I’m not crying, you’re crying. That’s the way it goes with Disney and Pixar movies, right? The general consensus about the Toy Story trilogy is one of unanimous praise – you only need to look at the Rotten Tomato reviews for that. Where sequels are ordinarily inferior to their predecessors, the Toy Story franchise is one that has managed to stay relevant and strikingly animated over the course of its 24-year history.
So successful it is that the planned finale, 2010’s Toy Story 3, is no longer that. Taking over $1billion worldwide, Disney decided to release another, much to the disdain of many fans and film critics like myself. Why risk ruining something that has meant so much to so many people across the world? Surely another sequel will only taint a franchise that has been practically perfection? In true Disney fashion, they pressed on regardless. But is Toy Story 4 a shameless cash-in?
Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of the gang embark on a road trip with Bonnie and a new toy named Forky (Tony Hale). The adventurous journey turns into an unexpected reunion as Woody’s slight detour leads him to his long-lost friend Bo Peep (Annie Potts). As Woody and Bo discuss the old days, they soon start to realise that they’re worlds apart when it comes to what they want from life as a toy.
Pixar’s track record with sequels is less than stellar. Finding Dory was a paint-by-numbers adventure that relied far too heavily on its predecessor and Cars 2 was a bit of a mess. And with rumours that Disney twisted Pixar’s arm somewhat to get Toy Story 4 to cinemas, things weren’t looking particularly rosy for our merry band of toys. Thankfully though, the studio delivers its best sequel to date in an emotionally effecting and truly comedic entry in their roster of animated flicks.
The voice cast are all on top form here with Tom Hanks providing that warm energy he has exuded for so long. His arc here feels beautifully fleshed out as he comes across new and existing issues throughout the film’s running time. Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear is as endearing as ever and there are some nicely placed call-backs to the original film from 1995 and some cracking chemistry between the two of them.
While the story is a simple one, the primary antagonist, a Chucky-esque female doll called Gabby Gabby, is anything but. In the vein of all great villains, she’s a complex and terrifyingly creepy character with a multi-faceted personality. Her story in Toy Story 4 is one of heartbreak and loss – something which impacts the majority of the newer characters in this instalment, giving a fairly melancholic vibe to the entire picture.
And that brings me to the only real negative in this film. While the new characters, and there are a lot of them, add some new vigour and life to the series, some of our favourites take a backseat, rarely getting more than one or two lines of dialogue throughout. This is a bit of a shame, but a necessary evil to ensure the movie doesn’t tread old ground too much.
Elsewhere, the animation is absolutely exquisite and probably the best to have ever graced the big screen. With this and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, animated films have never looked better and the bar has been set very high indeed. Everything from the glisten in Woody’s eyes to the rope-like fabric of Jessie’s hair is astounding and needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible. There are shots here that wouldn’t look out of place on your living room wall, they are breath-taking.
Of course, the main test of a good Pixar movie is how it makes you feel. And Toy Story 4 delivers heart and humour in spades with a witty script and beautiful send-off to these beloved characters. If Disney makes good on its promise that this IS the final part of a quadrilogy, then they’ve created something very special indeed. We may have lost two animated series’ in 2019, but boy did they go out with a bang.
Now pass me the tissues for god’s sake.