I have grown up with these films and am so happy I could be a part of this incredible journey.
For those who have followed along with my 25 Weeks of Pixar, thank you very much. I look forward to next year’s Pixar films Onward and Soul, and I hope to see you at D23 Expo this August.