Toy Story 4: the sequel that everyone said wasn’t needed, but boy is it good! Back in 1995, Pixar wowed audiences – and changed cinema forever – with the release of Toy Story, the first feature film made purely of CGI animation. What they presented to the world was simply groundbreaking. Twenty-four years later, they’ve done it again: Toy Story 4 is a beautiful piece of cinema, with Pixar is pushing limits once more.
This new Toy Story begins with Woody’s (Tom Hanks) new owner Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) bringing home Forky (Tony Hale), a hand-made toy made of rubbish who doesn’t quite get that he is a toy. While on a road trip with Bonnie, Forky jumps from the van leaving Woody with no other option but to jump after him, and return Forky to Bonnie. On his journey to rescue Forky, however, Woody reunites with Bo Peep (Annie Potts) – and her sheep – and for the first time starts to consider the possibility that Bonnie may no longer need him…
Unlike the previous films in the franchise, Toy Story 4 clearly focuses solely on Woody, with a relatively small narrative for Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of the gang. Dedicated fans who want to enjoy roughly equal time with all the characters may be disappointed, but in story terms it works perfectly well, and doesn’t leave you wanting more. As a side-note, the film does include a touching tribute to Mr Potato Head voice actor Don Rickles (who sadly passed away in 2017) by including lines performed by him in character, taken from the Pixar film and videogame back catalogue.
Like the incredible animation throughout – such as Dragon the cat, which is impossibly lifelike and a million miles from Sid’s dog in the original Toy Story – the storytelling within this piece is utterly beautiful, particularly with regards to the ending. Without going into spoiler territory, the end wraps up the whole franchise in a way that none of its predecessors did. Although many people may claim Toy Story 3 has a perfect ending, I would argue that it was merely a placeholder, with enough room to create a sequel if necessary (which is exactly what has happened). This time, however, there is a definite end.
Like Monsters University before it – which used the idea that most of the target audience of Monsters Inc. had subsequently progressed onto further education in the intervening years – the film also reflects the continuing lives of the franchise’s audience. With Toy Story 4, it’s a little more subtle and poignant: the film sees Woody having to accept that his time looking after Bonnie is through, and he must move on to the next chapter of his life, just like how many of the parents of the children who grew up watching the original film – released some 24 years earlier – are having to let their children go their own way, as they move past the age where they need parenting. As a personal note, back in 1999, Toy Story 2 was the first film I got to see in the cinema, and now – twenty years later, at the grand old age of 22 – I can see parallels between my mother and Woody as she has to step back from her leading role as parent.
I can only find two (very minor) faults with the film. One is the arrangement of a scene that appears to be a ‘three-camera setup’; two of the shots have a shallow depth of field, while the third has a deep depth of field. This is somewhat distracting and pulls you out of the scene a tad. The other fault is a slight continuity issue which, although small enough to not notice at first, once you do see it, you realise that the first 10 minutes of the film are pretty much pointless.
Disney is having a strong year this year, and this is only their second release. Sandwiched between the highly praised live-action remake of Aladdin released last month and their next release, the highly anticipated CGI-remake of The Lion King, Toy Story 4 does not disappoint.
Toy Story 4 is out now in cinemas nationwide. It is available to pre-order on blu-ray and DVD from Amazon.co.uk