“Toy Story,” the beloved series that feeds its audience’s imagination by bringing the toys of their childhood to life, released its fourth movie Thursday. While “Toy Story 4” helps viewers continue the storyline from the 1995 classic, it stretches the saga too far.
The “Toy Story” ensemble should’ve stopped after the second movie. After getting the Jessie to our Woody, the series was set. But these last two movies drag out the plot and stray from the first film and its sequel’s style.
This was likely due to the change in directors. The first two movies were directed by John Lasseter, a star in film making. Lasseter, the co-founder of Pixar, was previously the former chief creative officer for Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disneytoon Studios. He also directed “A Bug’s Life” and the “Cars” movies, and was an executive producer for “Frozen,” “Incredibles 2,” “Finding Dory” and more.
While Lasseter was an executive producer for “Toy Story 3,” the director was Lee Unkrich. As for “Toy Story 4,” Lasseter helped create the story and was supposed to direct the film alongside Josh Cooley until Lasseter left Pixar due to sexual harassment reports. As a viewer who noticed a style change that was impossible to ignore in the latter two movies, I can’t help but credit it to Lasseter’s role change and later absence.
As with all the “Toy Story” movies, the toys set out on an adventure that holds them back from returning to their child owner. “Toy Story 4” drags out the potential reunion with obstacles that seem irritating come the last portion of the movie.
The movie centers around two characters, one old and one new: Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and Forky (Tony Hale), a spork toy that Bonnie makes at kindergarten orientation.
While a spork is a rather odd character to add to the plot, Disney does well in acknowledging its peculiarity. Where the spork loses its appeal is with its absurd obsession with trash. Since Bonnie makes the toy out of garbage scraps, it feels at home there and continually tries to hurl itself into nearby trash. While this is hysterical at first, it quickly becomes slightly annoying.
Forky, however, captures the childhood obsessions we’ve all experienced in some way or another. Forky is Bonnie’s new favorite toy, and while this may be nothing more than a phase, Woody transforms into an almost parental figure for Bonnie, by making sure nothing happens to the spork and therefore, her happiness. His actions parallel those of a parent who goes to any length for their child.
The first scene, a flashback to Woody’s days with Andy alongside Bo Peep, alludes to Bo Peep’s later inclusion. This scene, while slightly confusing with its transition from Andy’s room to Bonnie’s, is comforting for fans of the original “Toy Story.”
Woody later reunites with Bo, except Bo isn’t the same. The figurine itself is designed differently than the original, making her look like a different toy. She has a new outfit, but that can be explained by a simple change of clothes. The same explanation doesn’t fit for her complexion, eye and hair changes.
Her new wardrobe is essential to the plot though. Bo trades her hoop skirt for a pair of pants to create a Rosie the Riveter look. Her attitude changes too. She’s the cliche of a tough, independent woman who wanders the streets as a lost toy instead of waiting on a shelf for someone to buy her and love her.
I applaud the film’s message and Disney for focusing on the importance of female roles in its recent films such as “Frozen,” “Aladdin” and this newest “Toy Story,” but it seemed out of place based on the previously developed Bo Peep character. Disney is simply trying too hard by recreating this porcelain figure. For me, nostalgia won out despite my strong beliefs in female empowerment.
Part of the “Toy Story” saga’s appeal is the lovable toys who remind viewers of their childhoods. But this movie includes toys beyond a slightly terrifying plush bear named Lotso. It adds creepy ventriloquist dummies known as the Bensons who serve Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a doll that might as well be straight out of a Chucky movie. If these toys shook me up, I can only imagine the nightmares for the under-10 crowd in the audience.
Two of the new characters though, stand out through their humor — Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele). While these two carnival plush toys look a little out of place among the traditional “Toy Story” toys, this becomes irrelevant as soon as they join the group with their non-stop comedic play-by-play commentary.
Despite the details that’ll inevitably annoy older Disney fans, the movie still has some reviving qualities. It plays on emotions and captures a part of reality and growing up that many relate to with its underlying message.
With that being said though, the ending still leaves a sad, sour taste. Good luck not crying at the final scene — it’s 10 times more heart-wrenching than when Andy gives Woody away.
Contact Shanna Kelly at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.