Leading up to the release of Toy Story 4 all I consistently heard was that people didn’t really want another sequel. Many friends approached me and said “I am not actually that excited for Toy Story 4. They ended the franchise so perfectly in the last movie.” Though I think many of those people thought they were contradicting majority culture, I believe that was actually the opinion of most people. We all remember how emotional we were when Andy played with his toys one last time before giving them to Bonnie. It was such a perfect ending, and with it, we all closed the book on the Toy Story franchise. I personally didn’t need, or even really want, the 4th installment. That is the opinion of the majority, and that is why the movie isn’t reaching box office predictions. I finally got a chance to watch Toy Story 4 this weekend in Minneapolis and I was honestly more than satisfied with what I saw. There are spoilers in this review so read on at your own risk.
9 Years Later in Animation Technology
When the original Toy Story came out in 1995 it was the most impressive animated movie ever made and it paved the way for 3D Computer Animation to become the primary form of television and cinematic animation. In 2019, 24 years after the release of the original, it still stands pretty well against the test of time. Pixar release 19 different animated feature films between the release of Toy Story in 1995 and Toy Story 4, and the animation quality seemed to improve with each one. I was amazed by the amount of detail that went into each and every character in Toy Story 4, especially all the human characters. In 1995, it was too expensive to design different character models for human side characters. To get around this they reused Andy’s facial model on a lot of the kids in the background and they just avoided showing faces in general for the adults. This time around all of the human characters have incredibly detailed features.
The toys look amazing as well. From the individual fur strands on Ducky and Bunny to the shine of Bo Peep’s ceramic, it was really fun to see how realistic these characters can look with 2019 technology. Another thing that may not get the recognition it deserves is the lighting of the movie. There were probably close to 10 different levels of lighting used for all different types of scenes in the movie and some of them were particularly impressive. It was incredible how the projected the yellow lighting of the carnival rides in the last scene over all of the black shadows and really made it look authentic.
Upon watching the movie a second time, the scene that really stood out to me was the opening scene with Woody and Bo Peep trying to save RC in the rain. I didn’t think much of it the first time around but in reality, that scene was very much a flex on the old Toy Story movies. Making rain look that realistic was impossible in the 90s and early 2000s and adding the lighting contrasts of the car headlights into the mix really made it all the more impressive. It’s a phenomenal scene, probably the best opening scene of a franchise known for its opening scenes.
Funniest Pixar Movie Ever?
I’m going to leave a question mark over that subheading because I’d really love to hear your opinions on it. As for me, I am going to say yes, Toy Story 4 is the funniest Pixar movie to date. Most of the credit for this goes to clever writing but also I think just the fact that Key & Peele were allowed to pretty much just do what they’ve been doing on TV and Youtube for years played a big part in making this movie hilarious.
Weaker Aspects of the Film
In general, I found Toy Story 4 to have a weaker storyline than Toy Story 3. The conflict with Gabby Gabby wasn’t nearly as compelling as the story presented with Lotso and Sunnyside Daycare. However, I was really drawn in by the internal conflict that Woody experienced throughout the film. He is struggling to come to grips with the idea that he isn’t really needed anymore. Andy is off to college and he isn’t one of Bonnie’s favorite toys, but he really struggles to let go and move on.
Most of our old pals from Andy’s room take a back seat in this go-round. Characters like Jessie, Slinky, Rex, and Hamm don’t have nearly the lines that new characters like Forky and Gabby Gabby do. I wish I had a little more of Buzz and the gang since this is the last movie in the franchise (we assume) but even when they did give Buzz some screentime he seemed a bit off. Buzz was made out to be a little more of an oaf in this go-round and it definitely has received a little backlash. It reminded me a bit of the way Jack Sparrow was portrayed as a stupid drunk in Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man Tell No Tales when in the previous movies you really get to see how clever and crafty he really is. Having watched all of the older Toy Story films last week, it is definitely made clear that Buzz isn’t the smartest toy in the toybox, but they don’t push that envelope as much as they do in this film. Some great comedic moments do come out of Buzz’s obliviousness, but it’s hard not to feel like Buzz was done wrong in this circumstance.
The End of Woody and the Gang (Bring Tissues)
It was always going to be an uphill battle to create a better ending to the franchise than what was created in Toy Story 3. I would love to say that this ending is what we really needed for the franchise and it surpasses that of the previous film but unfortunately, that is just not the case. However, even with a weaker storyline, they manage to create a goodbye that is almost as emotional, but this time the emotion feels a little different. In Toy Story 3 we feel the emotion that the toys are feeling as Andy plays with them one last time. It is a happy moment, but we also know that all the toys get to stay together and look forward to many more years with Bonnie. This time, however, feels more like a true goodbye. It packs enough punch to make this heartless robot tear up (especially the second time around), so I’m confident most of you will need to bring your tissues as well. The whole series has taken place with Woody as the main character and Buzz as his faithful sidekick and best friend. Now Woody realizes that he isn’t needed anymore in the way he used to be, and he can move on to live a life with Bo Peep that he couldn’t 9 years earlier. Of course, that leads to an incredibly sad goodbye with the gang, and most of all, Buzz.
The Best Toy Story Movie Ever?
While I did entertain this question for a while and give it some serious thought, no, Toy Story 4 is not the best of all of the movies in the franchise. I would still give the nod to Toy Story 3 at the moment but it is definitely the second-best of the group. The next question is where will it end up on my Pixar Rankings? So stay tuned for that update in the next few days!