When Disney and Pixar first announced Toy Story 4, I was skeptical. The first three movies had been exceptional, and the third put a perfect bow on the trilogy. At the time, Pixar’s slate was already sequel-heavy; the studio seemed to be adopting a risk-averse approach, revisiting bankable existing properties.
When the first teaser was released, I was terrified. Forky felt at-odds with the existing characters, and I worried that Toy Story 4 would be a mess. Different for its own sake, and perhaps centered around the existential crisis of a potentially grating character. A victory lap that rehashes prior themes or motifs is one thing, but an edgy, meta, or tonally dissonant film has the potential to undermine the legacy of the films that preceded it.
Fortunately, none of that is even remotely the case with Toy Story 4. Unlike Finding Dory or Monsters University, this sequel doesn’t feel unnecessary. While I enjoyed both of those movies (and really, every Pixar film except the Cars sequels), it’s fair to say they were not stories that needed to be told. Toy Story 4 is purposeful, adding something important to the Toy Story saga…
Toy Story 4’s purpose is, quite literally, examining purpose. The underlying themes are deep and resonant, just as you’d expect from this franchise. For starters, you can put any fears you may have about Forky to rest; the character is amusing, endearing, and a physical manifestation of the film’s introspective nature. Toy Story 4 is technically “about” Forky, but he’s as much the MacGuffin used to advance the plot in service of exploring Woody’s story than anything else.
In typical Toy Story fashion, the movie will leave you an emotional wreck. The good news here is that, whereas the last film bordered on emotional trauma (and I mean that in the best possible way), Toy Story 4 is more a roller coaster of emotions. The moments that tug at your heartstrings (and there are several) are perfectly balanced against moments of laugh out loud humor.
On that note, it’s easily the funniest Toy Story movie. In addition to the reliable chuckles provided by Buzz, Woody, and friends, it’s the newcomers here who deliver the deep belly laughs. Unsurprisingly, Key and Peele’s carnival prize duo steal every scene they’re in. Likewise, Keanu Reeves’ Duke Caboom and Tony Hale’s Forky provide a lot of laughs. (Fans of Arrested Development or Veep will appreciate the pitch-perfect casting of Forky.)
The general weirdness of it all is itself humorous. This is a very different type of Toy Story movie, but it’s not unharmonious with the rest. There are scenes that teeter between zany fun and over-the-top absurd, but Toy Story 4 always stays on the right side of that balance. There’s some beguiling humor (some of which is seemingly inspired by the Twilight Zone?!), but the writers also realize that Toy Story 4 contains heavy material that deserves appropriate treatment.
While I never felt the pace and chaos were too much, I wouldn’t have been averse to Toy Story 4 being about 20 minutes longer. It would’ve provided a bit more breathing room, and also could’ve given a bit more screen time to the legacy supporting cast, many of whom have cursory treatment and only a few lines.
In the end, that’s arguably a good thing. Sure, it’s disappointing for fans not to spend more time with their favorite characters, but the point is that Toy Story 4 is not simply a victory lap. (At times, the movie appears made with acute awareness of both its own existence and its themes. It’s curiously self-aware.)
With Toy Story 4, there are real stakes, meaningful growth, and the story ends in a very different place than it began. I’d say this is the fitting conclusion to the Toy Story series, but there’s also a note of uncertainty. After this outing, I’ll trust in the Pixar braintrust; if they have a strong idea in mind for Toy Story 5, I’m ready for it.
In terms of what’s happening at Walt Disney World right now in celebration of Toy Story 4…surprisingly little. There are a few desserts on the various counter service restaurant menus and a couple of new props in Toy Story Land.
The Forky pictured above is now on display in Toy Story Land, and it isn’t clear whether he’ll be used for meet & greets in the future. It’d be cool and unique if Woody “struggled” to prevent Forky from jumping into a nearby trash can.
There’s also a Bo Peep meet & greet character in Toy Story Land. When I first saw promotional images of her, it gave me a flashback to the Fairy Godmother character at Tokyo Disneyland. Sarah likes the meet & greet character a lot more (and loved Bo Peep’s role in the film), so perhaps I’m off-base. I guess the big difference here is that it’s a porcelain toy with a glossy meet & greet face, rather than a human character with that appearance.
As we covered in our recent Disney’s Hollywood Studios Update, a new ‘pop-up’ gift ship opened in the exit of Toy Story Mania. You’ll find a bunch of Toy Story 4 merchandise, including a slew of other items. Here’s a fun video of what’s far and away my favorite:
Remember how it was a trend a few years ago to yell “Andy’s Coming!” around the Woody and Buzz Lightyear meet & greet characters at Walt Disney World? The characters did it once, it went viral online, and then you couldn’t stand in line for more than a few minutes without hearing a random guest yell “Andy’s Coming!” It got so bad we even addressed it in our Mythbusters: Walt Disney World Editionpost.
There are actually a lot of cool new things for Toy Story 4, including the following:
That’s really about it. Hopefully Walt Disney World will make some more Toy Story 4 additions to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Not only because the land could use a nice boost, but because the film is sure to be a smash hit, and several of the new characters are going to become instant favorites. Just leave out those living dummies and Talky Tina–or put them in Tower of Terror!
Are you looking forward to Toy Story 4 or are you likewise incredulous about the movie’s very existence? If you’ve seen it, do you agree or disagree with our review? Wish Disney would do more with Toy Story Land and the new movie? Thoughts on the “someone’s coming!” Woody and Buzz Lightyear toys? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!