OPINION: Why We Should Be Excited for Toy Story 4
It’s here, folks. Randomly, seemingly out of the blue, the Toy Story 4 teaser trailer dropped this past Monday and the internet…well, exploded? I believe that’s the correct terminology.
The use of the word teaser really is crucial when describing this trailer. It shows us very little of the film and instead does what a teaser trailer should: announce the presence of the film to the world. Imagine a man dressing as Buzz Lightyear and standing on top of the Pixar studio offices with a bullhorn, shouting “We’re making a fourth one!” to random passers-by. A wacky stunt, perhaps, but it gets the message across: they’re making a fourth one. This teaser trailer let us know exactly the same information and doesn’t, from what we know at least, put anyone’s life or dignity at risk. It’s the smarter of the two options, obviously.
It’s not all lollipops and rainbows, however. When Toy Story 4 was first announced, there were some feelings of…unease, to say the least, towards it. Toy Story 3 wrapped up the trilogy in a way pretty much all fans consider perfect, why add to it? Well, that’s exactly what they’re doing. It could also be safe to assume that the audience’s at large did not even know there was going to be a Toy Story 4. The amount of times I saw this 90 second trailer shared on Facebook would indicate that no one reads film news and/or the announcement of this film just got lost amongst the daily news cycle of the internet. What I’m saying, in short, is this: There are a lot of people who are not excited about this film, who perhaps deem it unnecessary or don’t want it to tarnish the reputation of the past three films. I am going to briefly explain, maybe even persuade some of you who think otherwise, why we should be excited for Toy Story 4. Keep in mind that, at the end of the day, this is all my opinion. If you come out the tail end of this article still feeling some kind of unease relating to the movie, fair play. I don’t judge. Just don’t judge me when I’m first in line on opening day.
To start, lets look at the actual trailer. Not much is ever revealed in these trailers, usually just the logo. But this trailer has one piece of crucial information: a new character. This new toy, named Forky, is joining the likes of Woody, Buzz, Jessie and the rest of the toys we last saw at the end of the third movie. Forky, can you believe it, is a fork, perhaps spork, with arms made of felt and googly eyes stuck to his “face”. According to a plot synopsis, Forky is a “toy” that Bonnie made from an old, disposable fork and some pipe cleaner. What follows in the trailer, and is backed up by the synopsis, is Forky having an existential crisis.
This sounds ridiculous, in the best way. A toy, having an existential crisis, questioning his own identity. At what point did he gain sentience? Did Bonnie bring him to life? At what point in his existence did he transition from a mere kitchen utensil to a child’s plaything? These are only some of the questions that come to mind, and the sheer ridiculousness of each and every one of them is something that excites me. Based on the trailer, how all the toys start tumbling over each other and breaking into pieces the frame after Forky is visually introduced to us, it’s clear that Forky’s very existence, his existential crisis, is going to cause disruption in the seemingly perfect life Woody and the gang. This disruption will be the driving force behind the film. Woody will come to realize “how big the world is for a toy” and will likely re-evaluate his entire existence. As you do.
I doubt we will ever be told exactly how/what/why the toys possess any sort of sentience, one that wouldn’t sound…well, ridiculous. The fact that the story is going in such a ridiculous, unexpected direction only highlights the fact that we truly have no idea what’s going to happen. So many sequels are derivative, generic. To have no idea where the story is going to go in the fourth installment of an iconic franchise like this, the fact they’re not at all playing it safe…it boggles the mind. In a good way, of course.
Pixar have a very good track record, something we all know. I’m preaching to the choir when I write that, I know. The very studio that revolutionized computer animation twenty plus years ago have gone on to pioneer the technology and push boundaries beyond their limits. Whether it’s the fur on Sully’s back in Monsters Inc, or the rippling, realistic water effects in Finding Nemo. The animation is constantly breath-taking. The storytelling is just as good, however. They don’t just make pretty films that are all style and no substance. Wall-E showcases breath taking animation and visual story telling during the famous space dance scene, but also showcases masterful visual storytelling during the scenes in which Wall-E meanders around the abandoned city. We learn all we need to know about Wall-E during these opening scenes, and not a single word of dialogue is uttered.
Not every Pixar film is a hit. They’ve made a few mis-steps. The Cars sequels. The Good Dinosaur. Brave (it’s not terrible, but come on). Even the worst of their films are crafted with a level of care and attention to detail that is frankly uncommon in most animated movies. The Good Dinosaur, as mediocre as it is, looks visually gorgeous. Not every film can be a classic, but with films like Inside Out (2015), Coco (2017) and Incredibles II (2018), Pixar have earned enough good will after their various mis-steps to give me faith in them moving forward.
The cast and crew are a familiar sight, mind you, as they should be. There would be no point making a Toy Story 4 if the likes of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen decided they didn’t want to be a part of it. I think we would all protest if…I don’t know, Patton Oswald was suddenly announced as the new voice of Woody (No offense intended if you’re reading, Patton, I’d like to think that even you agree with that statement). Joan Cusack, Kristen Schaal, Jeff Garlin, Estelle Harris. The list of Toy Story veterans new and old goes on a fair bit longer.
A key new cast member is Tony Hale, who voices Forky. Hale’s most well known role is that of Buster Bluth, the mummy’s boy of the fallen-from-grace Bluth family in Arrested Development. I haven’t seen all of Arrested Development, but the cast are clearly the shows strongest suit, and Hale is no exception. He has mastered the awkward, nerdy and somewhat crazy character archetype that I’m sure helped get him the gig at Pixar. His high pitch, almost youthful voice is a world away from the deep voiced, smooth cadence of both Tim and Tom. I think it’s picture perfect casting, and I’m glad Hale is getting a chance to stretch his skills and venture into the world of voice acting.
The regular Pixar creatives are the driving force behind this film. I will avoid talking about John Lasseter, given the recent controversy surrounding him, but he does have a story credit and was a big part of the other three movies, as every Pixar fan knows. Legendary Pixar directors Pete Docter (Monsters Inc, 2001) and Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, 2003) also both have story credits, as well as Lee Unkrich, who directed the last installment in the Toy Story franchise. The fourth installment is being directed by Josh Cooley, who was a storyboard artist on Pixar films like The Incredibles (2004) and Up (2009), as well as being a screenwriter on Inside Out (2015). What I’m getting at, here, is that the people behind this film are responsible for creating some of Pixar’s best films and are some of the most recognizable names working at the animation studio today. Several of those names have been associated with Pixar since the beginning and have worked on the original film. While it may be silly to place so much faith in the mere names of the creatives behind this film, I do. The fact that they worked on the original Toy Story and are still working on the fourth installment over twenty years later does not necessarily mean that Toy Story 4 will be as good as the first, or even any good at all. But the fact they’ve been here since the beginning, the fact that there have sometimes been more than ten years between Toy Story movies, shows that they care about the property. They aren’t just pumping out movies to earn a quick million dollars. These are stories they want, maybe even need to tell. That excites me more than anything else.
Well, there you have it. A lot of this article was, admittedly, just a Pixar fan-boy rambling about his excitement for an upcoming movie. I don’t hate anyone who isn’t excited, but perhaps I just need to justify my own excitement by venting loads of facts and opinions to strangers on the internet. That makes sense, kinda. Either way, I hope this was at least a little entertaining. Maybe it elicited a laugh, or a brief smile at the very least. We will, of course, have to wait till the next trailer to learn more about the story, cast and characters of Toy Story 4. And, if I can write over 1500 words based on a 90 second teaser trailer…who knows how much I’ll end up writing when the first proper trailer comes out, or god forbid when the film is released. I’ll clear some space on my hard drive, in anticipation.