Released: 20th June
Seen: 20th June
The world of animation in 1995 was a very different place. Hand drawn animation ruled the land, the Disney Renaissance was in full swing and the only CGI you ever saw was used to enhance 2D work. This was mostly because CGI was still early in its development and no one really knew what to do with this toy. Sure there were little short films popping up, but no one really tried to make a feature-length film with this brand new tool until a little company called Pixar told the story of a pull-string cowboy who had to deal with an astronaut coming into his space and propelling him on an adventure. Toy Story set a standard that every CGI animated film would have to try to compete with for years to come, it became the highest grossing film of 95 and spawned two sequels. The second film would be the third highest grossing of 1999 and then in 2010 the third film would come out and be top of the box office. Every film in the franchise has received overwhelming critical acclaim, part three even taking home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Of every franchise that Pixar has done, this is the one they’ve gotten right every time and the ending of part three felt like a nice end to the series. The toys were given to a girl named Bonnie in a sequence that was designed to make everyone watching cry like a baby and we were sure that we’d only see Woody and Buzz in the occasional cameo or TV special… and then the company realised that they really liked money so they went and made the fourth film because they wanted to make more money. Luckily, they actually put in the hard work to make sure that they would actually deserve the money they were going to be earning.
Toy Story 4 begins with a flashback that explains where Bo Peep (Annie Potts) was during the events of Toy Story 3 (Spoilers: She got sold to a mysterious man who never pops up again) and then quickly leaps forward to Bonnie’s first day at Kindergarten. Even though he’s not supposed to go along, Woody (Tom Hanks) sneaks into Bonnie’s backpack and goes with her to school to try and help make sure she gets through the day. While at kindergarten, Bonnie ends up creating a toy of her own out of a spork, googly eyes and pipe cleaners and names him Forky (Tony Hale). Forky, on the other hand, doesn’t believe that he’s a toy. Forky is adamant that he’s trash (relatable) and keeps trying to throw himself in the garbage which forces Woody to work overtime to make sure Forky doesn’t get to throw himself away. Of course Forky, being the kind of trash we all aspire to be, ends up managing to throw himself out of the family RV when Bonnie’s parents take them on vacation. Woody follows and so he must help Forky make it through his existential crisis. He must do this while reuniting with Bo Peep, who is now a lost toy, and dealing with a desperate dolly who wants to take Woody’s voice box… you know, simple stuff really.
Considering how perfect the ending of Part 3 was, Pixar had their work cut out for them just trying to justify this film even existing in the first place. Luckily, this film does that within the first minute. That same charm and warmth that flowed through the original films is still here and it’s as comforting as ever. The instant the opening notes of You’ve Got A Friend In Me start playing, a smile is plastered on my face and it didn’t go anywhere for the next 90 minutes. Every single moment of the film is a delight, visually stunning from top to bottom and packed with so much comedy that I don’t know how they fit so many jokes into the film. They slipped jokes into the characters names, if you read the character names in the credits there are some gems there. There’s also so much heart, so much sweetness, everything one could expect out of a Toy Story film is here and it’s amazing.
Every new character fits in beautifully to the world that we know and love. Forky is a genuine delight, every time he hopped into a garbage can I couldn’t stop giggling from the silliness of the moment. The villain, Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), is intimidating but also heartbreaking in a way that makes her possibly the most well-rounded antagonist out of any of these films. Ducky and Bunny (Key and Peele) are a genuinely hilarious pair of sidekicks who easily get the biggest laughs in the film so effortlessly that I wonder how much of what they did was just the two actors ad libbing. The real scene stealer is easily Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) who not only just has some great physical comedy moments, but gets his own delicious tragic back story that comments on how toy advertisements are a load of crap. Every cast member does some of their best work and be it the jokes or the serious moments, everybody made sure to bring their A game.
The heart of the film is in the relationship between Bo and Woody, which had always been relegated to the side but now finally gets to take centre stage and it’s what makes this film work. Sure, I would’ve gleefully sat through an hour of a talking spork adamantly stating that he’s trash because that is the most relatable thing I’ve seen in a cinema, but seeing Bo Peep reach up to adjust Woody’s hat is so pure that I found myself welling up with happiness. The two of them bounce off each other effortlessly, be it with jokes or back-story or romance. Their relationship is what makes this movie special and really makes it warrant existing after how perfectly the last one ended.
Toy Story 4 is as amazing as you would expect it to be and then some. Everything you’ve come to expect from Toy Story is here, just heightened enough to make it feel fresh. It’s no small feat to bring back this franchise and make it feel like it never went away but that’s exactly what they did. Once again Pixar brings the audience back to their childhoods and once again I felt that happy child inside me bouncing joyfully as the movie played on. I don’t know what will happen next for Toy Story, but if this is how they end this franchise then they made sure to go out on top.