On June 21st, the fourth and what looks to be the final installment of the Toy Story series comes out in theaters and it might be the best one yet. Toy Story 4 breathes a new life into the franchise by diving into new beginnings and leaning toward the unknown.
Aesthetically it’s also very different from its predecessors. It trades in the traditional light blues and bright reds for gold highlights and rustic browns. It’s an intentional switch in theme that supports the arc’s aging. It’s also a movie for the Andy era kids that saw the first movie in theaters and those Bonnie Era kids that are new to the franchise and well, the world.
I can say for sure, this film packs the biggest laughs and biggest heart out of all of the others. We open on Woody, trying to find value in himself. Which is A LOT for a kids movie but like I said, it’s in service of both eras of kid life. This is also the first time we’ve really gotten to dive into the emotional landscape of one of the characters. The plot is usually kid-centered, it’s usually about keeping Andy happy or safe but this film asks what do we do when there is no Andy?
So at the top, Woody is struggling with what it means to be useful. He’s being phased out of Bonnie’s play cycle and has to figure out what his life is outside of being the favorite toy. And without spoiling the entire film I can say that an overarching theme in the piece, the idea of self-worth is linked to what you can do.
My favorite part of the film? Seeing diversity in the animation. In Bonnie’s classroom, there’s a shot to establish the setting and within it, you see a black girl. It was quick but that‘s the only time I can recall seeing a person of color in a Pixar film outside of The Incredible and Coco. And it was a point they were trying to make, she was just there and that was great to see.
Often, you’ll see a sequel or another installment of a franchise and none of the characters grow. It’s the biggest killer of these movies but this one manages to escape that. Buzz’s growth and development of his “inner voice” is both the most genius and ingenious use of characters and their backgrounds I’ve ever seen. It’s possibly one of the best arcs in the film and actually illustrates his growth throughout the movie.
The newest and best additions are Key and Peele’s characters, Ducky and Bunny. The duo’s comedic skills transfer well to animation and are responsible for the biggest laughs in the Toy Story 4. The set adds a comedic element that I don’t know has ever been present in a Pixar movie like this. They offer true gut cramping laughs in a kids movie and that’s an accomplishment!
As a kid that’s grown up watching Pixar movies, it’s also just cool to see the animation quality get better with every film. The textures and shadowing of this movie are out of this world. It might be Disney’s most impressive feat yet. They’ve gone the extra mile with the color grading and layers they’ve built into the creation of these characters. My favorite part? This might be the first toy story where you can see what material each toy is made of. You can clearly see the plastic that Rex is made out of and the plush on Ducky and Bunny, it’s just so beautiful!
At the end of the film, you see that Toy Story 4 is a love letter to new beginnings. With one of the main motifs of the film is letting go and saying goodbye, it’s very explicit in the story it’s telling. While you’ll have an inkling of where the story ends, you’ll still ugly cry like I did. I’ll go on record to say “Toy Story 4” is the best Pixar movie made so far. And with that Toy Story 4 is out now! Grab your family and get tickets nationwide June 21, 2019!