23 June 2019 | aciessi
To Infinity and Beyond.
Toy Story. The animated franchise that has defined me as a filmgoer, filmmaker and writer. I'm turning 24 next month, and Toy Story has damn-near been in my life for all of those years.
The first film was released on Thanksgiving of 1995. I was 4 months old, sleeping in cribs, without any indication of what movies where, or for that matter, any kind of entertainment. But little did I know it would be the first film I would ever watch. The VHS was released the year after, and as I was learning to walk, talk and play, Toy Story played in the background. Something inside me clicked while I watched it. I was enchanted by it's world of make-believe. A world of talking toys. What more could a little kid want? My mother swears that I knew every line of dialogue from the film by the time I was 2 years old. Woody and Buzz where my bread and butter. I had both of them as toys of my own. To me, I was no different than Andy, because Andy was every kid in the world. What Toy Story so astoundingly captured was the bond between a child and his toy. It's unmistakeable and iconic. Needless to say, Toy Story was the family film we never knew we needed, as as a feat of technological genius, one of the finest films ever made.
Toy Story 2 was released 4 years later. By that time, I was old enough to see it in a theater. I'm happy to tell you that I still haven't forgotten the memory of seeing it nearly 20 years ago. My parents took me, and I took my Woody doll with me. We went on a cold and snowy November afternoon. I placed Woody next to me in my seat as the theater lights dimmed to darkness. We loved it. Not to mention, not a single dry eye in that audience during Jessie's ballad, "When She Loved Me". But from that experience, I vividly remember leaving Woody behind in the theater, and we had to drive all the way back to retrieve it. Life imitates art.
The gap between Toy Story 2 and 3 was 11 years. That's an eternity to a child. That's your entire elementary and middle school years in the books. I had enough Pixar movies in between to hold me over. By the time Toy Story 3 was released in the summer of 2010, I was already finished with my freshman year of high school. This time, I didn't see it in theaters, and I still don't know the reason. Was I going through a phase? Was I becoming cynical? Did i think I outgrew the material? Lord knows. I watched it when it premiered on cable later that year. That same spirit still stuck with me. The trilogy was complete, the toys left Andy and there was nothing else left to say.. or so we thought.
Toy Story 4 is here. I wouldn't blame you if you feel weary about that. If ever there was a film franchise that shouldn't be milked to death and exploited until every last capital of it has been exhausted, you are looking at it. To even justify a fourth installment, they needed to work hard and get it right. The weekend isn't over and the jury is still out, but i have my verdict. Toy Story 4 is necessary and beautiful. To all fans of the series and any fan of animation, drop what you are doing and see this now. This is worth an hour and change of watching non-streamable content. This is how cinema lives on in the year 2019. For me, as a grown man, this brings it all full circle.
We pick up right where we left off, with the toys belonging to little Bonnie. Still going on grand adventures in the bedroom. It's the first day of kindergarten for Bonnie, and she's too shy and scared to make any friends. Lucky for her, Woody comes to rescue and provides her with supplies to make her own friend. From there, we meet Forky. The product of what happens when toys play God. He's a stick figure made out of a spork, with a serious existential crisis. He keeps throwing himself in the trash. That's right, Forky is suicidal. You couldn't have a Pixar movie without throwing in a little dark social commentary. Bonnie and her parents take a road trip to an amusement park and the toys come with. But Woody gets carried away while guarding the troubled Forky. Woody and Forky get left behind after another episode, and vow to catch up to the park in the morning. As they walk into town, a vintage antique store catches Wood's eye with memorabilia attributed to Bo Peep, the toy that got away long, long ago. The antique store is filled with lost, abandoned toys, including a lonely girl doll named Gabby Gabby who's only friends are creepy ventriloquist dummies who stand upright on their own.. yeah, they are just as creepy as they sound. Forty is captured and Woody escapes the store. He lands in a nearby playground filled with even more abandoned toys, where he is reunited with none other than Bo Peep. It's been a long time since Woody has seen her and she's gotten a 2019 upgrade since. She's a swashbuckling badass now, accompanied with her tiny adorable sidekick, Officer Giggle McDimples. Woody and Bo join forces with Buzz , two smart-ass plush toys (voiced by Key and Peele) and a Canadian daredevil biker (voiced by Keanu Reeves) to save Forky and return him in one piece to Bonnie.
I could gush about this film for hours. First, on a technical level, Toy Story 4 is the most gorgeous looking film of the series. You can see every scratch, blemish and texture on every toy. Gone are the awkward polygons and fuzzy graphics of the Windows 95' generation. I was captivated by everything, from the photo realistic backgrounds to the shining reflective porcelain that gleams off of Bo Peep. It's as sharply funny as any of the Toy Story films, with enough adult asides to keep anyone in the audience from being alienated. It brings the series to an appropriate end that, while wasn't entirely necessary after the third film, concludes the journey of Woody and friends in a totally satisfying way.
Do I envision watching Toy Story 5 at 40 years old? Or 6 at 60? I don't know, but if indeed they are in the works, and if they are as lovely as all 4 previous films have been, I'll warmly invite the opportunities to see more. These movies awesome. To infinity and beyond.