At the end of Toy Story 3, Woody and the other toys escaped a fiery doom and discovered a new home with Andy’s younger next door neighbor Bonnie. Their life of play and imagination would continue ad infinitum and beyond. All was right in the world. What more could Pixar possibly have to say about the characters and the world of this franchise?
The announcement of Toy Story 4 was met with skepticism and hope. These were the characters that launched Pixar and revolutionized an entire industry. Astonishingly, each sequel seemed to improve on the last entry. A trilogy is an accepted number to go out on, and a fourth film could only jeopardize our fondness for Andy’s childhood heroes.
Why do we ever doubt Pixar? The first teaser trailer for Toy Story 4 not only puts a great big smile on my face but also hints at how this series can evolve and still speak to the essential aspects of human growth.
“Both Sides Now” by Judy Collins is a symphony of joy to the slow-motion bliss of an interlocked Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Mr. Potato Head, and the rest. Their hands are clasped in unison, and they are frolicking against that iconic cloud-dotted blue sky background. This is where we left them off, a parade of careless delight. Not a worry in the world. We stepped out of the theater confident that their story had a happy ending.
That’s when we see him. Forky. An abomination that doesn’t belong and he knows it. The malformed spork with glued on googly eyes and a strand of twisted pipe cleaner for arms screams amongst the chain of friends, “I don’t belong here!” The creature breaks free from their grip, shattering serenity, and causing a domino effect of tumbling toys.
With the teaser and the first images of Forky (voiced by Arrested Development’s Tony Hale), Pixar has announced the basic plot of the film. After coming to terms with Buzz, Woody has never doubted his status as the leader of the posse. What is there to possibly question? Whether serving Andy or Bonnie, his priority has always been the happiness of children. However, when Bonnie introduces Forky, an impossible being of pure imagination, into their clan, Woody’s concept of the universe is shaken. Now, add the extra anxiety of a road trip adventure, and Toy Story 4 promises another shakeup for the series.
There are no endings in Hollywood. We should stop expecting them and be grateful that Pixar, for the most part, understands how to keep their creations in perpetual motion. Just as the introduction of Jessie in Toy Story 2 and Lotso’s Sunnyside daycare in Toy Story 3 rattled Woody’s foundation and celebrated the pleasures and agony of childhood transition, Forky will reveal another crucial lesson on the road to adulthood.
Not every toy needs a brand. Remember when Legos were just chunks of multicolored brick? Now every set comes with a phone book thick set of instructions and an end goal of an MCU vehicle. The Lego Movie took on those two warring ideals, and now it’s Pixar’s turn. We all miss the days when a pet rock was all we needed to occupy our mind, and Forky is a solid reminder to both the kids and the adults in the audience that we hold the power to our own experience.