The Toy Story movies are essentially perfect films, with the original revolutionizing animation. They’re well-written, funny, and showcase characters dealing with very complex emotions. With the release of Toy Story 4, many people have found themselves asking if it was necessary. Toy Story 3 ended the series perfectly, so why make another one? What story is left to tell? Can the ending of this one top the ending of the previous movie? I’m here to explore whether Toy Story 4 is a cash-grab or if it truly added to the beloved franchise.
Toy Story 4 offers some of the best animation ever seen in Hollywood history. It’s unbelievably well-detailed. The scuff marks on Buzz Lightyear’s head, paint chipping off of toys, and the fabric on clothing were all exceptionally vivid. There’s a cat in the movie that looks like a real cat. There’s also a shot of the outside of an antique shop that looks like a photograph of a real one. The fluidity of each character’s movement is just as impressive. It must have taken an extreme amount of work to animate each scene.
This is definitely one of the funniest Toy Story movies. Some of the new characters, like Ducky, Bunny, and Duke Kaboom, add a lot of humor to the film. Each character has their own style of humor, which adds a lot to their personality. There’s an especially funny recurring joke throughout the movie where Buzz keeps pressing his voice buttons and thinks it’s his “inner voice” talking to him. A gag that I particularly enjoyed involved Bonnie’s father trying to drive an RV that the toys are messing with, causing him to get into trouble with the police. There’s a style of humor for everyone, whether you like sarcasm, dry humor, silliness, or slapstick.
The movie’s antagonist is one of the better ones in the series. Others, like Stinky Pete or Sid, are just there to be an obstacle for the heroes. Gabby Gabby, however, has some depth to her. The film’s writers did a fantastic job at making you really feel for her. She proves to be a huge threat to the heroes while also being relatable and having a good reason to do what she’s trying to do. Not only does the movie give her the comeuppance she deserves, but she also has a satisfying redemption arc. It’s certainly a nice change of pace from the last minute surprise villains Disney has been using in all of their movies as of late.
This is another animated film that proves that there needs to be a Best Voice Acting Performance category at the Academy Awards. Tom Hanks, Annie Potts, Tim Allen, Keanu Reeves, and the rest of the cast give shockingly impressive performances that really bring these characters to life. The level of emotion added to the characters by these actors make them feel like real people. I often forgot who the actors even were and only saw them as their characters while watching it.
The directing of Toy Story 4 was a thing of beauty. Each shot was a visual masterpiece that told its own story. There was a lot of attention to background detail throughout. The action happening on screen was well-choreographed and well-thought out, making the movie feel like a thrill ride for most of it.
Toy Story 4 gets pretty emotional. It’s not quite as emotional as Toy Story 3, but I’ll admit it made me tear up. The ending was bitter-sweet and one that I would have never expected to see happen when watching the past Toy Story movies. I completely understand why Tom Hanks had to turn away from the crew when recording the lines for the final scene.
This was the best possible ending for Woody. He has spent the last three movies doing everything in his power to make Andy or Bonnie happy. It was time he finally did something for himself. This was the only thing left for his character. In the other three films, Woody was still the same character at the end of the story as he was in the beginning. Here, he actually gets character development. It’s satisfying to finally see this character grow.
Woody, Buzz, and Bo Peep get a lot of screen time, and the majority of the remaining screen time is dedicated to new characters. If you want to see more of the Toy Story characters who you know and love, you unfortunately won’t see a lot of them here. Most of the recurring characters are shoved to the side in this movie. They’re there, and serve an important role, but you won’t be seeing a lot of them. I understand the reasons, like some of the voice actors no longer being with us, but it’s still unfortunate.
There’s a minor plot hole regarding the movie’s antagonist, Gabby Gabby. While in the antique store, Giggle McDimples tells the other toys that Gabby Gabby is “bad news.” However, she’s only after a working voice box, which Woody has. We never see her do anything terrible to other toys. In fact, we see her befriend Forky. We see how caring of a character she is when she hears a child crying. Other than wanting Woody’s voice box, we never see how she’s “bad news.” It’s like the movie lies to us to make Gabby Gabby seem more villainous, which isn’t necessary.
In one of the antique shop scenes, there’s a brief appearance by Tinny from the 1988 Pixar short film Tin Toy. Tinny is the one-man band toy with the drum on his back that greets Woody and Bo Peep at the door to where the hidden toys hang out. This was a really nice callback to Pixar’s roots, plus it fits in well with the world of Toy Story.
Randy Newman famously wrote and performed songs for the past Toy Story movies, like “You Got a Friend in Me” in the first film, “When She Loved Me” from the second, and “We Belong Together” in the third. Toy Story 4 is no different. For this one, Randy Newman wrote and performed “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” and wrote “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy” which is sung by Chris Stapleton. I was pleased to hear more music from Newman, as it’s one of the elements that makes Toy Story what it is.
Toy Story 4 has some very minor flaws, but is still an almost perfect movie experience. It may not hit the nostalgia button quite as much as the other installments, but it’s just as spectacular as them. The animation is better than just about anything I’ve ever seen. The story is perfectly crafted. It’s funny, exciting, and emotional. In several years from now, people who see Toy Story 4 as kids will look back on it with just as much nostalgia as I do for the first movie. This film justifies how necessary it is just by being so good. It also does so by capping off Woody’s story arc in a much needed way.