Toy Story 4
By the time a franchise is tacking a 4 onto the end of the title, it is almost always burned out, recycling the same old stuff, the magic long since gone away. This is true even of Pixar, who I had hoped would know better, but they went ahead and made the entirely unnecessary Cars 2 and Cars3. But not this one. I found this entry to be as fresh and inventive and exciting, to have just as much heart as that first masterpiece, 24 years ago.
Woody has been given to young Bonnie when Andy went off to college. This is more than all right with Woody, though he is a little hurt that Bonnie clearly prefers Jessie. Well, of course, they are both girls. Bonnie is terrified of going off to kindergarten, but ends up making her own little toy out of a spork, a broken tongue depressor for feet, mismatched eyes, and some yarn. She called him Forky. But Forky believes he is trash (well, if the tongue depressor fits …) and keeps trying to throw himself away. There is a road trip, and much peril along the way, including a menacing antique store ruled by a talking baby doll who has lost her voice, and is served by a quartet of ventriloquist dummies. They all end up at a traveling carnival, as prizes for one of the pitches. Once again the story is moving, and the visuals are simply stunning. In particular the inside of the shop, and the carny itself, are pure magic.
There is an evolution of sorts going on here, too. The character of Bo-Peep, Woody’s girlfriend, seems to have made a life for herself that doesn’t require a kid to play with her. She is self-sufficient, and quite capable of defending both herself and Woody when they get into trouble. She is experienced, and he is not, having spent the last seven years in the bottom of a toy box while she slips stealthily around the antique shop and carnival. She is voiced by Annie Potts.
So now we come to the issue of Toy Story 5 … No, no one has suggested it, as far as I know. I hope they don’t make one. Maybe I’m superstitious, but it seems to me they shouldn’t push their luck. Don’t let these characters get stale and overly familiar. Tom Hanks, you have done a swell job, as always. But if they approach you again to become Woody, please turn them down. You’ve done enough.