There have been many features to define the animation genre, but few have the prestige as the Toy Story series. The film that kicked off Pixar’s cinematic career has become one of the most successful franchises in movie history. Yet all good things must come to an end and that was the case with the release of Toy Story 3. Toy Story 3 signified the last adventure for Woody and the gang and the ending has been regarded as one of the best sequels of all time. However while Toy Story 3 seemed like a fitting conclusion, it turned out to be not the last time we see the iconic toys on the silver screen thanks to the release of Toy Story 4. The fourth installment has long been speculated and its production has been kept underwraps for many years. Now the movie has made its way to theaters with Josh Cooley making his directorial debut after John Lassiter stepped down from directing the project. For the moment Toy Story 4 is claimed to be the final film in the franchise and if this is the case then I for one find it to be a satisfying ending to the acclaimed animated series.
The plot of Toy Story 4 centers on Woody (Tom Hanks) who finds himself on a new adventure as he helps the newly created Forky (Tony Hale) to understand what it means to be a toy and is reunited with the long lost Bo Peep (Annie Potts). The tale of Toy Story 4 is an enjoyable adventure to say the least. While it may not have the scope of the previous three films, the story remains true to the concepts that have made Toy Story so effective. When it came to themes the likes of creating a toy was hardly touched upon; however the plot made up for this by having a strong moral which was evident in Woody’s personal story. The end result for this plot was an adventurous tale full of entertainment as well as emotion, and in my opinion that was more than enough to live up to the expectations of the Toy Story franchise.
Toy Story has always been filled with memorable characters, and Toy Story 4 was no exception to this. However when it came to the franchise’s most cherished characters, there was little direction for likes of Jessie (Joan Cusack), Rex (Wallace Shawn) and even Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). Yet despite this there were still plenty of character within this colorful cast. In the case of Woody his direction was relatable and Tom Hanks’ performance was just as charismatic as it was in 1995. Equally as impressive was the returning Bo Peep. Annie Potts was in rare form as Bo as she was able to bring a lot of character to her supporting role from previous films. While older characters were pushed aside this did allow the new additions to the Toy Story alumni to shine as along with Forky were the likes of Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), Chicken and Bunny (Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele) and Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves). In their own ways the new characters brought a lot to the cast whether it was having good direction, like Gabby Gabby, or just having show stealing moments like Duke Caboom. Perhaps the most notable attribute to this cast was how easy it was to get behind some of these characters to the point where this element even exceeded the past ensembles of Toy Story; and given this series’ track record that is certainly an accomplishment.
When it comes to animation Toy Story has certainly come along way from 1995. The animation has always been impressive as each film was able to utilize the technology of the times, and Toy Story 4 did just that with its animation. Along with the some beautiful imagery the characters’ designs was a notable trait for the animation as each toy looked more definitive than ever before. The music by Randy Newman was also beneficial factor as the score remained true to the series while creating new compositions that brought new life to Toy Story. The track of Woody and Bo reuniting was particularly good as it expressed so much emotion without either character speaking a word. Rounding things out for this sequel was the film’s sense of humor. The comedy was a delight, particularly the humor between Duck and Bunny, as it was well timed and had significant balance with the movie’s more serious moments.
While I had my concerns going in, it was pleasing to see Toy Story 4 live up to expectation. While the film may not have the grandiose scale of its predecessor it still lives up to the series by being an animated adventure with good storytelling and characters; although in my opinion Toy Story 4 has a more significant ending then even Toy Story 3. If Toy Story 4 is to be ending of this series then I think that the series has ended on a high note, and if nothing else this sequel is indeed a solid animated feature.