Same Old Toy Story
Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows takes a look at Disney*Pixar’s Toy Story 4, out in UK and US cinemas now…
Toy Story 4
Director: Josh Cooley
Voices: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Christina Hendricks. Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves, Joan Cusack
Nine years have passed since Toy Story 3 was released and things have changed at Pixar. Even though that was released after the takeover by Disney, Toy Story 3 still felt like it was very much part of the Lasseter period of the company. Of course, now Lasseter is persona non gratis at Pixar and so Toy Story 4, like Incredibles 2, is part of what comes next after their founder is basically out of the door.
The strength of Pixar was always its ingenuity and its ability to create fresh animated films telling new stories. The best of Pixar movies were films like Up, Incredibles and the three Toy Story films. Sequels were rare because Pixar didn’t want to return to the familiar but release something new. The two Toy Story sequels worked because they found something different to be said about the characters and the situations. So now we have a fourth Toy Story film with the return of much-loved figures like Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). The toys are now living with little girl Bonnie and when Bo Peep (Annie Potts) goes on a roundtrip, Woody and co are forced to leave the familiar surroundings of home when new toy Forky, Bonnie’s plaything she made of pipe cleaners, goes missing. We are introduced to female baby toy Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her pair of ventriloquist dummy henchmen, a toy with seemingly sinister plans.
Director Josh Cooley has made his name directing shorts before this and Toy Story 4 is his longform animated debut. There is a problem with Toy Story 4, an inevitable one. The longer you keep telling the same story with slightly different protagonists, the greater the danger you have of simply repeating yourself. Hanks and Allen still have great chemistry as Woody and Buzz Lightyear but I am not quite sure how strong the tale of Woody looking for a new direction in his life is for viewers. I am also not sure just how well-delineated new toy Forky is either. On the upside, Keanu Reeves is fantastic as Canadian Evel Knievel figure Duke Caboom and Hendricks is suitably sinister as manipulative mastermind Gabby Gabby. However, the film does feel as if it’s motivated by a desire on Disney*Pixar’s part purely to keep the franchise alive for monetary gain. It has already broken animation box office records as I write this, taking $238m worldwide.
Pixar used to be known as an animation studio who took chances and created memorable characters. With Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4, they are now a place which coasts on past glories, offering faded photocopies of those glories. A fifth Toy Story is guaranteed now but I do miss the Pixar of old with the likes of Up, Wall-E and Monsters Inc showcasing new ideas and new characters. It’s not that Toy Story 4 is bad per se but it’s a watered-down version of the franchise formula which is sad when you think that all three of its progenitors had something fresh and new to offer audiences.
Here’s the film’s trailer as well