Toy Story 4, 2019.
Directed by Josh Cooley.
Featuring the voice talents of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, Jeff Pidgeon, and Bonnie Hunt.
When a new toy called “Forky” joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.
I would have been content if Toy Story 3 had remained the capstone to that trilogy. It gave a nice arc to Woody’s story, from his naïve idealism to his temptation to give up his mission to his mature realization that sometimes it’s okay to let go and understand that you did everything that was asked of you. There were plenty of callbacks and other narrative tricks, and the end of the third film felt like he was complete.
But leave it to the folks at Pixar to go back to the well one more time and come up with a story that could now serve as a capstone to Woody’s journey (maybe?). We’ll see what Toy Story 5 serves up, if it happens, but for now, I’ll admit I found the conclusion to Toy Story 4 just as satisfying as the ending of the third installment. Yeah, I’m a grown-up who appreciates movies about toys, but I challenge anyone who laughs at that to dig a bit deeper into what those films are trying to say. There’s a lot in there that any adult can relate to, believe it or not.
Toy Story 4 begins where the third film ended. Woody and the toys belong to Bonnie, and a flashback reveals not only the origin of RC but also Bo Peep’s willingness to risk herself to help save a lost toy with Woody – it’s a nice layer to a character who had previously doted on Woody and not done much else. In the modern day, though, Woody has mostly been neglected by Bonnie, and he feels rudderless.
He finds a renewed sense of purpose in trying to help Forky, a toy Bonnie made from a spork and various other materials. Forky thinks he’s trash, not a toy, and Woody keeps trying to save him from throwing himself away. On a vacation with Bonnie’s family, Forky and Woody become separated from everyone else and the cowboy discovers Bo Peep, who has spent the past several years helping reunite lost toys with their owners.
While Bo tries to help Forky and Woody get back to Bonnie’s family, the rest of the toys set out in search of their lost comrades. They end up in a nearby carnival, where Buzz Lightyear becomes a prize and escapes with help from two plush toys that have been stuck there for years. The three are joined by Canadian stuntman toy Duke Caboom, who’s voiced by Keanu Reeves and steals the movie from everyone else.
Meanwhile, Woody and Bo stumble across a creepy antique store that gives the movie a gothic horror vibe, complete with a decades-old doll who runs the place and uses ventriloquist dummies as security. Eventually, of course, the two groups of toys reunite and the story builds to a bittersweet ending.
This Blu-ray release features two high-def platters, one for the film and another for the bonus features, although there are three extras on the movie disc. A DVD with the movie and a code for a digital copy are also included. The bonus features include:
- Audio commentary: Pixar commentaries are typically very good and in-depth, and director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen don’t disappoint here. They cover pretty much everything you’d want to know, from the decision o make Bo Peep a central character to the technical details of a franchise whose installments have charted the course of digital animation. It may be hard to believe, but the first Toy Story movie hit theaters in 1995 and made history as the first full-length CGI film. While its animation may pale against what’s possible today, its story still holds up.
- Bo Rebooted (6 minutes): Found on the movie disc, this featurette discusses the decision to do more with a character who was a sidebar in the first two movies and then disappeared in the third.
- Toy Stories (5.5 minutes): Also on the film platter, this one has the cast and crew reminiscing about their favorite toys.
- Let’s Ride with Ally Maki (5.75 minutes): Maki voices Giggles McDimples, a tiny toy police officer who lives inside one of those fold-up worlds that were all the rage with kids a while back. (Maybe they still are, but my kids are older.) Maki explains the voice recording process, with help from Cooley and others.
- Woody and Buzz (3.5 minutes): Their relationship is a minor note in this movie, but the bond between them remains strong, and Buzz plays a pivotal role in Woody’s fateful decision at the end. This piece covers their experiences in Toy Story 4.
- Anatomy of a Scene: Playground (9.5 minutes): This is the kind of thing Pixar has always been great at; I wish they would do more of it in the Blu-ray era, since it was one of their strengths during the halcyon DVD days. This featurette stars members of the crew working through the scene where Woody and Bo Peep reunite, examining everything from the scenery to little character moments. Would-be animators should watch this a few times.
- Carnival Run and View From the Top (1.5 minutes): Two views of the carnival, one from a toy’s perspective at ground level and the other from a nearby rooftop. It showcases what goes into creating a set for an animated movie these days.
- Toy Box (13 minutes): This one covers all the new characters: Gabby Gabby (the old doll with the ventriloquist dummies), Forky, Duke Caboom, Ducky and Bunny (the two carnival prizes who escape), and Giggle McDimples.
- Deleted scenes (28 minutes): Cooley introduces six scenes deleted from the movie, including an alternate ending. They’re worth watching to see how Pixar ruthlessly follows that “kill your darlings” principle: No matter how good a scene might be, and there are some great ones in here, they need to be cut if they don’t properly service the story. It’s easy to see how Cooley and company agonized over cutting some of this stuff.
A batch of trailers and promos round out the disc. All the bonus stuff is included in the digital copy too, along with two more items: an examination of the opening sequence and a deleted scene that features an alternate opening. Yes, that alternate opening, as good as it would have been, also demonstrates how Pixar is willing to cast aside something that doesn’t work in favor of something that does, even if the eventual winner isn’t as flashy.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★