Toy Story 4 Came And Went—Now What?

Published on August 25, 2020

[Spoiler Alert; Spoilers ahead for Toy Story 4]

Few production studios have managed to garner the level of respect and adoration that Pixar has achieved throughout its nearly three-decade run. The studio, which has brought 21 films into fruition—making up over $13 billion in sales to-date—is also one of the few that have been able to successfully deliver sequel after sequel on some of their bigger titles. Franchises like “Finding Nemo,” and “The Incredibles” have delivered sequels that have not disappointed fans of the original films. This is especially impressive considering these are fans that have not only grown up with the films, but have low expectations for sequels amid franchises like “Home Alone,” “Mean Girls,” and, dare I say it, “Star Wars.”

That being said, the arrival of “Toy Story 4” begged the question of whether or not Pixar was trying to bleed the franchise dry of any and everything it could get out of it. As its first film, premiering back in 1995, fans thought that the Toy Story universe had been laid to rest with the arrival of “Toy Story 3” back in 2010. For this reason the studio had some big shoes to fill, especially considering the plot had been brought to a close at the end of the last film.

Toy Story 4 Sees Entirely New Story

“Toy Story 4” sees the toys embarking on a new journey that starts with a character named Forky (Tony Hale). When young Bonnie is off to her first day of Kindergarten, feeling alone and scared, Woody jumps in her backpack on her way out of the door to look after her. At school, Bonnie makes Forky out of a spork, a couple of mismatched googly eyes, and some pipe cleaner. When she gets home and drops her backpack off Woody introduces Forky to the other toys. The exchange causes him to have an existential crisis thinking he’s trash and not a toy.

Next, Bonnie’s parents surprise her with a road trip vacation where she takes Forky, Woody, and the rest of the toys along for the ride. Along the way, Forky—desperate to live among the trash he was made from—jumps out of the window of the RV. Woody runs after him, thinking that Forky is the key to Bonnie’s success in kindergarten and, as her toy, it’s his duty to make her feel happy. Throughout the journey Woody learns to confront his own issues with himself, learning along the way that maybe he’s turning toward all of the wrong things to find purpose.

For this reason, “Toy Story 4” is the most existential of the Toy Story franchise, if not only for the fact that it serves as a bleak reminder that plastic never goes away, and our childhood toys are probably still out there somewhere. As Woody comes to terms with what life really means for him after Andy, he learns about what his real desires are. Along the way he gets some help from original characters like Jessie, Buzz, and Bo Peep. The latter of whom serves as a primary character and plot driver in this installment of the Toy Story franchise.

Possible Sequels In The Future

Eventually Woody decides to leave Bonnie and the other toys and create a new life with Bo Peep. One where the duo doesn’t belong to any one child. Instead they join a traveling carnival where they can help carnival toys find children that will love them. To create another sequel just to end it on a bittersweet note, rather than the satisfyingly sweet ending in Toy Story 3 when all of the toys were left, together, with Bonnie leaves the franchise feeling—off. For a kids franchise—especially one held in such high regard—Toy Story 4 feels particularly disappointing.

While the original toys that fans of “Toy Story” came to know and love were in the latest installment of the franchise, the film’s primary objective was to set up future characters for upcoming films as it brought the original characters stories to a close. With that, speculation that there will be a “Toy Story 5” is seeming more and more possible after the premiere of the latest film. Pixar has yet to confirm anything but media sites have been buzzing with speculation that there could be plans for a fifth installment.

Overall, “Toy Story 4” felt like a forced attempt to continue to monetize off of the franchise and bring it into 2019 as characters like Bo Peep bring it to the forefront of political correctness. While there is nothing wrong with being politically correct—bringing Toy Story back from the dead in order to make sure it canonizes as a politically correct franchise felt somewhat forced. Even if the film was one of Toy Story’s funniest sequels, that doesn’t make up for the fact that it casts a dark cloud over Buzz and Woody’s ending. Here’s to hoping that Disney finally lets this franchise go to rest in the way that fans wanted it to after “Toy Story 3.”

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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